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…

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

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


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!

Slow Cooker Sunday: Blackberry Jalapeno Pulled Chicken

I found this delicious recipe on my friend Emily’s blog and I knew I had to make it immediately. We have a lovely house guest this week and I thought this would be the perfect Sunday dinner. I was right. As you all know, I’m a huge fan of my slow cooker and I love making pulled chicken. It’s so easy. This recipe brings so many fun flavors together and it works in a wonderful way.

All you have to do is salt and pepper your boneless skinless chicken thighs and throw them in the slow cooker, topped with sliced onion, minced garlic, and thinly sliced jalapeno. Then mix together your sauce (blackberry jam, ketchup, molasses, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt) and pour over the chicken and veggies and mix it all up! Be sure that everything is fully coated. Cook on low for 6 hours and then shred your chicken and put back into the yummy sauce to coat all the pieces. To plate, pile chicken high on pretzel buns and top with a slice of pepper jack cheese and a sprinkle of jalapenos. The recipe also calls for a sprinkling of bacon, but I skipped that in an effort to make it slightly healthier. It would have been a great addition but I didn’t miss it. I also halved the recipe as it makes A LOT.

Slow Cooker Blackberry Jalapeno Pulled Chicken

The result is AMAZING. The sauce was sweet and slightly spicy. The pretzel buns soaked up all that yummy sauce and the pepper jack cheese was a fantastic addition. It added flavor and cheesy goodness. I served these with a small side of yellow rice and black beans. A simple salad would have also been a great side. Don’t think twice, just make these.

Thanks for sharing on your blog, Emily! 🙂

A healthy little salad…

Last weekend was so low key. Jason was out of town which meant I had lots of time for the gym, organizing the apartment, and salads. First off, I cleaned out my closet. I have a monster pile of clothes to give away. I now need to bag them up and drop them off for donations. It’s such a liberating feeling when you clean and organize your closet. All is right in the world. I also organized our pantry shelves in the kitchen. I purchased little bins so everything is in it’s proper place. Perfection.

Dinner on Saturday was easy. I knew I wanted to do a hearty salad but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to put in it. I ended up with roasted sweet potatoes, avocado, chopped bell peppers, butter lettuce, and the most delicious champagne pear dressing from Trader Joe’s. It was everything I wanted. I simply tossed diced sweet potatoes with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted them at 400 degrees for 30 minutes turning halfway through. I let those fully cool down and then I chopped up my bell pepper and scooped my avocado. I added all the toppings to a bed of butter lettuce and drizzled the Champagne Pear Dressing over top (make this gluten-free by using a gluten-free dressing).

Fresh Garden Produce

This salad was really filling from the sweet potatoes. It had the perfect crunch from the bell peppers and the perfect sweetness from the dressing. The avocado adds a creamy element that pulls it all together. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

On Sunday Jason came home from his brother’s house with a paper bag full of fresh produce from their garden. I could not be more excited. Everything looked beautiful and delicious. I will use it all!!

Healthy Salad

I hope you all have a lovely week!

Blue Apron: Ras El Hanout Chicken Pitas

Chicken can be really boring, so I always try to spice it up with sauces and rubs. Blue Apron had the right idea with these Ras El Hanout Chicken Pitas. Ras El Hanout is a North African spice mix and it’s amazing. I googled the ingredients because Blue Apron just sent me a packet of pre-mixed spices and it contains ground cumin, ground ginger, salt, freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon, ground coriander seeds, cayenne, ground allspice, and ground cloves. Yum.

Start by prepping all your ingredients. I would also recommend pounding the chicken breasts. I hate thick tough chicken. I always pound them to about 1/4 inch thick. Then pat dry with a paper towel, salt & pepper both sides, and cover in Ras El Hanout. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side. While the chicken cooks, toast your pitas in another skillet and make your cucumber sauce. This sauce is amazing. It consists of plain greek yogurt, 1/2 of a grated cucumber, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper. It’s so easy and sooo delicious! I will definitely be making this again soon. The Blue Apron meal includes a side of tomato and cucumber tabbouleh, but I honestly did not care for it. I wish I had just put the diced cucumber and tomato on my pita and called it a day.

Chicken pitas

The spiced chicken was perfect but the cucumber sauce made it for me. Sprinkle your finished pita with a touch of mint and roughly chopped pistachios. Voila! You will not be disappointed with this, I promise.

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…


Restaurant Review: Raymond’s Montclair

Well I didn’t really cook too much this weekend, but I did eat. Jason and I woke around 7:30 AM on Saturday. Wait, no. Only Jason woke up that early, but misery loves company, so alas I awoken too.

We decided there was nothing edible in the house and would therefore have to procure nourishment at a public establishment. We settled on Raymond’s because we had never been and this restaurant is always packed. However, it was 8:00 AM on a Saturday and we didn’t expect there to be too many people waiting for a table that early. We were right! We sat outside and enjoyed the rain-less morning over some delicious eggs and avocado toast.

Jason ordered the Eggs Benedict, which looked delicious, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it because this Avocado Toast was everything. The eggs were poached perfectly. The avocado was creamy with a bit of freshness from the citrus and topped with a delicious pico de gallo. The dish was also served with several sauces and relishes. I tasted them but deemed my meal perfect so I mostly ignored them.

Raymonds Avocado Toast

If you every find yourself in Montclair, NJ you can’t miss Raymond’s. Go early, beat the crowd, and leave with a belly full of happiness.

Stay tuned later this week for some more Blue Apron dinners. I can’t wait to try these recipes!

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.

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

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!

Spicy Beef (or Vegetable) Ramen Bowls

This is not your college ramen. This is grown up ramen, and it’s fantastic. I am in the midst of a love affair with ramen and I blame Ani Ramen House in Montclair, NJ.

This past week I was browsing different recipes to try out at home but I ended up creating my own version with a couple of store bought ingredients that made it very easy and fun. This can easily be made vegetarian simply by omitting the beef. The base of the soup is a miso broth, not chicken or beef stock.

Thinly sliced marinated beef (I used a Korean marinated beef from Trader Joe’s but you could make your own marinade very easily by combining 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon chili flake).
1 package of sliced white button mushrooms
1 large carrot sliced into thin sticks
1 small head of bok choy, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
4-6 cups of water
2-4 tablespoons of sirracha
5-7 tablespoons of instant miso (I used a brand from Whole Foods)
2 packages of ramen noodles (discard spice packet)
2 eggs

Prep all your ingredients before you start cooking. Either grill or saute beef in a teaspoon of sesame oil, approximately 2 minutes each side as it should be very thinly sliced. Once beef is cooked, set aside. Wipe out pan and heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Saute mushrooms and carrots until tender and then set aside. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot and 2 cups of cold water and 2 eggs to a boil in a smaller pot at the same time. Cook the eggs over high heat for 10 minutes. Add instant miso and sirracha to the larger pot. Carefully taste the broth to be sure you have enough miso and sirracha. Then boil the ramen noodles for about 4 minutes until soft. Stir in bok choy, green onions, and beef.

To plate use two large bowls. Divide the soup between both bowls and top with the mushrooms, carrots and a peeled soft boiled egg. Serve immediately!

Spicy Beef Ramen

There are a lot of moving parts with this dinner but it all comes together in a wonderful way. It’s spicy, salty, and satisfying. The soft boiled egg was my favorite part. It adds a richness from the runny yolk that pulls the whole dish together. This is perfect for a rainy day or really any day. I don’t think it will re-heat well because the noodles are delicate, so make just enough for that night.