A New Use for Beer: Beer Macaroni and Cheese


Yes.  That’s bacon.  And cheese.  And the easiest macaroni and cheese sauce I will ever make in my life.  Counting the bacon (and yes, I wimped out and did the fully cooked real bacon bits), there are five ingredients.

No, it’s not really a recipe to make when the outside mercury soars into the hundreds, but, due to storms south of us, we won’t see temps above 90 this week.

And…Muffin likes the macaroni and cheese.  So much so that when we ate it for supper last Saturday night, he had the macaroni for breakfast Sunday morning.

Seriously, though, what made it so popular with me was its ease of making it.  Basically boiling the macaroni and shredding the cheese are the hardest parts.

I found this recipe again as I looked through my Dropbox recipe files that I had “printed as a PDF” and saved it to my Dropbox.

And this is one of the gems that I rediscovered.

Beer Mac and Cheese (with Bacon!)

Source:  A Spicy Perspective

1 pound macaroni noodles (would love to try it with shells next time), boiled and drained according to package directions

12 ounce bottle beer (I used a lager)

8 ounces cream cheese

1 pound shredded cheddar (as sharp as you can get it), off the block (not pre-shredded)

1 cup crumbled bacon

Pour a bottle of beer into a large pot.  Place it over medium heat, add the cream cheese and swirl it around with a whisk until it starts to melt.  Once it is about half melted start slowly and carefully whisking it into the beer until creamy and smooth.  Add the cheddar cheese a few handfuls at a time, whisking until smooth.

Pour the pasta into the cheese sauce.  Reduce the heat to low, then stir and cook another three minutes to thicken.  Salt and pepper to taste.

When serving, sprinkle the bacon over each serving.

Muffin Approved

Thoughtful Thursday: Not a Rant, I Promise!

Thoughtful Thursday

Truly…I promise.

Today’s Thoughtful Thursday post deals with another way to create a East coast favorite:  the Philly Cheesesteak.  I have eaten a cheesesteak in Philadelphia several years ago.  I’m going to upset some people (I’m sure) when I say I was…not impressed.

It was an okay sandwich.  But I’ve definitely tasted better.

And, in terms of making them, have you priced Steak-umms in the South?

Uh, that isn’t going to happen.

So, that’s why I was so jazzed when I was going through the recipes on Six Sisters’ Stuff and found the Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes.  Ground beef can be obtained much more cheaply (or even ground from a roast purchased for $2/pound) than the traditional meat.

And ground beef is easier to chew than meat that could be tough.

Prior to trying this recipe, cheesesteaks were one of those food items that I wished I liked.  I mean, they had one of my favorite ingredients of all times:  Worcestershire sauce.  I may have daydreamed about guzzling a bottle or two once during my childhood.

Yes, I know that saltlick would not have been a great idea, but I was like five, people!  I also swallowed (and instantly repented and regretted) the salt at the bottom of a bag of pretzels.

This recipe is a keeper and it is totally Muffin Approved.  But, then, he loves all things sloppy joe related.

Here’s what I did:

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

1 pound ground beef (I’m pretty sure we used beef ground in the meat grinder attachment)

1 T Worcestershire sauce plus enough low sodium beef broth to make a cup

1 onion and 1 green pepper, both chopped

1/4 cup steak sauce

8 ounces mushrooms, diced

sliced provolone cheese

salt and pepper, as needed


Brown meat over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes.  Drain.  Add vegetation and cook 3-4 more minutes or until tender.  Stir in remaining ingredients, bring to a simmer, and let perk away happily for 2 minutes.

Place a slice of cheese on the bottom half of each roll.  Top with a scoop of meat.  Wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.

What’s your favorite type of sloppy joe?

The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 13: Neiman Marcus Cookies

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

These cookies are awesome!!!  Yes, I don’t usually say that, especially with three exclamation points, but they are.  This is the version of the recipe that I’ve always made that is attached to the fabled $250 recipe.

I’ll let you Google the back story.

After making the tiramisu, I seem to have a ton (well, like a cup) of espresso powder remaining.  I am not a coffee drinker.  When Josh received his Keurig from my parents’ for his birthday, I thought, “Oh, goody!  Let’s go shopping for the ‘non-coffee’ pods!”

So, in thinking up recipes for the 25 Days of Holiday Goodies, I decided to make these cookies (because they require espresso powder).  And because they are awesome!

They don’t make a lot of cookies, so I doubled the recipe.  No, that’s actually not true.  I doubled the recipe because, in my haste, I confused half a cup with half a pound of butter and managed to dump sugar on top of the two sticks before I realized my mistake.

Oh, the best way I’ve found to serve them?  Ten to fifteen seconds in the microwave.  The chocolate chips re-goo-zee-fie and become all lovely and yummy.

Here’s what I did:

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

Source:  All Recipes

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet.  In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and the sugars until smooth.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Sift together dry powdery ingredients.  Stir into the creamed mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Drop dough using a 1 1/2 tablespoon disher onto the prepared baking sheet.  Cookies should be 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart and large (12-15 cookies).  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.

These are completely Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved


The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 9: Macaroni and Cheese

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

Macaroni and cheese.  People tend to have very definite opinions about it.  Stove top or baked.  Kraft or homemade.  Cheddar on top or no.  Plain, good home cookin’ or fancy schmancy gourmet fare.

Macaroni and cheese pretty much always makes it to the holiday table.  I know some people in different areas of the country (and around the world) would eschew this tradition, but there it is.  It’s comfort fare at both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This past Thanksgiving, when Muffin sat down to eat Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, he demanded extra helpings of macaroni and cheese.  The macaroni and cheese I grew up eating.  My mom’s macaroni and cheese (no neon powders need apply).  This macaroni and cheese.

Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese

1 2/3 cups (8 ounces) small elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

1 cup milk

2-3 Tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 ounces Velveeta, cubed

1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 2-quart dish.  Combine milk and flour in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk to avoid lumps.  Continue whisking until thickened.  Add Velveeta in 3-4 batches and whisk after each batch to melt.  Pour macaroni into the 2-quart dish.  Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and stir to coat evenly.  Cover with shredded cheese.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and light brown.

That’s it.  Easy and cheesy!


This recipe is completely Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved


The 25 Days of Holiday Goodies Day 2: Tiramisu

25 Days of Christmas Goodies Button

My favorite Italian dessert has always been tiramisu.  Not gelato.  Not zabaglione.  Or however it’s spelled.  Tiramisu.  My favorite place to order it?  Olive Garden.

Over the years, I have read several copy cat recipes.  Todd Wilbur’s recipe (of Top Secret Recipes fame) seemed the best bet. But where I lived in the 90s and early 2000s, you couldn’t easily find lady fingers.  And if you could, it was often cheaper to purchase an entire tiramisu from Olive Garden than to purchase the way-too-expensive ladyfingers and other ingredients.

In stepped Kroger a few months ago.  They ran a sale for a few weeks on Italian items that led to them having a lot of excess stock.  As a result, the ladyfingers went on sale for $1.49 a package.  I seized my opportunity.

I made tiramisu by Todd Wilbur’s recipe, and it was spot on fantastic!  And easy!

I found the recipe at Food.com.  This recipe is not only Muffin Approved, but it’s also Muffin’s Granddaddy Approved.  This was the man who told my mom that the tiramisu was “terrible.  Terribly good.”


Source:  Food.com

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons milk

2/3 cup sugar

2 cups mascarpone cheese (2 packages—bring this to room temperature—Trust me!)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

20 -24 ladyfingers (one package)

1/2 cup cold espresso (I used instant espresso powder with water)

1/4 cup Kahlua

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

In a double boiler, whisk egg yolks, milk and sugar together in a the top pot, then place the pot on top of the bottom.  Whisk the mixture often for 8 to 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens.  Remove the bowl from the heat, and to it add the of mascarpone cheese and the vanilla.  Whisk the cheese until it smooths out.  In a separate bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer until thick.  Slowly fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until it’s completely incorporated, but don’t over mix or it will lose its fluff and flatten out.  Combine the espresso and Kahlua in a large, shallow bowl.  One-by-one, quickly dip each ladyfinger in the espresso.  Arrange half of the dipped ladyfingers side-by-side on the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch serving dish or baking pan.  Spoon about half of the cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, then add another layer of soaked ladyfingers on top of the cheese mixture.  Spoon the remaining cheese mixture over the second layer of ladyfingers and spread it evenly.  Put two teaspoons of cocoa powder in a tight-mesh strainer and gently tap the side of the strainer to add an even dusting of cocoa powder over the top of the dessert.  Cover and chill for several hours.


As I said, this recipe is Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved


A Catch-Up Post: Oven Fried Pork Chops

Muffin likes pork.  He loves it, in fact.  There’s just one small problem:  he calls it chicken.  Recently, we had Recipe Girl’s Root Beer Pulled Pork (again).  As I was attempting to pull it (it always takes me at least an hour to pull that much pork), he came in and asked me if he could have a bite of that chicken.

He does that a lot.

Ask for bites while I’m preparing it and calls pork chicken.

Most pork recipes that I make are Muffin Approved, and this one certainly is.  If you look at the plate above, pretty much the only thing he would save for last is the cole slaw.

I like this recipe because it is a four-ingredient recipe (five if you count the potatoes that cook alongside the pork).

It comes together really fast and goes with a variety of sides.  In fact, if you look at the above plate, you will note that the pork is actually the least percent of the plate “pie graph.”  It really doesn’t have to take center stage here.

This recipe (found in two places on the Better Homes and Gardens website) appears all over the Internet.  I think I first found the idea when thumbing through one of the BHG magazine cookbooks.  I had written it down as one to look up from the index, and, luckily, it was on the website.

This picture comes from February, and it is one of the forgotten heroes that is only waiting for the weather to cool down below 100 (I’m writing this post mid-July) to make again.

Isn’t it weird how that happens?  You make a recipe that’s awesome and then it gets shoved aside and forgotten in the melee of day-to-day life.  In these catch-up posts, I think I’m starting to see recipes that were forgotten that need to be, not only blogged about, but also to be re-made.

Oven Fried Chicken (and Potato Wedges)

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

four pork chops, trimmed of fat (I used slices from a pork loin.  The website recommends fairly thick chops, but I find those sometimes difficult to eat–especially for Muffin)

one package of cornbread stuffing mix (I used Stove Top.  I would recommend crushing up some of the larger pieces in order to dredge it easier)  You will use about 1 cup or so of crumbs.

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

24 ounce frozen homestyle potato wedges (although I think any largish frozen potatoes would work)

Preheat oven to 425 and line a half sheet pan with foil.

In a shallow dish beat together the egg and milk with a fork.  Place the stuffing crumbs in another shallow dish.  Dip both sides of a pork chop in egg mixture than coat with stuffing crumbs.  Place on one side of the baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining chops, being sure to arrange them on the pan in a single layer.

Pour the frozen potatoes on the other side of the pan, arranging in as shallow of a layer as possible.

Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring the potatoes at about 12 minutes.  They are done when the pork measures 145 degrees in temperature and the potatoes are lightly browned and crisp.

Serve with a choice of sides and condiments.  They can be dressed up or dressed down as you see fit.

These were totally Muffin Approved!

Muffin Approved

A Catch-Up Post: Apple-Pecan Pork Chops

First, let me say, this recipe was Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

Are you enjoying these catch-up posts?  I’m trying to make it all about food.  I know that I sometimes get ranty on some posts and seem to have forgotten what it’s like to cook at times, but I’m appreciating catching up with you on recipes I’ve planned in MPM, made, photographed, and…never posted.

I know.

I’m trying to get better with it.

As I was saying, this recipe was Muffin Approved, but it wasn’t really Josh Approved.  My dear sweet husband really doesn’t like food mixing with his meat much.  I once suggested making poultry with orange glaze for Canadian Thanksgiving (one of our first CT’s together, in fact), and he was quick to veto it.

Adding chopped nuts as a garnish on top of the apples?  That really didn’t endear this dish to him.

I liked it, but I was wanting it to have more flavor…and a pan sauce with a bit more body.  As you can tell from the picture above, the consistency was more…runny.

Runny usually doesn’t make me think yummy for my tummy.

This recipe came from Better Homes and Gardens’s website (originally found inside a BHG magazine cookbook perusal), and just like the oven-fried pork chops, it starts with four chops (BHG wants thick cut; since I cut mine from the pork loin, I couldn’t guarantee that).

Apple-Pecan Pork Chops

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

4 boneless pork chops (see above), trimmed of fat and seasoned with salt and pepper

1 medium red apple, sliced (skin-on) thinly

salt and pepper (fresh-ground on the pepper, if you please)

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, plus extra for sprinkling at the end

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it becomes bubbly.  Add apple.  Cook and stir 2 minutes (try not to make apple mush).  Remove apple from skillet (you’ll thank me later).  Add pork chops.  Cook pork chops.  Turn pork chops.  Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Cover and cook 2-4 minutes more until pork reads 240 degrees on a meat thermometer.  Now, spoon the apples on top and sprinkle with pecans and additional brown sugar, if desired.

Note:  I followed the directions on the website when I made it, and the apples turned into mush.  Removing them after sauteeing them would probably help.


A Catch-Up Post: Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Several months ago (March 2015), chimichangas were on the menu.  I actually made them then, but didn’t blog about them.  Awful of me, I know.  As the school year gets ready to begin (I’m writing this in mid-July 2015), I figured that it would be best to have a post or two (or ten) ready to go in case life (and work) happens.

This is the first post I have planned for that eventuality.

Can you tell that I love Tex-Mex food?  I literally ate it breakfast, lunch, and supper throughout the last trimester of my pregnancy with Muffin.  For months after Muffin was born, Josh put his foot down…no tacos, enchiladas, etc.  (Note:  I would eat leftovers for breakfast and lunch.)

I’m always looking for recipes to expand my repertoire of Tex-Mex recipes.  As a child, some of my happiest (food) memories were when my mom would make “Mexican” (tacos…and sometimes tostadas).  I’ve discovered, as I’m sure my mom discovered then, that tacos and the like are easy entry points on getting kids to try normally-not-kid-friendly veggies.

In Muffin’s case, he will have everything on his taco except onion (and he is okay with cooked onion in the taco meat).  Literally everything.  I still have nightmares about the pretzel taco…not to mention the blueberry taco.  Shudder.

When I found this recipe on Culinary Couture, I was very excited because the chimis are baked, rather than fried.  I have nothing against frying anything, but sometimes when I fry things like pies, egg rolls, wontons, or chimis, they burst open and the filling leaks out.

Totally not Muffin Approved.

They do crisp up nicely; however, if you plan on having leftovers, expect them to be kinda more like a soft chicken burrito.

I do plan on trying different fillings (to be more various and versatile) in the future, but the method (and the filling) work perfectly.

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Adapted from Culinary Couture

2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded (I used some cooked with taco seasoning in the slow cooker)

1 cup chunky salsa (not runny picante sauce or restaurant-style blended salsa)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano (The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon, but I think more oregano is better in Tex-Mex recipes)

1 cup shredded cheese (The original recipe calls for cheddar; we used colby jack or a taco/nacho blend)

1/4 cup chopped green onions

2 tablespoons melted butter

flour tortillas (We used the medium ones, but I always tend to have more left over filling than the recipe calls for, so have more ready than the 6 the recipe calls for)

Warm tortillas wrapped in aluminum foil 5-10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  The original recipe suggests that this will make them more pliable and easier to fold, and I have to agree.

In a bowl, mix together the filling ingredients:  chicken, salsa, seasonings, cheese, and onion.  Spoon 1/3 cup filling on the middle of each tortilla and roll up burrito-style:  lift the bottom up, fold in the sides, and roll up to make a covered cylinder (this is also the process for egg rolls).  Place seam-side down on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Brush tops and sides with melted butter.  Make sure to have a bit of space between the tortillas so they don’t stick together and they crisp up properly.  Bake 25 minutes, checking often the last ten minutes to ensure that the tortillas don’t burn.  The goal, as the original recipe recommends, is for the tortillas to be crispy and golden brown.

Garnish with appropriate toppings (We ate ours with salsa and sour cream).

These were Muffin Approved because he didn’t realize green onion was present.

Muffin Approved

A Catch-Up Post: Bourbon Street Chicken

If there were ever another “genre” of ethnic food that comes close to overtaking Tex-Mex in Muffin’s heart or mine, it would be “Chinese.”  Notice that “Chinese” is in quotes.  A lot of what Muffin (and I) adore about Chinese food is more Americanized Chinese.

Yes, I mean that we like it more than Italian (although Josh’s lasagna does challenge it a bit).

It’s one form of cooking where you can virtuously chomp on crunchy veggies and pretend you are eating really unhealthy food.

Think Shredded Pork with Garlic Sauce.  Or fried (in our case, not-so-fried) rice.  Or stir-fried veggies.

The combinations of all are endless.

Of course, today’s catch-up post has (cough cough) no veggies, although I did stir fry some frozen broccoli (pretty much the only way to save frozen broccoli from becoming scary, limp, gray mush) with garlic and pepper flakes.

Today, I present you to that quasi-Chinese dish of mall “Chinese restaurants”:  Bourbon Street Chicken.  Our school district serves a version of this dish sometimes, but because they don’t want the students to associate it with alcohol, the district nutritionists have changed the name to “New Orleans Chicken.”

In reading the menus for weeks to my students, it took a VERY long time to figure out that they really meant Bourbon Chicken.

I found this recipe, well, this version, because it seems that many blogs have this recipe somewhere, on Life in the Lofthouse.

Bourbon Street Chicken

Adapted very closely from Life in the Lofthouse

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into small cubes (LitL calls for 4 chicken breasts, which to Albertson’s meat packers way of thinking, equates to 4 pounds instead of the pound I’m sure she intended)

2 tablespoons veg oil

2 minced garlic cloves

1/4 cup apple juice (She says apple or pineapple, but we always seem to have apple in the house and rarely seem to have pineapple)

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup soy sauce

pinch red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a large skillet containing medium-high heated oil, cook chicken pieces until no longer pink (stir-fry style).  Remove chicken and pour out any juices.  Return skillet to the heat.  Add chicken back to pan.

Mix together remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk until cornstarch is completely combined.

When chicken is golden, pour sauce into pan. Stir to coat chicken.  Reduce heat to low and cover with the lid at an angle to allow steam to escape.

Simmer 20 minutes, stirring a few times.

Serve over rice with choice of veg.

Since this was served with “trees” (broccoli), this entire meal was Muffin Approved.

Muffin Approved

A Catch-Up Post: Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken

I made this recipe in March when we had company.  A friend and former/possibly future coworker of Josh’s was staying with us while his apartment was readied.  This recipe was on the menu already when Josh invited him to stay with us.

Sadly, this was not a dish that anyone (other than Muffin and me) enjoyed.

The funny thing about this is that I grew up not liking peanut butter unless it was mixed with chocolate.  So, to enjoy peanut butter, especially in a savory dish, is nothing short of miraculous.

Muffin really seems to like these pork and chicken shreds over rice dishes.

Josh, who could eat peanut butter sandwiches possibly every day, can’t stand the idea of peanut butter and meat.  He also doesn’t like mole (just imagine the accent is over the e–pronounced mo-lay) because of the chocolate and meat connection.  (That was an early date of ours that was not good eats for Josh.)

To me, the peanut butter simply adds an earthy depth of flavor.

And to me…anything with cilantro garnish sprinkled over the top has to be good.

I am trying to expand our culinary repertoire to some of the Asian and African countries.  However, peanuts, though very common in African cuisine, as well, do not belong in a sweet potato salad containing sweet potatoes, green onions, and peanuts.

That was probably the worst thing that I have ever put in my mouth.  Ever.  Wait, no probably to it.  It was.  The.  Absolute.  Worst.  Thing.  Ever.

And I like/love all three of those ingredients by themselves.  Sweet potatoes:  major love, except in savory dishes.  Like kale chips, sweet potato fries are one food application I simply cannot do.  Peanuts I’ve grown to be okay with.  Green onions?  Possibly my favorite relative of that food family.  But together?  That should never happen.  EVER!

But this dish?  True awesomeness, at least to Muffin and me.

Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken

Adapted from Family Fresh Meals

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 small red bell pepper, sliced

1 small yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 tablespoon lime juice (plus wedges for serving)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons honey

prepared rice or noodles

Garnishes:  lime wedges, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/4 cup crushed peanuts (which I forgot every time I served it)

Place vegetation (peppers and onions) in the bottom of the slow cooker to serve as a bed for the chicken to rest upon.  Place chicken on top.

Whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, chicken broth, and honey in a smallish bowl.  Pour the sauce over the chicken.

Cook on LOW in a smallish slow cooker (I used Red) for six hours.  Shred chicken and return to the crock for fifteen more minutes of cooking.

Serve over rice and noodles with appropriate garnishes.

Muffin Approved

(I don’t know if I’ll be able to repeat it though, unless it’s another week when Josh is on call.)