French Onion Mac + Cheese

Probably exactly what you need, right after the new year starts, is a recipe that combines two of the most wonderful, cheese and carb-laden treats known to humankind into one unholy meal.

Well, I can say that at least around here, “losing x pounds” didn’t make it to the resolutions list this year.  #pregnancyperks

I won’t lie to you: this recipe takes a while (about 2.5 full hours, from start to finish).  BUT, it’s worth it.  And not just if you’re pregnant.  So let’s get to it.

French Onion Mac + Cheese

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for the bechamel

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk (or cream, if you’re into that sort of thing)
  • salt & pepper
  • crushed reds
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar

for the onion mixture

  • butter/olive oil
  • 3 large yellow onions, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • a dash of honey
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef stock (to make this veggie, obviously, just use veggie stock instead.)
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme (you might want to tie these up into a bundle)
  • 1 bag arugula
  • 1 box pasta (I used cavatappi, which winds its way so delightfully around each onion slice, each delightful bite of cheese)

for the topping

  • about 1/2 cup panko
  • about 1/2 cup parmesan
  • (a little parsley, if you have it, would be nice right at the very end)
  1. Start your onions, which take the longest.  Heat a bit of butter and olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Add onions, cover, and cook down, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.
  2. While the onions are going, start your bechamel.  Over low heat, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and stir constantly to combine for 2-3 minutes.   Increase heat to medium, and slowly add the milk or cream; stir until thickened (this takes about 5-6 minutes; add more flour if you need).  Lower the heat, & season with s+p and the crushed red peppers.  Fold in the gruyere and cheddar until the sauce is melty and delicious – set aside and try not to eat.
  3. To the onion mixture, add garlic and dash honey.  Cook another 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions start to caramelize.  Add wine and beef broth and stir, scraping up the bottom bits.  Add the thyme and let the mixture cook down, until the liquid is almost gone.
  4. The previous step will take a while, so this is is a good time to start your pasta water boiling and to cook according to directions.  Drain and set aside when done.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a baking pan.  In the onion pot, mix together the arugula, pasta, onions, and bechamel.  Make sure it’s thoroughly combined before you pour into the baking pan – snag the bundled thyme as you do so.
  6. In a small bowl, toss together the panko and parmessan, and then spread this over the top of the pasta/onion mixture.  Pop the whole thing into the oven for 35 minutes.

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The Verdict:

You can taste how long this takes to make (in a good way, I promise).  It’s got serious flavor, from first bite to finish.  It’s two of the best meals ever, on one plate – how could you not love it?  Just make sure to serve with a side salad – you’ll want something a little…lighter.

 

Apple and Cheese Curd Scones

My sister came to visit last weekend from Minneapolis (key player in gathering of the 32.8 pounds of apples).  Just before she boarded her plane, she texted my husband and me that she was bringing a special surprise.

Of course, we should have responded that her visit was special enough and yada yada.  Which of course we didn’t do.  Almost in unison, Husband and I texted back: “Jucy Lucys!?!?”

These are the kind of people we are.  We assume that bringing a burger stuffed with hot, melty cheese  across state lines is perfectly normal.  My sister kindly noted that these probably wouldn’t be delicious by the time she arrived, but promised she was bringing something equally tasty.

Holy (bag of) cheese curds.  My sister knows me all too well.  We adapted a Smitten Kitchen recipe and made a (small) dent in our 32.8 pounds of apples.

IMG_4106Apple and Cheese Curd Scones

  • 3-4 tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks/slices
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar plus a bit for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • bag of Minnesota cheese curds…or about a cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs

**NOTE: We doubled the recipe (single recipe listed here)…which I don’t really recommend, unless you have a standing-bowl mixer or a very, very large food processor.  It made the dough sort of hard to manage.

  1. Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Placed peeled and chunked apples in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. . Let them cool completely but leave oven on.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix (you may need to get handsy here, as we did.  This dough can be sort of gloppy and wet.)
  4. Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it, sprinkle with more flour.  Use a rolling pin (you may want to actually cover the dough with saran wrap, to minimize stickiness) to roll the dough out.  Use a glass or circular cookie cutter to cut the dough into cookie-like scones.
  5. Transfer cookie/scones to a baking sheet ined with parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.
  6. Make your egg wash: beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar.
  7. Bake scones at 375 for about 30 minutes. Devour.

IMG_4046The Verdict:

These scones/cookies/whatever they are…they’re amazing.  Amazing.  The dough, which seems so unpromising, turns into the perfect combination of savory, sweet, and just…carby goodness.  Good thing they’re so deliciously addictive: they get less flaky as the days wear on, so feel free to eat them all up, and quickly (we stored about six, unbaked, in the freezer.  SERIOUSLY looking forward to them.)

What I’ve Got in the Pantry Enchiladas.

You may ask: is this meal healthy, even in a relative sense?

You might ask: is this actual cooking, or did you just throw everything in your pantry together and call it a meal?

In fact, you could ask lots of things.

(The answers, by the way, in respective order: no, sort of, and yes, absolutely.  I don’t feel badly about that.)

Inspired by my very first cookbook…wait for it…the Complete Idiot’s Guide to 20 Minute Meals.  That bad boy has been around so long it’s missing pages and a spine.  But it was a backbone to my college experience, and I’m never getting rid of it.

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(Things That Are in My Pantry) Enchiladas

  • 1 15 oz can corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 4 oz cream cheese
  • about 6 oz shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
  • dash of the following spices: cumin, chili powder, taco or adobo seasoning, crushed reds
  • 1 jar salsa, any kind you like – or your own homemade, if you’ve got the ingredients + time
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced thinly
  • salt & pepper
  • 4-6 large flour tortillas
  • optional/topping: limes, cilantro, green onion, sour cream, hot sauce, more cheese, etc.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In an oven safe pan, thoroughly mix together the corn, black beans, cream cheese and shredded cheese, spices, and about 2/3 of the jar of salsa.  Bake for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a saute pan, heat some olive oil.  Cook the onion and peppers down, about 5-7 minutes, and season with a little bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Pull the corn mixture from the oven and spread a bit down the middle of a tortilla.  Top with a bit of onions/peppers, then roll it up and put in another oven safe pan.  Repeat, placing the enchiladas in neat, tight little rolls, until the filling is all used up.  Or, use the rest of it to make nachos!  Top with a little bit of cheese and salsa and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with your choice of accoutrement – a squeeze of lime juice as they come out of the oven, a little bit of sour cream, anything your decadent little heart desires.

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The Verdict:

No one is winning any Michelin stars for this meal.  BUT this requires very little effort on your part, makes tons of leftovers, and can be tweaked in about 1001 ways to suit what you have in your pantry, so you, too, can eat un-healthfully and without guilt.  It’s pretttttttty tasty, to boot.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Quesadillas

One of the nicest things about living where we live is that we walk to and fro work. (I won’t lie: during the week, I get to feeling pretty self-righteous about the numbers on my Jawbone.  Of course, those numbers take a swan dive off a very high cliff on weekends, when I prioritize catching up on all my Hart of Dixie.)

Sometimes, I walk home with my friend and co-worker, K.  We spend most of the walk talking food.  Tonight, K suggested making these – inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

mostly, i'm in it for the cheese.
mostly, i’m in it for the cheese.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Quesadillas

  • 1 bag mixed broccoli & cauliflower florets
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper, chili powder
  • 1/2 large onion or 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3-4 scallions, chopped
  • about 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • flour tortillas
  • optional: sour cream, cilantro, avocado
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Scatter the broccoli and cauliflower florets in a large baking pan, coat with a bit of olive oil, and toss with salt, pepper, and a dash of chili powder.  Roast for about 20 minutes.
  2. As the florets roast, heat olive oil in a saute pan, add the onions and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until translucent.  Add the jalapeno and poblano peppers and cook another 5-6 minutes.
  3. When the florets are done roasting, add to a food processor and roughly pulse them just a few times – you don’t want them turning them to mush.  Add the lime juice and give a quick stir with a fork.
  4. Build your quesadilla: spread the broccoli/cauliflower mixture over one tortilla, add the onion and peppers over it, top with cheese and a couple of scallions.  Cover with one more tortilla on top.  Heat a large grill pan over medium heat and cook the quesadilla for about 3 minutes before flipping – very carefully – to the other side, and cooking another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Cut into wedges and serve with a bit of sour cream (I gussied mine up with a little lime juice and cumin), cilantro, and avocado.
good times.
good times.

The Verdict:

Did I use one too many pans to make…quesadillas?  While we’re on the subject, does anyone need to use a food processor to make…quesadillas?  Yes, and absolutely not, respectively.  Still, these were delicious (although honestly, how could they not be, between veggies, cheese and carbs?!).  I think the Husband will be mighty pleased to find these in his lunch bag tomorrow.

It’s Mexican Night: Make Your Own Tacos

Is this a recipe?  Probably not.  But this is a go-to around here, and is perfect for those nights when 1. you need to feed more than two people; 2. you have no time to cook; and 3. you just want people to be happy (note: avocados + sour cream + cheese + tortillas + chicken = happiness).

crucial topping: avocado
crucial topping: avocado

Make Your Own (Slow-Cooked) Tacos:

for the chicken –

  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 jar salsa, your choice of spiciness
  • splash of chicken broth (if you don’t have that much salsa, which we didn’t)
  • spices galore: crushed red pepper, salt + pepper, chili powder, cumin, adobo seasoning, anything your heart desires
  • optional: 1-2 cloves crushed garlic

and your toppings –

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2-3 bell peppers (green, red, orange), sliced
  • salt, pepper, other seasonings
  • additional: tortillas, taco chips, avocado, sour cream, grated cheese, quartered cherry tomatoes, spinach, beans, cilantro, salsa, rice, etc.
  1. Arrange the sliced onion at the bottom of the crockpot.  Season the chicken liberally – salt, pepper, chili powder, crushed reds, and then place on top of the onion.  Pour a bit of the salsa all around and finish with a splash of chicken broth, if needed.  Add more seasonings – seriously, you probably can’t use enough.  Add the garlic, if using.  Cover and set on low; cook for 8 hours or so.
  2. When you get home from work and are so hungry you might just tear into your cupboards instead, get your onions sizzling in a saute pan in a little olive oil.  Cook down a minute or two and then add the bell peppers.  Season as you wish.
  3. Shred the chicken in the crockpot, plate all of your toppings, and serve in a warm tortilla.  Happiness ensues.
i like to overstuff the taco/burrito. it's more delicious that way.
i like to overstuff the taco (maybe this is better called a burrito). i’m pretty sure it’s more delicious that way.

The Verdict:

Even if you don’t have a Mexican restaurant near you (Barbara, this one is for you!), you can bring the Mexican restaurant to you.  And if you have leftovers, this is seriously even better served over a bed of spinach as a salad.