Macaroni and Cheese

Just for variety, I made macaroni and cheese in a different way than usual, by making a creamy cheese sauce first.

Used half pound of elbow macaroni and doubled the cheese sauce recipe below, pouring it over the cooked macaroni, in a large casserole dish. Mix in about 1/2 to 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese for extra kick, then bake for a half hour on 350.

Next time I’ll use ALL extra sharp cheese, no Monterey Jack, as the extra amount of milk really made it a bit milder than it needed to be.

Still, it’s always fun to try something new! And it’s macaroni and cheese, can’t go wrong with mac and cheese!

Cheese Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated extra sharp cheddar

Melt butter in saucepan and remove from heat. Stir in flour and seasonings. Gradually add milk, stirring until well mixed. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Cook for 5 minutes longer, and then add cheese. Stir until smooth and well blended. Serve with pasta or vegetables.

Note: To make twice as much, double everything in recipe except only use 2 cups of milk instead of doubling the regular amount. Also, if you use a mild cheese like Monterey Jack instead of sharp cheddar this recipe makes a good base for cream casseroles.

Eggs Benedict

We had breakfast for dinner today – first time making Eggs Benedict for ourselves. First I have to fess up that we did NOT make our own Hollandaise sauce, which, I know, is the key to good Eggs Benedict. But we were more interested, at the moment, in HAVING Eggs Benedict, than spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make it from scratch for the first time. Maybe at some future time, but this time we used Trader Joe’s Hollandaise warmed and scooped over poached eggs on ham on english muffins, with a side of baked potato cubes….

It was all excellent, with the one surprise being that the cayenne pepper in the sauce was very… present. I’ve had Eggs Benedict in a number of restaurants and it never had such an affect on my sinuses as this did – LOL – but it was still very tasty!
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Phil’s Frittata

When we go to Flap Jack’s Cafe we always leave filled to the gills with amazing food. And our last venture out was no exception, but since we’ve already done a few reviews of Flap Jack’s we thought we’d just post a photo of the humungous and delicious sausage and veggie frittata that John ordered, and almost completely finished – heh – complete with home fries and fresh orange slices.

Hungry yet?

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Burgers at Scramblz

Scramblz Diner in Morgan Hill, CA is an interesting place. It used to be a Lyon’s restaurant that was bought by, I believe, an independent owner. The new owners gave the place a new look, as much as they could on a smaller budget – at least that’s my impression. They didn’t redo the mauve and seafoam green vinyl on the booths or the matching tiles on the walls near the kitchen, but they managed to overwhelm these subtle design elements with elements that make you completely forget the muted senior-focused diner it used to be. How? By hanging bicycles and airplanes from the ceiling, of course, as well as repeating a black and white checkerboard theme, and adding a ton of novelty items like oversized chess pieces. Oh, and they painted all the chairs electric yellow….

It’s a little overwhelming until you get used to it. A couple of great points about this place is 1. they serve RC (Royal Crown) cola, which is a nice change from either Coke or Pepsi. It’s still the kind with high-fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar, but still. and 2. their basic burger and fries are excellent, and the least expensive we’ve found anywhere in the area (excluding fast food, but those burgers don’t really count). I think the Scramblz burger is at least 1/3 pound and looks like they made it in one of those burger presses as it’s a perfect hockey puck shape, but doesn’t seem like a pre-frozen patty. Quite filling too.

Another quirk that also adds a bit of rustic charm (and might also be less expensive) is the roll of paper towels on each table, but that might also have something to do with the barbequed items they sell. (And in the mid-afternoon the decor is loud, but the restaurant is pleasantly quiet – LOL.)

Another thing that sets this restaurant apart are the chickens – not on the menu, the ones that arrived one day and decided this was the place to be!

The waiter told us the story of the chickens last time we were there. The wife of the owner is apparently their champion and insisted on putting up a little protective wire fence and a few choice signs as well…

The chickens that showed up have now reproduced and there are little chickens running around now too. Every so often, as you bite into your burger, you hear a rooster crow and wonder if the sound is outside or inside (outside, of course), or part of some quirky sound ambiance being piped into the dining room. Amazingly, although the chickens are obvious once you know they’re there, they’re out of the way enough (usually) so that you can also miss them completely, if you don’t feel like watching free range chickens while you’re in the mood for chicken fingers. 😉

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Tortellini Alfredo

I’d like to say that this was all homemade, but it’s not. Still, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious! The tri-color tortellini was dried and bagged and from Trader Joes, and the alfredo sauce was from the good people at Classico. Makes a pretty picture, doesn’t it! (And the Classico sauce didn’t have MSG in it, as far as we can tell, which is something we definitely look for these days – harder to find pre-made, non-MSG infused, jarred Alfredo sauce than it should be!)
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Strawberry Waffles

It’s pretty simple. Our regular old homemade waffles, usual recipe, topped with fresh cut and cleaned strawberries that have been sprinkled with just a few teaspoons of white sugar.

Make sure you prepare the strawberries just a wee bit before (the night before works well, but at least a couple of hours) so that they create a nice amount of sweetened strawberry juice to drizzle on the waffles too. We had no whipping cream to top the strawberries, but the waffles were excellent nonetheless!

Mmmmm… strawberries and waffles!
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Ahi Tuna & Rice Pilaf

About 12 years ago I had a piece of broiled Ahi Tuna in a restaurant and thought it was the most fantastic piece of fish I’d ever eaten. I’d forgotten about that tasteful experience for a long time until John and I found some wonderful Ahi Tuna the other day and decided to make a special meal of it. The Ahi Tuna itself came frozen in marinade, so we defrosted it in the fridge for a day. Then when it was thawed, John melted butter in a hot frying pan, and placed the tuna in it, and poured the marinade in after. The tuna was broiled to perfection – turned from fish-red to white and was nicely brown on each side, and FULL of flavor.

We also made some wild rice and basmati rice pilaf with onions and peas as a sidedish. Oh, right, after the tuna was cooked, John threw some sliced, fresh mushrooms in the frying pan, and then covered the tuna with them.

It was all completely tasty, and just a wee bit fancier than we normally make. The spices in the marinade (mostly salt and pepper, but also some red pepper) complimented the spiced in the rice pilaf nicely! (Also, if you don’t usually like fish, such as haddock or cod, but eat tuna, I’m sure you’d like Ahi Tuna.)
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Impromptu Garlic Pizza

What to do when you have a few fresh ingredients but not all the ones you need to make what you were planning…. Take the loaf of fresh Italian bread and cut it in half top and bottom and then in half again lengthwise. Spread a generous but not too thick layer of creamy caesar salad dressing on the bread sections. Sprinkle liberally with grated parmesan cheese. Grate whole milk mozzarella over each piece. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (or so) on a cookie sheet. Whallah! Delicious white sauce garlic pizza!
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Chicken Focaccia Pizza with Horseradish Sauce

Long before there were shows like Iron Chef, there was the true challenge of putting together whatever was on hand around the house to come up with new and interesting dinners.

Last week, I picked up a bottle of 1905 brand Horseradish sauce from the Dollar Store and wanted to do something really creative. I had chicken, potatoes, Colby Jack cheese and a few other ingredients on hand, so I thought I’d make them into a pizza.

I hadn’t made Potato Focaccia in a long time, but I knew it would make a good, hearty pizza crust. I started there, and began experimenting with sauce ingredients.

For the sauce, I used a combination of 4 parts sour cream, 2 parts Ranch Dressing, and 1 part Horseradish sauce. It came out tasting kind of sweet, and actually lost some of the horseradish bite in the cooking, so I would add a little more next time.

The focaccia baked up nicely, I baked it by itself for 45 minutes, and then added the sauce, shredded chicken, and Colby Jack. I really wish I had some fresh mushrooms to add or diced tomatoes, but that will be for next time around.

I baked the pizza for another 20 minutes, which thoroughly melted the Colby Jack. The final result was very tasty, I’m definitely going to try this recipe again with more ingredients.

Below is the recipe for Potato Focaccia, which comes from the New York Cook Book by Molly O Niell. I highly reccomend this book, it’s loaded with tasty unique recipes.

Potato Focaccia
2 potatoes
1 pkg dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees F)
4 Cups All purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Boil the potatoes, peel and mash.

Disolve the yeast into the warm water

Combine potatoes, flour, 2 teaspoons salt, dissolved yeast and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix ingredients and cover with a cloth until the dough has doubled in size. (1 hour)

Coat a baking pan or cookie sheet with the other tablespoon of olive oil. Flour your hands and place the dough on the pan, and turn to coat the dough with the oil.

(In the original focaccia recipe, you would then insert tomator wedges into the dough and sprinkle the top with oregano and salt. Then bake at 350 until golden brown.)

Back to the pizza:
Mold the dough into a pizza shape, you don’t have to stretch it or work it too much, just shape it the way you like. It does rise a bit though, so make the bottom fairly thin. If you have extra dough, break it off and roll it into breadsticks.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, and then add the pizza toppings: sauce, meat, veggies (if any) and then cheese. Return to oven and bake for about 20 more minutes, until cheese is thoroughly melted.

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