Thursday, May 15, 2014

My Mom's Smokey Roni - Kind of...

My friend, Cathy, is celebrating a birthday today and her dear husband, Carl, asked her friends to each send a handwritten recipe and photo of their favorite macaroni and cheese recipe. Carl's request got me thinking about a recipe that my mom used to make called Smokey Roni. It was in the regular dinner rotation. I thought it might be a fun recipe to give to Cathy.

Over the years, I've collected a number of the cookbooks that I grew up with (and that my mom still uses), so I decided to see if the recipe was included in one called, "Dinner in a Dish." Sure enough, it was listed in the index but when I turned to the recipe it read "1 box macaroni and cheese." My mother NEVER made it with boxed macaroni and cheese! 

You know, I give my mom crap for not being much of a cook but the truth is I liked her cooking growing up. She put dinner on the table every night. Sure, it was the 1970's and we ate a lot of casseroles but my mom did a lot from scratch. We always had a garden, and to this day she cans, pickles, and freezes fresh vegetables every summer. She didn't share my passion for cooking but she did a fine job of feeding the family. I laugh now about her "regular rotation" menu selections but here I am 40 years later collecting her old cookbooks and looking up nostalgic recipes. So, I was actually quite impressed to see that although she'd used the Smokey Roni recipe as a guideline, she'd gone out of her way to make the mac-n-cheese from scratch. (Way to go, Mom!) Following in my mother's footsteps, I created my own mac-n-cheese recipe homage to Smokey Roni.

Vince tasted tested the recipe with glee and absolutely loved it. A hit all the way around! Thanks Carl and Cathy for inspiring me to revisit a wonderful childhood recipe. Hope you like it as much as we did.

Smokey Roni
Serves 4

8 ounces elbow macaroni (substitute gluten free if you like)
2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for buttering casserole dish
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
1 tablespoon potato starch (for gluten free) or flour 
1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups half-n-half or whole milk
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (approximately 3 cups)
10 ounces frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained well (approximately 2 cups)
6 ounces diced ham, (approximately 1 cup)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook elbow macaroni as directed on package. Aim for al dente since the pasta will cook longer in the sauce. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 2 quart casserole pan with butter.

Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add minced onion and sweat until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in potato starch, salt, dry mustard, granulated garlic and pepper. Stir until smooth and beginning to bubble. Slowly stir in half and half. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture is just about to simmer. Add the grated cheddar and stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth.

Pour the drained macaroni into the casserole pan. Add the chopped broccoli and diced ham. Pour the cheese sauce over the top and mix gently until everything is nicely coated. Top with grated parmesan and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes until the dish is bubbling and the top has turned a light golden brown. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Want Breakfast in Bed this Mother's Day? Here's Your Family's guide!

Okay ladies, here’s a little blog for you to print and post on the refrigerator this week.  Your family will be grateful for the “subtle” suggestion. 

Psst… are you looking for a way for your family to pamper Mom this Mother’s Day?  How about starting her special day with breakfast in bed!  Even younger kids can help out to make Mother’s Day special and they will feel so proud to help.

Here are some fun and creative ways to tell Mom how much she’s loved:

  • Pick a flower from your garden for the breakfast tray.  If you don’t have a bud vase, try a handful of flowers in a pretty mug.

  • If you don’t have a breakfast tray, tape paper onto a cookie sheet and let the kids decorate it with drawings for Mom.

  • Pick the tops off dandelions or other pretty blooms and place a few on the breakfast tray.  Their bright yellow blooms add a little sunshine to breakfast and help to clean up your lawn.  

  • Stretch the fun out and make it easier for little ones to help by bringing in things one at a time.  Start with the decorated breakfast tray, then, ask your child to bring in an empty coffee cup or juice glass.  You can follow with the coffee pot or pitcher.  Mom will feel like she’s at a restaurant.

  • You don’t have to cook to show you care.  Breakfast in bed can be anything from a bagel and cream cheese or dry cereal, to scrambled eggs or Eggs Benedict.  No matter what you serve, it will be appreciated.

  • You can also plan ahead by mixing up some delicious Oven-Baked French Toast the night before.  The recipe is simple and all you have to do is pop it in the oven in the morning. 

Oven-Baked French Toast

8 slices of your favorite French bread (or try something different like a fluffy brioche or cinnamon swirl bread)
butter or cooking spray
2 Tablespoon sugar
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoonvanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Powdered Sugar

Grease a large rectangular baking dish with butter or cooking spray. Lay the slices of bread in the baking dish like playing cards – each slice slightly overlapping the one before. In a medium-size mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla; pour over bread. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, uncover the pan and sprinkle the French toast with nutmeg.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until the bread begins to turn golden brown. Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and don’t forget the syrup.  Makes 8 servings.

Serve your French toast with fresh fruit and, perhaps, a mimosa!  Mom will feel like a queen on her special day.