CrockPot Mac and Cheese

No joke. Mac and cheese in the crock pot, and it was super delicious!!

1 lb package of pasta (whatever work for you, we used something spirally)

8oz cheddar, grated (more or less, if you like lots or a little)

12oz bag of frozen broccoli (I like to rinse it first, so it’s not so watery once it defrosts a bit, but whatevs)

1can condensed milk (creepy, yes, but it works, and make sure it’s not evaporated)

1cup whole milk (would likely work with 2%, but I had whole on hand)

6oz light cream cheese

(I didn’t, but I’m guessing spraying the crockpot with Pam, or a good swiping of olive oil might keep it from sticking a lot)

Precook the pasta in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.* Dump everything but the cream cheese in the crock pot. Cook it for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the cream cheese when it’s got about 15 minutes left. Stir that in, and voila. No joke. It’s that easy. And yes, it was that good. I suspect the cream cheese has something to do with it. You could probably even add some BACON here at the end, if you want. We added shredded chicken leftover from another dinner. You could also probably add some hot sauce, bread crumbs, chili powder, or something like that to make it a little more grown up. Or just take it for the comfort food it is.

The big kid tolerated it (if it doesn’t come in a blue box, it’s apparently not “real” mac and cheese). The baby gobbled it. And Michael and I quite enjoyed it.

Let me know what you think, and if you have any variations on it!!

**Note: It seems that using FRESH broccoli (and probably NO VEGGIES) requires a bit of precooking, about 4-5 minutes, on the noodles. I did this, and my noodles were total mush, which is why I didn’t say to do it above. But I know that frozen broccoli seems to hold a lot of water, so it could be the reason. I’m going to try this again next week and experiment a bit, probably without veggies, since Ryan said she’d eat it without. Booger.

***Apparently, the precooking is quite important. Please precook your pasta. 😉

Mediterranean Quinoa

This is so delicious…every time I’ve made it I’ve been asked for the recipe, so I’m posting it online!! It’s from Cynthia Lair’s book, Feeding the Whole Family, but I’ve added a bit to it. I’ve blogged about this book before and it’s simply amazing. I’ve yet to make anything from this book that wasn’t delicious.

Mediterranean Quinoa

1C quinoa

1 ¾ C water

½ t sea salt

¼ toasted pine nuts (we used slivered almonds because Ry’s allergic)

¼ C olive oil

¼ C lemon juice

3 T chopped fresh mint

3 T chopped fresh parsley

2 scallions

1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

¼ C kalamata olives, pitted

¼ C currants

1/3 C crumbled feta

 

Wash, rinse and drain quinoa. Place in a 2 qt pot, add water and salt, bring to a boil, lower heat, and summer with lid on until all water is absorbed (15-20m). Don’t stir the grain while it’s cooking. Test for doneness by tilting the pan to one side, making sure all of the water has been absorbed. Remove lid and let rest 5-10m.

 

Dry-toast pine nuts in skillet or 300*F oven until they begin to change color and give off aroma, about 10 minutes (we didn’t do this with the almonds).

 

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, mint, and parsley in a large bowl. Add scallions, currants, feta cheese, and pine nuts and toss. Add cooked warm quinoa and toss well. Serve at room temp.

 

Teeth

mmm…cracker. Thanks mommy.

Oh, you want to see my teeth? Here they are.

I’d like MORE cracker, please.

No, seriously, put the camera down and get me a cracker.

Fin cut her two bottom teeth a few weeks ago and these were the first real pictures I was able to get of them. She’s also starting to sign “more”. In reference to food. Always, to food. It’s usually accompanied by a shriek and laughter, and frantic bouncing in her seat. She’s the hungriest kid I’ve ever met (trust me, she eats so much she spits up) and thinks that two teeth gives her license to eat everything we do.

Weird to think that as she’s getting teeth, Ryan will start losing them.

Autumn Spiced Scones

Autumn Spiced Scones are in my oven right now, and I’ve got about 2 minutes until I pull them out. I can’t wait. My house smells like fall, and my tummy is about to be very happy.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients

2 & 1/2 cups of flour

2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 stick of cold butter

2 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup milk

1 cup dried fruit

Milk and sugar for coating before baking

Directions

In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, and dried fruit. Set this aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices . Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter into the flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add the egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until moistened.

Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Knead the dough gently by folding until it is fairly smooth.

Lightly roll the dough into a nine-inch circle that is one inch high.

Cut the circle into eight identical wedges.

Place scones one inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Brush scones with milk and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

Remove scones from oven and serve warm.

via Autumn Spiced Scones.

via Autumn Spiced Scones.

yeah, it’s fall

How do I know?

Not because the leaves are changing. (they are)

Not because we’re breaking out the long sleeves. (we are)

Not because I’ve thought about turning on the heat more than once. (I haven’t)

It’s not even that Ryan has returned back to school. (more on that later)

So, how do I know? Because I’m baking. Lots. It started slowly, with a desire to make muffins a few weeks back. And then scones shortly after that. And today, pumpkin scones, just like Starbucks makes, only at home, so I get to eat them warm. And now, there’s granola in the oven, smelling delicious.

I’m thinking bread is in order at some point this week…and maybe some more muffins. I adore baking and I adore fall. What else should I bake? What are your favorites? What signifies fall for you?

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

I don’t think I’ve ever seen children eat something good for them (shhh, don’t tell) SO fast. 4 children each had at least 2 of these over the course of a morning. And they were super simple to mix up, too.

(from Cooking Light, August 2010)

1 2/3c oats

2/3c all-purpose flour

1/2c whole-wheat flour

3/4c packed light brown sugar

2t ground cinnamon

1t baking powder

1t baking soda

3/4t salt

1 1/2c low-fat buttermilk (OK, I was out of buttermilk, milk, etc, so I used yogurt that I had on hand. It was fairly runny, so not a whole lot different than the consistency of buttermilk and it worked really well.)

1/4c canola oil

2t grated lemon rind (skipped  this as I was out, but would probably have been yummy)

2 large eggs

2c frozen or fresh blueberries

1. preheat oven to 400*

2. pulse oats in food processor and put them in a large bowl

3. add dry ingredients

4. add wet ingredients; stir until moist

5. add blueberries (if using frozen ones, toss them in 2T flour first, so they don’t mush up and turn the muffins purple) and fold gently

6. spoon into muffin tin (original recipe says it’ll make 16, but mine made more like 22) and bake at 400* for 20m or until the muffins spring back when touched. Remove immediately and let cool on a rack.

OK, as I typed this up, the children each at 2 more. They’re almost gone. They’re that good.

my brother


once upon a time, my brother and i didn’t get along very well. we’ll both admit to it: high school was tough for us. but yay for us that we’re both totally over it, because he’s actually a pretty rad guy, and his wife is fantastic. we all love spending time with them, but especially peanut. she’s totally in love with uncle mike, chasing him everywhere, performing for him, making him perform for her. i love that my daughter loves my brother so much.


and i love that my brother has found such an amazing woman to be with. as we told ryan the other day, allison wasn’t born into our family, she CHOSE to join our family. that makes her even more special. oh, and she cracks me up because she’s not terribly fond of having pictures taken. i caught a few, but she gets a little wacky after she hears that shutter more than 2 or 3 times!

and they have an amazing farmers market in san rafael. we had a great time down there, wandering around, checking out the vendors, and eating amazing puerto rican food at sol food. brought michael and i straight back to our fantastic trip last summer.

Granola Bars

Yum. I love granola bars. But I hate reading the ingredients and being totally grossed out. So, I borrowed the Sneaky Chef cookbook from a friend (thanks Mari!) and adapted her granola bar recipe for my own personal gain. And, upon request from many of you, here it is.

2/3 C rolled oats, ground in a food processor
1/2 C almonds, ground in a food processor (if allergic, add another 1/2 C rolled oats)
1/4 C wheat germ (again, could sub oats if wanting gluten free)
1 C crispy brown rice (I couldn’t find this, so I subbed ghetto rice krispies)
1 C nonfat dry milk (the most vintage thing one can purchase at the grocery store)
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 canola oil
2/3 C brown rice syrup (found in the frou frou section of the grocery store)
1 t vanilla extract
Optional add-ins: 1/4 C chocolate chips, raisins, craisins, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, really, just about anything, though I’d suggest just ONE of these, not all at once.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a 9″ square baking pan (or similar) completely with parchment (or foil, but you have to butter that).

In a medium bowl, combine oats, almonds, wheat germ, dry milk, cinnamon and salt. Mix in the canola oil, brown rice syrup, vanilla extract and add-ins. Mix well, then pour into the prepared baking pan. Press down with palm of the hand, evenly distributing mixture into the corners of the dish. It should be well pressed into the dish.

Bake for 15-18 minutes. My oven stinks and I had to bake for closer to 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes or so, just until it’s set up. Using the parchment or foil, lift from the pan. While it’s still warm, cut into small bars.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze in plastic baggies.

White Chicken Chili…one of my favorites.

Afruma White Chicken Chili

2 cups diced onions
2 cups diced celery
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 pound chicken breast, cooked and diced
8 cups water (more like 5 or 6 if you’re using canned beans)
1 bay leaf
1 (7-ounce) can chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
4 tablespoons chicken base
1 jalapeno, chopped (remove the seeds for less spice)
2 pounds white beans, soaked overnight (or, you can use 4 cans of beans, and adjust the cooking times, but it’s better with real beans)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded carrots
16 ounces sour cream

Saute onion, celery, and garlic in oil until tender, about 5 minutes. In a large stockpot add chicken, water, bay leaf, chiles, oregano, cumin, dry mustard, basil, Old Bay, chicken base, and jalapeno and simmer for 1 1/2 hours . Add the drained beans and heavy cream and simmer for 1 hour, or until the beans are tender (30 min if using canned beans). Garnish soup with carrots and sour cream.

We often serve this over baked potatoes, but it’s equally good on it’s own with sourdough bread, or, my personal favorite, in a bread bowl. Yum. The only caution is that this makes a TON of chili. Like, enough to feed about 15 people. We’re currently testing out how it survives in the freezer, so I’ll update once I have some feedback on it.