Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

gourmet mac and cheeseAs a kid, J and I both loved macaroni and cheese. How were we to know that it wasn’t made with real cheese? Thankfully, we’ve come to see how much more amazing this childhood favorite can be. I’ve made a number of takes off macaroni and cheese before, but this is probably my favorite. We don’t plan to feed Eli the box mac and cheese, so we’re hoping something like this will be his favorite go-to childhood meal. Give it a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Grown-up Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1  medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 5 ounces (1/2 package) of frozen spinach thawed or 1 bag of fresh spinach cooked down
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese
  • 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (preferably whole grain)
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced

gourmet  (2)Directions

  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package; set aside to cool.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, salt, and garlic. Cook down until soft. Add vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the white sauce (slurry version)
    1. Pour 1/2 cup milk into a measuring cup. While whisking, slowly add flour, making sure none sticks to the bottom. Once fully incorporated, add remaining milk and whisk well.
    2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and pour milk mixture into the room-temperature pan.
    3. Heat pan over medium-low heat, stirring continuously to prevent sticking.  Continue to heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Once slightly bubbling, allow to bubble while stirring for 3 minutes (this is the thickening stage) and then lower heat to low.
  4. Add cheese to the white sauce and stir until fully melted. Add onion, chicken, spinach, and pasta; mix well until well incorporated.
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Crock Pot Chicken Masala

Back in 2007 I spent a month in India for a “HIV/AIDS and public health challenges” volunteer experience. It was absolutely amazing. We were completely immersed in the culture, which scared the crap out of me at first. I flew alone – for the first time alone and the first time ever on a plane for more than 3 hours. It was a 26 hour non-stop flight. I arrived at the Delhi airport, surrounded by a language I had never heard before (Hindi). My ride was no where to be found and I had no idea how to figure out how to contact him/her. Thankfully a half hour later I found them. And they didn’t speak English. They were employees of the NGO that my non-profit was affiliated with. They weren’t dressed very nice, but were nice to me. I couldn’t help but feel a little skeptical about the situation. Before we left the airport I tried to call my parents and J to let them know I arrived safely. My phone disconnected me 3 times and they were, of course, worried something happened to me. Thankfully it stayed connected long enough to hear I was OK and that they should call J to tell him I was safe. I then went with the two Indian men I had just met to an old van. Yes, one of those creepy vans without side windows. They loaded my luggage up for me and I sat alone in the backseat without a seat belt (because they don’t use those in India). I was honestly so scared that I might not make it through the night, but I knew I had to trust that everything would be fine. The ride was an experience I will never forget. It was my first glimpse into the chaos of Delhi driving. When we were at stop lights, children and women begged at our car (just like you may have seen on Slumdog Millionaire). I had never seen anything like this. We finally drove down a dark ally, my heart racing, and arrived at my hostel. The hostel keeper didn’t speak English, of course, and my two other travel partners hadn’t arrived yet, of course. The women at the hostel were very nice and helped me get settled into the room we (the 3 girls) would share. I was so scared and had no idea what was going to happen next. After I fell asleep there was a loud pounding at the door – it was my travel partners (but my mind went to the worst possible scenario, of course).

Taj

After that moment the trip improved greatly. One of the girls spoke Hindi, which made all the difference. Our experience was amazing. We were immersed into India. Working and living in conditions similar to those of the lower-middle class of India (which would be poor in the US). We worked with homeless children, men dying of HIV/AIDS who were disowned from their families, young boys who were already addicted to drugs, amputees who lost limbs from drug use, women who had been abused, and so many more amazing people. This was an experience I will never forget. I went from being scared to death of a country to not wanting to leave. I still hope to go back someday and experience India all over again.

loving her new glasses

A woman in Old Delhi who just was fitted for these new glasses

teaching English in the village

Teaching English in a Village

india-child in slums

A young boy in the slums of old Delhi

nutrition classes for eye healt

Nutrition classes in the slums of Old Delhi for eye health

 

During our time there we ate a lot of traditional Indian food. We usually ate whatever was prepared for the people we were serving, so there was tons of dal with rice and nann. We often ate with our hands. The food was absolutely delicious. I ate the best mango I have ever had in my life  – so ripe I could peel it with my hands. I fell in love with paneer and kheer (and probably put on a few pound because of it). Occasionally we’d venture out and eat at a local restaurant, which was always amazing. I only made the mistake of getting something too spicy once the entire month, was a pretty good success. 

thewhole group

Since being home, I have tried to make Indian dishes occasionally. The cumin, chai, cinnamon, and masala spices bring back memories instantly. A friend of mine made us Chicken Tikka Masala when I stayed with her in Madison a few months ago. It was so easy and SO delicious. I made this for J a few weeks ago and he loved it too. I served it with the very Indian side dish of green beans, haha, but it needed a vegetable! If I were doing it again I would add raisins to give it a touch of sweetness.

chicken masala

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala
(unfortunately I don’t know the source of this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 24-oz chicken breast or thighs (1.5 pounds)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (or plain non-fat yogurt if you want a non-fat option)

Directions

  1. In a 4 or 6qt slow cooker, combine the tomatoes, onion, garlic, tomato paste, and masala. Place the chicken on top, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cucumber and cilantro with lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Prepare the rice before serving.
  4. Just before serving, stir the cream into the masala. Serve over rice with cucumber relish.

Chile-Lime Chicken

Grilled Chicken with Chile-Lime Rub by eatingwell.com

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon(s) chile powder, preferably New Mexico chile, or Hungarian paprika
  • 2 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon(s) freshly grated lime zest
  • 3 tablespoon(s) lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon(s) minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon(s) dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pinch(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1 whole(s) 3 1/2- to 4-pound chicken

Directions

  1. Combine chile powder (or paprika) and oil in a small bowl with lime zest and juice, garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cinnamon to form a wet paste.
  2. Using kitchen shears, cut the chicken down one side of the backbone, through the ribs. Make an identical cut on the opposite side to remove the backbone completely; discard. Place the chicken cut-side down and flatten with the heel of your hand. Generously smear the spice rub under and over the skin and on the interior of the bird. Place in a nonreactive baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  3. Preheat half the grill to medium-high; leave the other half unheated. Have a squirt bottle of water ready by the grill.
  4. Leave all the spice rub on the chicken. Place the chicken skin-side down over the heat and grill until the skin begins to color and char marks form, about 5 minutes. (Extinguish any flare-ups with the squirt bottle.) Flip over and grill 5 minutes more. Move the chicken to the unheated side. Close the lid and cook, making sure the chicken is flat against the grate, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh without touching bone registers 165 degrees F, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving.

Grilled Chicken with Cherry-Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Grilled Chicken with Cherry-Chipotle BBQ Sauce by eatingwell.com

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup(s) fresh or frozen (thawed) dark sweet cherries
  • 1/2 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup(s) ketchup
  • 2 tablespoon(s) cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon(s) dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground allspice
  • 2 pound(s) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Directions
  1. Stir cherries, broth, sugar, ketchup, vinegar, chipotle peppers, thyme and allspice in a small deep bowl. Transfer to a shallow non-reactive dish large enough to hold chicken. Add the chicken and turn to coat well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat grill to high. Oil the grill rack. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Transfer the marinade to a medium skillet.
  3. Reduce the grill heat to medium and grill the chicken until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 7 to 9 minutes per side. Meanwhile, bring the marinade to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is reduced by about half, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool slightly; serve with the sauce.

Jerk Chicken

Jacqui’s Jerk Chicken by eatingwell.com

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch(es) scallions, chopped
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1  Scotch bonnet chile peppers, stemmed and quartered
  • 1/4 cup(s) lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon(s) light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon(s) whole allspice berries
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon(s) freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) fresh thyme leaves
  • 24 ounces of chicken, skin removed (breasts or thighs)

Directions

  1. To prepare jerk marinade: Place scallions, onion, chile pepper to taste, lime juice, oil, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and thyme in a blender. Process until smooth. Place chicken in a nonreactive baking dish. Rub 2/3 cup of the marinade onto both sides of the chicken. Transfer the remaining marinade to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.
  2. Grill the chicken, turning and basting with the reserved marinade occasionally (discard any unused marinade), until just cooked through (165 degrees F)

Chicken Shawarma on Pitas

Chicken Shawarma from eatingwell.com

Ingredients

  • 1 cup(s) shredded English cucumber
  • 1/4 cup(s) low-fat plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoon(s) tahini
  • 2 tablespoon(s) lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon(s) garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon(s) curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound(s) boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon(s) canola oil
  • 4  6-inch whole-wheat pita breads
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 cup(s) thinly sliced romaine lettuce

Directions

  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Stir cucumber, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine garlic powder, curry powder, pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium bowl. Slice chicken breast crosswise into 1/4-inch strips; toss with the spice mixture to coat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine.
  4. Grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.
  5. To serve, spread 1/4 cup of the cucumber-yogurt sauce on a pita  and top with one-fourth of the chicken, tomato, and lettuce. Fold like a taco (or roll closed, if using lavash). Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Herb Roasted Chicken

Herb Roasted Chicken with Summer Tomatoes by A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chicken, whole or parts, your choice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons herbes de provence
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 8 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup white wine

Directions

  1. Use a 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, combine dry spices and set aside. Wash chicken, remove neck and giblets, and try to cut off as much skin as you can using poultry shears. If the chicken is fully thawed, this is much easier to do. Rub the seasoning mixture on all sides of the bird, inside and out and place into your stoneware. I chose to put the chicken breast-side down to keep it extra moist.
  3. Wash and cut the stem off of each tomato, and place on top. Pour the white wine in, and cover the slow cooker. Cook on low for about 7 hours. Carefully remove the bird from the pot.
  4. Of desired, retain the drippings to make a pot of steamed rice (skim off any fat)

Apricot and Date Chicken

Slow Cooker Chicken with Apricots and Dates by A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken meat (boneless, skinless)
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Directions

  1. Put the chicken into the bottom of a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add diced onion, and spices. Sprinkle on the apricots and dates. Pour the broth and orange juice evenly over the top.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.  The chicken should be quite tender and shred easily with a fork. If your chicken isn’t tender enough, stir well and cook for a bit longer on low.
  4. Serve with quinoa or brown rice with the juices.

Lentils and Chicken

Indian Lentils and Chicken by A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lentils
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon corriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced chiles (hot or mild, your choice)–no need to drain
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (or 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh)
  • 2 large chicken breast halves

Directions

  1. Use a 4 to 5 quart slow cooker. Rinse the lentils under cold water until it runs clear. Dump into the slow cooker. Add broth and water. Add diced onion and celery. Add all spices, the garlic, and chiles. Stir to combine.
  2. Lay 2 largeish chicken breast halves on top of the assembled food. My breast halves were frozen solid.
  3. Cover and cook on low for about 7 hours. Before serving, remove chicken from the slow cooker, chop it up, and stir back in. Serve over basmati rice.

Chicken Stir Fry

General Tso’s Chicken by A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (16-ounce) package stir-fry vegetables

Directions

  1. Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put the chicken into the bottom of your crockpot and then add the garlic, brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Toss the chicken to fully coat with the sauce ingredients.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, then add the frozen vegetables. Re-cover and cook on high for an hour, or until the veggies are fully hot and the chicken has reached desired tenderness.
  3. Serve with white or brown rice.