Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Classic Mac-n-Cheese

Creamy, cheesy, comforting - SO delicious! Our family loves mac-n-cheese. :)

I've posted a few recipes before, but this one was the cheesiest & yummiest (according to my family). It will be out go-to mac-n-cheese from now on.

This is not a low-cal recipe! But every once-in-awhile, it's nice to just load up on some cheesy-ness, right?

We really enjoyed the chicken & apple sausages I served with this mac-n-cheese!! Their low-cal, no trans fat, stats almost made up for the carb overload that is mac-n-cheese. LOL!

Go to the end of the post if you want to see what kind we had.


Classic Mac-n-Cheese
Makes 1 2-quart serving dish - should serve about 8 people

Prep: 10 mins Cook time: 25 mins

1 box (1 lb) elbow macaroni (or penne)
1 1/4 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (you can use evaporated or powdered, reconstituted to equal 2 cups)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika, if you don't like it spicy

Optional breadcrumb topping:
2 Tblsp butter
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350*F. Coat an oven-safe baking dish with nonstick cooking spray & set aside.

Cook macaroni according to package directions, drain & set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together cheddar and Parmesan. Set aside.

In a large pot (I used a dutch oven), melt butter over medium heat.

Whisk in flour, onion powder, salt & cayenne or paprika until smooth and bubbly.

In a thin, constant stream, whisk in milk until smooth.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often or constantly, if possible.

Reduce heat & simmer 3 minutes.

Remove from heat; whisk in 2 1/2 cups of the cheese mixture. (This will be hard to whisk at first, but dig in & whisk hard until it's smooth & all the cheese is melted in.)

Dump cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce; stir until well combined.

Spoon half of the cheesy macaroni into prepared baking dish.

Sprinkle with a generous cup of the cheddar/Parmesan cheeses.

Spoon remaining cheesy macaroni into the baking dish (over the top of the cheese).

Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese.

The next step is optional:

In a medium skillet, melt 2 Tblsp of butter with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Cook & stir until butter is melted & breadcrumbs just begin to turn golden brown.

Sprinkle cooked breadcrumbs over the top of the mac-n-cheese is the baking dish.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350*F.

Remove from oven & serve hot! Enjoy!

If you didn't use the breadcrumbs & you'd like the top of your mac-n-cheese to be lightly browned, put the baking dish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes before serving.


We served this mac-n-cheese with chicken & apple sausage and a side of steamed broccoli.

The sausage we used was:

I bought it with a Buy-1-Get-1-Free coupon, but they're regularly about $3.75/pkg at my grocery store.

I've been wanting to try them because they're chicken (not pork, which I can't eat), they have no trans fats, and the apple sounded yummy.

The had a terrific snap as we cut through them and they were SO juicy! The apple could've been stronger, in my opinion, but my family had no complaints. Just "yum" noises all around the table. :)

I cooked them on a grill pan on my stovetop. You can microwave them or cook them in a skillet with a bit of water, but the grill sounded yummiest to me.

I'm getting no compensation from Johnsonville for this post - just wanted to share something we'd tried and loved.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Sippers

The chill of Fall is creeping into the air these days & warm, cozy foods are on our menu. Our treats are changing too - from Summer's cool treats to the belly-warming treats of Fall. It's one of my favorite times of year!

I found this treat on The Farm Chicks' blog. I made it this weekend and it's going to be a struggle not to make it every single day! SO yummy!!

A nice change from traditional hot chocolate & so perfect for Fall!!


The Farm Chicks' Spiced Pumpkin Sippers

Serves 4-6

4 cups whole milk

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Add all ingredients to a saucepan & whisk together thoroughly.

Whisk occasionally, over medium heat, until hot.

Ladle into mugs. Top with softly whipped cream & sprinkle with nutmeg. Serve hot.

Notes & Tips:

If you prefer a less-sweet drink, you can reduce the sugar by half.

These sippers are a great drink to serve to guests. To ease the work at party time, prepare the recipe in advance and refrigerate until ready to use.

Keep a crockpot full of the mixture to serve warm throughout your gathering.

Or, drink it one cupful at a time, simply reheating in the microwave.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Big Skinny Greek Turkey Burger

**This recipe came Sandy's Kitchen. We really enjoyed these and thought they had great flavor, especially for being on the healthy side. The BUMMER is as I am typing this up I realized I FORGOT to add the Feta cheese!!!! Oh, that would have made it so much better than it already was. But the fact that it was great without it, is really good news too.**

My Big Skinny Greek Turkey Burger
1 lb LEAN ground turkey (I used 93%)
1/4 cup reduced fat Feta cheese
1 heaping tsp oregano
1/2 heaping tsp salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and and mix together well. Form into 4 patties. You can grill these inside or outside.

If you are doing the Medifast program:
7oz lean ground turkey
1 oz feta cheese
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt (I've been subbing garlic powder for the salt)
1/4 cup chopped red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh spinach leaves

1 lean, 3/4 of 1 green, and 3 condiments


Mac-n-Cheese Muffins

Aren't these cute?!? I love the idea of having this cute little side dish on my family's plates. :) Plus, perfect portion control!

I found the idea for these on Betty Crocker's website (link here) but I didn't like their actual recipe. So I decided to post the technique & let you use your own Mac-n-Cheese recipe. Even a box of Kraft Mac-n-Cheese would be fun for this recipe!

A couple of notes:
The meat is not necessary for this recipe. You can omit it altogether, or change it to something else. Ideas: chicken, Italian sausage, ham or crumbled bacon, kidney beans, or veggies (like broccoli).

If you're cooking this as a meal, I'd definitely add something to it. As a side dish, it's fine all by itself.

I was thinking you could cook most pasta recipes this way... Might be fun to put down a couple of these muffins using a marinara-based dish (like baked ziti?) and a big salad plus garlic bread for dinner!

I also think they would be a cute appetizer or snack!

Get creative & enjoy!

Mac-n-Cheese Muffins
adapted from Cooking With Sugar's recipe on

Your favorite recipe for Mac-n-Cheese (here's mine)
1 cup (4 oz) finely shredded cheese
(pick a cheese that reflects the flavors in your mac-n-cheese recipe - Cheddar,
Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack for basic mac-n-cheese, Italian cheese for Italian
mac-n-cheese, etc)
1/2 cup Italian-style panko crispy bread crumbs

If adding meat: 1/2 lb ground meat/sausage

Heat oven to 350*F. Spray 12 regular-sized muffin cups with cooking spray; set aside.

Prepare your favorite Mac-n-Cheese recipe.

If using ground meat, brown it thoroughly & drain, if necessary.

Fill each muffin cup with Mac-n-Cheese. If using them, sprinkle add-ins (like meat, beans, veggies) over the top.

Sprinkle bread crumbs & shredded cheese over top.

Cover pan loosely with foil, making sure foil does not touch cheese. Bake 15 minutes.

Remove foil; continue baking for 5 minutes more to brown mac-n-cheese muffin tops.

Remove from oven. Cool at least 10 minutes before removing muffins from pan.

Recipe note on
Muffins will still be wet when first removed from the oven. But once they cool, they are easy to remove from the pan with a small metal spatula.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

I posted about cake mix cookies a couple of months ago - love 'em! They're easy & super yummy. This recipe puts a new twist on the cake mix cookie. There's a hidden surprise inside!

These are baked with a Rolo candy hidden inside - YUM!!

They were easy to make, delicious to eat, and perfect for a cold & blustery Fall day.


Chocolate Caramel Cookies

1 box devil's food cake mix
1/4 cup water
1 egg
3 Tblsp vegetable oil
3 Tblsp all-purpose flourRolo candies
Chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans - pick your favorite)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350*F.

Combine cake mix, water, egg, oil & all-purpose flour in a large bowl. Stir until well-combined.

Spray hand lightly with cooking spray. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls.

Press a Rolo candy into the dough ball...

... then re-shape the ball to completely cover the Rolo candy.

(You may need a smidge more dough to completely cover the Rolo)

Dip tops of dough balls into chopped nuts.

Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 350*F for 8-10 minutes (mine took about 12 mins) or until tops are cracked.

Cool for 2 minutes before removing from baking sheets to wire racks.

Store in an airtight container.


I wondered if this would work with different combo's - chocolate cake mix with Reese's peanut butter cups, maybe? Yellow cake mix with Hershey's kisses? Pumpkin cake mix with Hershey's Hugs (white & milk chocolate)?

If you try another combo & it works, let me know!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Balsamic Tri-Tip Roast in the Crock Pot

If you like balsamic vinegar, you'll LOVE this roast! If you don't like it, stop reading now.

This roast, for those who like balsamic vinegar, is amazing. Fall-apart, mouth-watering amazing! And SO easy!

Just a few ingredients & about 5 minutes in the morning for a delicious dinner that night. Especially satisfying now that the cooler days of Fall are here.

FYI - Balsamic vinegar is the dark vinegar they bring you to add to your olive oil for dipping bread at nicer Italian restaurants, in case you're not sure what it is. It has a strong, tangy, rich flavor. It's a flavor you either love or hate, so be sure you like it before making this dinner. It's easy to find at any grocery store. Don't spend the money for the super expensive brands since it's cooking all day in the crock pot, the store brands work just as well.

We serve this with mashed potatoes, gravy & usually green beans and corn on the side. DELISH!!

Balsamic Tri-Tip Roast in the Crock Pot

3 lbs tri-tip roast (You can buy 1 big roast or 2 smaller ones for this recipe. Watch for tri-tip on sale since it can be expensive, keep it in the freezer & take it out for this recipe.)
1 8-oz bottle balsamic vinegar
2 Tblsp minced garlic
Spices: salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley

Turn crock pot on LOW.

Sprinkle minced garlic on the bottom of the crock pot. Place the lid on top to keep the heat in.

Sear tri-tip on all sides in a very hot pan. Use tongs to hold the roast upright to be sure you get all sides well-browned.

Use tongs to move browned tri-tip from the skillet to the crock pot. Try to lay the roast mostly flat, but don't push it down.

Sprinkle roast with spices - don't overload it, just a light covering (see below).

Pour balsamic vinegar into the crock pot. Don't pour it over the top of the roast or you'll wash away all the spices. Just pour it along the sides, into the bottom.

Replace lid & cook on LOW for at least 8 hours. (10 hours is best, but 8 is great too)

About 30 minutes before serving, use tongs to turn the roast in the crock pot. This will allow the vinegar to get into all sides of the roast. Replace lid & prepare side dishes.

To serve, remove from crock pot with tongs. (The roast will usually just fall apart. Sometimes, it holds its shape.) If necessary, move roast to a cutting board & cut into slices.

Serve with your favorite sides.

We like mashed potatoes & gravy, baked potatoes, or rice pilaf with this roast. Veggies on the sides are yummy too.



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