Posts tagged “easy meal

The Mac Bake



Okay so I’m getting really hard pressed for dishes (and names ) for this 99 Things To Do With Macaroni challenge. Nevertheless I’ve come up with yet another vegetarian meal idea utilizing the holy trinity of cheese, macaroni and panko bread crumbs (can you tell I like them).  I know by now people must be saying “Geez… it all has cheese and panko. It has to taste the same”. Well it doesn’t. Despite having similar ingredients, this is a vastly different tasting dish than the others I’ve presented. Give it a try and see for yourself. While I would love to sit and make my own pasta sauce from scratch, sometimes a person just does not have the time or patience to do so. I do end up doctoring up some of the pre-made stuff to make it unique though.
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9 oz elbow macaroni
1 can (680 ml) Hunts Thick and Rich Four Cheese pasta sauce (or whatever you prefer)
1/2 cup small white onions, sliced (omit and substitute a tablespoon of onion powder if you have finicky onion haters)
1 bell pepper (any color but preferably anything other than green), chopped fine
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
1/4 cup cooking wine (or white wine)
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp dried oregano
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1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a pinch of salt then add the pasta. Cook till al’ dente (or approximately 8 minutes) – You don’t want the pasta too well done because it still has to cook in the oven for a bit near the end. if you overcook it the pasta will be mushy in the end.

3. Drain pasta and set aside. – Do not wash or run water over the pasta. You’ll need the starch left on them to bind everything together.

4. In a small pot on medium heat add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or vegetable oil). Add the onions and garlic.  Cook till the garlic is fragrant and the onions are translucent. Add wine and bring to a simmer.

5. Add pasta sauce and bring to a simmer.  Even if you’re not a fan of too much sauce you have to make quite a bit so that the bake doesn’t dry out when cooking in the oven.

6. Add bell peppers and cook, covered, for approximately 5 – 8 minutes.

7. Combine the pasta and sauce in a large pot. Stir until everything is coated. Pour into a glass ungreased casserole dish. Top with mozzarella cheese.

8. In a small dish combine the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and oregano.  Top the pasta with the mixture.

9. Place in the oven and cook for 12 – 15  minutes or until topping gets golden brown.

Alternate: As always try different cheeses for different results.

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Green & White Mac ‘n Cheese


It’s basically mac n’ cheese but with broccoli thrown in. The story behind this dish is that Suzanne and I have posed a challenge to one another to see how many different ways you can prepare elbow macaroni. Why you may ask? Well without going into too many details we’ve found ourselves with over 10lbs of macaroni recently. We’re not planning to go on a pasta binge or anything but at least once a week we’re gonna try to see what else we can make with elbow macaroni. Depending on how successful the dishes are we may post a few more of them.
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3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter or margarine
9 oz elbow macaroni
1/4 cup green onions (or scallions), sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded & divided
2 cups whole milk or half & half
3 tbsp panko bread crumbs
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried oregano
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1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Steam or microwave the brocoli florets until semi-tender. Don not overcook. Set aside.

3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a pinch of salt then add the pasta. Cook till al’ dente (or approximately 8 minutes) – You don’t want the pasta too well done because it still has to cook in the oven for a bit near the end. if you overcook it the pasta will be mushy in the end.

4. Drain pasta and set aside. – Do not wash or run water over the pasta. You’ll need the starch left on them to bind everything together.

5. In a small pot on medium heat melt the butter or margarine. Add the flour and mix till combined. Add milk or half & half and mix well with a wire whisk. Cook for approximately 8 – 10 minutes or until it starts to bubble stirring constantly throughout the cooking process. Remove from heat. –  It’s important to keep stirring otherwise your milk or half & half might scorch on the bottom.

6. Add 1 cup of cheese and stir until smooth.

7. Combine the broccoli florets, pasta,  and sauce in a large pot. Stir until everything is coated. Pour into a glass ungreased casserole dish.

8. In a small dish combine the remaining cheese, bread crumbs, onion powder, and oregano.  Top the pasta with the cheese mixture and sprinkle the green onions on top.

9. Place in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or until topping gets golden brown.

Alternate: Try different cheeses or combinations for different results. Mozzarella has a very light and subtle flavor so if you’re looking for a bit more bite add Monterey Jack or even Asiago. Cheddar is a great substitute for a more traditional tasting mac n’ cheese flavor.



The Meataterian Nightmare


I’ve aptly dubbed this dish the Meataterian Nightmare because it has many of the dreaded veggies that carnivores can’t stand. I modified the original recipe derived from the vegetarian cookbook 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles. In it was a one titled Winter Vegetables for a Crowd.  It’s basically a compilation of hearty vegetables smothered in a cheese sauce and baked off in an oven. Simple and easy. Since we’re in the north now I figured it was a good choice as a side dish for Christmas dinner. Having made it once already I added a few twists to suit my personal taste. This recipe is cool because you can throw virtually any vegetable in there that you like.

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3 cups halved Brussels spouts
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups pearl onions (or substitute 2 cups chopped white onions)
2 Yukon gold potatoes, chunk chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried oregano

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Note: When cutting up the Brussels sprouts remember to cut off the rather tough end of the stalk. It’ll be easier to cook in the end plus you get rid of the first couple of layers of leaves that tend to be a little on the unsavory side in both taste and appearance.

2. Cook Brussels sprouts, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and onions in boiling water until tender – about 10 minutes.

3. Drain vegetables in a colander and pat dry excess water with a paper towel. Note: This is very crucial in getting this dish right. The sprouts and cauliflower retain a lot of water even when left to drip dry so it is essential that you try to get rid of as much water as possible lest you be left with a runny dish in the end.

4. In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter or margarine over medium high heat. Stir in flour till absorbed. Stir in milk and broth; bring to a boil stirring constantly. Stir in Gouda.

5. Mix vegetables and sauce together with a wooden spoon.

6. In a small saucepan, melt remaining butter or margarine over medium heat. Remove from heat; add the bread crumbs and oregano and stir until the butter or margarine is absorbed.

7. Pour creamed vegetables into a large 3 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle mixture over them evenly. Bake for 30 minutes (uncovered) or until topping is browned.

Alternate: Substitute a Cheddar / Mozzarella mix or Swiss instead of Gouda.


Grilled Cheese Sandwich Dessert


Okay, it’s really not a dessert per say. You can have it whenever. I’d sooner call it a sweet grilled cheese sandwich  if anything. Whenever we have raisin bread on hand this always gets made at least a few times. It’s a painfully simple concoction – so simple in fact that there are no pictures or measurements. Just combine and get cooking. If you’re familiar with making a regular grilled cheese sandwiches you can do this with no problem.

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Raisin bread
Cream cheese
Butter or margarine

Butter one side of a slice of raisin bread and place it in a small pan on medium high heat.

Spread a generous amount of cream cheese on the slice in the pan.

Butter the other slice of raisin bread and place it on top of the one in the pan, butter side up.

Cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until desired crispiness and flip.

Press down gently (but not so hard as to make the insides spurt out) and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.

Alt: Add a dolup of  jelly to the cream cheese for an even sweeter treat.

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