Monday, 24 September 2012

Mac & Cheese Mondays: Spicy Mac & Cheese

To admit that I'm a planner is, like - the understatement of the year.

I like knowing when things are going to happen - that way I can brace myself for the bad (but when are those types of things EVER planned?) or delight in the excitement of the good.

Organisation like that helps keep my sanity well intact.

I don't, as a general rule, like surprises. 

Well, if it was a "you're adorable - here's a gazillion dollars" kind of surprise - that I'd be okay with.

I don't like unexpected visits at home, because I like to be prepared to treat my guests well and make sure that I have clean clothes on and that I brush my teeth.  Oh - and that I have snacks and drinks and can generally spoil those who walk through my door.

Enter my Mom.

The weekend of my niece's 3rd birthday, Mom told me that she would come to my place on Thursday afternoon and we'd have a little visit before my Dad flew in from work later that afternoon.

What she FAILED to tell me was that they were not, in fact, driving on to my brother's home three hours away as I though they would be, but staying overnight at MY house.

So there I was - with dough, sauce, and sorbet to make for dinner the next night - and nothing prepared to feed my folks THAT night.

I'd had this Spicy Mac recipe sitting out on my desk for weeks and weeks and decided to roll with it.  We'd have it with smokies and call it a day.

Of course, just to throw me on my head, my Mom cried out "Don't make that one!  Make the good one you made last time!". 

She didn't really cry out. 

But I think she always freaks out a little bit when I test new recipes on her.

A few hours later - she would be singing a different tune.

As usual. 

I hate to toot my own horn or whatever - but I haven't had a lot of misses in the ole kitchen lately.

Well - one.  My armhair is still growing back.

Alright - on with the spicy mac.

Cook the pasta and set aside.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan and add in chopped jalapeno, roasted red pepper, and onion.  Cook until soft and smelling delish.

In a pot, melt some more butter.  Then add in flour and stir.  Then add the milk and cook until thickened.  Add the spices.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

I know I'm missing a bit chunk of pictures here, but it's because my Dad was going, "Heather, come look at this.  Heather, read this.  Heather, pay attention to me."

It is really distracting!

Okay.  Let me segue a little bit here.

I'm not sure what my problem is - but I always have a problem with colby jack cheese and monterey jack cheese.  The recipe calls for a colby jack cheese.  I looked for it - it was not to be found.  The recipe calls for pepper jack cheese - I used monterey pepper jack - that's probably right.  Right?

Now.  Why do I always get bent out of shape about these two cheeses?  Sometimes I can find colby jack.  Sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I can find monterey jack.  Sometimes I can't. 

It's incredibly irritating.

Does anyone have any suggestions?  Anyone?  Help!?

I subbed in extra cheddar for the colby jack and went about my business.

Annnnd - forget that little outburst.

Add the sauteed vegetables, stir in the pasta and put the whole works into a large casserole dish.... 

I need some more baking dishes.  This one is supposed to be two quarts and it was BARELY big enough.

Annie's recipe calls for bread to be ripped up and tossed around in a food processor until it's crumbly, but I couldn't be bothered to buy bread (cause I was ticked off about the cheese thing - TWO STORES and nothing!!!) so I used the panko crumbs I had in my pantry.

Then bake the whole works at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.  And talk your Dad out of making you scan a zillion pieces of paper one at a time because you'd MUCH rather visit with them and the scanning would take all freaking night.

And thank him profusely for using the devil's invention, also known as the barbecue.  Which burned off all your arm hair the last time you used it.

Oh wait.  That was my arm.

This mac and cheese was AWESOME!  It had just the right amount of heat and the perfect spices.  It was almost like the jalapeno mac and cheese that I had at Famous Dave's in Montana - but not quite....  It was JUST as good.

Serve with smokies - trust me - they paired together perfectly.

Annie - you totally struck gold with this recipe!!!

And my nervous Mother's response?  "Okay, I don't mind that you didn't make the other mac and cheese - this one is fantastic!"

I'm not sure why she doubts me.

I think she's still having recurring nightmares about when I attempted by first batch of homemade buns and they turned out raw.

My Dad didn't have a response - he was too busy stuffing his face.

Which means it was delicious!

Thank you Annie!!!!

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dorito Chicken Casserole

Sooooo - Pinterest is totally ruining my life.

Except it's totally making it better.

But it can easily suck up, like, 27 hours out of every day. 

Yes, I'm aware that there are only 24 hours in a day, but - in all seriousness - check it out.  You'll understand.

While I was perusing Pinterest one day, I saw this casserole from Ali at Jam Hands.... 

After reading the recipe, I thought it would be either completely terrible or totally awesome.  I had no idea.

But I wanted to try it anyway.

And it's super-easy too.

But I'm warning you - if you're on a health kick, you may want to look away now.  This is not healthy in any way possible.  The only green stuff in the whole meal is from the chiles.

I also forgot to get a salad - so this meal was junk, junk, junk, food.

Chicken, cheese, sour cream, milk, taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup, tomatoes with chiles, Dorito Nacho Cheese Chips.  Seriously.
I considered poaching chicken breasts to use in here - but I didn't have enough time....  So a rotisserie chicken it would have to be.

First, shred 2 cups of the rotisserie chicken.

Yes, it's all white meat.  There might be a piece or two of dark in there - but I detest dark meat.
Then shred up 1 cup of cheddar cheese.  Or a different kind if you so choose.  I happen to be a cheddar enthusiast.  And a mozza enthusiast.  And a pretty much every kind of cheese enthusiast.

I love cheese.

Yes, you.  I love you.
Then, in a large bowl, mix together the following:

Cream of chicken soup, one can.

And I kinda heart you too.  Okay, I do.
Then the cheddar.

Then the tomatoes with chiles.  The recipe actually calls for tomatoes with jalapenos - I couldn't find any.

Then the sour cream.

Is it wrong if I love sour cream too?
Then the milk.  I actually thought this was kind of weird - but I rolled with it.

Then 1/2 a packet of taco seasoning.

I wish I could tell you that I totally eye-balled half a package of taco seasoning and then carried on, but my obsessive compulsive, anal retentive nature wouldn't let me.  I weighed the taco seasoning in a small bowl on the scale and then removed half.

Because I'm C.R.A.Z.Y. 

Send help.

Ahem.  Then mix everything together into this big ole' mess!

Grease up a 2-quart casserole dish.

Crush up some Dorito Nacho Cheese chips.  Don't mill them until they're dust - but you want them so-so crushed.  Put two cups of the so-so crushed chips into the bottom of the casserole dish.

Like this.

Then put half of the chicken mixture on top of those chips.  Which I will NOT show you because I'm a goofball and forgot to take that pictures.

Just imagine it in your mind.  Got it?

Excellent!  Gold star for you!

Then top that chicken mixture with another layer of chips and then top those chips with another layer of the chicken mixture.

Then top all of that with more shredded cheese - as much as you'd like.

Then bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 - 35 minutes, until bubbling around the edges.

And.  Dig.  In.

Cause, yum.

This was reaaaally good!  I didn't expect it to be so good!  And it's perfect on top of rice.

Interestingly enough - the chips stayed pretty crispy throughout baking.

I would definitely make it again - although I'm sure the nutritional value is in the negative.  Null.

Oh - and PS?  The leftovers the next day were JUST as awesome!  (although the chips had lost their crispiness)

This is the Cane girl - signing off.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Stuffed Crust Pizza

(In which I attempt to clone a stuffed crust pizza from a famous chain restaurant - courtesy of Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes fame.)

Every week, Todd Wilbur releases a tested and cloned recipe.  I think this one was released approximately 156 weeks ago - give or take a few.

I've tested out the sauce - but have never gotten around to testing out the dough and the process off stuffing a crust. 

And, frankly, I'd had enough of the recipe sitting in my little wooden letter box on my kitchen counter.

For 156 weeks.

I couldn't take it ANY. MORE.

I told Dee I was making it and asked if she and her fiance wanted to come over for dinner.

Seriously?  Who's gonna say no to me???

Now - I was well prepared.  Because this recipe actually has to be made over two days.

Apparently, to get the same "taste" as the original, the clone dough must sit in the fridge overnight and rise very slowly.

Of course, in spite of all my careful planning, my Mom and Dad showed up for an overnight visit and I had to seriously multi-task.  But that's a story for another time.

First.  Start off making the dough.

In a small bowl, combine warm water, sugar, and yeast.  Stir until the yeast dissolves.

In a separate large bowl, sift together the flour and salt.

Make a small well in the flour mixture and add the yeast mixture.

Then add the oil.

Then use a fork to bring the flour mixture in a little at a time to combine.

This is where I ran into a problem.  I simply ASSUMED it would just come together.  But after mixing and mixing with a fork and then dumping my hands in and trying to bring the dough together - it just didn't work.

Clearly, something was wrong.

I finally caved and proceeded to add warm water a little at a time until I had a cohesive dough.  The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of water - I ended up adding another 1/2 cup of water.

Knead the dough into a soft ball like this.

Then cover and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.  That's right - TWO.

Then punch down the dough, cover again, and put into the fridge overnight.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge a couple of hours before you plan to make your pizza.  You want to bring the dough up to room temperature so it's easy to roll out.

When it's ready to roll, lightly flour the counter, punch down the dough.

Now roll that little dough ball into an 18 inch circle.  Seriously.

18 inches.

It doesn't look like it will roll out that big - but it will.

Now that it's all rolled out, it needs to be moved onto a pizza pan.  Without stretching it out....  Right.

Then take those pull aparty stringy cheese things and put them around the edge.  Of the pan....  On the dough.....  I can't figure out how to describe it. 

How about I show you!

I thought my pizza pan was a little smaller than intended, but once I started closing up the dough, I wasn't too worried about it.

Okay - now.  To close up the dough.  Get a little dish of water, and wet the edge of the dough as you lift it over the cheese stringy things and press it down to seal.

And then just keep going all around the pizza....

Until all the cheesy stringy things are sealed tightly in dough.

Then top with whatever toppings you want.  I did just sauce and cheese.  I didn't get a picture of it before I threw it in the oven.  Sorry 'bout that.

And bake at 475 degrees F for 12 - 15 minutes.

And here again I had an issue with this recipe.

I checked the pizza at 12 minutes and yanked it out of the oven.  If I'd left it any longer it would have burnt to a crisp!  Perhaps the temperature is off? 

And let stand....

I was in kind of a hurry to get this served up and didn't let it stand long enough.  AND - the recipe says to use 1 cup of sauce....  That was just TOO much sauce in my opinion.

It ran all over the place.

But it was YUM.  And fun to make!  I suppose if I was making this pizza with this crust again, I'd probably bake at 400 degrees or 425 for the same amount of time.

It was a delicious dinner - even though when this picture was taken we were being attached by half a dozen crazed wasps and escaped into the house about 30 seconds later.  Oh - the mac & cheese you see there?  That's from dinner the night before.  NO - it was NOT my idea.  Dee insisted that she wanted to try it and I can hardly say no to her.  They loved it.  And the whole dinner was totally amped up by the AWESOME beer lemonade drink that Dee and Nate brought.

Holy MAN, that stuff was good.

Love you Dee!  And you too Nate!

(don't want him to feel left out)

This is the Cane Girl - signing off.