CEiMB: Macaroni and Four Cheeses

This week marks my entrance into Craving Ellie in my Belly – a new cooking experiment that a lot of the TWD bakers convinced me was a good idea. Ellie Kreiger’s cookbook aims to counteract the damage we all do baking with butter, eggs and white flour on Tuesdays.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

My first try was the Macaroni and Four Cheese recipe, which was chosen by Supplicious (she’ll post the recipe before Nov. 30).  A word of warning: the orange hue that reminds us of the Blue Box actually comes from 20 oz. of pureed squash in Ellie’s version. Take that for what it’s worth.

Mac and Squash and Cheese

The four cheese are ricotta, cheddar, Monterey jack and Parmesan, but in small enough quantities that I really felt like I had reheated the Pumpkin Pasta I’d made last week. I enjoyed both, I guess, but I was really looking forward to something comforting and cheesy for the cold nights before Thanksgiving. This was more of a vegetable dish.  I think I would have liked it better if I had spent a long day at work anticipating a vegetable dinner and not a cheese-laden dinner.  Ho hum.

Now, the comforting part of this dish is that it reheats well and is an excellent source of calcium, folate (to regulate sleep, appetite and mood), manganese (for digesting carbs), niacin (to draw energy from carbs), protein, selenium (to protect against heart disease and cancer), thiamin (for lots of stuff) and vitamin A (for better vision, teeth, bones and skin). It’s also a good source of fiber, iron, phosphorus (to draw energy from food) and riboflavin (to benefit red blood cells and draw energy from carbs). Finally, I can eat 2 cups for less than 400 calories.  (Ellie lists all the nutritional in each recipe, which I love.) Good stuff all around, none of which applies to the Blue Box.

TWD: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

I have never liked pecan pie, and as best I can tell, that is a blessing.  My family never fights about “pumpkin vs. pecan” at the holidays and pumpkin has less fat than pecans dredged in corn syrup.

So, it is with nothing but good will that I curse Vibi of La Casserole Carree for picking the TWD Thanksgiving Twofer Pie this week, because I LOVED it. I can’t wait for my lunch hour to go devour the piece I have stashed in the office refrigerator. (Visit her blog – it’s in French! – if only to admire her beautiful photography and play with the Google Translator in the upper right hand corner. Awesome. Also, Vibi posted the recipe there in both languages.)

Twofer with Knife

I think I cheated a little by using a frozen crust, but the outcome was the same: creamy pumpkiny goodness at the bottom,  crispy pecan nuttyness at the top. And it wasn’t as sickeningly sweet as I was expecting. I think the rum (!) in the pumpkin batter canceled out the corn syrup in the pecan syrup and made a lovely treat. My family’s traditional pumpkin pie came from the back of the can of Libby’s pumpkin puree, so the rum that Dorie recommended was an unexpected flavor in this holiday experiment. I liked it, but I doubt the younger cousins at my Thanksgiving table would have.

In the past I’ve relied on the Barefoot Contessa’s pumpkin banana mousse tart to get me through the holiday; Grandpa loves it, but it’s quite labor intensive for such a busy mid-week holiday.  More recently, as the extended family has had to deal with diabetes and significant food allergies, I switched to the Weight Watchers pumpkin flan to satisfy us after the meal (We also have birthday cake on Thanksgiving, so the lighter dessert was kind of nice). I’m thinkin’ that the Twofer will be own little slice of heaven, not to leave my personal refrigerator.  Does that defy the spirit of Thanksgiving? Probably.  But do I care?

My only problem with the Twofer Pie was the crust, and i think it’smy own fault.  When I sliced into this morning I had jelly-like layer of gook on the bottom of my store-bought crust. It’s tasty when I slather it on the crust, but I’m wondering what it might be and how it got there. My best guess is that I tried to slice the pie before I had really cooled too much, but gave up when I realized how mushy it still was. I wonder if some of the pecan syrup slipped down to the bottom and coled in the fridge, hmm?

bacon cookies (?)

When I found this recipe here, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.  I’ve tried bacon chocolate truffles (not so good), bacon and grape jelly sandwiches (not bad) and a host of other bacon-laced foods, but this was a first.   And, given my ridiculous love for the sweet-salty combination (chocolate covered pretzels, potato chip cookies, etc), this seemed like a good idea.


So, I made the cookies, skipped the candied bacon topper, and went light on the icing – when you mix powdered sugar with maple syrup, who knows how much will make your teeth hurt? Also, I’m not into maple syrup on my bacon like I know many people are, so I was a bit hesitant.

In the end, though, I got a whole lotta cookies, and good reviews from the tastetesters.

Bacon Cookies (half gone)

The cookies were good – a savory shortbread with no sugar and the smoky flavor of center cut extra lean bacon.  The icing, however, was what made the cookies a success.  I’ll use far more next time to make them a sweet treat.

I’m just not sure when it’s appropriate to make bacon cookies. I feel the same way about mimosas: I love them, but the mimosa occasions in my life are few and far between.

The economy hurts everyone

I’m not sure what this is signaling, per se, but there seems to be a focus on low-budget, food-related assaults recently.  Maybe the Blue Box is less expensive than a good knife?


From the North Platte Telegraph, we get this:

An unemployed 48-year-old North Platte man was arrested Saturday after police said he assaulted his live-in girlfriend with a cooking pot because he was upset she made him macaroni for dinner.
According to the police report, [the suspect] was intoxicated and assaulted his girlfriend with the pot when he discovered she made macaroni for his dinner. The assault caused the food to be tossed throughout the residence, as he struck her with the pot, according to the report.

And deli meat is FAR more economical than brass knuckles.  From the Florida-based TC Palm:

A 19-year-old man accused of hitting his girlfriend with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off and nearly causing a traffic crash is facing domestic battery and child abuse charges, according to a recently released police report.

The victim told police that [the suspect] got angry while she drove and “started to hit her in the arm and striking her in the face with a sandwich, knocking her glasses off her face,” the report states. [The suspect] told investigators that, indeed, he argued. He said he “didn’t want to hit her so he threw a sandwich at her striking her in the face knocking her glasses off.”

He also admitted beating the windshield with the mirror and his fist.

The type of sandwich hurled was not specified in the report.

TWD: (Failed) Rice Pudding

I hate to say this, but my rice pudding was more like sweet stew – it never thickened!!

looks are deceiving

I guess my problem was common, and I highly recommend people with rice pudding tendencies check here to see what other people did to make this work.  The liquid was delicious, though, so I’m eager to try again someday because I L-O-V-E rice pudding.

It looked nice, though.

Oh, Tyler

As part of my week-long vacation in California last week I bargained with the Other Eater in my Household to drive a wee bit out of the way to visit Tyler Florence’s kitchen goods store in Mill Valley.

It was soooooo worth it.

The store, to begin with, is a mix of Williams-Sonoma (high end, pretty and also useful cooking tools) and Chef’s Catalog (useful things that you keep hidden in a  cabinet) and a flea market – there was a whole table of old pitchers and serving sets and the like right inside the door.  The back of the store has a small kitchen, likely used for demonstration classes, and then a small library with all sorts of cool cookbooks, including a whole section dedicated to Tyler’s Food Network Colleagues. And on the day I was there, Tyler was using the kitchen to make chicken and dumplings.

Tyler, chicken and dumplings

(That’s the Other Eater  on the left in the gray fleece jacket, sniffing Tyler’s chicken. Tyler is in gray in the center, well-lit)

In my star-struck shame, I sort of made friends with the saleslady, JoJo, a Naperville native, who told me that I was welcome to stay and watch the filming while I shopped and oh-by-the-way-if-you-buy-a-book-Tyler-will-sign-it-did-I-mention-he-has-two-new-ones-that-just-came-out-they’re-right-here. They were filming a segment for Macy’s (JoJo said the Food Network shows are still done in New York).

I made my way toward the stack of books and was flipping pages, trying to decide which book I wanted for my small collection of books signed by the author, when I paused on a black and white photo of a woman I recognized because she was STANDING RIGHT BEHIND ME STRAIGHTENING MERCHANDISE. Tyler’s wife, Tolin, seemed pleasant enough in the store.  She looked good in print, too.

So, I paid for my stuff and left my book behind to be signed.  Ho-hum.

We returned two days later to pickup the book and by the time I got in the car to go home I was apoplectic. He didn’t sign his name!

The note


And for the record, the chicken and dumplings recipe isn’t in the book, either.

TWD Rewind: Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake

This week the TWD bakers made kugelhopf. It looked delicious! But it’s got yeast, which is not one of my strong suits, and I had just returned from vacation and was nt exactly looking for a challenge just yet. I opted for a March recipe I had missed out on and did a dry run for Thanksgiving dinner, but I certainly encourage you to check out the other bakers’ experiments – especially Engineer Baker, who takes darling photos on spectacular tablewares.

packs well for lunch

So, I made the apple pie-cake, which is a perfect description of this dessert.  I freelanced a little for the sake of time Monday after work, but it still turned out great. Instead of dividing the dough in two and refrigerating it for a few hours and then rolling it out to make a pie crust pit over a 13×9 pan, I pressed half the dough into the bottom of the greased pan and chilled it while I peeled and sliced a TON of apples for the filling. I rolled out the second half and just sort of fit it into the pan after I dumped my apple filling in, and it all turned out just fine for a family holiday.

The top crust reminded me of a quick cobbler-style dessert I’ve made a lot since college: peel and chop apples, and season them to make an apple pie-like filling to fill a square baking dish, and then slice refrigerated sugar cookie dough and lay on top of the apples. It’s quick, and great with ice cream.

Dorie’s creation is definitely a step up from that dessert, but not by much.  My top crust was sort of like a cake-y cookie with a crisp shell and a mild lemon-y taste, and the bottom crust held it all together well.

Yum! Fall!

The apples inside were not at all sweet or gooey. They were soft and tart, just like a good apple pie should be.  I used a combination of granny Smith and honeycrisp apples because that’s what I had in the house, and it worked just fine. I piled them in the center, with about an inch of crust exposed around the edge of the bottom layer, so that when the top layer covered the whole thing and the two crusts rose during baking, they would fuse and seal in the apples.  Worked like a charm!

I’ll totally use my lazy crust method again next time, and I think I’ll divide up the dough differently, with maybe 2/3 on the bottom layer and 1/3 on top.   Maybe throw a little brandy in with the apples…

Roll out the Barrel

According to this report in the Houston Chronicle, Rice University students are developing a beer that fights cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

BioBeer — a more consumer-friendly name than the original Frankenbeer moniker — will be brewed using yeast genetically modified to produce resveratrol. Resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound found in red wine and a few other foods, has been shown to have cancer-fighting and cardiovascular benefits, at least in mice.


The beer is part of the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition. The team of student scientists (only one of whom is old enough to rink legally, by the way) expect to have something drinkable by the end of the semester.

Most of the materials — chemical solutions, pieces of DNA, common lab bacteria — were available from scientific suppliers. But making beer required something else. Brock Wagner, a Rice University alumnus who owns Saint Arnold’s Brewery, donated the yeast.

A key ingredient of beer along with water, fermentable sugar and hops, yeast is responsible for converting sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide.Students are working to modify the yeast with two sets of genes, including one that will allow the yeast to metabolize sugars and produce an intermediate chemical. The second set will convert that chemical to resveratrol.That should result in a healthier beer, produced at no additional cost.

Why beer? Stevenson points to the numbers: Americans consumed 20.5 gallons of beer per capita in 2005, but only 2.5 gallons of red wine.