Mac & Cheese

This weekend we made the trek down to the Whole Foods in Winter Park, FL. It's a pretty long drive (45 minutes to an hour) so we don't get the opportunity to go frequently. When we do it's usually because we are out of one thing - CHEESE. 

You see, the markets around our home have a very limited variety of specialty cheeses. They usually offer a few goat's milk options and maybe one sheep. Of course, I like Feta and Pecorino and Chevre, but sometimes you just need some variety.Whole Foods has a wonderful cheese selection for those of us that can't handle cow's milk cheeses. Plus, they let you try them, so when we are looking for something that tastes like cheddar, we can get a sample and Nick can let me know how close it is (since the last time I had cheddar was...hmm..)

So, naturally, this week (with our fully stocked cheese bin) we had Mac & Cheese on the menu. Here's what you'll need:

3 tbsp flout
1 tbsp mustard powder
3 tbsp butter
3 c milk (we use 2 c cream and 1 part water)
1/2 c onion, diced
1 or 2 bay leaves
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika
1 egg
1 lb pasta
1 c panko bread crumbs
1/2 lb Pata Cabra (a goat's milk cheese, very soft), diced into cubes
1/2 lb Cacio de Roma ( a sheep's milk cheese, soft), grated and divided
3 tbsp butter 

Start by heating your oven to 350 degrees and get a pot of water going on the stovetop. On low heat, melt the first 3 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add in the flour and mustard powder. Whisk into a rue. Once the rue is together and has been heating for about 5 minutes, add in the milk, onion, bay leaves, paprika and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and continue at a simmer  for 10 minutes. Then, add in the egg slowly, being sure to temper it and mix into the sauce so that it doesn't cook and scramble. 


Add the 1/2 lb of Pata Cabra and 1/4 lb of the Cacio de Roma. While the cheese is melting into the sauce, add your pasta to the salted water to cook. When al dente, drain and place into a glass baking dish.

In a separate pan, melt the remaining 3 tbsp of butter and then add the breadcrumbs. Toast until they are a golden brown color. At this point, the cheese in the sauce should be melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, top with the remaining 1/4 lb Cacio de Roma and finally, the toasted breadcrumbs. Bake for 30 minutes and let rest before serving. 


Unfortunately, we were so hungry, and it smelled so good, that we dove into it before taking any pictures. So, you'll have to deal with a photo of our individual serving size that we are going to freeze, to see how well it does thawed and baked.

The photo of the individual serving is of the unbaked pasta. We'll let you know how it turns out when we decide to pull them out again!

Salmon Cakes

Since it's Lent, we've tried out quite a few fish recipes. We had salmon cakes last week. We had followed this recipe the first time we made them, but tweaked it this time around to suit our tastes more.

1/4 onion, chopped and sauted
1 - 2 stalks of celery, diced fine
1 egg
1/2 c. mayo
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
1 lemon, zested
2 - 6 oz cans of red salmon
2 - 6 oz cans of pink salmon
1 baked russet potato, peeled and fluffed with a fork
1 c. bread crumbs, divided
1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano

Vegetable Oil

Once you've prepped the ingredients, the rest is pretty easy. Simply put the onion, celery, potato, egg, mayo, mustard, sugar and lemon zest into a bowl and mix. Then, after you have checked the salmon for bones, add to the mixture. Add in breadcrumbs as needed to thicken so you are able to form patties. We added about 1/4 c at first and a touch more later. Form the patties, this recipe should make about 8-10 3" patties.

In a seperate bowl, mix the cheese, bread crumbs (1/2 c) and grate some pepper in to the mix. Coat the patties in the breadcrumb mixture and I recommend sticking them in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up a bit, so they don't fall apart in the frying process

Next, heat up the vegetable oil in a pan. Pour in enough oil that it will cover at least halfway up the sides of the salmon cakes you've formed. Once it beings to shimmer, place in the patties. Cook until golden brown, or about 3 minutes a side.

Add a drizzle of hot sauce to spice it up and you have a perfect Lenten dinner. And you didn't even have to go to a church basement.

Recommended sides: French Bread, Salad


I love spring. The weather is beautiful outside in Florida. I am trying to relish it while I can since I know soon it will be too hot to even bother to go outside. But right now it's perfect.

And all this perfect weather means that we are gardening!

We have tons of herbs planted, since they are just so expensive in the store - and let's be honest, we're cheap - so chives, basil, dill, mint, parsley, oregano and thyme are all perking up. Nick's planted some romaine, swiss chard, zucchini and cucumbers as well as beets, leeks radishes and beans - all on the patio! He has tomatoes and peppers inside. Hopefully they all do well!

Since moving to Florida last summer, I've had to get used to the seasons and varieties available. It's frustrating and disappointing at times. There are no CSA's in our area, and the one I belonged to in Pittsburgh was awesome. For any of your in Pittsburgh, I definitely recommend Kretschmann's. The farmer's market here has few farmers. And corn - a summer staple - is impossible to find (at least good, fresh corn) even at the peak of the season.There are some benefits, like fresh citrus fruits and freshly squeezed orange juice. I'll venture out more this year and see what else I can find in the area.

How are you preparing for spring?

Do you like Pina Colada's?

I crave something wrapped in a tortilla at least once a week. Seriously. I blame genetics. Anyway, tonight we had chicken burritos served with pina colada's.

The burritos included:

2 Grilled Chicken Breasts with a Chili Lime rub
Black Beans (which are so tasty, I'll have to remember to post the recipe the next time we make them)
Brown Rice
Cheese (we used Rustico Black Pepper and Drunken Goat)
Tomatoes, diced
1/2 Avocado, diced
1/4 White Onion, sliced and sauted
1/4 Green Pepper, sliced and sauted
3 White Mushrooms, sliced and sauted
1/2 Lime, juiced
Sour Cream (we use Tofutti, a soy product, in place of the dairy version)
1 bunch Cilantro
2 Flour Tortillas

Just add all the ingredients into a heated tortilla to taste. The key to getting a moster like this all rolled up is to have a heated tortilla, cold ones will break and split and cause most of your toppings to end up on your plate instead of in your stomach. 

We use this basic recipe for lots of leftover meat, like steak, chicken, etc. I could see it working just as well though, with lots of veggies and beans if you wanted to make this without meat.

Pork Chops

Last week we had bought an 11 pound pork loin because we wanted to try this recipe, but they don't carry roasts in our grocery. So, we bought a huge loin which Nick cut up into various portions of roasts and chops. Plus, we are cheap, and it cost less to buy entire pieces of meat and cut them into portions yourself than to buy prepackaged portions from the grocer. We usually do this with most meats, beef tenderloins for steak, and whole chickens which we then freeze into portions we can use later.

So, back to the chops. We used a this recipe, with a few tweaks.

 Ingredients (for 2):

2 Golden Delicious apples, chopped
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 oz. golden raisins
1/2" piece ginger root, grated
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 c. apple cider
1/4 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a drizzle of olive oil
2 pork chops, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter

Place the apples, lemon juice, raisins, ginger root, brown sugar, cider and spices into a pan. Heat over medium high heat until the apples get soft and much of the liquid evaporates.

In a separate pan, brown the pork chops. Once browned, cook on medium heat until cooked through. Remove them from the heat and then deglaze the pan with the butter and cider. Pour the pan sauce over the chops and top with the apple mixture.

We did tweak the original recipe a bit, we used thinner pork chops and ended up grating the ginger into the applesauce instead of removing it. We'd like to try adding a Granny Smith in the mix for some tartness the next time, so we'll let you know how that goes.

We served this with a heaping side of roasted broccoli with pecorino and a loaf of olive bread with pesto for dipping. We'll have to share the ridiculously easy recipe for the bread in another post, because once you make it, it will be a staple at every meal it's so tasty and warm!

Grandma's Saucy Chicken

So, we dug out Nick's family cookbook tonight and made his Grandmother's Saucy Chicken. I gotta give credit - it is a super tasty meal that only uses a handful of ingredients (most of which you would have in your pantry). It's great for a weeknight dinner since it is so easy and simple to put together.


Red Wine
8 oz Tomato Sauce
1/2 lb Pasta - any variety
1 c. Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms (optional)
Chicken - up to 12 pieces, salt and peppered on both sides (We use less to make it more saucy!)

The first step is to add olive oil to a pan and heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, place chicken in the pan and do not turn until it has browned and flips easily. Once the chicken is browned on both sides remove from the pan and place into a baking dish. Keep the heat on and place 8 oz tomato sauce into the pan. Then fill the sauce container 2/3 with red wine and add to the sauce. Finally, add 1 c. mushroom soup to the pan. We usually make ours and freeze it specifically with this purpose in mind, but the canned stuff would work also. Scrape the pan to remove brown bits of the chicken and bring the whole mixture to a simmer.

We usually also add slices of mushrooms since we like them so much and it gives some texture to the sauce, but if you aren't into them, or want a thinner sauce, omitting them won't really hurt. Once it's brought to a simmer, you just pour over the chicken that was placed in the baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. If it doesn't cover all the chicken, flip the chicken over about halfway through the cooking time. Cook noodles during the last leg of the chicken's cooking time, or while the chicken is resting. Toss the pasta into the sauce and serve with a large salad and crusty bread to pick up the leftover sauce!

 I know, not the MOST appetizing picture, but trust me, it's awesome.

Pizza Night

I love pizza, and when I discovered I had a dairy allergy I had thought the cheesy goodness was gone from my life. Turns out, I was wrong. I got spoiled.

Nick makes us pizza dough (or we'll pull one from the freezer), and then we go crazy with toppings - whatever is in the fridge - this one included onions, mushrooms, olives, asparagus (a unexpectedly excellent pizza topping), red onion, pepperoni and some sheep's cheese - Rustico Red Pepper from Whole Foods. It's easy enough for a weeknight, great as leftovers, uses up remaining bits of veggies in your fridge with seemingly no other purpose and most importantly,  pretty darn tasty.

Just remember if you make a pizza this loaded to use lots of cornmeal and shimmy the pizza on the pizza wheel occasionally so that it doesn't stick under the weight of the toppings. And we buried some pepperoni because ours tends to cook too much when it's on the top of the pizza (the dough won't be crispy, but the pepperoni's will be overcooked). This one turned out much better.

We served this slice with a big salad. We saved the rest for leftovers to have for lunch or on a night when we are too busy to cook.