Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese

About a year ago I was determined to make a classic macaroni and cheese recipe from scratch. I found a recipe online, bought all of the ingredients and set off to make that kind of macaroni and cheese that you crave - you know, the homemade kind? Well, unfortunately, it didn't turn out so good. It was very thick, had an odd texture and not much flavor. My husband was sweet enough to eat some of it, but most of the pot went into the garbage that evening. One year later I was finally brave enough to try again, this time with different ingredients and spices. What started out as a regular macaroni and cheese dish turned into more of a southwest buffalo-flavored meal and with ham and broccoli. It's creamy and extra cheesy with a bit of a kick that makes for a great flavor. It's also less fattening and more nutritious than regular mac and cheese recipes because the base mainly consists of milk instead of heavy cream, and it includes broccoli, which, surprisingly, adds a great flavor to the dish. (Picture courtesy of Real Simple)


  • 8 oz. shell pasta, uncooked

  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced

  • 3 Tbsp. butter

  • 3 Tbsp. flour

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt

  • 1 tsp. cajun seasoning

  • 1/2 cup half-and-half

  • 1 cup chopped broccoli

  • 1 cup diced ham

  • 4-5 Tbsp. Frank's Buffalo sauce

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. While the past is cooking, steam the broccoli for 4-5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic over medium heat until light brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the flour and stir until a thick roux (dough-like texture) forms. Slowly add in the milk and stir over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until it thickens and begins to bubble, and the roux is dissolved. Add in the cheese and stir until melted and thoroughly combined. Stir in the pepper, nutmeg, garlic salt and cajun seasoning. Turn heat to low and add in the cooked pasta, broccoli, ham and half-and-half. Mix together until all ingredients are coated in the cheese sauce. Stir in the hot sauce, one tablespoon at a time, until completely incorporated. Serve warm with extra cheese sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Homemade Croutons

I have never been a big fan of croutons. They're always too crunchy and way too salty for my tastes, so I usually end up giving them to my husband while he gives he his tomatoes and cucumbers. Overall, it's a good swap! However, a few weeks ago I was making an Italian meal for dinner with a side salad. I realized I was out of the regular salad toppings such as onions, tomatoes and sunflower seeds (personal preference), so I had to come up with something that made for an actual salad rather than a bowl of lettuce. This is what I came up with. And, believe it or not, I loved them and I will I never go back to the store-bought kind. The beautiful thing about croutons is that you can put whatever seasonings you want on them and they always turn out great. I used whole grain wheat bread that I usually use for sandwiches, and it gave them a wonderful flavor and texture. However, any kind of bread will work great. (Picture courtesy of Serious Eats)

  • 3-4 slices bread (any variety will work great)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Seasonings (suggestions: garlic salt, pepper, sage, parsley, italian seasoning, thyme and rosemary)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dice bread up into 1-inch cubes. Drizzle the cubes with olive oil and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle seasonings on to your taste and toss to coat. Spread evenly on a cookie sheet so all the cubes are laying flat. Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until cubes are crunchy and a light brown. Cool and serve. Store leftover croutons in an airtight container to maintain crunch and freshness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lemon Berry Trifle

Honestly, who doesn't love a beautiful, simple and delicious trifle? They serve a large amount of people, they are a cinch to throw together, and they look like you spent hours and hours putting it all together. This is, by far, the best trifle I have ever had. Okay, so I'm a bit partial since I'm kind of obsessed with anything that has the word "lemon" in it, but this one is delicious and oh so pretty! Lemon pound cake, sweet lemon-whipped cream, and a bright slightly tart berry syrup sauce to balance out the sweetness in the cake. You can even make it easy if you're short on time by buying a lot of the ingredients from the store rather than making them from scratch. Most of the steps can be done ahead of time which makes it a snap to throw together and serve right when you need it. This particular recipe does take a little more time to throw together, but some of the ingredients can be bought at the store to make the recipe quicker and easier. However, if you're feeling adventurous, I've included all of the recipes below so you can make the entire dessert from scratch. (Picture and recipe courtesy of Mels Kitchen Cafe)


Berries (can be cooked up to a day in advance and refrigerated)
  • 4 cups berries (any combination such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.), fresh or frozen (thawed and drained)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch

Lemon Cream

  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 recipe lemon curd (see recipe below) or one 11-oz. jar lemon curd

Lemon Curd* (can be made up to 3 days in advance)

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

Pound Cake* (can be made a day in advance)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice (1-2 lemons)

Berries: Combine the berries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and cook just until the berries start to break down, about 3-4 minutes. Take the berries off the heat and let the mixture cool. Cover and refrigerate berry syrup until ready to use.

Cream: In a clean bowl, whip the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Put the lemon curd into a second bowl and mix with about 1/4 cup of whipped cream to loosen up. Gradually fold in the rest of the cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Curd: Strain the yolks and whole egg through a fine-meshed strainer into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and lemon juice, whisk to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in butter, one piece at a time, until melted and fully incorporated. Stir in the lemon zest. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Pound Cake: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add in flour alternatively with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Invert onto a wire wrack and let cool completely.

To assemble the trifle: spoon a layer of the cream onto the bottom of the trifle bowl. Add a layer of pound cake, breaking up as necessary to fit. Drizzle on about 1/3 of the berry mixture. Don't worry if it doesn't completely cover the cake, just let it fall where it wants. Spoon a layer of lemon cream over, smoothing to the sides. Repeat all the layers, 2 or 3 more times depending on the size of the bowl, finishing with a layer of lemon cream. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. It is best to make this several hours ahead and let it sit in the refrigerator so all of the flavors can meld together.

*Lemon curd and pound cake can be bought at the store for easier and faster assembly.