Bourbon Street Chicken (soy-free!!!)

I wanted to have a big, long, entertaining thread about the history of a dish called “Bourbon Street Chicken”. But, in my scouring of the “interwebs” I have discovered that this dish is basically a mythical one-eyed unicorn. By that, I mean that no one knows the history and no one even consents on the recipe. Generally, it’s a chicken dish made with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce. People differ on whether Bourbon is a necessary ingredient. Some say it’s named after Bourbon because it’s made with it, others say it’s named after the street in New Orleans and bourbon is not an ingredient. Some say it’s a Chinese-American dish and some say it’s a Creole dish (I may be grossly ignorant of Creole cooking, but soy sauce+ginger+garlic says Asian to me). You’ll see it on menus at Chinese-American restaurants as well as various American restaurant chains. It varies in taste from a sweeter teriyaki flavor, to a sweet and spicy complexity.

I have been wanting to develop a series of asian-inspired dishes that are soy-free. A huge task, I know. Soy sauce is a staple in various dishes and there’s nothing conventional that really compares to the flavor. I thought that Bourbon Street Chicken would be a good recipe to try out my soy sauce substitutions, and boy was it!! This recipe is a winner. I have one son who is sensitive to soy and one son who loves Chinese food. They both loved this dish, although they said it was a little spicy. If your kids are sensitive to spicy foods, you can lower or eliminate the red pepper flakes, but I encourage you to make it with them for yourself sometime. It’s just not the same without that kick. I also opted to leave out the bourbon in this recipe. I think people are confusing Bourbon Chicken with Bourbon Street Chicken, and that the original recipe is without bourbon, but that’s just my guess.

BOURBON STREET CHICKEN

1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cut into large chunks
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS cornstarch
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup beef stock
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 TBS molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar (dark is preferable)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated or minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

In a large frying pan, heat oil. Add chicken and cook until brown and cooked through (no pink on the inside, but don’t overcook). Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and apple juice until smooth. Add in the remaining ingredients. When chicken is cooked, pour sauce onto chicken and stir until chicken is coated and sauce is thick. Remove from heat and serve with rice or quinoa.

REAL food alert: check your beef stock for msg or autolyzed yeast extract.
ALLERGY alert: if you are allergic to corn, simply eliminate the cornstarch and cook the sauce longer until it thickens.
MAKE AHEAD alert: You can make the sauce, minus the corn starch, and marinate the chicken in it. When you’re ready to make it, dump the whole thing in the pan and add the corn starch after the chicken is cooked. Be careful not to scorch the sauce, it’s high in sugar. You can also pre-make and freeze the sauce.

Slow Cooker Salisbury Steak

I love that “Salisbury” seems to have a superfluous “I” and I always pronounce it “SAL-is-burr-ee” in my head, and feel very British. We crazy Americans probably pronounce it wrong. When I was little, every once in a while we would be treated with T.V. dinners…we’d all go to the store and pick out our own Banquet brand T.V. dinner. (Funny how tasteless processed food was a “treat” from my mom’s delicious homemade cooking). I always picked out the Salisbury Steak meal, complete with a side of bland macaroni and cheese and apple dessert.

I make a slow cooker meal every Sunday. I love walking in the door from church and being hit with a delicious aroma and knowing that dinner is will be on the table as soon as we set it. Maybe we should start setting the table before we leave for church to eliminate that extra 5 minutes. This Sunday I decided to create a salisbury steak recipe in the slow cooker, complete with a savory mushroom sauce. I tried it two ways: breading the patties and pan-searing them before adding them to the slow cooker, and just breading them and stacking them in the cooker. I found that the difference in flavor was negligible and there was virtually no difference in texture, because the nature of slow cooking ruined any crispness I gained from the pan searing. I figured in the end, skipping the step and added oil was worth it to me. I also used panko bread crumbs, which adds more texture than your typical mushy bread crumb. If you have two slow cookers (hard core, I know…) you can pre-make your mashed potatoes and put them in your second cooker on “warm” or “low” if you’re out of the house, and you come home to a complete meal if you just add a salad.

SLOW COOKER SALISBURY STEAK

2 pounds ground beef
2 TBS dried onion
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup panko bread crumbs
6 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups beef stock

In a bowl, mix together the ground beef, the dried onion and milk. Form into 8 patties. Dredge each patty in the the flour, then coat with bread crumbs. Stack in your slow cooker, alternating so they are not right on top of each other. Dump the raw mushrooms over the patties. In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for a few minutes until the mixture turns a light brown. Slowly add the beef broth 1/2 cup at a time, whisking well after each addition. Continue to cook over medium heat until thick. Pour over the mushrooms and patties. Cook on low 4 hours.

REAL food alert: check your beef stock for msg and autolyzed yeast extract.
ALLERGY alert: if you are allergic to dairy, gluten or wheat, skip making the roux with butter and flour, instead pour the beef stock into the pan and bring to a boil. Mix 3 TBS corn starch with 3 TBS cold water. Add to boiling stock and whisk until thick. Follow the recipe as directed. Also, substitute bread crumbs for a gluten-free bread crumb.

printable version

Real Food Remake: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Slow Cooker)

Real Food Remake

I love finding a good slow cooker recipe.

The problem is that many of them, in the name of convenience, include cream soups or packaged mixes that have msg or other preservatives. A friend recently made this recipe, and I was excited that it didn’t include cream soups, but there were two things I didn’t like about the recipe. First, it used a rice-a-roni packaged mix that has autolyzed yeast extract (which is essentially msg), and second, it asks you to create a roux-based cream sauce on the stove top, add it to the soup and let it cook longer. I LOVE roux-based sauces, but it’s just an extra step that I don’t want to do on a busy day where I am using a crock pot recipe.

So, I changed a few things. First, I subbed the mix for real ingredients (seriously, it takes maybe an extra minute to measure out some spices than to open and pour a box). To avoid making the cream sauce, I added coconut milk to the soup. I picked coconut milk because it makes the soup dairy-free (shout-out to my allergic and vegan friends!!), plus it adds a nice flavor to the soup, especially with the turmeric. To thicken it, there is still an added step. At the end, you add a cornstarch mixture and let it cook and additional ten minutes. It’s still a lot less work than the cream sauce. If you’re allergic to corn, you can go the roux route, or simply take the lid off for the last 40 minutes of cooking and knock it up to high. It won’t be as thick, but it’ll be close.

When I served this soup, my picky one (who you met during this post) declared it “super-super awesome!” All of the kids loved it…until aforementioned picky kid said that the wild rice looked like beetles, then one of the others refused to eat it. So, use that knowledge to your benefit or harm, depending on the coolness factor of eating bugs in your family.

(Oh, I realized as I was typing this up that I completely forgot to add the carrots to the soup. We actually loved it without, and my kids hate carrots (I know, right?!), so I added it to the recipe, but it’s totally optional depending on your tastes).

CREAMY CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP (Slow Cooker)

4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-14 oz cans unsweetened coconut milk
4 oz package wild rice (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 c uncooked brown rice (not instant brown rice)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup diced carrots (optional)

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
salt to taste

In the slow cooker, mix together everything except the cornstarch and cold water. Be sure to shake the coconut milk cans well before opening, and whisk together well. Cook on low for 4 hours. Combine cornstarch and cold water, add to the soup. Keep the lid off and cook and additional 10 minutes on high, stirring occasionally. Add salt if needed.

REAL food alert. Check your chicken stock for preservatives and msg.

ALLERGY alert: see above notes if you are allergic to corn. If you are allergic to coconut, use 2 cans of evaporated milk.

VEGGIE alert: easily make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken. You can add any veggies you would like, like celery, carrots, root veggies. You could also add kale in the last 10 minutes for a green boost.

printable version

Bacon Mushroom Chicken

Bacon is everywhere. In quiches, sandwiches, on burgers. Nowadays you see it in pancakes, cupcakes, even lollipops (which are gross, by the way). Jack in the Box even came out with a bacon shake.

I love bacon, but I’ve been (mostly) taking it out of my diet since we stopped eating cured meats (read here about nitrates and nitrites in cured meat). Every so often, I’ll make one of my favorite dishes, using uncured bacon. Because, honestly…what’s life without bacon? It’s one of the best creations ever…crispy, smoky, chewy, salty…mmm…

This dish is a family pleaser. One of my sons hates chicken. We have to force him to eat dinner when we have chicken. Tonight, I made this…he asked for seconds. (!!!!!)

BACON MUSHROOM CHICKEN

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half to make 6 portions
8 slices of uncured bacon
1/2 onion, diced
6 oz. sliced mushrooms
4 TBS flour
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp salt

Start by butterflying the chicken breasts. To do this, flatten as well as you can, then cut the thick side from the inside and flatten it to create a thin fillet. You can also pound it thin, or have your butcher butterfly them for you when you buy it. See the pictures if I’ve confused you, hopefully they’ll help. Basically, you want them thin, so they cook quickly.

Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until crispy. Take out the bacon and drain it on paper towels.  Place the chicken portions in the pan with the bacon grease and brown on each side, until fully cooked through (inside is no longer pink and juice runs clear when cut into). Remove the chicken from the pan and place aside.

The pan should still have bacon grease in it. There needs to be about 4-6 TBS of bacon grease. If you have a hard time estimating, pour it into a glass bowl or measuring cup and measure it. Be careful! It’s hot! Put 4 TBS back into the pan. If there is less that 4 TBS, add butter or olive oil to bring it up to 4 TBS. This all sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. You should be able to look at the grease left in the pan and either pour some out or add some butter in…it doesn’t have to be exact.

Add the onions and mushrooms to the bacon grease and cook until mushrooms are soft and onions are translucent and starting to brown. Dump in the flour and stir vigorously until flour becomes light brown (you are making a roux). Add the chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously and stirring out lumps after each addition. Add the rosemary and salt. Continue to cook while stirring until it thickens. When it’s a thick sauce, add the bacon and chicken portions. This is great served with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

printable version

Memory Monday: Baked Salmon

Memory Monday…

I was probably six or seven. I don’t remember exactly when it was. I just remember the trees feeling huge, the light dancing off the water blinding me a for a few seconds, while I tried to refocus on my sisters quietly making their way up the side of the stream. My dad loved to fish. He was patient with us the most during those precious camping trips. He taught me how to walk “like an indian”..heel, toe, heel, toe…slowly and quietly. He showed me how to pick the deep water holes  where the fish hung out, or how to watch for where the water broke over rocks in the stream, and the niches near there where you would find them. I still can’t even put into words how to find a good spot on a stream to fish, but I can picture it in my mind, and feel it when I conjure that memory.

I think I’ve probably been fishing a couple times in my adult life, and I still remember those times with my family growing up, the taste of fresh trout cooked on the open fire. No fish, ever, tastes as good as a fish your seven year old self reeled in, cleaned by her indulgent father, and cooked up on a hot fire of wood.

But, if I had to pick a “second-best” fish, it’s this recipe. The first few times I cooked fish, it felt daunting. If you’re scared of cooking fish, now’s the time to try. There are three ways to know if it’s cooked right, and I’ll walk you through it. You’ll probably over cook it the first few times, and then you’ll get the feel for it. This recipe is super easy and tasty. When each of my kids were ready for “regular” food that wasn’t pulverized into a mushy pulp, I would make this once a week. The fish is easy to chew for little ones and super healthy, with lots of brain-building omega fatty acids. My kids still love this dish.

I actually don’t use the measurements here, I just squeeze a lemon over it, sprinkle with seasoned salt and Italian seasoning, and press a clove of garlic or two and spread that over best I can. But, if you’re a measuring type person, there are measurements for you. They may vary, based on how much fish you are cooking. You can use this same recipe for any type of fish, and any size, whether it’s filets or portions.

To determine if the fish is cooked, use a fork and “flake” in the thickest part of the fillet, by putting the fork in and turning it. You want fish that will 1.Flake easily, 2. Has clear liquid, 3. Is opaque. I think the “flake easily” part can be misleading for a person new to cooking fish. Salmon is a soft fish, and “easily” is a  loose term. You want the flesh to be fairly firm. Appearance will help you a ton. The flesh should be opaque, meaning it doesn’t look at all like light could shine through it. Also, check out the liquid in the fish. It should not be milky, but should be fairly clear. I like buying the salmon that has the skin on one side. It keeps the fish from sticking, keeps the bottom from drying out when you cook it, and it easily removes from the skin after being cooked, by putting a  spatula between the skin and the cooked fish to lift the fish to the dish.

A few comments on salmon: be aware that farm raised salmon has artificial color added. Go to your store’s fresh fish section and compare the wild caught with the farm raised salmon, the color difference is striking. Wild caught salmon is a robust color. It is also much lower in fat and cholesterol than farm raised. Wild salmon is typically higher in both protein and usable omega fatty acids. In my pictures, I included a picture of the underside of the fish, which has a grey layer. That part seems to creep out new fish cooks… and kids. It is the fat that connects the skin to the flesh. If you are super conscientious about your fat intake, you can scrape it right off. But, I would point out that it is a good kind of fat, with lots of omegas. I always keep it on, especially for my kids.

BAKED SALMON

1-2 large salmon filets, about 2 lbs total weight
2 tsp lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp season salt
2 tsp Italian seasoning

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place salmon, skin side down, on a foil- or parchment-covered baking sheet. If your fish does not have skin, lightly grease the foil to keep it from sticking. Drizzle the lemon juice on top, followed by the garlic, then the seasonings. Bake 10-20 minutes, until it it opaque and the juice runs clear.

REAL food alert: check your seasoned salt for MSG, additives and preservatives. To avoid artificial color, only buy wild caught salmon. If using frozen fish, check ingredients for preservatives, including TBHQ. Always buy fresh when you can.

Recipe adapted from My Genius Sister (not a blog…my actual sister…they are all geniuses, actually…)

Printable Version

Undercooked

Fully Cooked

The gray stuff is healthy fat, perfectly edible and yummy.

Lasagna Soup

I know that in my Zuppa Toscana Soup post, I said that I don’t go to Italian restaurants. That does not mean I don’t like Italian food. I mean, what’s not to like? A perfectly seasoned sauce over tender meat, topped with ooey gooey cheese?

Lasagna is one of my favorite foods in the world. I happened upon this recipe for Lasagna Soup and was blown away. It’s a tomato broth soup with big pieces of Italian sausage, plenty of onions and spices, some fresh basil to lighten it all up, poured hot over a ball of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Life Altering. Seriously. I served this with my homemade French Bread, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. I should mention that I don’t consider canned tomatoes “real” food, only because many cans are lined with BPA, which are of special concern for tomatoes, because the acidity in tomatoes makes them leach more BPA into the food. I tried to find an alternative, and didn’t. Using self-canned tomatoes from glass jars, or roasting some tomatoes in the oven (like in my Roasted Red Salsa) would both be acceptable substitutes for the canned tomatoes here.

LASAGNA SOUP

8 oz fusilli pasta, or lasagna noodles broken into bite sized pieces.
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you like some kick)
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBS tomato paste
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips.
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
more shredded mozzarella cheese for the top

In a large pot, boil your noodles to “al dente” (not super floppy) according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In your soup pot, drizzle the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until pieces are starting to brown. Add the onions and contnue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is fully cooked and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two, until the tomato paste darkens. Add in the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. When the soup is done simmering, add the noodles and basil into the soup. To serve, place a dollop of cheese mixture into each bowl and pour the soup over it. You can sprinkle more mozzarella on top, if you desire.

printable version

Adapted from: A Farm Girls Dabbles

REAL food alert: Read above about canned tomatoes. Check your Chicken stock for MSG. Check your sausage for MSG and Preservatives .
ALLERGY alert: to make dairy-free, eliminate the cheese. For gluten-free, use rice pasta.
VEGGIE alert:  to make vegetarian, eliminate the sausage, use veggie broth and add zucchini, summer squash or eggplant. Also eliminate the cheese to make it vegan.
HEALTH alert: to make it healthier, use turkey sausage and wheat pasta.
For a freezer meal, or to make ahead, add everything except the cheese mixture and noodles. Freeze in gallon-sized freezer bags. To serve, defrost, add in cooked noodles and make the cheese mixture.
To convert this to a slow cooker meal, cook sausage and onions, place them in the slow cooker. Add the remaining soup ingredients (minus the cheese). Increase the chicken stock to 8 cups. Add in uncooked noodles. Cook on low 4 hours.

Asian Orange Chicken

I’m not much of a fast-food type gal. But, every once in a while I’ll strategically plan my errands around lunchtime in the area of a local Panda Express. I justify that it’s healthier than a hamburger, but it’s probably not. At least I’m getting veggies, right?

I have one son who is allergic to soy, so I don’t make chinese-style food all that often at home, but the rest of us love it, especially this recipe I happened upon thanks to allrecipes. It is one of our favorites. I pull some of the chicken aside before toss it in the sauce for my non-soy kiddo. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make the sauce ahead of time and freeze it. This tastes the best with fresh squeezed juice from real oranges and lemons (one orange and 2-3 lemons).

ASIAN ORANGE CHICKEN 

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups water
2 TBS fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS grated orange zest
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 TBS green onion, snipped
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
4 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS cold water

Chicken:
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS seasoned salt
2 eggs
oil for frying

Make sauce by combining everything except the cornstarch and 2 TBS water in a saucepan. Combine well and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and 2 TBS cold water well. Pour the cornstarch/water mixture into the saucepan. Stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

Prepare the chicken by placing two bowls side by side. Crack the eggs into one bowl and whisk well. In the second bowl, combine flour and seasoned salt. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot to 350-375 degrees. I usually throw a little piece of chicken in to see if it immediately starts bubbling around the food, that’s how you know it’s ready. Oil at a correct temp leaves less oil on the food, so it’s fried, but not greasy. If you put your food in too early, it will soak up oil before getting fried, leading to greasy food and higher calories. When your oil is ready, dip chicken in the eggs, then coat in flour and place in the oil. Do not over crowd the pan. At this point, I typically turn my heat down to medium. Your heat will changed based on how much you put in the oil and your stove. Watch how quickly they are browning and change your heat level as needed. Brown on each side. Check the first couple you pull out to make sure they are cooked through. Remove them to paper towels until all the chicken is finished browning. Toss in the sauce and serve with rice.

REAL food alert: Check the ingredients of your seasoned salt for MSG. Look for soy sauce that lists “soybeans”, not “hydrolyzed soy protein“.
ALLERGEN alert: make this gluten-free by using gluten-free flour and gluten-free soy sauce.
HEALTH alert: make this healthier by oven cooking your chicken.

printable version

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops

I love a good slow cooker recipe. The problem with many of those recipes, is that they use cream soups and packaged mixes that are full of MSG and Preservatives. We are an MSG-free family, and so I have found that I need to remake many of the recipes I find for slow cooking. This one I found and it originally used a package of dry ranch mix and creamed condensed soups. That’s a double dose of MSG, not to mention all sorts of stuff in the condensed soups that we steer clear of. It takes a little extra time making a condensed soup substitute from scratch, but it’s only 15 minutes or so. If you have a favorite recipe you’d like me to make over using REAL food, let me know!

SLOW COOKER RANCH PORK CHOPS

4 TBS butter
6 TBS flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
6 Pork Chops (whatever cut you prefer)

Make a roux, by melting butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continually until it becomes light brown. Slowly add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time while whisking vigorously. Whisk out all lumps before adding the next portion of stock. When all the chicken stock is incorporated, stir until very thick. Add all of the seasonings. Place pork chops in slow cooker. Pour sauce over. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low 6 hours. The last hour, you can remove the lid to help thicken the gravy. Otherwise, when done, you can remove the gravy back to your saucepan and boil over medium heat until desired thickness.

REAL food alert: Check your chicken stock for preservatives and MSG. Check your seasoned salt for MSG or “natural flavorings”, which may be MSG.
ALLERGY alert: To make gluten-free, sub a gluten-free flour. To make dairy-free, use 100% vegetable margarine or oil in place of the butter.
You can make the sauce and freeze it for a quick slow cooker meal later!

printable version

Easiest Mac n’ Cheese

Growing up, when we would friends over after school, occasionally one would stay for dinner. I remember one time that one of my friends hung around long enough to get the dinner invite. When my mom brought out dinner in a steaming 9×13 pan, my friend looked confused. “What IS that?” she whispered to me. “Macaroni and Cheese” I said back to her, not understanding her confusion. “Macaroni and Cheese?” she queried, “ours never looks like that…”. “Oh, it’s homemade.” I nonchalantly said as I helped myself to a heaping spoonful, cheese stretching out between my plate and the pyrex dish. Her jaw seemed to drop to the floor. “I didn’t even know you could make it, I thought it always came from a box” she quietly said under her breath.

That was an eye-opener for me. It was a moment when I realized that my generation (and now my kids’ generation) are different when it comes to exposure to the culinary arts. Now, I don’t believe this is a common occurrence. Especially now, there is a great movement back to scratch cooking and real food. But, mac n’ cheese will always be one of those comfort foods that is SO much better homemade, and it’s not even hard. I see macaroni and cheese recipes pinned on pinterest, passed around on facebook…crockpot recipes, Martha Stewart’s recipe, Paula Deen’s recipe…can I just tell you…macaroni and cheese is one of the easiest homemade recipes to master, and every decent recipe out there is just a variation on the basic recipe: basic cheese sauce over cooked noodles.

This recipe isn’t even my mom’s. I use hers every once in a while, but I like this one best, and it has less steps.

EASIEST MACARONI AND CHEESE

4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
3 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (mild or sharp, depending on your preference)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
16 oz. package macaroni noodles, cooked

additional shredded cheese (optional)

Make a Roux by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then adding the flour. Whisk together and cook while whisking until it turns light brown. Slowly add the milk, 1/2 cup at a time, vigorously whisking out the lumps after each addition. (Click on the roux link for more guidance, if needed). Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add the cheese, stirring until all the cheese is melted. Add the cayenne pepper. Pour over the cooked macaroni. You can serve it at this point, if you’re in a hurry, or you can fancy it up by baking it. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour macaroni and cheese into a 9×13 pan. Cover with more shredded cheese. Bake 20-30 minutes, until bubbly.

printable version

ALLERGY alert: This can be made gluten free by using rice pasta and subbing a gluten-free flour for the wheat flour. If it doesn’t sufficiently thicken, you can add a combo of 1 TBS cornstarch + 3 TBS cold water to the mix while it is boiling (before adding the cheese).

Homemade Hamburger Buns

When I was a little girl, my mom made almost every thing from scratch. I think this was part necessity, and part attempting to show that she could “do it all” as a mom: homemade goodness while working in the home teaching piano lessons and babysitting. She was wonder woman. I remember one thing that she made from scratch was hamburger buns. To this day, I think a phenomenal bun take hamburgers to the next level. Hand-shaped Angus hamburgers from the grill, dripping with mayo and ketchup is still one of my favorite indulgences. Make these buns for your next grill-out and wow the guests…or your family.

HOMEMADE HAMBURGER BUNS

3 TBS warm milk
1 cup warm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
2½ TBS sugar
1½ tsp salt
1  egg, beaten
2-3 cups flour
3 TBS vital wheat gluten
2 TBS butter, softened

For egg wash:

1 egg
1 TBS water

In your stand mixer, combine milk, water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit 5 minutes, until foamy. Mix in the beaten egg.  Add 2 cups of flour, the salt and the gluten, and mix with your dough hook until incorporated.  Add additional flour as needed in 1/2 cup increments until dough sticks together. Be careful to add as little flour as possible, just enough to hold the dough together. Mix in the butter. Let mixer knead the dough on low for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. The dough should be very soft. Remove bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double, typically about an hour, but it will vary.

Dump the dough on a counter, sprinkled with flour. Divide the dough into eight pieces.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper (yes, I know I didn’t…and I regretted it). Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet, 2 inches apart.  Place in a warm area and allow to rise until double, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a pan half-full of water on the lowest rack of the oven. Combine the egg and water. Very carefully, brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash.  Bake the rolls on the center oven rack for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Cool on a cooling rack.

For the ultimate burger, Brush with melted butter and lightly toast on the grill or under a broiler.

printable version