Mum’s Macaroni and Cheese

September 30, 2009

If there is a poll for the most beloved comfort food, I bet that macaroni and cheese tops the list. And on a day like today full of cold and downpours, there is nothing I would rather eat than a warm bowl full of my mum’s macaroni and cheese.

Macaroni and cheese always made frequent appearances on our dinner table growing up, but it wasn’t until my brother and I both moved away that it attained its status of treasured family favourite. Or as my mum has written on the bottom of the recipe: “This is a favourite of M and S’s when they craved some hot and delicious comfort food.” Every time one of us would return home on a school break or just for a visit, we would undoubtedly request macaroni and cheese. Hot and bubbly out of the oven, it reminded us that we were home (and no longer subject to cafeteria food).

A little while ago, I finally got the recipe from my mum and tested it out on C. It worked its magic once more. Mr. Picky-eater himself loves it too! So now it is also a standby in my dinner repertoire…but that doesn’t mean I won’t be asking for it when I go to my parent’s for Christmas!

mac_cheese

Mum’s Macaroni & Cheese

From my Mum
Yield: 4 servings

1 cup macaroni, uncooked

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon dry mustard (this is the secret ingredient says mum)

1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni until just tender (about 10 minutes). Drain.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the flour and stir constantly for one minute. Add the milk and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

Just as the sauce begins to thicken (about 3 to 5 minutes) and nears a boil, add the salt, mustard and grated cheese. Stir until all the cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

Place the macaroni into a greased casserole dish and pour the sauce over top. Stir to combine.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the dish and dot with the butter. Then sprinkle with cheese.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. (If you like the topping to be extra crisp, you can put the dish under the broiler for the last few minutes).

Serve warm.

Note: You can also add some meat to the macaroni and cheese – just like hot dogs when we were kids. In this batch, I chopped up some German salami into small pieces and mixed it in with the macaroni and cheese before adding the breadcrumbs.

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This recipe has been submitted to Family Recipes
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Black Bean & Pineapple Bowl

September 19, 2009

We recently had a visit from my cousin and her boyfriend. They are both vegetarians and in the course of our adventures with them, we sampled some very tasty meatless fare. In fact, I think the four of us may have set the record for the quickest inhalation of vegan sushi at The Eatery ever. Besides learning the valuable lesson that one should pause to breathe in between sushi rolls, we also learned that a vegetarian meal every now and then isn’t a bad thing. So C and I decided that we would do at least one dinner a week without meat.

This black bean bowl was one of the first recipes I used for our meatless meal day and it turned out really well. As a bonus, leftovers are wonderful when eaten cold the next day for lunch.

blackbeanricebowl

Black Bean & Pineapple Bowl

Adapted from Everybody Loves Sandwiches
Yield: 4 servings

2 cups rice, cooked

1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic,  finely chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 sliced pineapple, in rounds (or 1 can pineapple rounds)

Salsa:
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 lime, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon hot sauce
salt and pepper

Optional Toppings:
grated cheddar cheese
sour cream
hot sauce

Cook rice per your usual method.

Prepare the salsa: combine the tomatoes, onion, lime juice and zest, cilantro and hot sauce. Set aside to let the flavours blend.

Roast pineapple on the barbeque or under the broiler until charred in places. Dice and set aside. (I have done it both ways – barbeque and broiler – and it turns out well either way.)

In a large pan, heat oil and add in garlic, onion, and red pepper. Saute until it gets soft, add in spices and black beans. Heat through.

Layer all ingredients into a bowl. Rice on the bottom, then black beans, pineapple, salsa and then add any extra toppings (cheese, sour cream, hot sauce).


Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

September 14, 2009

This recipe is dedicated to my ice-cream buddy, Ana. We used to work together and to help alleviate the boredom of our office jobs we turned to ice-cream. A quick trip downstairs for McDonald’s sundaes here. A run in the rain to Dairy Queen for Blizzards there. It helped make the day a lot more enjoyable and delicious.

Sadly, Ana is now leaving on an extended trip and our ice-cream days are coming to a close. As a parting gift, I offered to make her any ice-cream she could come up with. She requested chocolate and hazelnut, so I concocted this recipe. It was truly delicious (and even better served with some Decadent Chocolate Cake).

choc_hazel_icecream

Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
Yield: 8 to 10 servings

2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup Nutella
1 cup roasted hazelnuts, crushed

In a saucepan combine the milk, cream, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl whip the egg yolks with the remaining sugar using an electric mixer until the eggs have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Temper the eggs by pouring in a 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Add this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Place a strainer over a medium bowl and pour the warm custard mixture through the strainer. Stir in the vanilla and hazelnut spread until it dissolves. Chill mixture for at least 3 hours to overnight.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker. Halfway through the churning process (about 10 minutes), add the hazelnuts. Once the churning/freezing is complete, transfer the ice cream to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap under the lid touching the surface of the ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving.


Tomato Focaccia

September 6, 2009

My absolute favourite thing to buy at the Farmers Market is heirloom tomatoes. There are so many different varieties: green zebra, brandywine, pineapple, tigerella… Last weekend they were finally at the market in abundance and I stocked up! (I had a lot of caprese salad this week). My haul included a bag of multi-coloured cherry tomatoes which I decided would be perfect for tomato focaccia. This bread was delicious and very nice to look at. A definite showpiece to serve to guests. We had it the first night for dinner and then had the remainder two nights later cut into wedges and served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping. It was a hit!

tomato_focaccia

Tomato Focaccia

Adapted from Eat Make Read
Yield: 1 loaf

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water

3 1/2 cup flour
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup warm water

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon olive oil (for drizzling)

2 tablespoons olive oil (for greasing bowl)
2 tablespoons olive oil (for greasing pan)

In a small bowl, proof the yeast by combining it with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 cup warm water Let mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, the 4 teaspoons of sugar, salt and rosemary in a large bowl. Form a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 cup warm water. Mix into a stiff mass.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl greased with oil; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until dough has about doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Heat oven to 475F. Rub the bottom and sides of a round cake pan with oil. Transfer dough to the pan, flip to cover both sides in oil and flatten into the bottom of the pan with your fingertips. Cover the pan with a damp kitchen towel and set aside to let rise for 1 hour.

Gently press the tomatoes into dough and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle dough with olive oil. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 30–35 minutes. Transfer to a rack to let cool slightly.


Decadent Chocolate Cake

September 4, 2009

Sometimes when I am reading a really good book, I read it in rations. I don’t want to read it too quickly so that you I enjoy it just a little bit longer. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg was one such book. I have had it on my shelf for a while waiting for a time that I could really savour it and when I finally read it last week, I was not disappointed. Molly writes such lovely stories about her life and loved ones bookended by delicious recipes that are stories in themselves. The grand finale recipe in the book is the Winning Hearts and Minds cake. I had heard whisperings of it around the internet and if it is good enough for the author of a cookbook to serve at her own wedding, then I thought I might as well give it a go.

Jumping in headfirst, I made two cakes at once: one for a dinner with our parents and one as birthday cake for my friend, Ana. The first I served the day after baking it and the other I froze and served a week later. They were fantastic – dense and moist and super chocolaty. (The one that had been frozen may have even tasted better). Both times I served it accompanied by homemade ice cream (see here and here).

choc_cake

Decadent Chocolate Cake

From “A Homemade Life”
Yield: 8 servings

200 grams good-quality dark chocolate (I used Callebaut from the bulk aisle)
200 grams unsalted European-style butter (Dairyland makes one), cubed
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon flour

Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again.

Chop the chocolate into smallish chunks and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler, stirring regularly. Once combined, add the sugar and stir well. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then add the eggs on at a time and stir well after each addition. Then add the flour. The batter should be smooth and glossy.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for about 25 minutes or until the centre of the cake looks set and the top is shiny and a bit crackly-looking. Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes; then carefully turn the cake out of the pan and revert it, so that the crackly side is facing upward. Allow to cool completely. The cake will deflate slightly as it cools.

Tip for Flipping the Cake: Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pan followed by an upside down plate. Holding the plate and the cake pan together quickly flip them. Remove the pan, leaving the cake upside-down on the foil-covered plate. Then put a second plate (serving plate) upside-down on top of the cake, wedge two fingers between the plates to keep from squashing the cake, and flip the plates, so that the cake is once more facing up.

Serve in wedges at room temperature.