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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Crockpot Mac and Cheese Bar

I have been in charge of my workplace employee gathering events for the past eight years. I love planning these, because they almost always revolve around food. I am about to hand off the baton to someone else, who will coordinate the events for the company.  In order to do this, I am organizing a potluck for people who volunteered to help this year.

My contribution to the potluck is going to be this very decadent crockpot macaroni and cheese. I was sceptical that a cheese sauce in the crockpot would be creamy, and smooth, but you won't believe how good this is.

 There is a little "cheese science" in my combination of ingredients here. Normally,  I am opposed to the "processed cheese spread" needed here. But, the oil content is needed to keep this smooth in the crockpot. Don't worry, you won't really taste it. This is amazing...and the topping choices are endless. Feel free to post suggestions !

Crockpot Mac and Cheese Bar
3 cups uncooked macaroni
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1 can evaporated milk
1 pound processed cheese spread, cut into cubes
2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings, such as bacon, salsa, chili, green onions, pickles
Cook macaroni according to package directions,  leaving slightly undercooked.  In a large bowl, mix together butter, eggs, and milks. Pour mixture into the crockpot,  then gently stir in macaroni and cheeses.  Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours, stirring at least once. Serve with your favorite toppings.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Farro Risotto with Chorizo and Corn

This dish was inspired by a favorite lunch dish at a restaurant near where I work.  They have a rotating, lunch risotto,  but this chorizo version is, in my opinion,  the best thing on the menu. I was inspired to try to recreate it at home, when the weather was bad, and I wanted to make dinner out of what I had on hand.

I had purchased some farro, but had never cooked with it. It is rumored to be the world's oldest grain, in the package it looks a bit like small pieces of puffed wheat. I had heard it would work in risotto,  so that was a twist on the original restaurant recipe I had in mind. I didn't have the right kind of rice for risotto anyway, so I had to go with it.

One tip, we don't normally use chorizo,  because it is super greasy. For this recipe, I browned it, rinsed it under warmed water, then stirred it in. That's an old dieter's trick to remove fat from a recipe, but for this application, I wanted the flavor, but not the grease.

Farro Risotto with Chorizo and Corn
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic,  minced
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups farro
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 pound chorizo, browned,  drained and rinsed
3/4 cup roasted corn
1/2 cup white cheddar cheese
Lime zest and cilantro for garnish
Start stock simmering in a small pot on the stove. Using a Dutch oven, melt butter and olive oil together.  Add onion and garlic,  and saute until soft. Stir in farro, and continue to stir until farro starts to brown.  Add wine, reduce to simmer,  and stir until wine is almost completely absorbed.  Start adding stock one half cup at a time,  stirring between each addition until liquid is almost completely absorbed.  When all of the stock had been added, gently stir in chorizo and corn. Warm through,  then stir in cheese. Remove from heat, let rest 5 minutes, then serve, garnished with lime zest and cilantro.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Caprese Style Baked Quinoa

  1. I won an amazing prize at our Christmas party this year. It was two full bags of groceries from Trader Joe's, all organic stuff, courtesy of our "Green Team" at work. And, it's a good thing too, because we were down with the flu over the holidays, and didn't get out of the house to buy anything. I was able to create this dish out of what we had on hand in the refrigerator, and the pickings out of my Christmas haul !
It was the perfect thing for us after a week of eating soup and feeling like not doing much. It was simple to put together, warm and comforting.
Caprese Style Baked Quinoa
3 cups cooked quinoa
2 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
2 tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh basil, cut into ribbons
Preheat oven to 375. In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except cheese, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil. Simmer over low until thickened, and then place half of the mixture in an 11 by 7 pan sprayed with non-stock. Top with the shredded mozzarella, then spread the remaining quinoa mixture over the top. Top with the slices of fresh mozzarella. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and cheese is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving, and top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil.