Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Good news! I got back in the kitchen again this week and actually made and photographed a recipe!

Sorry I’ve been so lacking on recipe posts, I guess I’ve just been really lazy since my Christmas break and haven’t been able to get back into the groove.

This has been compounded by the fact that my computer is at death’s door and I dread having to use it because it’s SO SLOW and the battery dies in about 20 min. I’m going to start using Nate’s computer but it’s a Mac and I’m putting it off as long as possible since I’m a PC girl.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

But anyway, let’s get to this recipe. I think we all know that homemade mac and cheese doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff in the blue box- although I’m partial to the Velveeta Shells and Cheese variety that comes with the pack of squeeze cheese.

Whenever I make macaroni and cheese from scratch, the cheese sauce looks so smooth, creamy and delicious in the pot, but then after you toss the noodles in it and put it in the oven, it kind of separates and turns to a texture I don’t like at all. It gets kind of dry (which I guess some people like) and just not cheesy at all.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved Velveeta cheese. In fact I just remembered that for breakfast I used to eat an english muffins toasted with Velveeta melted on it and sprinkled with bacon bits. I don’t know how I came up with this, but MAN was it good….and I kind of want one of those sandwiches right now…

Anyway, I know Velveeta is artificially colored and probably so bad for you, but I’m convinced that in order for mac and cheese to be palatable, it needs to contain some of this delightful cheese product. Well this recipe is the best of both worlds. The cheese sauce is made using my favorite artificial cheese, keeping it smooth and delicious even after it’s baked, but then there’s real cheddar sprinkled on top for even more cheesy deliciousness.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

This particular recipe gets a little kick from the tomatoes with green chiles, and I’ve made it extra healthy by adding loads of veggies. I also added tofu since Nate and I don’t love chicken but I wanted some added protein. You could definitely sub chicken if you’d like.

I could not stop myself from eating this!

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Serves 6
A spicy, cheesy pasta casserole chock full of veggies!
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Ingredients
  1. 16-oz. package corkscrew pasta (or whatever shape you like)
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 medium onion, diced
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. 8 oz. mushrooms, diced
  6. 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  7. 10-oz. pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed (like Velveeta, which comes in a box or shredded)
  8. 10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  9. 8 oz. super firm tofu, cubed and drained- i found a pre-cubed version (you could also sub chicken if you want)
  10. 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  11. 1/2 cup sour cream
  12. 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta for slightly less time than package recommends so it's al dente. It will cook more in the oven so you don't want it to be too mushy.
  2. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and sauté 5-10 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and prepared cheese product; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in broccoli, tofu, soup and sour cream and stir well. Mix in hot cooked pasta until blended.
  4. Spoon mixture into a 9x13 baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Adapted from Southern Living
Adapted from Southern Living
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Chocolate Almond Waffles ~ ElephantEats.com

I’m not always the easiest person to live with.

I know you all probably find that very hard to believe ;)

Chocolate Almond Waffles ~ ElephantEats.com

Although Nate often purposefully annoys me (though he’ll deny it), he also does a lot of sweet things on a regular basis. He’s extremely thoughtful and emotionally expressive. He will randomly buy me little “tasty treats” if he sees a dessert or something that he thinks I might like. He definitely knows the way to my heart!

While I do cook dinner for Nate weekly, I think that it’s not so special anymore since I do it all the time. To mix things up and show him that I appreciate him, I decided to make him a special breakfast. 

Chocolate Almond Waffles ~ ElephantEats.com

These waffles are chocolatey, but they’re not overly sweet. They’re totally appropriate for breakfast as opposed to dessert. The tart and sweet raspberry sauce is the perfect accompaniment and both have a subtle hint of almond flavor. 

This is the perfect breakfast to surprise your special someone with on Valentine’s Day!

Chocolate Almond Waffles ~ ElephantEats.com

In other news, LC and my painting of her made it onto a buzzfeed list (she’s #10)! That sadly is probably the coolest thing that has ever happened, and probably every will happen, to me (and her). 

Buzzfeed 21 Signs You’re A Cat Lady In Training ~ ElephantEats.com

 

Chocolate Almond Waffles with Raspberry Sauce
A not too sweet chocolate waffle with a sweet and tart raspberry sauce that's perfect for a special breakfast!
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Waffles
  1. 1 cup all purpose flour
  2. 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/4 cup sugar
  7. 1/4 cup almond paste
  8. 2 1/4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  9. 3 tablespoons butter
  10. 2 large eggs
  11. 1 cup 2% milk
  12. 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Raspberry Sauce
  1. 2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
  2. 2 Tbsp almond paste
  3. 2-3 Tbsp water.
Waffles
  1. Preheat oven to 300.
  2. Mix first 5 ingredients into large bowl.
  3. In a small food processor or blender, blend sugar and almond paste. Add to flour mixture.
  4. Heat chocolate and butter in a small microwave-safe dish in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted.
  5. Pour chocolate into medium bowl. Whisk in eggs, then milk, and almond extract. Gradually whisk milk mixture into dry ingredients.
  6. Following manufacturer's instructions, make waffles with batter (waffles will be somewhat soft when removed from pan).
  7. Place finished waffles on baking sheet in oven as you make the rest to keep them hot and crispy.
Raspberry Sauce
  1. Blend raspberries and 1 Tbsp water in a food processor. Strain raspberry mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, running a spoon back and forth over inside of sieve until all that's left in the sieve is seeds. Frequently scrape bottom of sieve, where strained pulp is coming out, into the bowl. Discard seeds.
  2. Add raspberry puree back into food processor. Add almond paste and 1-2 Tbsp water and blend until sauce is to your liking. Serve over waffles.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I mentioned that amongst our changes from our usual Christmas feast, this year I made dessert. I had seen a recipe for a gingerbread layer cake with cream cheese frosting online some weeks before Christmas. 

Of course when I went to actually find said recipe, I hadn’t marked it down anywhere. Does that ever happen to you? So frustrating!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

Well, I commenced a new search and was pleased to find this recipe from Good Housekeeping that seemed to be exactly like the original. The result was the most delicious, moist gingerbread cake, with a lemony cream cheese frosting that was a perfect complement. I had to even out the tops of the cake layers so they would lay flat and I couldn’t stop myself from eating the pieces I cut off- they were so good I made myself sick. 

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I wanted a wintry garnish, but wasn’t sure if a holly branch was toxic or something, so I put a sprig of rosemary and some dried cranberries :)

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting ~ ElephantEats.com

I just realized that this picture kind of looks like a Christmas Pac-Man.

My mom made this a couple days ago and she said she used orange instead of lemon zest and she said that it was yummy as well!

Gingerbread Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 10
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Gingerbread Cake
  1. 3 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  2. 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
  4. 3/4 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  5. 3/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  6. 1 jar(s) (12 ounces) light (mild) molasses, 1 1/2 cups
  7. 3/4 cup(s) (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  8. 3/4 cup(s) granulated sugar
  9. 2 large eggs
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 1 package(s) (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
  2. 1 package(s) (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  3. 4 tablespoon(s) margarine, softened, substitute butter
  4. 2 teaspoon(s) freshly grated lemon peel
Gingerbread Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with waxed paper; grease paper. Dust pans with flour.
  2. In medium bowl, mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In 4-cup glass measuring cup, whisk molasses with 1 cup water.
  3. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat margarine with granulated sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until creamy, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl often with rubber spatula.
  4. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, alternately add flour mixture and molasses mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat until blended.
  5. Pour batter into pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on 2 oven racks, so layers are not directly above one another. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center of each layer comes out clean.
  6. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Run small knife around sides of pans to loosen layers. Invert layers onto wire racks to cool completely; discard waxed paper.
Cream-Cheese Frosting
  1. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat frosting ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes, constantly scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Makes about 2 1/2 cups frosting.
To assemble cake
  1. Place 1 cake layer, rounded side down, on cake plate; spread with 1/3 cup frosting. Top with second layer; spread with another 1/3 cup frosting, then top with remaining layer. Frost top and side of cake with remaining frosting. Refrigerate if not serving right away.
Notes
  1. -I find that it's best to shave off the top of the cake layers to make them flatter on top if they're too domed.
  2. -It's easiest to frost the cake layers if they've been chilled in the fridge or freezer.
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

I had a wonderful couple weeks off of work. I still haven’t caught up on my blog reading and at this point it seems seriously overwhelming….I think I may follow a few too many blogs on feedly but it’s just so hard to eliminate some when there are so many good ones!

For Christmas we went down to Nate’s moms, as I told you guys last week, and I got some great Christmas presents that can be used in the kitchen! I got a scone pan (I’ll let you know how it works), a donut pan (expect a recipe using this when I break it in!), an Alice Waters cookbook and the Flavor Bible. The Flavor Bible is something I read about on another blog and it tells you all kinds of awesome flavor combos to help develop recipes. I can’t wait to get into it. 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

Nice big chunks!

A present that I gave rather than received, however, is this Pumpkin Spice Granola. My mother-in-law eats granola for breakfast every single day (you can see where Nate gets his routine eating habits from) and she told me that she specifically likes nuts and seeds in her granola but no dried fruit, and that she likes the kind that has big clumps. According to her, this combo is quite hard to find, so I thought making her some would be the perfect Christmas present. 

I also gave her one of the awesome paperweights we made when we went glass-blowing for Nate’s bday present. I forgot to tell  you guys about that! 

We went up to Beacon, NY to this awesome little shop call Hudson Beach Glass. For Nate’s bday I got us a lesson to do together, which really involved each of us separately making a paperweight while the other person watched.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate went first. We were allowed to chose the style of paperweight we wanted, and we both chose the kind that has that swirl inside.We got to choose 2-3 colors to swirl. Nate chose red and gold, while i chose purple, blue and green. The pic of him above is putting the first color on his glass. Because he only chose two colors, he had to put a white background color so those colors would stand out better.

And here’s me with my three colors.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

After the colors go on and you melt them in the hot furnace, you twist them together:

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

After twisting the colors together, you smooth the glass out using this wooden cup so it ends up round.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

 

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

And here’s Nate’s finished piece right before it went in the oven to slowly “cool” from the super hot temp it was to, eventually, room temp. You can’t see the true colors until it has cooled. The red you see now is mainly the hot glass that would eventually become clear.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

So pretty, right?!

It was super fun and our teacher, Kathleen, was so knowledgeable and cool. I highly recommend it! Sorry I didn’t take a pic of the finished paperweights but they looked kind of like this but multicolored in the colors we chose.

But back to my granola! I read that the trick for clumpy granola is to add an egg white before baking and not to stir it! Halfway through I gave the giant clumps a flip and then just left it alone. Obviously you can alter the ingredients you put in this (dried fruit, more or less sugar, etc). 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

 It’s great served with yogurt or milk! 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola
Yields 6
A chunky seed and nut granola with spiced pumpkin flavor!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups quick oats
  2. 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  3. 3/4 tsp salt
  4. 3/4 cup brown sugar
  5. 3/4-1 cup pumpkin
  6. 2 Tbsp oil
  7. 1/2 cup maple syrup
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 3/4 cup chopped pecans (not toasted)
  10. 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  11. 1 egg white, lightly whisked
  12. 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted (if you can find unroasted then add them along with the nuts)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine everything except nuts, egg white and seeds.
  3. When thoroughly mixed, add in nuts and egg white and mix well. You can add the seeds now too if you managed to find raw/unroasted seeds.
  4. Spread everything out onto the prepared baking skeet in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes then flip the granola over, taking care not to break it into pieces more than necessary.
  6. Sprinkle seeds onto granola and bake an additional 20-25 min or until crisp and golden. Remove the outer crispy pieces as necessary to prevent them from burning. The largest pieces may still seem slightly chewy inside but they will crisp up when they dry.
  7. Remove pieces to a wire rack over a baking pan to catch the smaller pieces. Once cooled, break granola up as desired into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. Great topped with yogurt or milk!
http://www.elephanteats.com/

Sorry I’ve been on an extended blogging break. We went down to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas and since I had leftover vacation days, I decided to take off the whole week of Christmas through New Years so I could just relax and enjoy my time there. This also meant that I barely picked up a computer.

I’m so behind on reading and commenting on other blogs, so if I haven’t been to your blog in a while, that’s why. I will catch up soon hopefully!

I’ll be back with a new recipe in the new year but for now I’ll leave you with a countdown of my top 10 recipes of 2013, based on how often they’ve been viewed. Enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday!

 

10) Goat Cheese, Chard and Herb Pie in a Phyllo Crust- I can’t take credit for creating this pie, but it’s a good one!

Goat Cheese, Chard and Herb Pie ~ ElephantEats.com

 

9) Brothy Black Bean Soup- I guess I’m not the only one that prefers brothy soups to thick ones! It’s the garnishes that make this soup.

Black Bean Soup ~ ElephantEats.com

 

8) Chicken and Chorizo “Paella” with Mushrooms- a quick version of paella that’s made in one pot! A perfect weeknight meal.

Chicken and Chorizo "Paella" ~ www.ElephantEats.com

 

7) Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili- this recipe got quite a few views during the colder months. There are so many good chili recipes out there, but I hope you’ll give this one a try :)

Turkey, Pumpkin and Veggie Chili ~ ElephantEats.com

 

6) Red Wine Chocolate Cake- when you combine red wine and chocolate, you know it’s going to be something good. This is super easy to make and definitely tastes like wine!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake ~ ElephantEats.com

 

5) Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars- I posted these in December and they were my 5th most viewed page before the end of the month!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

 

4) “Buffalo” Chicken Salad Sandwiches- I came up with these after going through one of my many put-buffalo-sauce-on-everything phases.

"Buffalo" Chicken Salad Sandwiches ~ ElephantEats.com

 

3) Stir-Fried Spicy Rice Cakes with Pork and Mushrooms- If you’ve never tried rice cakes like these, you need to get to your nearest Asian market and get some. So chewy and delicious!

Stir Fried Rice Cakes ~ ElephantEats.com

 

2) Light Carrot Dill Cream Sauce- I came up with this recipe when I was trying to use up the dill in my fridge and somehow it made it onto the Recipe.com site!

Light Carrot Dill Cream Sauce for Pasta ~ ElephantEats.com

 

1) Zesty Roasted  Pumpkin Seeds- not sure if this was popular because of my pumpkin carving or the seeds, but it went crazy on Pinterest.

Zesty Roasted Pumpkin Seeds ~ ElephantEats.com