Monday, November 1, 2010

Grow Your Own Mushrooms

I like to grow my own food, but always thought the mushroom kits I saw in my seed catalogs seemed gimmicky. But I just read about a new kit here and am going to give it a try and will keep you posted! I must say that it seems like a really fun gift for the holidays, and if you buy two, you get free shipping!

Macaroni and Cheese

Sometimes you just want comfort food for dinner; enough for a small army. I’ve tried a few macaroni and cheese recipes. All were delicious, including the blue cheese version (!) but none quite hit the spot like this one. There is a lot of fat in this, no doubt, but you’ll only want a small portion since it’s so heavenly, I mean heavy.

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe adapted from Epicurious

1 lb macaroni, preferably whole wheat

½ stick unsalted butter
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
¼ lb coarsely grated sharp cheddar
½ cup grated parmesan

1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 pound coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar
½ cup grated parmesan
Smoked paprika

Grease lasagna pan or 2 2-quart baking dishes

Make the topping: Mix together cheese for topping and panko breadcrumbs in a bowl. Melt butter and pour over mixture. Stir until combined well.

Cook macaroni so that it is al dente. Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid. Drain and set in large bowl.

Make sauce: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour, cooking roux for about 3 minutes, while stirring. Whisk in milk, one cup at a time. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking constantly, otherwise the bottom will burn to the pan. When it starts boiling and sauce puffs up, pull off heat and let it simmer down for a few minutes. Pour over drained macaroni. Add cheeses, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to taste. Keep in mind that smoked paprika is strong, so you don’t need that much. Stir and combine sauce, cheese and macaroni until combined well. Add 1 cup of cooking liquid from macaroni.

Pour macaroni mixture into baking dishes. Sprinkle topping evenly over macaroni and bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes.

Savory Bread Pudding

It’s official; Fall has begun at our house. The tomatoes are giving their last hurrah at the grocery store before they become the mealy, gassed kind you find all winter. I found myself in the kitchen last night with one last beautiful, local tomato that weighed a hefty pound all on its own. I was tempted to make a refreshing salad with it to have one last glimpse of summer, but my tomato was starting to see its final days and was begging to be cooked.

Did you ever have stewed tomatoes growing up? My mom would always make them and we’d spoon some on top of our macaroni and cheese. It was such a good combination of acid and cream. I decided I wanted something like that for dinner; something hearty and wholesome. After reviewing a few recipes I had in mind, I decided on a savory bread pudding. It was delicious and was the first time I felt like I appreciated cayenne in a recipe. You didn’t taste the heat at all, but merely felt it on your tongue after you ate each bite. It was a tease that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope you will too.

Savory Bread Pudding
-adapted from here (

1 lb tomatoes, cored and cubed (peeled if you like)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
4 large basil leaves, loosely torn
2 slices of bread with crusts removed, cut into ¾ inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put cubed tomatoes, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Simmer about 5 minutes. Add basil and cayenne halfway through.

Melt butter in microwave; about 10 seconds. Pour melted butter over bread cubes. Toss to lightly coat.

Split bread cubes between 2 ramekins. Pour stewed tomatoes over bread. Place in oven for 20 minutes.

Enjoy with a salad or be totally gluttonous and serve it with homemade macaroni and cheese like I did. Let husband fill up on your macaroni while you finish the rest of his bread pudding in pure bliss.