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!

Chicken Teriyaki Casserole

This Sunday I decided to try something new and make this Chicken Teriyaki Casserole from Oh Sweet Basil. It turned out pretty well. It wasn’t necessarily my favorite but it was tasty and filling. The only downside is that it took me a total of 1.5 hours start to finish. You make your own fried rice (I didn’t follow her recipe for that) and your own teriyaki sauce, so there are a few moving parts. I would definitely save this dinner for a weekend.

First pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook jasmine rice to package directions. While the rice is cooking, start your sauce. Bring the following ingredients to a boil and cook for 1 minute: low sodium soy sauce, water, brown sugar, honey, ground ginger, sesame oil, and 1 small minced garlic clove. Mix together in a bowl two tablespoons of corn starch and 2 tablespoons of water. Add a teaspoon of the sauce mixture to the corn starch and water and slowly incorporate into the sauce. This will thicken up quickly. Pour ½ the sauce over the chicken (I used boneless skinless chicken thighs) in an oven proof dish. Bake for 30 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, make your fried rice. I came up with this fried rice recipe on the fly and it turned out pretty delicious. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a large wok. Scramble one egg in the oil and set aside. Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and fry rice for approximately 10 minutes (5 minutes each side – flatten rice in one layer and flip after 5 minutes). If the rice isn’t brown enough or crispy enough for you, keep on cooking! Towards the end add your egg back in. Set rice aside. Steam your stir-fry veggies – I did this in the microwave to save some time and they were perfect. Once the chicken is done cooking, carefully shred in the dish and toss with fried rice and veggies and the rest of the sauce. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Serve immediately!

Chicken Teriyaki Casserole

This dinner is super comforting and filling. It’s salty and sweet which is the perfect combination. I also love that you know exactly what is in your sauce because you make it! Jason’s main complaint with this dish was that he didn’t love the vegetable combination I chose. I think I would have had better luck if I stuck with mushrooms and broccoli. Overall it was delicious but it didn’t blow me away. Give it a try and let me know what you think!!

Happy Monday!

Anniversary Dinner: Savory Lemon Butter Chicken

Well, yesterday marked our three year wedding anniversary. I truly married the man of my dreams and I couldn’t be happier. We had an amazing wedding and I absolutely love looking back at the pictures. Our photographer, Jordan Brannock did an outstanding job capturing all the details. We are so lucky to be surrounded by so much love from our family and friends, especially on that day.

Wedding

I wanted to cook something special and new to us, so I pulled together this Savory Lemon Butter Chicken. This dinner really takes minimal effort but the finished product is quite impressive. The keys are to make sure your meat is at room temperature and to resist the temptation to fiddle with the chicken while it’s browning, which is the hardest part.

Ingredients:
3 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter
Several sprigs of chopped fresh Savory (leaves removed – stems discarded)
1 lemon (juice of half the lemon and 1 teaspoon of lemon zest)
Salt and Pepper
Several handfuls of green beans

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let chicken come to room temperature. Trim off any excess skin or fat. Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken. Heat olive oil in a heavy oven proof pan over medium heat. Sear chicken in oil, skin side down for approximately 5 minutes. Do not fiddle with the chicken while it’s searing. You really want to develop a nice crispy crust, no one likes flabby skin. After five minutes flip the chicken and let is sear on the other side for approximately 5 minutes. Carefully pop the uncovered skillet into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. When your chicken is almost finished cooking steam your green beans in the microwave (simply place in a bowl, cover with saran wrap and microwave for 3 minutes, easy peasy) and start your sauce. Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan and incorporate the lemon juice and zest. Place the green beans on a large platter and once the chicken is done cooking arrange on top of the green beans and drizzle that delicious lemon butter sauce on top. Sprinkle the entire dish with chopped savory.

Savory Lemon Butter Chicken

This.Was.Delicious. The crispy skin is the best part and the lemon butter adds so much flavor. The green beans are a simple but tasty addition. A small side of roasted potatoes would have been nice too but certainly not necessary. The portion size for this dinner was perfect for two people. Jason devoured two chicken thighs, I had one, and we gobbled up all the green beans. There was nothing leftover! I love when that happens. This chicken is so easy but it tastes like you spent hours on it. This is perfect for a dinner party or a weeknight dinner for two.

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!

Cooking Light: Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

Autumn is here, finally!

Autumn Trail
This was taken at High Point State Park which is where Jason works, lucky duck!

However, it actually felt like the start of winter over the weekend, which I did not sign up for. It was cold and rainy. This Sausage, White Bean, and Kale soup from Cooking Light is exactly what we needed. Jason is also really sick so soup was a must. I made a couple changes to this recipe, as I usually do, and I think it greatly improved the flavor.

I used spicy pork sausage instead of Cajun sausage. I removed the casings and browned the sausage in a large cast iron Dutch oven. Once the sausage was fully cooked, I drained the fat and added 3 cups of chicken stock and the can of diced tomatoes, undrained. I let that simmer for several minutes while I added 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Then I added one can of white beans, drained. I let it all come to a boil and then reduced the heat to low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I added the kale and let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Right before I served the soup I added ¼ cup of light cream. The below picture is the soup before I added the cream.

Sausage, White Bean, and Kale Soup

This turned out great. Granted I know I added some fat and calories with the cream but it was worth it! It was rich and silky without being heavy. The kale cooks down a lot which is great because I cannot eat raw kale. It’s just too coarse for me. However it’s wonderful in a soup. The sausage had so much flavor and the red pepper flakes added even more of kick which was delicious. I do think it’s important to add the garlic powder and onion powder. It just gives the soup an extra layer of flavor which it needs. I would even consider sautéing fresh onion with the sausage to start.

This soup is wonderful and filling on its own, but I did make Jason a grilled cheese to go along with it. I opted out but you can’t ever go wrong with a grilled cheese and soup.

NomNomNom

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!

Farmer’s Market Finds

We stopped by the farmer’s market on Saturday to pick up a few items. I left with organic ground lamb, various produce items, two bottles of wine, and this adorable grey kitten.

Grey Kitten
Take Me Home!

Just kidding, but there was an animal adoption event happening beside the farmer’s market. I walked by twice to play with the kittens and Jason kept donating $ every time I walked over there. We are huge animal lovers and I was maybe 2 minutes away from adopting that cutie. But alas, I think three cats would be too much in one apartment…However, I believe she is still up for adoption and I would be happy to put people in contact with the animal shelter, if they want to giver her a forever home, just leave a comment below if you are interested.

Back to dinner. I originally envisioned the ground lamb being turned into Greek Burgers; however, I changed my mind last minute after a weekend filled with burgers. I went for a brown rice bowl filled with meatballs and broccoli and it turned out great.

Greek Rice Bowls: Lamb Meatballs with Tzatziki, Brown Rice, and Broccoli

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs ground lamb
2 tablespoons of tzatziki (I used an organic one from Whole Foods)
¼ cup of crumbled feta
½ of a yellow onion, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup of seasoned panko breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh mint, to taste
½ cup of brown rice, cooked
1 cup of broccoli, steamed

Directions:
In a large bowl mix together the ground lamb, half the feta, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and mint. Cook brown rice to package directions. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Form meat mixture into tablespoon sized meatballs. Brown meatballs in the pan on all sides, approximately 3-5 minutes per side, in two batches. It’s important not to crowd the pan so all the meatballs cook evenly. When your meatballs are almost finished cooking, steam the rice in the microwave, it should only take about 3 minutes. To plate, simply add half the rice into a bowl, top with 4-5 meatballs and half the broccoli. Top with tzatziki and the rest of the crumbled feta.

Lamb Meatballs

The lamb has such amazing flavor and the tzatziki adds a cool creamy texture that is to die for. An let’s be honest, feta is always a welcome addition. It’s salty and tangy and it pairs perfectly with the lamb. You might think that the broccoli is a little random, and it is, but it actually works. You could sub for any vegetable you have in the fridge. I had a head of broccoli that needed to be cooked, which is why it found it’s home in this recipe. I also think that a sprinkle of mint on top would have been delicious and possibly a scoop of hummus… feel free to make it your own!

I hope you all have a wonderful week 🙂