Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mac 'n' cheese with dry mustard

For so many years, it was easy and fun to prepare “mac’n’cheese” out of a box. The slight cardboard flavor was overruled by the tremendous ease of boiling and either squeezing the tube of fake cheese or stirring in the powdered "cheese"!

Home-made recipes seemed to include lots of cheeses and more complicated steps that I “didn’t have time for” until this healthier gem was printed:

I made only slight modifications, by using fat free milk and sour cream, and adding onions and garlic. I’m grateful (pun intended) to the genius who marketed pre-shredded carrots to grocery stores. The first time I made the recipe, I hand grated them, got tired and used the blender blade to shred more, and finally decided that from here on out I’ll get the nifty bag of mass produced carrot shreds.

The dry mustard was a welcome and creative ingredient, adding depth of flavor. I used one bag of cheddar cheese and another cup of a pre-combined mix of cheeses (either "Mexican" or "Italian"). Positive reviews all around!
This last photo was before baking...forgot to take an "after" picture! The 9x13 pan was a double batch for a crowd. Do you have a favorite home made mac'n'cheese recipe that you can share?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More mushrooms and photography

I still haven't figured out where my affection for mushrooms comes from, but I really like to photograph any type, and consume edible fungi!
In preparation for a multi-mushroom dish (above). Crawling around outside in search of a great fungus portrait is also fun:
Starting to think about the next garden crop, months away yet, and realized that the least photogenic cat hasn't made his blog debut yet (he usually looks grumpy on film even when he's purring in real life):
They love to nibble on grass while safely attached to a harness and leash...
And finally, I send you New Year's well wishes, in case you are not on an island right now...ok, even if you are!
Yep, snapped that one (and all blog photos) myself, thanks for respecting copyright!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Polenta with Italian Seasoning

I’ve never cooked with polenta before, and appreciated the encouragement from (no polenta recipe there, just a shout out). When I first filled up the new & larger spice rack nearly a year ago, I found a bottle of “Italian Seasonin”. I suspected that it contained basil, oregano, thyme, maybe a few other spices. Truth be told, I though “hmmm, I’m preparing dishes with each of those separately, why would I want all my meals to taste the same by using the combined version?” Well, tonight was the right time to try the pre-mixed seasoning! I couldn’t find the piece of paper where I wrote down Alison’s directions, so I cobbled together the best of my recollection…

4 cups water, 1 ½ cups dry polenta, 1 bullion cube (I used chicken)- alert: this takes only about 5 minutes to cook- I got the “instant” polenta.

A bunch of vegetables, either roasted or sautéed – I used mushrooms, onion, garlic, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and the very last of the garden tomato minis that had been ripening in a paper bag since the end of October. PLUS…drum roll…Italian Seasoning, along with salt and pepper.

Spread a layer of cooked polenta in the bottom of a baking dish. Layer vegetables and any protein you like (could use hamburger meat or ground turkey, cooked)- I used fake steak from the freezer section of the grocery store. Add shredded cheese. Cover with another layer of polenta. Bake until the top is light brown…I once again forgot to look at the clock when I put it in the over at 350 degrees. But the time will vary anyway depending on the size of the dish you use. The vegetables released more liquid as the casserole baked, leaving the lower layer of polenta a bit soggy, which may or may not have been alleviated by baking longer or using a larger baking dish with a thinner layer to get crispy.
Do you have a favorite polenta dish?
I didn’t know that a seafood cooking class I would take after preparing this dish would include polenta with shrimp! And bacon!! Yummy…will make that again for sure.