Cholula Mac & Cheese

Cholula Mac and Cheese

Once I perfected my homemade //macaroni and cheese//, I started noticing that my husband was desecrating his plate of perfectly creamy mac and cheese with hot sauce.  😱  The nerve!

Originally it was Tabasco.  I couldn’t believe such things.  Who dare muddle my perfectly perfected cheese sauce with Tabasco?  No!  No no no.

But then he became a Cholula guy.  And I became a Cholula girl.  And then my mom made a buffalo style mac and cheese and I thought hey.  Maybe spicy mac and cheese ain’t all that bad.

So a little while ago I made a batch of mac and cheese and split it in half.  One, I flavored with Chipotle Tabasco (one of my favoritest condiments ever), and the other, I flavored with Cholula.  I brought both to a family gathering at my mom’s house and twisted everyone’s arms to taste both and tell me which one they liked better.  I did not tell them what was flavored with what.

The clear winner was the Cholula flavored mac and cheese, but even so, the Chipotle Tabasco one was also very good!  It was really hard to choose.

There are no major changes with this mac and cheese from my //original recipe//.  The only things I did differently were a) I used rotini instead of elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever you want! and b) I added 4 tablespoons Cholula to the cheese sauce.  Everything else is exactly the same!

You can certainly experiment with adding more or less Cholula to your taste, especially if you are hesitant with spicy foods.  The 4 tablespoons was a good amount to get a bit of a kick, but not too much; but we are not too sensitive to spicy foods.  Use your judgment and taste as you go.  Enjoy!

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Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni

Cheeseburger Macaroni

First and foremost, can I just lament how hard it is to photograph this dish?

I mean, I don’t really know how you make homemade cheeseburger macaroni pretty.  I suppose I could have thrown something green on top of it, like parsley?  But then it wouldn’t really be a knockoff of Hamburger Helper.

Let’s face it.  Cheeseburger macaroni is not a pretty dish.  But, it is a delicious dish.

How many of you grew up eating Hamburger Helper as a kid?  Well, not me.  I didn’t discover it’s wondrousness until I was about 19 or so and moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) into our first apartment together in West Philly.  Back then, our grocery budget was about $50 a week to feed the two of us.  In 1999, $50 got you a lot farther than it does now.  We could buy a couple cases of soda, 5 lbs of ground beef and/or chicken breasts, and 5 different Hamburger/Chicken Helpers, and still have some money left over.  The only trick was walking it about a mile home in backpacks, through a sketchy neighborhood, in all the weather elements.

My, how far we’ve come!

This homemade cheeseburger macaroni is classed up a bit with my fancy schmancy cheese sauce that I use when making homemade macaroni.  Oh, and also?  Liquid Smoke.  Cuz that shit makes everything taste amazing.  Sometimes I just pop open the top and take a couple whiffs.  It’s so good.

This dish stays pretty creamy as leftovers too, especially if you heat it gently in the microwave with a splash of milk to moisten it back up.  Therefore, it made a great work lunch for me earlier this week.  😉

Homemade Cheeseburger Macaroni
Adapted from: FoodieCrush
Servess 4-6

For the beef mixture:
1 pound ground beef (I recommend 85% ground beef)
1 small yellow onion, diced fine
3 cups beef stock
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons garlic powder
5-6 shakes of Liquid Smoke
2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooking spray

For the cheese sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk, warmed for 1 minute in the microwave
4oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1oz Velveeta, cubed

1. Spray a deep skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and brown, breaking up into chunks. When the beef has finished browning, drain it, and return it to the skillet.

2. Add the beef stock, ketchup, tomato paste, garlic powder, and Liquid Smoke, and stir to combine. Once combined, add in the macaroni, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the macaroni is cooked al dente.

3. While the beef mixture is simmering, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook, allowing the mixture to bubble, for about 3 minutes. Add milk and whisk vigorously to combine, until the sauce thickens (this should not take long since you already warmed the milk in the microwave). As soon as the sauce starts to resist a little, when you can whisk and see the bottom of the pan, begin adding your cheeses. Start with cream cheese and Velveeta, whisk until melted. Then add shredded cheese, and whisk until the cheese sauce is well-combined.

4. When the beef mixture is finished, pour the cheese sauce over top and gently stir together to combine. Season with salt and pepper if necessary, and enjoy!

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Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

Today, I bring you one of my favorite old-time recipes from when I first started learning how to cook: fresh tomato and garlic penne.

When I first started learning how to cook, I was also sort of discovering that I liked pasta.  Weird, I know, right?  Like, who am I?  I don’t even know sometimes.  But yeah, I first fell in love with alfredo sauce and after making that a gajillion times, my boyfriend (now husband) urged me to make some pasta with red sauce.  He is partial to red sauces while I could eat any kind of creamy, cheesy, saucy pasta by the bucketful and never really get full.  So we tried some of those jarred sauces, and they aren’t terrible, but whenever / however I stumbled across this recipe, I knew immediately he would like it.

So we made it over the weekend for the first time in, oh, like, 15 years?  😂  I swear, I’m not reaching that far back for recipes because I’m running out of content or ideas.  In fact, I’m reaching that far back because I’m trying to expand my repertoire of vegetarian recipes, and found this old gem as a result of minimalizing one of my recipe binders last month.  It was one of those, “OH!  THIS recipe!  Why did we ever stop making this?!” moments.

And when I took my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my little apartment in Spokane, Washington, where I have a vision of myself wearing khaki overalls (lol whut), sitting at our dining room table that was practically in the family room, watching Jeopardy, sprinkling Parmesan cheese over top of hot penne pasta graced with the sweetest Roma tomatoes, that fresh basil wafting up into my nostrils, and, finally, shoveling forkfuls of this pasta into my mouth.  It wasn’t a bad recipe then, and it’s not a bad recipe now.  And it’s a GREAT recipe to make right now, at the height of fresh tomato season.

I hope you enjoy it!

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Penne

2 1/2 cups uncooked penne rigate pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

1. Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.

2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic in oil for 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until tomatoes start to break down and sauce thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low, and stir in basil, salt, and pepper to taste.

3. Toss tomato sauce with cooked pasta. Sprinkle with additional fresh basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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#52NewEats :: Week 32 :: Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Guysssssss.  Who knew vegan desserts could be SO delicious?

This is another recipe from my friend Daniela over at //dulce y natural// blog.  The //original recipe// was for chocolate chip cookies, but for whatever reason, the dough did not really come together enough for me to be able to roll into a ball, so I improvised and pressed it into a pan to make chocolate chip cookie bars instead.  I suspect my issue may have been that my house was so warm to start, that my coconut oil was already in the liquid state.  In her blog Daniela instructs you to work quickly with your hands in the dough, as the heat from your hands will keep the coconut oil soft.  Maybe when she made them, the coconut oil started to firm up just enough to tighten up the dough.  But not for me on a 90-degree day here in the Pennsylvania countryside!

Regardless, these chocolate chip cookie bars were a major success.  I baked them for the same amount of time, maybe a minute or two longer, than the cookie recipe, and they made my house smell amazing!  I lined an 8×8 pan with parchment paper, and when the cookie bars were done baking and had cooled a bit, I lifted them out of the pan and cut them into bars with a chef’s knife.  The day I made them, I was meeting my mostly-vegan BFF for dinner and decided to bring a box for her and her wife to share.  The next day she texted me and said they couldn’t stop eating them and they wanted the recipe!

These chocolate chip cookie bars were made from ingredients I already had in my house, which was also awesome, because I didn’t have to go buy anything fancy to make them – and, also, because that means I can basically make them anytime I want!  I hope you head on over to Daniela’s blog and give these chocolate chip cookies (or cookie bars!) a try.  And while you’re there check out the rest of the recipes… I’ve got my eye on that carrot cake next!!

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#52NewEats :: Week 31 :: Watermelon Margaritas

Watermelon Margarita

We had a big BBQ over the 4th of July weekend and of course, abiding by American standards, I bought a big watermelon.  Well actually, I thought I bought a small watermelon, or at least a smallER watermelon, but it was still entirely too much for our party.  So, I served half of it in cut wedges, and cubed the other half and froze them on a baking sheet.  Once they were frozen, I stored them in plastic bags.

Figuring, surely, someday, I would find a use for frozen watermelon… right?  🙄

Well, magically, then I did!  Sometimes I swear it’s like Pinterest reads my mind.  Scrolling through just after our party, BOOM, up pops this recipe for //Watermelon Margaritas//.  The good news is, I had all the ingredients on hand, except for the simple syrup, which I could whip up real quick anyway (in case you don’t know: equal parts sugar + water simmered over low heat until the sugar has evaporated).  So, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I made these margaritas…. and then, I made more…. and then I made some more….

They were SO good.  SO.  GOOD.  And I still have frozen watermelon in my freezer, so I reckon I may go home and have another one tonight.  #drinkydrinkyfuntime  With a little bit of prep, you will have a bar-worthy drink to serve to your guests.  Or, to just yourself, if you’re like me.  And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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#52NewEats :: Week 30 :: Apple Almond Muffins

Apple Almond Muffins

I met an adorable fellow food blogger, Daniela, in the food bloggers group on Facebook, and immediately fell in love with her work because….. well, because the very first post I read of hers had the F word in it, and I knew she was my kind of girl!

Ok, ok, ok… also, because, she focuses primarily on sweets?  But uh, not just any sweets, vegan sweets!  If you have not dabbled in vegetarianism or veganism, you might be sitting there wondering just how possible it is to create vegan sweets recipes that actually taste good, and Daniela is here to tell you, and I am here to echo her, that it is ENTIRELY possible, and ENTIRELY delicious.

I have made two of Daniela’s recipes now – the second will be up very soon – and I just went to her page to grab the link to her blog, //Dulce y Natural//, and noticed now she’s got a carrot cake recipe up.  And lord help me, because if I have major weaknesses, carrot cake is definitely one of many…  But anyway, yes, I have made two of her recipes so far, and these muffins promptly disappeared, and I made the mistake of sharing the second recipe with my vegan BFFs instead of keeping them all to myself, so I guess I need to make those again too (stay tuned!!)…

These //apple almond muffins// were the PERFECT little vegan companion to my vegan smoothie for breakfast every morning.  Um, actually, I guess mine weren’t so vegan since I did slather some Kerrygold butter on them, but, ok, vegetarian muffin with vegan smoothie, good enough.  #plantbased #imgettingthere

I have to admit, I have not done much vegetarian or vegan baking, and I was not sure how these would turn out or come together.  But they totally surprised me, and now I am a believer.  When you are raised to believe that “you need an egg to bind it”, then you read a recipe for something like a muffin and of course feel doubt that it would come together.  These muffins were delicious though, and so easy to make, considering I pretty much always have all of these ingredients in my house anyway.  The only thing I will say though is, I am not sure how accurate conversion measurements would be.  I have a kitchen scale, so I set it to grams, and measured everything out that way.  I attempted to google conversions but they were so precise, I didn’t even bother going that way.

Go check out Daniela’s blog, and make these muffins!

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#12NewTreats :: July :: Blackout Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Blackout Cake

//Pinch of Yum// is one of my biggest food blog inspirations.  Sometimes I feel like Lindsay has my voice, like she writes in the exact way I think and talk (but have yet to figured out how to get into printed word).  The very first recipe I posted on this blog was a nachos recipe (of course) inspired by one of her delicious casserole recipes.  POY is the blog that convinced me to take the plunge and start my own blog.  And here I am, 2 1/2 years later, still making her recipes, still admiring her from afar, still wishing I could work for her in some way…. #dreams

Lindsay posts a lot of vegetarian recipes that I have really loved, but she doesn’t always post dessert recipes, so when she posts something like a friggin’ THREE LAYER CHOCOLATE CAKE COVERED IN CHOCOLATE CHIPS, you sit up and take notice.  Her //Blackout Chocolate Cake// caught my attention immediately.  I’m on the mailing list, and I’m pretty sure I opened the email for this post and immediately sat up in my chair, drawing closer to the computer screen so I didn’t miss a single slutty detail.  I showed it to my daughter that night and said, “THAT, kiddo, THAT is what we are making for 12 New Treats in July.”  She spoke no argument.

So, yeah.  This chocolate cake was just RIDICULOUS.  But I did mess up a little.  It’s supposed to be three layers, and I swore I had three cake pans, but only found two, so I made a two-layer cake and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes (that I brought into work and subsequently disappeared pretty quickly).  (Oh, yeah, and then after I did the dishes I found my third cake pan.  D’oh.)  Not a terrible mess-up, but still.  I also skipped the chocolate drizzle, only because, yes, there is a limit to the amount of chocolate I can stomach, and I felt it would be too much.  So we did cover the chocolate frosting with chocolate chips, and trust me, it was plenty.  But if you have a mega sweet tooth, go for it and make that drizzle yo.  I’m sure it’s delicious.

If you have ever been to The Cheesecake Factory and had the “Linda’s Fudge Cake” dessert, this chocolate cake reminded me so much of that.  It’s my favorite dessert there (no I do not get cheesecake), and anyway, who doesn’t love a big, fat, thick chocolate cake??  I’ll probably have to make my husband make this for me for my birthday every year.

This chocolate cake was very easy to make, and my daughter loved all the whisking and stirring and beating.  She practically made the whole thing by herself, I was very proud.  🙂  If SHE can make it, so can you.  So go make it!

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#52NewEats :: Week 29 :: Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon

Earlier this year, I mentioned in a post that I joined a really inspiring food blogging group on Facebook.  This group is full of so much fun and positivity.  And, duh, photographic inspiration!  Seeing everyone else’s work cuts both ways for me – on the one hand, I feel like I have so much work left to do; on the other, it is so inspiring to see how others photograph food!

I met Anyonita through this group, and asked if I could make one of her recipes for my blog.  She has a vast selection of delicious recipes on her site, //Anyonita Nibbles//, where she focuses primarily on gluten-free eats.  It was really difficult to choose just one recipe, but this //beef bourguignon// was the winner!

Beef bourguignon is probably one of my husband’s favorite dishes, so I knew I had to make this.  Also, bonus?  It’s a crock pot recipe!  I have made a couple different beef bourguignon recipes over the years that require hours of simmering and watching a pot, with tons of different ingredients, and granted, they were all tasty, but oh so much effort.  This recipe was practically effortless, and I LOVE simple crock pot recipes that I can throw together on a Sunday and have leftovers for lunch at work the next day!

The only thing I did different here was, Anyonita recommends serving with carrots and mashed potatoes, but I decided to put sliced carrots into the stew itself.  I added these to the bacon fat in the skillet just prior to adding the shallots, as they would need some more time to cook down a bit.  Then everything went into the crock pot with some delicious red wine, and oh, what a rich, hearty, delicious beef stew!

This was so easy, and so quick, that it will definitely make my fall rotation of soups and stews.  (I know, I know, it’s the middle of summer and I’m already counting down to fall… it’s my favorite season!)

Y’all go make this recipe, it gets two thumbs up from me!

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#12NewTreats :: June :: The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

I had a massive craving for chocolate chip cookies recently, and went off to my Pinterest to see if I could find a recipe for one that wouldn’t necessarily require me to go out and buy anything special.  With chocolate chip cookies, I am partial to soft cookies – I am not much a fan of the crispy cookies.  I love a thick, soft, chewy cookie so, so much, and this is what I was craving.

So imagine my curiosity being piqued when I found a recipe for – not THE BEST!, but – //The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies//.  Girlfriend starts her post by telling you that these cookies will ruin your life.  SAY NO MORE MY QUEEN, THAT SOUNDS LIKE MY KIND OF DANGER, I SHALL KEEP READING.

Here’s what I have to say about these chocolate chip cookies:

🍴  I love that I could make them without a stand mixer.

🍴  The cookie dough was, um, how do you say?  Oh yes.  EFFING AMAZING.

🍴  I was barely able to control myself once they came out of the oven.

🍴  My daughter was barely able to control herself once they came out of the oven.

🍴  Neither of us were able to control ourselves when trying to photograph them the following day.

I had her hold the plate for me while I photographed, and she lasted a whole 5.8 seconds before begging me to eat one, and I said sure, go ahead, only if I can take your picture.

I think my daughter’s face says it all, don’t you?

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

That would be actual footage of happiness caused by The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies EVARRR.

The Worst Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can’t let a single crumb slip through those fingers!

Listen.  They’re chocolate chip cookies.  You probably already have all the ingredients.  Make them.  And put extra chocolate chips on top before baking, like she says.  I wish I did.  It’s the only thing that could have possibly made them WORSE than they already were.  Next time.  😉

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#52NewEats :: Week 28 :: Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

Broccoli Cheddar Wild Rice Casserole

It is no secret that I looooove //smitten kitchen//.  Love her.  LOVE.  HER.  She was probably one of the first blogs I’ve ever followed, and I found so much inspiration in her photography.  She has taken some really mouthwatering pictures, famously, with only a single window in her NYC apartment kitchen to light the food.  I am quite confident that had I never seen smitten kitchen’s work, I would never have thought I could do something like a food blog myself.

I have a deep love for many of her dishes…  //Red Wine Chocolate Cake//, once recommended to me by a dear friend; //Homemade Ricotta//, I submit that there is no easier, no tastier, no creamier homemade ricotta recipe out there; I could go on and on.  I also absolutely love her site, because it it minimalist, and there are maybe 1-2 ads on her pages, and none of them get in your face, no annoying popups, no splash screens.  Nothing ever gets in the way of the content you are there to see!

Quite frankly, she is my ultimate food blogging idol.  #skwannabe

Now, folks, I can add this delicious casserole to my list of favorites.  There are a couple reasons I LOVED this //broccoli cheddar wild rice casserole//:

🍴  It tastes decidedly “grown-up”.  The cheese sauce doesn’t taste like a run of the mill cheese sauce.  I am attributing this to the dijon mustard, though I could be wrong.  My kid’s 7yo tongue would definitely NOT like this dish.  😂  Not right now anyway.

🍴  Broccoli!  I mentioned recently that I like dishes like this casserole because they help me get more broccoli into my belly.  Broccoli isn’t so bad when it’s covered with cheese sauce.  😉

🍴  It was REALLY good leftover.  I ate it for lunch for the next two days.

I already have this casserole on my menu again for next week – we will be pairing it with a salad, following our new primarily vegetarian diet.  Maybe I can get my kid to try it.  🙏  But YOU should DEFINITELY try it.  Go forth, and eat the broccoli!

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