Thick & Creamy Gouda Macaroni

I know I say this farm family loves their meat & potatoes (which we do), but we also have a special place in our hearts for some good ol’ fashioned macaroni and cheese. A comfort food, perfect for any occasion. I took on the challenge to build mac & cheese into a bit more of a balanced plate by creating a Farm-Style Buddha Bowl– this deliciously cheesy pasta topped with protein and veggie. Yum! What would you top your bowl with?

Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

2 cups dry pasta

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 cups milk

5 slices of gouda cheese, 1/8″ thick and chopped into small pieces

4 oz cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente and set aside.
  2. In the same stockpot (after pasta is removed), melt butter on medium heat. When melted, add flour and whisk together. This is a roux!
  3. Cook the roux on medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Add milk to the roux and continue to stir. Let cook for 5 minutes. The sauce will slowly begin to thicken during this time.
  5.  Remove sauce from heat and add cheeses, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  6. When cheese is melted, fold pasta into the sauce.

Notes

Depending on the type of pasta you decide to use, you may need more or less milk. Also depends on how thick and creamy you prefer your mac & cheese 🙂

Gouda cheese can be substituted for just about any other cheese. Go ahead and get creative! I will usually purchase cheese sliced from the deli and chop this into small pieces at home before adding to the sauce.


Corned Beef Hash

CornedBeefHash

When indulging at a local breakfast diner, you can pretty much guarantee either Scott or I will order the corned beef hash topped with fried eggs. Glorious! After our last breakfast date, I decided I needed to attempt a quick-and-easy corned beef hash skillet at home. Using corned beef sliced fresh from the deli saves LOTS of time, so the most effort for this treat is waiting for the skillet to cook, golden brown and crispy.

Makes: 4 servings

 

Ingredients

3 cups potatoes, cubed

1 cup sweet onion, sliced

1 cup red bell pepper, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Beef Seasoning

1/2 pound corned beef, chopped thin

4 eggs, prepared any style

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine the potatoes, onion, peppers and oil in a large cast iron skillet.
  3. Sprinkle with beef seasoning.
  4.  Fold in corned beef.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture once or twice before finished.
  6. Top skillet with eggs.

 

Notes

Eggs with a little ooze are just perfect plopped on top of this skillet. Bursting with flavor and a fantastic pair with the seasoned potatoes and beef. Still, I’m a dietitian and must recommend cooking to 160 degrees for food safety 🙂

Speaking of beef seasoning, check out this recipe from Kids, Cows and Grass. THE BEST, keep it stocked in your pantry. At. All. Times.


Black Bean Dip

BeanDip

 

I spent 4 glorious years on the Kansas State University campus. Studying, yes. Chowing down on delicious grub, yes. One of the ultimate stops in Manhattan, KS is So Long Saloon. I’m beginning to drool just imaging those burgers. A stop at So Longs was never complete without their ever-famous Chipotle Raspberry & Black Bean Dip. Being that we are a couple hours from Manhattan, KS,  I had to find a way to kick this bean dip craving. Here’s what I’ve got, see what you think!

Makes: 4 servings

 

Ingredients

15 oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup raspberry jam

1 jalapeño, diced

1 cup mozzarella cheese

4 oz cream cheese, block

tortilla chips

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the beans, jam, jalapeño and mozzarella in a cast iron skillet.
  3. Place the cream cheese in the center of the mixture.
  4.  Bake dip for 30 minutes or to desired warmness.

 

Notes

It’s a dip, so of course, you can enjoy with tortilla strips or other desirable dippers. BUT, you could also mix things up, enjoy this bean dip layered on a burger or sandwich, or even smothered over chicken or pork. You won’t regret it. I promise.

 


Re-purposing Leftovers

Most everyone has had the experience of opening the refrigerator to find next to nothing. Empty shelves and a variety of condiments isn’t going to make much of a meal.

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At this sight, it is easy to call it quits, throw in the towel, jump in the car and drive to the restaurant down the street for some quick eats. I beg you though, STOP! You haven’t lost all hope quite yet, and in fact, you can probably pull together a few scraps from here and there to build a meal at home.

It’s hard to imagine this in a world that expects the creme de la creme, but a meal doesn’t actually have to be perfect.

More than likely, you have a meat of some sort stored away. That could be leftover pork chops, frozen beef strips or canned chicken. Either way, there’s a protein.

Even though the fruit or veggie drawer may be barren, don’t knock the frozen or canned veggies. Pull those out for a semi-homemade meal.

Sandwich bread or tortillas or rice or a potato? Any of those will work to build a meal into. Pick one!

The key to re-purposing leftovers, no matter how empty your refrigerator or pantry shelves may be is creativity. Use your imagination and the meal options become limitless (and MUCH easier to throw together at the last minute).

When I am in a pinch, here are a few meal ideas I keep in my back pocket.

  • grilled sandwich
  • loaded baked potato
  • pasta
  • tossed salad
  • quesadilla or taco
  • tortilla pizza
  • soup
  • enchilada or burrito
  • stir fry

Hopefully these meals don’t sound too foreign. And more than likely, you have enough ingredients on-hand to throw one together.

Just the other day I was working with leftover rotisserie chicken and a spinach and artichoke dip. Well, nuking each for a couple minutes is okay, but how boring! Instead, I thought to boil pasta and combine the chicken and dip with the pasta for a delicious, creamy take on “chicken alfredo”. Strawberries and green beans were the fruits and veggies around that day, which will work. Now THAT puts a fun twist on those ingredients to make a meal.

What about the always-popular baked potato? It never fails, we have a bag of potatoes on hand and ready for action. Yes, wrapping the potato in foil to bake is an option, nothing wrong there. I’ll challenge you though, throw a curve ball in sometime by chopping the potato into cubes, tossing in a bit of olive oil and seasoning for roasting. Layer the roasted potatoes with leftover meat, a drizzle of BBQ, dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of cheese. Now you know why this is such a hit at our house 🙂 Served with a fruit and veggie to make a meal and balanced plate!

Or, earlier last week we had leftover pork tenderloin and romaine lettuce that needed to be used. After glancing through the pantry, I found tostada shells that would work as a perfect base. A little further below, corn and refried beans. Nailed it. Next thing you know, everyone is shuffling through the build-your-own tostada bar: chopped pork, canned refried beans, corn dip (cream cheese, ranch seasoning, corn and rotel), shredded cheese and lettuce.

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Does this look like something your family may enjoy?

It is important to me that I feed my family well. Sometimes though, I just don’t have the time or energy it takes to cook something fresh from scratch. By re-purposing leftovers, I able able to save LOTS of time and effort, and all-the-while, build a meal that I know my family will enjoy and is nutritious for us, too. Both are important to me, food that fuels and tastes amazing!

To build a more balanced plate out of these meals, bring on the fruits and veggies and dairy. Even if they aren’t fresh, no biggie. Pop open a can of low-sodium veggies or fruit packed in it’s own juice or a frozen bag to steam and serve. Those are fantastic, too! See a whole gallery of balanced plates here.

The ideas listed above are just a few meals that work for my family. Which of these could you try with yours? Or even better, can you add to my list? Share how you re-purpose leftovers at your house in the comments below!


Meat the Only Stromboli Recipe You Will Ever Need

In my previous life (a few months ago), I would roll out a pre-made crust from the can to treat my family on pizza night. Our lives forever changed the day I stepped up and experimented with homemade pizza dough. The feeling of molding a perfectly developed dough—irreplaceable. I can’t say that I will never-ever use a can of crust again, but I can say that my family will be completely crushed on that day. Roll-up this hearty, meat-filled Stromboli for a REAL treat this week!

Makes: 10 pieces

Ingredients

For the Dough:

1 cup warm water

2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

3 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Cooking spray

For the Filling:

1 cup marinara sauce

½ pound lean ground beef, cooked

½ pound deli pepperoni, sliced thin

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions

  1. Combine the yeast and water. Let set for 5 minutes.
  2. In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt and olive oil. After 5 minutes, when the yeast is frothy, pour the water over the flour mixture. Using the dough hook, begin mixing the dough. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Knead the dough on medium speed until fully developed. See notes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly spritz the inside of the bowl with cooking spray and return the ball to the bowl. Lightly spritz the top of the dough with cooking spray as well and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours until double in size.
  4. When the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Roll the dough out on a clean surface into a 1 ½ x 2-foot rectangle, about ½ an inch thick.
  6. Spread the marinara evenly across the dough, leaving about 1″ around the edge.
  7. Layer the ground beef, pepperoni and cheese over the marinara sauce and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon seasoning.
  8. Beginning with the shorter side, roll the dough into a log. When rolled entirely, transfer to a greased baking sheet with the crease from the dough tucked under.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a golden crown crust has formed on the top.
  10. Remove the Stromboli from the oven. Spread melted butter across the top and sprinkle with remaining seasoning.
  11. Let set for 5-10 minutes before slicing into 1” pieces for serving.

Notes

Kneading the dough usually takes around 5 minutes. A fun way to test and see if your dough is fully developed is the “windowpane test”. Pull apart a small piece of dough and begin to stretch it between your fingers. When the dough is fully developed, it will thin as it is stretched to create a small window but won’t break apart. That’s when you know that you are ready to rock-and-roll on to the next step!

Pizza dough adapted from the Crazy for Crust recipe, https://www.crazyforcrust.com/the-ultimate-pizza-crust-recipe/.

Alert. Family-friendly recipe here! Get your kids’ (or borrowed nieces and nephews) hands in the dough: measuring, rolling, filling. Fun stuff!

Tell me, what would you pair with Stromboli to build a balanced plate?