Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012

It's almost time to wish you a merry Christmas!  Can you believe it that the next time you read this it will already be after Christmas!  Wow!  This holiday season flew by, as did this week.

Our family was really busy all week, so we only made one new dinner recipe, but it was fantastic, a real keeper!  For Christmas, the kids gave me an early gift. They had picked out a mac and cheese cook book, and Hannah picked out the first one for me to try.  We made fajita mac and cheese, and added chicken to the ingredient list.  It turned out really well, though it did seem to generate a lot of pans in the process.  The next night I re-heated it in the oven for the kids, and it was almost as good as the first night!  In some ways it was better, because the flavors had a chance to meld even more. This cookbook was an excellent gift from the kids for sure!

Have a Merry Christmas, and happy cooking!

New Recipe
Fajita Mac & Cheese

Fajita Mac and Cheese

* 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
* 1 small half onion
* 2 bay leaves
* 3 whole black peppercorns
* 1 clove
* 1/2 lb macaroni
* 1 tbsp chili powder
* 1 tbsp paprika
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
* 1/4 cup unsalted butter
 * 1/3 cup AP flour
* 10 oz shredded cheese (I used a mix of pepper jack and cheddar)
* 3 tbsp olive oil
* 1medium onion, diced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 to  1-1/2 peppers, diced (I used one whole red and half a green)
* 2 cups of cooked and cubed or shredded chicken
* 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
* 2 tsp dried parsley
* lime wedges

1. Bring the milk to a simmer and add the  half onion, bay leaves, peppercorns and clove to the milk.  Allow the milk to steep for 30 minutes.  Strain the milk and discard to solids.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 13 x 9 pan.
3. Cook the macaroni as directed on the package just until the al dente stage.  Drain the pasta and add it to the 13 x 9 pan.  Add the chicken to the pasta.
4. Combine the chili powder, paprika, cumin oregano and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.  Mix well and set aside.
5. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium to low heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.  Increase the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the strained milk. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for 2 minutes.
6. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.  Add the remaining cheese to the sauce a little at a time.  Stir in the cheese and make sure it is melted before adding more.  Stir in two-thirds of the seasoning mix.  Pour the sauce over the noodles.
7. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, cook 5 -7 minutes and stir frequently.  Add the peppers and the remaining seasoning to the pan.  Cook an additional few minutes, and then add the vegetable mixture to the noodles and sauce and mix well.
8. Combine the breadcrumbs, the parsley and last tbsp of olive oil.  Mix well.
9. Sprinkle the noddle mixture with the additional cheese, and then sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top.
10. Bake the casserole for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Allow the casserole to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
11. Serve with the lime wedges- to be juiced over the casserole if desired.

Wow- we loved this!  The original recipe didn't call for chicken, but I wanted this to be a main dish, so we added chicken. We used equal parts pepper jack and cheddar for the cheese, and it was fantastic.    Hannah suggested we make it, and it definitely earned keeper status!