Thursday, January 26, 2012

Homemade Mac and Cheese for the Birthday Girl - with Cake Pops!

Each of my kids gets to pick their dinner of choice on their birthday. This started as a cute and innocent tradition and has since developed into the very cause of my migraines! If there was a parenting course on "How to Teach your Children To Be Demanding Needy Little Tyrants," then I would graduate with honors.

As our kids have gotten older and smarter they now have very detailed stipulations on what exactly their birthday dinner will entail. For instance, my son usually asks for chicken soup. But not just any chicken soup - "the homemade kind, from whole roasted chicken bones, with mini meatballs and pieces of chicken....and the carrots need to be soft...and grated Romano cheese on top - heaping spoonfuls of grated Romano cheese," to be precise.

And then I lovingly smack them with my wooden spoon....I mean........ I give them a kiss and say, "Anything for the Birthday Boy!"

Well, this year my daughter was turning FIVE! Five is a HUGE deal to her since it means school is coming up this year. Also, I have learned a ton of new things about turning five. For instance, (straight from my daughter's mouth) "When you're five you don't take naps anymore." Or "I can ride my scooter in the house cuz I'm five." Everything she wants to do is now suddenly allowed at the age of five. In your dreams, kid.

SO this year the Birthday girl requested homemade macaroni and cheese. VERY cheesy macaroni and cheese with absolutely "NO ham" (here come those stipulations again). And she wanted it to look orange like the box of store bought 'Macaroni and Hydrogenated Oil' (some call it "Macaroni and Cheese"). Well, that wasn't happening because I used a wonderful gourmet blend of cheeses that were predominantly white! Yeah, that did not go over well. But in the end she loved it (and so did we cuz we got our yummy cheese fix) You know how I love my cheese.

So here is a recipe that I altered out of my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. I switched up some ingredients and ratios and, of course, cheeses. But if you want to pick your own selection of cheese, just stick to the overall amount of cheese and pick cheeses that melt well. For instance, mozzarella would not be a good choice for this!


1 lb elbow macaroni
1/4 cup butter
1.4 cup flour
1 -2 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard ( I added a bit more, it really does enhance the flavor!)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheeses that melt all creamy-like! (I used white cheddar, swiss, havarti, and asiago)

While the pasta is boiling (I would under cook it by a couple minutes), prepare the sauce as follows:

Melt butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and lightly bubbly. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring CONSTANTLY! Boil & stir 1 minute. Turn heat off. Stir in the cheese until melted.

Toss the pasta in the sauce and pout into an un-greased casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 10 - 20 minutes. Here, you have the option of topping it with more cheese or maybe crumbled Ritz crackers or bread crumbs - whatever you like! Buon Appetito!

And Voila! The birthday dinner was a success. We'll pretend this next picture is not of the girls spitting on the Birthday cake ;)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Soft Glazed Molasses Cookies!!!

I tell you now I am definitely NO BAKER!!! I just can't wrap my hands around the scientific methods behind measurements and leavening and wet/dry's just too much for my brain to handle. I cook (and I can't even do that very well) only because I am at liberty to add a little of this, and a little of that at my discretion!! This could have something to do with the fact that my 100% Italian blood dictates a rather stubborn personality that does not lend itself to following directions very well. But that's just a theory....

So when I had to come up with something for a cookie exchange, I went with a cookie that I knew I would LOVE since I would have to spend ample time rebelling against my tendency to experiment and actually follow a recipe! I love those off-brand iced oatmeal cookies you find on the bottom shelf in the cookie aisles at the grocery store. I generally go through half a package in one sitting. And I also LOVE gingerbread cookies but I hate the labor involved in rolling out dough and cutting out shapes (I told you I was lazy). So this recipe is a combo of both my favorites and really is fool proof! After all, I have made it three times and perfectly each time!! I also suggest the use of a cookie scoop as it is my new FAVORITE kitchen tool! Try it for yourself:


1 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup molasses
1 large egg
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TB cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt


Beat the sugar, sour cream, butter, shortening and egg together with a hand mixer. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough with a cookie scoop on to parchment paper or un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until no indentation remains when pressed. Drizzle with glaze and eat em up!


3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter (softened completely)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 or more TBSP milk (more as needed to thin it out)

Mix until thin enough to either drizzle on in a cute pattern, or brush on with a brush while cookies are still warm. There is no way you could be disappointed with these cookies! ENJOY!!

The Mamma Meets the Cucina: COOKING WITH SPIRITS!

So the holidays have come and gone and our liquor cabinets are pretty much cleaned out. But don't write off those nearly empty bottles yet! With less than a cup of some of the most common spirits, you can have an awesome meal on the table with a huge wow factor. And the Mamma & the Cucina are battling again to show you just how to do it!


Of all the liquors that I keep stored in my house (and aside from a variety of rums, there aren't many others), tequila seems to be the least used. Just a nice margarita on Cinco de Mayo and maybe a grill-out or two is all the time that I usually have for tequila. Cuervo 'shot' days are way behind me. So when I started to plan for our Cooking with Spirits post, I figured it would be a good time to dust off the tequila bottle and put it to some good use!

This recipe is very simple and only uses a handful of ingredients. The the tequila lime marinade leaves a refreshing, zesty flavor that, although screams for a summer grill-out, can be enjoyed all year round and makes for a terrific party appetizer.



6 uncooked skinless chicken tenders, cut into 2" pieces

1/3 cup silver/white tequila

juice of 4 limes, plus zest of 1 lime

1 tspn honey

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

4 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

2 tblspn butter


Whisk together the tequila, lime juice, lime zest, honey and cilantro. Place the cut chicken pieces into tequila mixture, let sit in fridge for at least two hours (a plastic baggie works well for this).

Remove chicken from marinade, discard marinade. Quarter each piece of the prosciutto (adjust size accordingly to fit around each chicken strip). Wrap each chicken strip with one piece of the prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Place the prosciutto wrapped chicken in pan, cooking the chicken evenly on each side, until chicken is fully browned and prosciutto is slightly crisp.

Serve and enjoy!

Sambuca is one of the liquors I remember from my childhood. After dinner my parents and grandparents would have a small glass over ice, or even put some in their coffee. I, personally, never liked the stuff, but I find that the naturally sweet flavor really enhances savory dishes for a sweet & salty effect! Sambuca is often used in cooking with prawns or lamb, but I went with shrimp. So my food-blogging brain did a little talking with my Italian stomach and I invented the following recipe:


12 shrimp, trimmed & deveined
1 TB olive oil
4 TB butter
3 TB minced shallots
juice of one small lemon
1/4 cup Sambuca
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper to taste

Saute the shallots in 1 Tablespoon olive oil and 1 Tablespoon butter until transparent. (You want to sweat the shallots, meaning you cook them without any color or browning). Add in the shrimp and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and plenty of crushed red pepper. Cook for about 1 minute on each side. Remove the shrimp. Add the sambuca and cook for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.

Then add the lemon juice and the remaining TB of butter and simmer lightly until you get kind of a thin glaze. Then, throw the shrimp back in and toss it all together. Turn the heat off (you do not want to overcook the shrimp,a s the heat alone will finish the cooking process). Serve immediately over rice pilaf, or alongside roasted veggies. I served mine with brown rice since we are trying to keep that New Year's resolution of eating healthy! MANGIA!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...