Chili Cheese Mac

Wednesday was Jason’s birthday. We didn’t really do anything too special. I cooked him a tasty and easy dinner and bought some cute mini Baked by Melissa cupcakes. Luckily, he’s pretty easy to please.

Jason and Laura

This Chili Cheese Mac is a perfect dinner to please just about anyone. It’s relatively easy and fast. I’m pretty sure kids would love this, too. It’s basically a homemade version of Hamburger Helper but it tastes so much better and you actually know what you’re eating. No one likes powdered cheese…

Ingredients:
1 lb ground bison
2 tablespoons of butter
¼ cup of flour
1 cup of shredded cheddar and 1 cup of shredded pepper jack (I buy blocks of cheese and shred myself. They use an anti-caking agent in pre-shredded cheese that I try to avoid)
2 cups of whole milk (I’m a believer in whole milk, in moderation)
8 oz. of whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, un-drained
1 teaspoon of chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic powder and onion powder
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and salt

Directions:
Cook pasta to package directions. Brown bison in a large sauce pan. Season with salt and pepper. When the bison is fully cooked add the can of undrained tomatoes. Add all seasoning and stir to combine. Let this mixture cook down until most of the liquid evaporates. While the chili cooks down, start your cheese sauce. This is just a basic cheese sauce that is used in almost every mac and cheese recipe I’ve ever seen. Create a rue by melting your butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour and let the rue come together. Cook for just a couple minutes so you don’t end up with lumps of raw flower. Slowly add your milk while whisking everything together. Let the sauce thicken up slightly and then mix in the cheese. I chose to use pepper jack and cheddar, which is my favorite combination. One the cheese is melted pour over the chili and mix everything together with the macaroni. Voila! Serve immediately.

Chili Cheese Mac

I could literally eat five bowls of this. Luckily it makes a lot. We have some left over for lunch which is always a plus. The pepper jack and cayenne pepper adds a little spicy kick while the cheddar from the cheese sauce brings it all together. The fire roasted tomatoes are a must. Don’t miss out on all that extra flavor by buying regular canned diced tomatoes. This dinner is so comforting and easy to make. It makes a lot for a group (think football?) but is also perfect for leftovers. I’ve never frozen this recipe but I can only imagine that it would re-heat well.

We rounded out this delicious dinner with some mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa. These are perfect cupcakes. My favorite bakeries are Baked by Melissa, Magnolia, and Georgetown Cupcakes. However, I just love how small these are so you don’t have to feel guilty about a little indulgence.

Baked by Melissa

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

This is not a traditional recipe, but it sure is tasty! I’ve heard of people using sweet potatoes in a Shepherd’s Pie, but I had never tried it before. I decided to give it a whirl on my own and not really follow any recipes. It turned out pretty delicious. There are a couple things I might change next time but overall I was pretty happy. Using sweet potatoes adds so much flavor and nutrients. As I’ve mentioned before, Jason hates white potatoes, so I usually substitute sweet potatoes whenever I can. I also used ground bison instead of ground beef. There is less fat and you don’t comprise on flavor.

Ingredients:
1 lb ground bison
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 medium carrots, sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs of chopped fresh savory
1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Boil sweet potatoes for approximately 20 minutes or until soft. Mash with butter and salt and pepper, set aside. Brown the ground bison in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for several minutes. Add garlic, savory, salt and pepper, and carrots. Sauté together for 1-3 minutes. Add the canned tomatoes and let the ingredients cook together for an additional minute. Make sure to salt and pepper adequately as this will be your last chance! Pour the meat mixture in a large baking dish and cover with the sweet potatoes. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. I recommend letting this sit for 10 minutes before digging in to avoid a terrible mouth burn. I speak from experience.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie 2

Yum! I love this dish. It’s so filling and actually not so bad for you. One tablespoon of butter is the only added fat and you could actually skip that. If I could do this again I would add more veggies. I think it would be delicious with peas and mushrooms in addition to the carrots.

Our three year wedding anniversary is tomorrow and I have a delicious dinner planned, Savory Lemon Butter Chicken. Stay tuned later this week for that recipe. I hope you all have a lovely Monday!

Hops Burger Bar

I recently realized that I never wrote a blog dedicated to my Hops Burger Bar adventure and quite frankly, that is a crime. I was down in North Carolina last month for a dear friend’s wedding. It was a wonderful weekend filled with lots of love and laughter. There was a minor injury to my knee. But that’s another story for another time and I blame the champagne.

The Sunday after the wedding a few of us were in need of some grease. Meaning, we needed some delicious burgers and greasy fries to combat our hangovers. It never works. The only cure is water and prayer. “Dear God, I will never drink again.”

Anyway, back to the burgers. Hops Burger Bar is currently very highly rated on Trip Advisor and it’s found in little ‘ol Greensboro, North Carolina. Naturally, they don’t take reservations, because why would they? They’re constantly packed. We waited close to an hour for a table which is something I NEVER do. I hate waiting for tables. I’m of the mindset that I can find something equally delicious somewhere else. However, I was assured that these burgers would be worth the wait.

We started with some sort of pimento cheese thing, I honestly don’t even remember what it was because I was starving. I remember enjoying it…if that helps. I’m sure you can find it on the menu below. By the way, how cute is that menu? I loved it! They also have a very large selection of beers. I’m sure I ordered a wheat beer and enjoyed it. I was clearly more focused on my burger.

Parmesan Truffle Fries

Enter The Pickleback. A six ounce Certified Angus Beef burger topped with fried onion, spicy bbq sauce, and bourbon marinated pickles. Those pickles sealed the deal for me.

The Pickleback

I also opted for a side of parmesan truffle fries. If I could eat one thing for the rest of my life, it might be truffle fries.

HBB Menu

The burger was cooked perfectly. The pickles had so much flavor and the bbq sauce was perfectly spicy. I actually took the fried onion off. I have a limit, people. The fries were crunchy, warm, truffly, and wonderful. How do you describe truffles? I don’t think you can. It’s just something that has to be experienced.

The final verdict, worth the wait. If you find yourself in Greensboro, North Carolina, don’t miss this spot!

Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili

It has been unseasonably cool for the past couple days which has been wonderful. It has given us a break from the oppressive heat that had descended upon the NY Metro area. We slept with our windows wide open and in the middle of the night I had to pull on a sweatshirt! What a great feeling. I love summer, but I’m ready for crisp air and autumn leaves. A chilly day deserves a delicious chili recipe. I decided that Monday was the perfect day to try this Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili that I saw on Skinnytaste.com. The recipe calls for the slow cooker, but I woke up around 5:15 am and just didn’t have the energy or the time to put anything in the slow cooker, so I decided to just make it like I would a regular chili recipe. Stove-top!

This recipe comes together pretty fast. First you brown the chicken and beef in a large dutch oven. Then you pretty much add all the ingredients into the pot followed by the spices and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes so flavors come together. Ladle into separate bowls and top with chopped chives, fresh avocado, and goat cheese. Yes, goat cheese.

Slow Cooker Jalapeno Popper Chicken Chili

I was very surprised by how much I loved this non-traditional chili recipe. It has goat cheese and sweet potatoes which are two ingredients I wouldn’t think to use. However, the end result is amazing. The creamy tangy goat cheese cools down the spice from the jalapenos and it all comes together wonderfully. This recipe doesn’t use beans, but I personally think you could cut back on the meat and add a can of black beans. But I guess it wouldn’t be paleo then…

This is the perfect chili to serve during football season or really anytime you’re craving chili. Enjoy!

Red Wine Braised Short-Ribs – Plus a GIVEAWAY!

I found some delicious looking short-ribs while strolling through Whole Foods on Saturday. I decided they would be perfect for Sunday dinner, as braising them would definitely take some time. I followed this recipe for Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, but made a couple of changes. Some worked, some failed.

1. I used olive oil instead of canola oil, which made no difference but I prefer to use olive oil.

2. I used beef stock instead of chicken stock, which was delicious, but I’m sure that chicken stock would have been great too.

3. I used oregano over rosemary simply because I didn’t have any rosemary.

4. I used zucchini and mushrooms instead of carrots and celery because again, that is what I had in my fridge. I think using zucchini was a mistake as it became very mushy and there wasn’t much crunch or texture. However, the mushrooms were a welcome addition. I wish I had used mushrooms and carrots.

5. I added a bit of butter while reducing the sauce which is always a win.

The short-ribs are seared after being dusted with flour and set aside while the vegetables are sauteed. Then the wine, stock, herbs, and tomato paste are added to the vegetables and reduced down just a bit before adding the short-ribs back into the pot. The whole pot is placed in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. When there was about 40 minutes left on the timer, I started my polenta. I served the short-ribs and vegetables over the polenta and topped with a generous helping of the reduced sauce.

Red Wine Braised Short Rib

The sauce was velvety and delicious. The wine and beef stock add so much flavor and the short ribs are so tender that they fall apart slightly. This really was very simple, but it does take a while in the oven, so you have to plan for that. It was the perfect Sunday dinner!

Now, for a give-away!!!!

Blue Apron gives you meals to send to your friends and family after using their services for a certain amount of time and I want to share it with all of you! I now have three free Blue Apron meals for the first three people to comment below! 

Have a great Monday, y’all!

Blue Apron: Lamb & Risotto-Style Ditalini Pasta with Spring Onions and Green Beans

I was so excited for my Blue Apron delivery this week. I was especially excited to make this Lamb & Risotto-Style Ditalini Pasta dish. It’s so comforting and really easy to make. I even learned a new way to cook pasta! I will definitely be using this technique in the future. I love one pot dinners during the week.

First brown your lamb & beef in 2 teaspoons of olive oil. While your meat is cooking, prep all your ingredients. Add the sliced white bulb of the spring onion and three garlic cloves to the meat and saute until slightly browned and soft. Don’t forget to season with salt & pepper! Then add your pasta, lemon zest, and 2.5 cups of water. It’s going to feel like a lot of water but it eventually turns into a sauce, so just go with it. Stir frequently while the pasta cooks, approximately 10-11 minutes. Add your green beans and cook until they are bright green and tender. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in your butter, Parmesan, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Top with green onions and mint. Politely shovel half of the pasta into your mouth while giving your husband a look that says, “I know this unattractive but we’re legally bound, so shut it.”

Lamb & Ditalini Pasta

Seriously. This is fantastic. The butter, Parmesan, and lemon all melt together to create a light and delicious sauce that compliments the lamb without overpowering its flavor. Blue Apron is killing it. I may never create a new recipe again! Just kidding. I’ll eventually get bored…one day…

Enjoy!

The one where the taco truck took forever…

There is this delicious little taco truck that sits at the Farmer’s Market in Montclair each Saturday. They serve little bites of happiness. There are few things that I love more than a taco, maybe my cats and my husband. That’s it. This past Saturday I strategically drove by the Farmer’s Market on my way home from Kettle-bells class just to see how long the line was. My heart fluttered when I saw there were only 3 people in line! I sped home to meet Jason so we could walk back together and stuff our faces with Mexican street food.

When we finally arrived the line was slightly longer, but it wasn’t terrible. I thoughtfully browsed the menu and oh so very carefully made my choices: Short-rib, Carnitas, Pollo. Done.

I begin to realize that we have been waiting in this standing line for quite some time. I investigate and discover that they want to send some orders out before they place any more. Fine. I can wait a couple more minutes…ten minutes later and nothing has changed. My anxiety picks up. I start to shoot the employees dirty looks. They pretend not to notice me, but they see me. I see them.

The line still didn’t move. Finally one of the girls comes out of the truck, walks to the chalkboard menu and ERASES Short-rib. WHAT? Nooooooooooo. I express my unhappiness with a series of sighs, grunts and more dirty looks. Jason is truly embarrassed at this point but he is equally unhappy with our present situation so he mostly ignores me. FINALLY they take someone’s order!!! Only to immediately stop, again. At this point I have given up. I will never eat again. I will die here.

Jason eventually drags me, kicking and screaming, away from the motionless line and into a nearby restaurant where we proceed to devour various brunch items. But I never got my tacos…

I suggest you try one of my taco recipes to avoid similar troubles and ensure that your belly is always full! I have previously blogged about my Salsa Verde Chicken Tacos and Short Rib Tacos. Now I bring to you, the Chorizo Taco. You’re welcome.

Ingredients:
1 package of chorizo sausage, casing removed
2 small onions, diced
1/2 of a red pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Corn Tortillas
1/2 of a cucumber thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
Mix together the olive oil, white vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Marinate the cucumber and 1 diced onion in the dressing for a couple hours before dinner time.

Brown sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Try to break it up as much as possible. Drain fat, reserving a teaspoon in the pan. Add onion and red pepper and saute until vegetables start to get soft. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant and tender. Sprinkle with salt & pepper but be careful not to over salt as the sausage is already very seasoned. Microwave corn tortillas between two paper towels for 30 seconds. Plate two tortillas per person and top with Chorizo and Cucumber Slaw.

Chorizo Tacos

I was very pleased with how this turned out. The cucumber cools down the spicy chorizo and the flavors meld together nicely. I love that you don’t need to add a lot of seasoning to the chorizo because it is already very flavorful. Enjoy!