Martha’s Mac & Cheese

2 Apr

Everyone loves mac & cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food, after all. Most people have their preferred recipe or way to cook mac & cheese. Reena was one of those people who usually ate the prepackaged mac & cheese. The horror! She didn’t believe that mac & cheese could be a main dish, but I countered that was because she had never had the right kind of mac & cheese. Sadly, there  are plenty of poor representations of mac & cheese.

My mom had experimented with many types of mac & cheese and recommended this recipe. She said it was easy and one of the tastiest versions of mac & cheese she had made. In the recipe, we substituted the Gouda for Gruyere and used whole wheat sliced bread instead.  Both substitutions tasted great. It was a hit. After eating it for our third meal (warning: it makes lots of mac & cheese), Reena happily exclaimed that mac & cheese wasn’t so bad after all. She said she understood why people loved it so much and would gladly eat it as a main course. I couldn’t agree more.

The cheese sauce

Pre mac & cheese

The final product!

A closeup.

Martha Stewart’s Creamy Mac-and-Cheese
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics via Smitten Kitchen

Now, please be warned, this makes a ton-a mac-and-cheese. Not interested in going on an all-mac, all-the-time diet this week, but wishing to try the recipe at last, I halved it and guess what? We still had three dinner’s worth of mac-and-cheese, or a full six servings. Which is, of course, what the recipe said it would make if halved, but I was in denial.

This is particularly delicious with a big, crunchy salad and a steamed vegetable, like green beans or broccoli.

Serves 12

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4- to l/2-inch pieces
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for water
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (about 18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Gouda (originally called for Gruyère or 1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano cheese, but the Gouda we had on hand worked just fine)
1 pound elbow macaroni

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Pour the melted butter into the bowl with the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.

2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.

3. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups Gouda; set the cheese sauce aside.

5. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Gouda, and the breadcrumbs over the top. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes (though we needed a bit more time to get it brown, but your oven may vary). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.


Moroccan Pizza

24 Mar

One of my favorite trips during my time abroad was my trip to Morocco. It was a short trip – filled with gunmen on the nighttime beach & nationwide riots – but a few days was all it took to fall in love with Moroccan culture and most importantly, it’s food. The cities we visited were alive with bright colors, neat souvenirs and beautiful scenery. I didn’t want to  leave. Below are some pictures from my trip to Morocco.

The food was something I would never forget as well. I had what may have been my favorite meal during my time abroad there (Bstilla Frisée, I believe – which I recreated for New Years Eve for my family, yum!). I love the pungent flavor of Moroccan food that stems from their unique combinations of spices and how it is cooked. It is full of the perfect contrasts  – textures and the savory with the sweet. Since Moroccan food isn’t widely available in the US, I have resorted to making Moroccan dishes at home and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. Food is a great way to remember places that you’ve been – a “souvenir” that keeps on giving.

A type of Bstille Frisse, one of my favorite meals!

I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs featuring Moroccan food (Dinners & Dreams) and I knew I had to try it. It was easy to make and promised to be packed with flavor. Reena and I love making pizza (and our own pizza dough!) and this is one of my favorite pizzas we’ve ever made.  The Muhammara sauce with the goat cheese was absolutely delicious. Moroccan food is constantly forcing me to rethink what I think is “normal” and rewarding me with delicious flavorful combinations.

Really Simple Pizza Dough

From Smitten Kitchen

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.


Pizza with Muhammara, Goat Cheese and Arugula

Adapted From: Dinners & Dreams

Yield: 4

Total Time: 35 min.


For the muhammara sauce

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained*
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional (the original recipe calls for walnuts, but we only had pecans which turned out just fine!)
1 small garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper flakes

For the toppings
6 ounces shredded mozzarella
6 ounces herbed (or plain) goat cheese, cut into small chunks
About 2 cups arugula


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the crust is cooling, process all the ingredients for the muhammara to a puree in a food processor.

Spread the pepper puree on the crust. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella on the pizza. Disperse the chunks of goat cheese all over the pizza. Place the pizza back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Let the pizza cool a few minutes. Top it with arugula and serve.

*Jarred roasted bell peppers are already salted and don’t need extra salting.

She’s 21: Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes!

26 Feb

Birthdays are always fun to celebrate and turning 21 is a special occasion! Our close friend, Jaclyn, was turning 21 and we wanted to bake her something. I finally found the perfect recipe a few days before that incorporated a lot of different ingredients that she would like.

It had been a long day – we had made shopping trips to 5 different places to get all the ingredients for dinner and dessert. And it was rainy (of course). There had been spilled milk (mostly salvaged, don’t worry), broken eggs, and scratched hands. Without going into more detail, let me just say that sometimes our shopping trips are quite the experience. Basically though, we were tired and only had a little time in order to make food.

Reena got started with the burgers (see previous entry) and I got started on the cupcakes. The cupcakes weren’t hard to make, just a lot of little steps. Working against the clock, the cupcakes were done in time before the guests arrived! And boy, were they worth the ordeal. These are some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. The cupcakes were nice and moist, the ganache added a nice rich surprise in the middle, and the frosting was to die for. This recipe was a hit and definitely worth making again!

Making the ganache

Dry Mix

Wet Mix

Everything mixed together

Hollowed Out Cupcakes

Filled with ganache and iced

A cupcake and cups

Reena looks calm and collected – icing doesn’t phase her. Making cupcakes on the other hand… leaves me looking like a mess.

The birthday girl loved them!

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

While the Guinness in the cake gets mostly baked out, the Baileys is fresh and potent, so if you’re making this for people who don’t drink — ahem, nobody I know, but I hear such people exist — you’ll probably want to swap it with milk.

The Baileys frosting recipe makes a smallish amount of frosting — enough to just cover the cupcakes. Because they were so rich and this frosting so sweet, I felt it only needed a little. Double it if you want more of a towering effect.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes.

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Burgers and Fries

26 Feb

It was going to be a busy weekend with friends so we wanted to pick a dish that was easy, everyone would like, and made mass quantities. Little did we realize, how perfect this recipe was!

Reena made this quickly after our long day (see the following post for a more in depth story) and we had them for a late dinner on Friday. This recipe made even more than we thought it would though! We ended up not only having some for dinner, but also for Saturday with our friend Elissa and numerous meals after that. Perfect for leftovers, the burgers are great to make ahead of time and then simply put them on the grill when you ready to eat them later.

This is a simple take on the classic “burger and fries”. The feta in the burgers isn’t that strong (I wouldn’t mind if it had a bigger kick!), but it does give the meat a nice flavor. The mayo spread was delicious and definitely the star of this simple dish – it would taste great on pretty much any sandwich. The potatoes were yummy, as usual. Enjoy!

The Fries.

The Patties.

The Final Product.

Turkey Burgers and Home Fries

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden Annual Recipes 2008

Makes 12 servings (we doubled it & it should’ve only made 8 servings… but it made 12)

Total Time: 20 minutes

1 cup mayo
4 tsp curry powder
2 cups sliced potatoes
2 lb. ground turkey breast
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
24 slices of bread
Red onion slices

Heat broiler. Stir together mayo and curry; set aside. In extra- large skillet heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add potatoes; sprinkle with salt and ground black pepper. Cook 6 minutes, turn; cook 6 minutes more or until crisp.

Meanwhile, combine turkey, 2 tbs of curry-mayo, feta, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Shape mixture into four 1/2 inch thick patties. Broil 4 inches from heat 11 to 13 minutes (165F); turn once. Spread remaining curry-mayo on bread; layer patties, onion, spinach, and gouda. Serve with potatoes.

The First Supper

21 Feb

It was a rainy day. A typical grey sky overshadowed the students going to and from class. This wasn’t just any day, though. This was the first day of classes for our last semester of college!

It would be nice to come to our apartment to a delicious home cooked meal. Still, there was a slight issue… as it was the first day of the semester, we hadn’t been able to go grocery shopping yet! We had a few things though – potatoes and two last fillets of salmon. Quickly, we searched Epicurious for some recipe to use the salmon and I pulled up a recipe I had been saving to make latkes (a Jewish dish) for our side.

In little to no time, we had a delicious meal! It was great to come back and enjoy each other’s company with yummy food after a long day of classes.  The salmon was moist with a flavorful glaze and the latkes were quite good as well. Reena did a good job improvising and keeping the latkes together using a glass to shape them. Good food doesn’t have to be hard. A great meal to start the semester!

**This semester has been busy with classes, tennis, working, and more. I’m going to start putting up recipes in no particular order necessarily to get caught up. Hopefully, I’ll start posting again regularly! 😉

The chicken stock sauce for the salmon, aka the poor man’s version of a white wine sauce.

Salt & Pepper.


The Glaze.

After the broiler!

The final product.

Salmon with Mustard and Brown Sugar Glaze

Adapted from Epicurious

6 servings

3/4 cup chicken stock (or dry white wine )
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 2-pound center-cut skinless salmon fillet
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard (such as Gulden’s)
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Boil chicken stock, butter, and Old Bay seasoning in small saucepan 3 minutes. Sprinkle salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Place fish on heavy rimmed baking sheet. Pour wine mixture over. Bake until fish is opaque in center, about 14 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler. Mix mustard and sugar in small bowl to blend; spread over salmon to cover. Broil salmon until topping is brown and bubbling, about 3 minutes. Transfer salmon to platter and serve.

Potato Latkes

From Pass The Sushi

2 large potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 egg
Vegetable oil
Sour Cream
Chives or dill

Grate potatoes into a bowl. Add onions, egg, flour, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Brush a large skillet with oil and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Drop as many 1/8-cup measures of potato mixture into skillet or a griddle as possible to fit on a skillet leaving enough space between each one. Flatten with a spatula into 1/4-inch-thick pancakes.

Cook latkes 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through. Serve with sour cream and dill and/or chives.

Mongolian Meal: Dumplings

22 Jan

Reena and I love food from all parts of the world, so when our friend Nomin offered to make us Mongolian dumplings, we were all to ready to take her up on her offer! Dumplings seem to be something that many cultures make, but somehow manage to make them completely unique to their culture at the same time.

I don’t have an exact recipe for these unfortunately since Nomin makes them from memory, but if that doesn’t intimidate you, you should definitely try to make them since they are really easy to make. These dumplings – filled with ground beef seasoned with salt and pepper and mixed with onions and sometimes cabbage – are a simple, but satisfying flavor combo. The dough is easy to make as well; simply mix water and flour. Put the mixture in the dough, seal, and boil until ready.

Nomin’s family usually eats dumplings with a potato salad made from mayo, mustard, and mixed vegetables. I can say from experience that the salad goes well with dumplings!

The filling.

The dumpling pro rolling out the dough.

Look how pretty she made them!

Boil them until ready!

Potatoes cooking.

Potato salad.

Our delicious Mongolian meal!

Basic Brownies

21 Jan

Flashback: Girls’ movie night – never complete without snacks. Specifically, chocolate snacks. So, when you need to eat ASAP, nothing satisfies more than a chocolate brownie. This brownie recipe from Betty Crocker fit the bill for a delicious treat!

Ingredients. We may have been running low on bowls…

Mixing pro.

Woops, forgot to snap a picture within the first five seconds!


From Betty Crocker Classics

2 sq. unsweetened chocolate (2. oz)

1/3 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 ggs 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

Melt the chocolate and shortening together over hot water. Beat in the sugar and eggs. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir into batter. Mix in broken nuts, then spread in a well greased 8″ square pan.

Bake until top has dull crust. A slight imprint will be left when top is touched lightly with finger. Cool slightly, then cut into squares.

Temperature: 350 F
Time: Bake 30 to 35 min.
Amount 16 2″ squares