Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

Thanksgiving was great.  I was not in charge of the turkey which always makes me happy.  I was in charge of some side dishes though, including the mac and cheese.  Super simple recipe.

I made 2 lbs of noodles (elbow, shells, whatever you want).  Start off by cooking those noodles per the instructions on the box and drain.  Add about 4 TBSP of butter just to keep things from sticking too much to the pot.  Let it melt and return the noodles.   Then I added 2 5oz containers of pepper Boursin cheese and 2ish cups of cream to help the melting process.  I added about 2 cups of shredded mild cheedar and 1 cup of marble cheddar.  Be generous with the cheese – it is mac and CHEESE!  Add 1 4oz can of diced jalapeno. Mix it all together.  Taste it at this point, if there isnt enough heat, add more jalapeno — you can add heat but you can’t take it away if you use too much out of the gate.

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You can stop there and serve once its all melted and blended together.  Since I was making multiple dishes for Thanksgiving, I buttered a large casserole dish and put the mac and cheese in it, topped with more shredded cheese and dotted with about 2 TBSP of diced butter.  That way about an hour before dinner, I could put all my dishes in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour to reheat and be hot for dinner.  If you do this, watch your cheese – after about 30 minutes I covered with foil so the top wouldn’t burn.

It’s simple and delicious and great as leftovers.

Paleo Mississippi Mud Roast

I’ve been a slacker in updating the blog with this recipe…. sorry folks!  This is a very very forgiving recipe so you can’t really mess it up.

Ingredients

  • 5.5 lbs round roast (or any roast type meat)
  • 6 TBSP ranch seasoning (see below)
  • 1 cup beef bone broth or beef stock
  • 1 TBSP coconut aminos
  • 1/2 jar pepperoncini and its juice
  • 3 TBSP ghee

RANCH SEASONING (Mix all the ingredients in an airtight container.  You’ll end up with about a cup which is more than you need for this, so save it for next time.)

  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 2 TBSP dried dill
  • 3 TBSP garlic powder
  • 3 TBSP onion powder
  • 3 TBSP onion flakes
  • 3 TBSP dried celery
  • 4 tsp drive chives

Instructions

  1. Place the roast in the crock pot with the beef broth.
  2. Drizzle coconut aminos over everything.
  3. Place the ghee on top of the roast.
  4. Place the pepperoncinis on and around the roast.  Pour the juice over everything.
    • You can place as little or as much of these as you want.  I think it really adds to the flavor of the recipe so use at least a handful of pepperonicinis and you can omit the juice if you’re hesistant.
  5. Sprinkle the ranch seasoning over the roast.
  6. Cover and set to cook on high for about 6 hours.
  7. Shred the meat and mix.  You can set to low until ready to eat.

NOTE:  Usually I make a side of roasted veggies (potatoes, brussel sprouts, and carrots with italian and/or rosemary seasoning) to eat with this.  Mark likes rice so we’ll sometimes have the meat over rice – its pretty tasty!  You can increase the amount of broth without altering the taste of the recipe if you want something with a little more gravy.

Zuppa Toscana

Easy copycat recipe for my favorite potato soup from Olive Garden

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground mild Italian sausage*
  • 1 – 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 TBSP bacon pieces (optional)
  • 1 large white onion, diced (yellow will work as well)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 8 – 10 cups water
  • 10 – 12 bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 – 4 large russet potatoes, sliced
  • bunch of kale, roughly chopped

*If you substitute for ground turkey or chicken, you’ll do the following:

  • 1 lb ground Italian seasoned turkey or chicken
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp dried fennel seeds (crushed in a mortar)

Instructions

  1. Saute the Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot until cooked through.
    • If you are substituting for turkey/chicken, add the garlic powder, additional red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds.
  2. Remove the meat, drain the fat, and set aside in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the soup.
  3. In the same pot, saute the bacon pieces (if using), onions, and garlic until onions are soft.
  4. Add the water to the pot with the bacon, onions, and garlic.  Add the bouillon cubes, stirring often to dissolve the cubes and bring the mixture to a boil.
  5. Add the potatoes and cook until soft.  This will take about 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the slices.
  6. Add the heavy cream and allow the soup to return to a boil.  Stir in the sausage and let simmer for a few minutes.
  7. Add the kale just before serving.  You can be as generous or stingy as you’d like.

Notes

This is a very forgiving recipe.  I tend to like my soup a little more chunky so I increase the meat and potatoes.  You will need to eyeball it and add more water with bouillon cubes as needed if you get carried away.  On the flip side, if you think you have too much liquid, keep adding potatoes until you’re satisfied.

Dinner for Friends

Dinner prepared for good company.

Tonight I’m hosting dinner for some friends.  We try to get together at least once a month and usually eat out.  I think I’m probably the only one in the group that enjoys cooking and every once in a while (…well this is only the 2nd time…) I convince them to have dinner at my place.

It’s kind of a hodgepodge of food tonight.  Collectively my friends have requested my version of Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden.  I haven’t mastered Olive Garden’s breadsticks so we will surely be lacking that goodness to sop up the soup.  Also requested is my Mississippi mud roast which has once passed the muster of my super picky friends.  Then there’s rice for the meat, and roasted potatoes (also requested), and a salad.  The friends are on salad duty.

So first up is the Mississippi mud roast which will cook in the slow cooker ALL DAY.  ALLLLLL DAY.  This is a Paleo recipe and it’s one that I make on a fairly regular basis.  It’s also very forgiving IMO and you almost can’t mess it up.  I just eyeball the ingredients and it turns out fantastic.

Forgive the lack of photography skills (and I seem to always lack at least 1 ingredient in the photo)! 20171020_110427

Start with about 5.5lbs of some kind of roast-y meat.  I usually go with round roast but the store didn’t have any so we’re going with a pot roast cut (5.75 lbs to be exact).  Pop the meat in a slow cooker along with about 1 cup of the beef stock, half a jar of the pepperoncini juice (and about 10ish or so peppers…though for this meal because some of my friends are picky, I omit the peppers), 3-4 TBSP of Ghee, 1 TBSP of coconut-aminos (left out of the family photo on accident) and a generous ~1/4 cup of the homemade ranch seasoning.  Set your slow cooker on high and let it go for about 6 hours.  After that, I take out the meat, shred it, put it back, and set the cooker on low until its time to eat.  I will get an actual recipe together that’s much easier to follow than my ramblings.

Main. Course. Done.  We serve this over rice and have a side of roasted veggies (usually potatoes, brussel sprouts, and carrots).

Later today the soup will cook.  This is NOT Paleo in case anyone was wondering.  I try to be on the Paleo wagon but there are some things that I just haven’t worked out a good substitute for.

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The Olive Garden version of this soup calls for bacon and sausage.  My significant other (Mark) doesn’t eat pork so I effectively leave out the bacon and substitute ground turkey (with some doctoring) for the sausage.

Doctoring up the ground turkey just requires the addition of 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes, and 3/4 tsp dried fennel seeds per every pound.  I grind the fennel seeds with a mortar before adding to the meat.

You will also need to dice your white onion, have a few teaspoons of minced garlic (the garlic was hiding at picture time), count about 10-12 bouillon cubes, 1 – 2 cups heavy cream, and a bunch of kale.  Oh, and the potatoes – they are kind of the star of the show here.  You can use russet potatoes or Yukon golds.  Whatever floats your boat.

I’ve made this soup so many times I eyeball everything in it too.  I think it’s pretty forgiving though fair warning – don’t put too many red pepper flakes in the soup, you can’t take away the heat.  I prefer the soup more chunky than soupy so I tend to add more meat and potatoes than the recipe calls for.

Start with cooking the sausage (real or “fake”) and add 1.5 to 2 tsp of red pepper flakes (yes in addition to what you already added if you’re substituting ground turkey). BTW, if you do use pork Italian sausage add the red pepper flakes if you use mild or add the red pepper flakes with caution if you use hot.

Remove the meat and drain any fat.  Set aside and refrigerate while you work on the rest of the soup.  Add the diced onion and garlic (and bacon pieces if you choose to use), and saute until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add water, approximately 10 cups, and add the bouillon cubes.  I typically go 1 cube for each cup of water for more flavor.  While you wait for this to come to a boil, you can work on slicing potatoes.  When using russet potatoes in good shape, I tend to leave the skin on.  Your choice – I just don’t like to peel them.

Add the potatoes to the pot and cook until soft.  This takes probably about 30-ish minutes.  When the potatoes are soft, add the cream and cook until heated through.  Then add the meat you set aside earlier and mix it well.  Add the kale just before you serve and viola! Soup is done.

I will add the recipes shortly for easy reference and printability.