Posts tagged “garlic

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.
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

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.

Marinated Mushrooms

I have this bad habit of buying mushrooms and then forgetting about them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dipped into the crisper only to find yet another ruined batch I’ve been forced to chuck out. The intention is always there to use them in a dish but I usually get sidetracked by something else and mushroom thought gets cast to the wayside. So I came up with a way to keep them around longer.


2 cups button mushrooms
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup rice wine or white vinegar
3 tbsp fresh cilantro (minced)

Wipe down the mushrooms with a damp towel to remove any excess dirt. Be sure not to rinse them with water otherwise it’ll make them soggy.

In a small bowl add the vinegar and garlic and whisk together until blended.

Slowly add the olive oil while whisking briskly so that it emulsifies.

Add the cilantro, salt and pepper (as per your preferred amount) and mix till blended. Set mixture aside.

In a medium sized resealable container (or a 1 liter mason jar) add the mushrooms then pour the mixture over them.  Stir gently and to make sure all the mushrooms are coated.

Refrigerate overnight.

As with any marinated food, the longer you leave it marinated the more the mushrooms will absorb. Once you’ve devoured all of them you can use the remaining mushroom flavored vinaigrette on a nice field greens salad or something. Very versatile.

Alt: Try experimenting with different herbs and spices. For example use  fresh rosemary instead of cilantro to produce a very pungent but flavorful alternative. Also try different vinegars such as apple cider or red wine for a different kick to the vinaigrette. It’s all about having fun.


Stuffed Zucchini

I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just a big guy who likes to eat. Rather than be dependent on someone else to do the cooking for me, I do it myself. This “recipe” is the result of having some rather large zucchini from the garden and being sick of making breaded zucchini (which I’ll probably post at some point). I usually never measure anything so the numbers below are estimates so adjust accordingly to personal taste.


Serves: 2

1 large zucchini
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 small yellow or Spanish onion (diced)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup white wine (or cooking wine works just as good)
1 cup pasta sauce (I recommend Hunt’s 4 Cheese blend, but whatever floats your boat is good)
½ cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
¼ cup Parmesan cheese (grated)
Optional – 3 tbsp fresh cilantro/oregano/parsley/chives (your choice – minced)

I've included this shot for scale so you can see generally how big of a zucchini we're talking about here.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Wash zucchini thoroughly.  Drop it into a large pot of boiling water for about 8 – 10 minutes to par-cook it. (You don’t want to totally cook it otherwise it’ll be soggy in the end so adjust the boiling time according to the size of your particular zucchini.)

Remove from water and set aside to until cool.

Cut the cooled zucchini lengthwise. With a spoon (or melon-baller) remove the pulp and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan heat the olive oil on medium high.

Add the garlic and onions and cook till the onions are translucent (approx. 3 – 5 mins).

Add the zucchini pulp to the onions and garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the wine and bring to a simmer.

Add the pasta sauce and mix well. Bring to a simmer once again then remove from heat.

Add Parmesan and mix well.  (Mixture should be quite thick and chunky at this point)

Line a cookie sheet (or baking pan) with parchment paper (or give it a quick spritz with cooking spray). Place both halves of zucchini side by side. If your zucchini wobbles too much, use a sharp knife and slice a plane into the skin side so that it has a flatter surface. Be sure not to cut too deep though. Divide the mixture between the two halves and stuff away.

Divide and top each with the mozzarella cheese.

Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is all gooey and melted.

Optional – Top with minced cilantro/oregano/parsley/ or chives and serve.

Alt: If you want to meat it up a bit for the carnivores in your life, add half a package of ground pork, chicken or beef to the onions while they’re cooking. Brown it off and continue with the next step.

Not the greatest photo but I wasn't expecting to be posting recipes when I originally took this picture. ;p


Cheesy Potato Soup

Yet another non-fancy vegetarian dish but it ranks high on the bad-weather-day-comfort-food scale. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different cheeses and potatoes. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with subtle changes like that.


4 – 6 medium sized potatoes (diced)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup baby carrots (diced)
¼ cup chives (or scallions) (minced)
2 tbsp butter
¾ cup Old Cheddar cheese (shredded)
¼ cup Asiago cheese (shredded)
¾ cup sour cream
1 cup table cream

Melt butter and cook garlic on medium till softened.

Add carrots and cook till glossy.

Add  broth and potatoes. Bring to a rolling boil on high heat then drop it down to low and let simmer for 20 – 25 mins.

Use immersion blender to puree mixture until smooth.

Add chives, sour cream, and table cream. Mix well.

Add the cheeses and mix till blended.

Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.