Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baked Mac and Cheese

This is a simple recipe.  Probably most everyone has a recipe for mac and cheese that they love.  This is mine.  Well, it's the one my mom used to make when I was growing up and it's the one I still make to this day.  I've tried jazzing it up different ways but honestly, I love it simple.  The only thing that I have changed is that I have added some gruyere cheese.  It gives the mac and cheese such a great kick!
My kids beg me to make this every week and one pan is barely enough for our growing family!  The other night was our only night last week that did not include baseball practice or baseball games, so I cooked for my family and enjoyed our night at home together.

Baked Mac and Cheese {family recipe}

INGREDIENTS: {serves 4-6 as main dish, 6-8 as side dish}

  • 1-lb. box small pasta {I used shells, but I've used everything from elbow to penne}
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Cups milk, warmed
  • 3 1/2 Cups sharp cheddar, shredded {try not to use pre-shredded cheese}
  • 1/2 Cup gruyere cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Grease a 9 by 13 baking dish and set aside.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.
 Heat a large pot of water to boiling.  Once the water has come to a boil, season with salt and add pasta. Be sure to under-cook the pasta by 1-2 minutes because it will continue to cook when it's baking.  When pasta is cooked, drain and lightly rinse.  Pour pasta into greased baking dish and set aside.  
To make the sauce, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When butter has melted and become bubbly, add the flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute.  Slowly pour in a little milk and continue to whisk, breaking up the flour mixture.  Keep pouring the milk slowly and whisking constantly until there are no more lumps.  Heat this mixture for about 5 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon.  Do not let it come to a boil!  Turn heat to low and add about 3 1/2 cups of cheese.  Stir with a spoon until the cheese has melted.  Taste, then season with salt and pepper to taste.  
Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir completely.  Now at this point you can cover with foil and put in the refrigerator to bake at a later time.  Or if you'd like to bake immediately, sprinkle with the remaining half cup of cheese and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.  

cheese, milk, and butter...what more do you need?

shredded cheddar and some shredded gruyere

this is the part where I have to resist taking a big bite...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mediterranean Cucumber Salad

So the picture above was taken on one of my iphone apps, which is why it looks a little different.  Our camera needed a re-charge.
This salad is light and crunchy.  The english cucumbers work best for this salad because they don't have a lot of seeds.  I served this inside a pita filled with falafels, hummus, and sliced avocado.  It's easy and delicious...you could even add a little fresh oregano if you want some herb flavor.  Enjoy!

Mediterranean Cucumber Salad 

INGREDIENTS: {serves 4}

  • 1 english cucumber, sliced lengthwise into fourths, then cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
 Sliced cucumber lengthwise in half then slice each half down the middle {I like to cut out any seeds}. Cut 1-inch dice and place in a medium bowl.  Add the tomatoes, olive, and cheese.  Drizzle in the olive oil, lemon juice, rice vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss gently. Serve alongside any mediterranean dish or stuffed in a pita.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chicken Scallopini with Asparagus

I'm pumped to be back!  I can't promise I'll be super consistent until after school gets out though.
This last month before the end of the school year seems to be jam-packed full of activities.  Baseball will be winding down in the next few weeks and that has taken up a lot of time!  With two boys and daddy as coach, we've been eating, breathing and sleeping baseball :)
It's all fun and exciting, but the down time will be much needed come June.  Needless to say, our meals have been quick and easy, leaving no time for experimenting with recipes or blogging.  But yesterday I managed to dust off the pots and pans to make a nice meal for my family.
This type of chicken is very easy, mostly because the thin cut breasts make cook-time very quick and the sauce is super simple.  The chicken can be served on top of pasta {which is my fav}, rice, or mashed potatoes.  You could also use mushrooms in the sauce instead of asparagus, or no veggies at all.
Try this recipe and you'll love the simple but tasty flavors.  Scallopini refers to any cutlets {usually veal or chicken} pounded thin and coated with flour.  So, you could really make many alterations to the sauce itself as long as you have the thin, crispy cutlets.  Enjoy!

Chicken Scallopini with Asparagus {my recipe}


  • 1 1/2 lbs. thin sliced chicken breasts {if you can't find these, then pound out your chicken breasts}
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 small shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 lb. thin asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces, rough ends removed
  • 1 lemon, juiced {about 3 Tbsp.}
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. linguine {optional}
*Can be served with pasta, potatoes, or rice

*Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  I bought the Foster Farms thinly sliced chicken breasts, but if you can't find them go ahead and place your chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap.  Pound until they are nice and thin.  Season all chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Pour the flour into a pie plate and coat each breasts liberally with the flour, shaking off the excess.  
Heat a large skillet to medium high.  Add the 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter.  Let the butter melt and become frothy then place a few chicken breasts into the pan and fry {5 minutes} on the first side, turn over and fry 5 minutes more, or until golden brown.   Drain on paper towels then set aside on a baking sheet.  Once all of the chicken is fried, place the baking sheet into the oven while you prepare the sauce.  This will help make sure they are cooked all of the way through.
Pour off all but 2 Tbsp. of oil that is left over in the pan.  If you find you don't have much oil left, then just add another tablespoon of olive oil.  Add shallots and asparagus and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes.  Pour in chicken broth and let reduce another 4-6 minutes.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the sauce and let cook for a couple of minutes.  Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and finish the sauce with 1 Tbsp. of butter and the fresh parsley.  Season with more salt and pepper to taste.  Remove chicken from oven.
If you are using pasta, I like to add a few Tbsp. of butter to my noodles so they don't stick together.  Pile a big heaping full of pasta on a plate, place a chicken breast on top, then pour a nice ladle-full of the sauce and asparagus.  

Not many ingredients in this dish...I only used one of the lemons!

Season the chicken first then pat into the flour

Trying to be patient and not turn them until they have a nice golden brown color

Here's the shallots and asparagus sauteing in the pan

Here's a little of what we've been up to the past few months...

Go TWINS!                                                      
Jaden's new love...pitching!

Ella turned 6 on Mother's Day
The best Mother's Day gift of all...these 3 kiddos!


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