Thursday, August 28, 2014

Cheesy Dijon Macaroni


If the battle told of in the classic tale of Helen of Troy was not fought for a beautiful woman, it might have been fought for cheese. Just saying. In addition to cheese tasting amazing, it is full of essential calcium and great proteins, giving us just another reason to include this staple in our daily diet - with moderation of course!

I happen to be moving into a apartment across town, and I've been looking for ways to clear out all of the food I have sitting in my fridge. As I let my creative culinary juices flow the first thing I could think to do was to infuse some macaroni with the copious amounts of cheese I happen to have lying around. This is not your auntie's potluck mac-and-cheese, my friends. It's a flavor-packed rendition of the original and a fusion of more than a couple recipes and commenter  suggestions. But really, its the comforting macaroni and cheese we all love to eat in all of its gooey, cheesy glory. Read on for something kind of like a recipe.

Southern Living claims you can whip up a stellar mac and cheese in "three easy steps."I did use a variation of these steps, but don't call constantly whisking butter, flour, then milk, then spices, then cheese in a large skillet over a preheating oven "easy!" I don't mean to scare you off, the results are well worth it! But be prepared to sweat a little. Go ahead and click on that link for a easy cheesy mac prep guide. Note that you will need to cook and drain noodles according to instructions prior to dumping them in the cheese mixture and getting it happy in the oven. Also, the spices listed include salt, pepper, and optional red pepper. I added a little salt, pepper, cajun pepper, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. I also poured in whatever cheese I had on hand which was sharp cheddar, a shaved parmesan mix, the parmesan u shake out of a can, and a little Colby & Monterey jack mix.

And there you have it: my fancy-sounding Cheesy Dijon Macaroni! Onwards, friends, and create awesome cheesy creations of your own!

With Cheesy Love,


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Green Detour: Southwest Kale and Romaine Super Salad

And now, for a break from your regularly scheduled baking - it's dinner, it's lunch, it's an awesome salad that will actually leave you feeling nourished and satisfied! After months of being forced to eat out frequently due to inordinate amounts of time spent in the library, I've been on a mission to cook my own meals on my own terms. I love eating fresh, green things because not only do they make me feel great, but I know I am getting the nutrients I need to stay energized and healthy! Now, I've never met a cookie or pastry I didn't like, but you can't survive on flour, sugar, and chocolate alone!! Balance is key. And I'm here to keep it delicious whether it came from a friend's backyard garden (Thanks, D!) or out of a piping hot cupcake pan.

This dish was dreamt up while perusing various food websites and recipes. I especially like because even though they sometimes use lots of fancy ingredients and I don't even think I've ever tasted fennel (sad), everything is test kitchen prepped and I can use their proportions to create my own creations. I started this salad off with a corn and black bean salsa, which I will include the recipe for below. It's great by itself or with a good chip, but i decided to rinse and chop some fresh greens (use whichever you like), top with half an avocado, dump a hearty serving of salsa over top and finish with some chopped almonds for crunch.

My salad philosophy is pretty simple: start with fresh greens with a high nutritional value (romaine, spring mix, spinach, all types of kales and chards and whatnot), and go crazy from there! I am always trying to spice it up with mix-ins that are yummy, fun in your mouth plus hearty and healthy, and will continue to (try to) inspire some salad fever in you, dear reader, with my creations.

Southwestern Salsa 
(makes enough for 8 servings)


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh from 2 ears corn, or thawed from frozen)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup diced seeded bell peppers (I used mini sweet ones)
2 or 3 small hot peppers, diced (to taste - you can use jalapeno, poblano, chiles, etc)
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice of half a lemon


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add corn, black beans, hot peppers, and bell peppers. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté, mixing only occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

Scrape into a large bowl.

Add green onions and cilantro, and toss in lemon juice.

Look at all that flavor

Viola! You have a yummy salsa to top a hearty dinner salad and take as a midday snack with chips the next day. Or to bring to a picnic and serve to the great friends and hungry ants that attend. A great alternative to regular old tomato salsa, or make that as well as some guacamole and you have a tri-dip party! Stay healthy, my friends.


Almonds, and Sugar, and Butter, Oh My!

Hello again, there! Much like my preteen journals of years past, I have been majorly slacking on keeping up with my blog and it upsets me as much (and hopefully more) than it does my lovely readers. Since last year I've been to Ghana in West Africa and back, I've interned at the County Health Department and helped teach new moms about safe ways to put their babies to sleep, I've written, and revised, revised, & revised a 50+ page thesis, and I've received my master's in public health (MPH)!!! So many good things are in the works for the future, and I'm just so grateful for my awesome support system that's helped get me through the tougher times.

Baking is a great stress reliever and has helped too, as well as coming up with new ways to invent healthy and delicious meals to supplement all those yummy goodies. Going forward, I'd like to include more variety of recipes including my salads and smoothies. I'm Certified in Public Health, so it's like my duty, right?!

That said, for now I will keep the sweets coming with these delicious and deviously simple Mexican wedding cookies. I got the original recipe from a Lauren Conrad guest post on Refinery 29, and was delighted with the melt-in-your-mouth results, which also reminded me of many Italian and Swede-style cookies my mom and I would bake around Christmas. I made these as gifts and brought the rest to work in an attempt to save my waistline.

Can I reiterate that these cookies are so EASY! Seriously, you don't even need to know how to crack an egg to make these cookies. Perfect to bake with little ones, as long as they have eaten all of their vegetables with dinner because this one is chock full of butter and powdered sugar (the good stuff). I've modified my recipe with the substitution of whole wheat flour to make myself feel better about this, but feel free to use just all-purpose or a gluten-free variety. The almonds can also be subbed for another nut if allergies are an issue, but I'm not sure how they would turn out without any nuts at all. Go low for the recipe.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar (for coating)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg (I think I used 3 pinches, but I like a lil' spice in my cookie)
1 cup almonds or nut or your choice, ground or chopped to bitty pieces


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, salt, flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground almonds to form your dough. If your kitchen is warm [as is mine when its 80+ degrees and my oven is on] or dough seems too soft to form, chill for about 10 minutes.

Roll into 1-inch balls.

Bake for eight minutes, until just golden on the bottom.

Let the cookies cool for just a few minutes, and then toss in the remaining ¾ cup powdered sugar. You want the cookies to be warm, or the sugar will not stick.

And that's all, folks! This recipes makes about 30 cookies. No need for a greased pan or parchment paper.  Enjoy!