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.

Think your vegetable garden produced? HA!

Though this weekend in Chicago looks to be near perfect weather-wise, we are nearing the end of the local  vegetable garden season. If you grew anything this summer, you’ll soon pile it onto your kitchen counter and then work really hard to pawn stuff off on neighbors, coworkers, your hairdresser – anyone who eats, really – before it spoils.


Just be glad you’re not this guy, profiled by the LA Times, who grew 11,000 tomatoes last summer (and he’s expecting 15,000 this summer).

My favorite part of the story is this:
“If you think that growing backyard tomatoes is just that, you’re missing the point,” said Scott Daigre, a garden designer whose Tomatomania seedling sale has become an intensely awaited kickoff to the season. “It’s a search for the past, a romantic search for a memory, a hope of reliving a childhood experience, a great dinner.”

Like Bad Theater

Another day, another food-related crime.

(Insert Dragnet music here)

I’ll lead with this quote from the end of an article I read in the Fond Du Lac Reporter, via obscurestore.com: Officers reported that both husband and wife appeared intoxicated.

It seems that a 48-year-old woman was charged with reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and misdemeanor battery because she went after her husband with some tomatoes and a knife (at least that’s what he says. She claims he fell off a lawn chair while drunk).

The article continues, She was ordered to stay out of taverns and possess no weapons.

According to police and news reports, the victim said his wife had him on the floor and repeatedly hit him and possibly stabbed him with a knife as she made slashing motions at him, he told authorities. (The victim) said he begged his wife not to kill him and was struck in the face with large numbers of tomatoes, the complaint stated. Sheriff’s officers reported tomatoes were crushed “everywhere” in the residence.


The wife alleges that her husband was ticked off because a drink she made him wasn’t strong enough, and that he started the fight by calling her names and hitting her in the face, according to the complaint.

If convicted of all charges, the wife faces maximum penalties of more than 13 years in prison and $36,000 in fines.

Summer Soup

Diet cookbooks are generally a turn off. They use a lot of ingredients I don’t like to have in my house, especially powdered milk, sugar substitute (I happen to be one of those people who thinks Splenda has an aftertaste), powdered dressing mix and plain yogurt, and the texture of the food frequently leaves a lot to be desired. But I really like reading Hungry-girl.com, and I was tempted to try her cookbook.
The author has followed the same Diet Program that I do, and I really like many of the products that she’s promoted online. So, I waited for a coupon from my local bookstore and bought the book.
The first recipe I tried was for shrimp and asparagus corn chowder, and it is freakishly good. It has all vegetables I like to eat (red peppers, asparagus, onion, potato, corn) and the shrimp was easy to roast with the asparagus and created a minimal number of dishes. An overall success!
I’ll let you know how I do in the dessert section of the cookbook…

Cleaning out the Refrigerator

I’m sure I found this recipe for orzo salad because I was looking for something to do with all the fresh mint that grows from my window boxes (gotta love townhouse living), but it solved so many of my food problems this weekend:

  • 1) LEFTOVER FISH I enjoyed a fabulous Mexican meal Friday night with old friend who recently moved to my hometown, but I came home with half the blackened fish from fish tacos. Hot Tamales makes some of the best around, served with fresh tomato salsa, pineapple salsa, warm flour tortillas, and a HUGE portion of fresh fish. But, I’m always a little unsure of what to do with leftover fish. Microwaving it for lunch at work seems unkind to my colleagues, but the fish needs to be addressed quickly, if at all. Thus, this orzo provided the perfect bed for the fish. I split the leftover portion in two, laid it over the orzo and was quite happy with the results.
  • 2) LEFTOVER VEGGIES In my refrigerator I had a few cherry tomatoes from pesto pasta I’d made earlier in the week, parts of a red onion from the Barefoot Contessa’s shrimp salad I’d tried, and some sliced black olives from something so unremarkable I can’t even remember why I opened them. So, I ignored Giada’s recommended veggies (especially the chickpeas. I love hummus, but not so much the whole bans) and used up my own mix of leftovers. It worked great!
  • 3) SURPLUS FRESH HERBS I love the way my window boxes look from the outside of my house (which is for sale, by the way) and the way you get a nice scent in my kitchen with the warm summer breeze blows just right, but sometimes I feel pressure to trim them back and make use of them before they get all spindly and weird. This recipe make use of just enough herb to give my boxes a little haircut early in the season.
  • 4) COOKING IN BROTH I’d read a lot about this, but never tried it. It was great! I’ll definitely do it again soon.

Also, I served it with a yummy lime spritzer. 10 Cane white rum makes everything better.

no leftovers

I am usually all about making too much food for dinner specifically so that there are leftovers for lunch or dinner at least the next day, preferably the next two days. But now I’m finding with fresh vegetables – especially with Farmers’ Market finds – that they are not as good on day 2, unless they are raw.

Nevertheless, I really like this vegetable toss I made the other day: 1 large bunch of broccoli, steamed to taste, tossed with a mix of salt, 1 T. lime juice and 1/2 t. sesame oil. So light. So savory. So nice with a pork chop.

So not good as leftovers. Not even tossed with lettuce and dredged in Paul Newman’s light honey mustard salad dressing.

Sunday Dinner: A Mixed Review

A few weeks ago a popular food blogger that I also enjoy reading discussed how blogs have the best recipes, and that newspaper recipes didn’t excite him. While I agree that blogs offer a personal insight that newspaper style doesn’t allow for, I certainly do not hesitate to try a newspaper recipe that excites me.

But not all of them do.

Take my roommate’s mother, for example, who spent this beautiful, leisurely Sunday morning combing her newspaper, and got the urge to try a dinner menu she found for Greek chicken and watermelon salad. Not apt to fry an otherwise healthy chicken breast, this amateur chef used the flavors in the friend chicken recipe to make a marinade for boneless, skinless chicken breasts that we grilled (the other eater in my household acted as the grill master) at the end of the day – YUM! The mayonnaise-based sauce was delightful on the chicken, contradicting my previous aversion to olives and orange. Oh well.

The watermelon salad was fine (our hostess generously left out the strawberries because she know I don’t care for them), but it remained an odd blend of flavors and textures that I wouldn’t serve to a group of people, and one my roommate flat out didn’t like. I happily cleaned my plate, but no doggie bags, thanks for the offer.

My point is this: I admire this chef’s courage in turning a newspaper recipe into something more palatable, and I’m no worse for the wear in trying the watermelon salad. I’ll read the food section again and try to be as creative in my own kitchen someday.

The highlight of the meal, though, was a cold carrot dish our dinner group first fell in love with during a trip to Portugal in 2002. The Portuguese served finger bowls of these carrots on the table at every meal the same way we serve rolls, and they are just as refreshing as I remember. I took this recipe home with me in lieu of the leftover watermelon salad:

  • 3 carrots, blanched and sliced into rounds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • parsley
  • 1 glass of red wine vinegar (not the most precise measurements, but it seems foolproof, right?)

Mix carrots with parley and garlic. Add vinegar. Let set for 3 hours before serving.