Grown up Mac ‘n Cheese

July 7, 2010

Pasta can be considered a main staple at our house. Along with pizza, this is a dish that shows up on our menu every week almost all year long. We love the little blue box of macaroni and cheese that takes less than 10 minutes to whip up, but also appreciate the grown up version like this one. The bacon (who doesn’t love them!), blue cheese, gruyere and cheddar really add nice complex flavors to the everyday macaroni and cheese. I’d say that this is something that is worth turning on your oven for in the summer. Happy eating!

Adapted from Ina Garten, as seen on Food Network

4 ounces thick-sliced bacon
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
2 cups elbow macaroni or cavatappi
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
3 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated
2 ounces blue cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons of fresh unseasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven – there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.

Mix the bread crumbs with chopped basil. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Yield: 2-4 servings


Chicken Salad

April 11, 2010

Red introduced me to this fantastic chicken salad when we first started dating over four years ago; and I was hooked from the first bite. I had already loved chicken salad before we met; and his version had more fabulous additions that I loved even more: chopped apple, sliced grapes, blue cheese and toasted walnuts. This is definitely one of our favorite lunches in the summer: it is hearty, crunchy and full of summer flavors. He has made this recipe for so long that he can’t even remember where he adapted this recipe from; but it’s definitely a keeper and will continue to be a regular at our house.

Source: Blissfully Delicious Original

2 cups cubed grilled chicken (marinated with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, pepper and tarragon)
1 cups sliced seedless grapes
1 cups chopped Granny Smith apple (unpeeled)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cups low-fat mayo
1/2 cup of blue cheese
1 cup of chopped toasted walnuts

Mix everything together in a 2-quart bowl using a plastic spatula.
Serve them on your favorite sandwich bread, wrap or lettuce bowl.

Yield: 6-8

Barefoot Blogger: Croque Monsieur

April 23, 2009

This was my first recipe with the Barefoot Blogger group. For those of you who love Ina Garten as much as I do, please consider joining this awesome group. Click on the link on the right side of my web page to check out the details.

We made this the other night and invited a friend and her adorable young son over for dinner. She said that her husband was traveling to Germany for work. So I said, “We’re happened to be making Croque Monsieur for dinner tonight, wanna come over?” She said, in caps lock (because I was on IM with her),” YES. I LOVE CROQUE MONSIEUR. What time?”

We only used half of the recipe, but it was perfect for 4 people (we had a side dish and dessert as well though). The sauce took longer than I had anticipated to thicken, but it turned out great after I added more flour. My friend, by the way, is a French-American woman who have made this hundred times, and she thought that the recipe was “excellent”. Used the thick-sliced honey ham, and the white Pepperidge farm as Ina recommended.



2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch nutmeg
12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed
Dijon mustard
8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.
To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.
Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Flamiche Aux Poireaux (Leek Tart)

April 11, 2009

As many of you probably saw from my post last week, I have been reading Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. Her cookbook is full with so many bistro dishes that are simple, yet delicious!

As fancy as the title sounds, this dish is truly what we already know and love: quiche lorraine. With a little extra. And the little extra here comes from the use of chopped leeks & Gruyere Cheese instead of bacon and regular shredded mozzarella! Trust me, this is truly a simple dish that you can easily make for a brunch, lunch, or supper at home, or when hosting a company! We served this along with a mesclun mix drizzled with lemon vinaigrette, and a big hefty crusty loaf of French bread for lunch, when my old friend Lindsay came to visit us. Go ahead and try this, and let me know what you think! I think we just found another new favorite at the Red’s.

1 pie crust
12 small leeks (~ 3 lbs)
4 tbsp (~ 2 oz) unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/4 cups of creme fraiche, or heavy cream
4 slices (~ 3 oz) ham, such as Parma ham, coarsely chopped
1 cup (~ 3 oz) freshly grated imported Gruyere Cheese
1. Roll out the dough to line a 10/5-inch (27-cm) tart pan. Carefully transfer the dough to the pan. Chill for 30 mins, or until firm. Carefully transfer the dough to the pan. Chill for 30 mins, or until firm.

2. Preheat the oven to 425 deg F.

3. Prepare the filling. Trim the leeks at the root. Cut off and discard the fibrous dark green portion. Split the leeks lengthwise for easier cleaning, and rinse well in cold water until no grit appears. Coarsely chop the leeks.

4. Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over low-heat. Add the leeks, salt, and pepper to taste until the leeks are very soft but not browned, about 20 mins. If the leeks have given up an excessive amount of liquid, drain them in a colander.

5. Combine the eggs & heavy cream in a medium-sized bowl and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the leeks and mix again. Reserve 1/4 cup each of the ham and cheese to sprinkle on top of the tart. Mix the rest into the leek mixture.

6. Pour the leek mixture into the prepared pastry shell. Sprinkle with the reserved ham, and then the cheese. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper.

7. Bake until nicely browned, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 6-8 servings. Adapted from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking.

Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts

April 7, 2009

I have been craving goat cheese ever since I saw the Barefoot Contessa episode where she made this recipe. I was so excited when my friend Lindsay is coming over to spend an afternoon with us. Red and I decided that this was going to be recipe that we will use! Boy, wasn’t this a hit! She loved it, and we loved it too!!



  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese (recommended: Montrachet)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves


Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

Mustard Roasted Potatoes

April 7, 2009

This is another fave recipe at the Red household. We love red potatoes, and always in the look for a new delicious way to prepare them. Here’s a recipe from Ina Garten which we go back to over and over again! Please don’t skimp on the salt, they really bring out the potatoes flavor. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

2 1/2 pounds small red potatoes
2 yellow onions
3 TBS good olive oil
2 TBS whole-grain mustard
Kosher Salt
1 TSP freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 degree.

Cut the potatoes in halves, or quarters, depending on their size, and place them on a sheet pan. Remove the ends of the onions, peel them, and cut them in half. Slice them cross-wide in 1/4-thick slices to make half rounds. Toss the onions and potatoes together on the sheet pan.

Add the olive oil, mustard, 2 tsp salt, and pepper and toss them together.
Bake for 50 mins to an hour, until the potatoes are lightly browned on the outside, but tender on the inside. Toss the potatoes from time to time with metal spatula so they brow evenly.

Serve hot sprinkled with the chopped parsley and a little extra salt.

Parmesan Chicken

April 3, 2009

The Red household (which consists of Mr & Mrs. Red and Charlotte Mae) was rather shaken up last week with my accident. As the result of my accident, I have been ordered to skip driving while the smart folks at the hospital are running a bunch of tests on me. I have also been asked to limit my activity and stay safe in my activity, so I guess I have to cancel my appointment for the sky diving lessons and trek to the Great Wall of China.

With all of these restrictions, Red has been in charge of the cooking this week. We wanted to use up the chicken breast we have on hand, so thought that we should try this. This is a comfort food, that has been beaten up to death by so many different variations of the recipe.

The key here is have thin, juicy chicken breast with crispy skin — and we think this recipe did it.

Red took Ina Garten’s recipe and modified the technique slightly using the one suggested on Cook’s Illustrated magazine, which is an amazing publication for all of us who are trying to improve our home cooking skills! We had this with spinach salad & Lemon Vinaigrette dressing.


  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 1/4 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • Unsalted butter
  • Good olive oil
  • Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry
  • 1 recipe Lemon Vinaigrette, recipe follows


Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4-inch thick, or if the breast is to thick, slice the pieces into two thin pieces. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Leave the breaded chicken breast pieces on top of rack placed on a baking sheet. Let stand for approximately 20 mins.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. Serve immediately with extra grated Parmesan.

Yield: 6 servings