Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm back! Plus Southwestern Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes & Chipotle Peppers

Well, it's official. I've been a terrible blog owner for these past couple of weeks! But I do have a perfectly reasonable excuse. As some of you may know, I've spent over a year living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), away from my family and friends, for work. On Friday, my internship came to an end, and Saturday morning I moved 200km west to return to my university town (and my very patient boyfriend). I've spent the past couple of weeks packing like a madwoman. I'm no longer a resident of the GTA, and will no longer have access to the same amazing resources and restaurants that were just a short subway ride away when I lived near Toronto. Still, I know I'll find new ones.

In the meantime, my new home (and old home, since I lived here before moving to the GTA) is a mess of boxes. After spending hours unpacking, there's still so much more to go. And I've got some blog housekeeping to do as well - updating my bio, catching up on comments, visiting my favourite blogs, and I was even lucky enough to receive an award that I haven't yet had time to pass on.

Still, with all of these things to do, and without knowing where half of my belongings are, I still have everything on hand to make this wonderful recipe - Southwestern macaroni and cheese with tomatoes and chipotle peppers.

I took my standby macaroni and cheese recipe and amped it up with Monterey Jack cheese, chipotle peppers, tomatoes and dried chorizo that was heated until crispy.

The mixture was poured into a casserole dish (or baking pan), topped with panko bread crumbs and more Monterey Jack cheese, and baked until it had thickened. I broiled it to get the top browned and crispy.

The result is a creamy, flavourful mac and cheese. The chipotle adds flavour, and provides a hint of spice that isn't overwhelming. The crispy chorizo adds a nice texture contrast to the creaminess of the pasta, and adds a rich bacon-like flavour. The tomato adds a bit of freshness to the whole dish. And the Monterey Jack cheese is a necessity - it makes sure the southwestern theme rings true in every element of the meal. I can't wait to buy more Jack cheese and make this again.

Southwestern Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes & Chipotle Peppers
Serves 4-6
Based on a Nestle recipe

1 2/3 cups (about 7 oz.) dry small elbow macaroni (preferably whole wheat), cooked and drained
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 cup water
Heaping 1/3 cup diced dried chorizo (if you can't find dried chorizo, you could substitute an equal amount of fresh chorizo, cooked and crumbled)
1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese or "Mexican-blend" style pre-shredded cheese

Panko bread crumbs
Monterey Jack cheese

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat. Add chorizo to pan. It will begin to render its fat and turn crispy. Stirring the chorizo occasionally, keep an eye on it and remove it from heat when it reaches a bacon-like crispiness. Drain the fat, and let chorizo rest on a plate covered with a paper towel, to soak up the excess oil.

Combine cornstarch, salt, mustard and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, water, and butter. Cook over medium-heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 2 cups cheese until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Add chorizo, chipotle, and tomato. Since tomato sizes can vary, you may add less tomato to your taste. Pour mixture into prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs over top, until a light, even layer of them is formed. Sprinkle a few tablespoons or so of cheese on top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If necessary, broil for a few minutes to brown the panko-cheese crust.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Terse Tuesdays With Dorie: Brownie Buttons

When you find you find yourself without the proper equipment to make fudgy brownie buttons (chosen by Jayma), there is just one thing to do: bake the batter in a pan, cut it into circles, and make Brownie Button pops - then eat them compulsively.

Wondering why this post is so short? Find out over at The Dogs Eat the Crumbs.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Snickerdoodles

One of the things I like about belonging to baking groups is that sometimes, I have to make recipes that I would never have tried otherwise. Case in point: this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, Snickerdoodles, hosted by Spike of Spike Bakes.

Since joining the blogging community, I've seen many a blogger make Snickerdoodles. But they never struck me as something particularly exciting or worth the effort. I know, that probably sounds shameful, but I just didn't see what the big deal was. A very basic cookie dough (there's not even any vanilla in it!) rolled in cinnamon sugar? "How boring," I thought. Still, I decided to take a chance this time around.

I creamed the sugar with the butter, then added some eggs. Yawn. I whisked together some flour, baking soda, and the other usual suspects, and mixed them with the wet ingredients. Whatever. Then I refrigerated the batter before rolling it into balls. No biggie. But then I rolled the balls in cinnamon sugar - a seemingly rather insignificant step - and the whole recipe was elevated.

My first bite seemed underwhelming. I thought it was good, but not spectacular. But then I kept chewing. And then I grabbed another cookie. And another. And then I foisted them upon my boyfriend, as I had obviously lost all resolve against the Snickerdoodles and if I was going down, at least he'd be going down with me.

Suffice it to say, these are spectacular. Sweet and buttery, with the perfect amount of spice from the cinnamon. I definitely see what all the fuss is about.

Thanks, Spike, for choosing Snickerdoodles! You can visit her blog for the recipe. And click here for the full list of Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Chewy Peanut Butter (and Chocolate Chip) Cookies

My mom has been a Tim Hortons addict for years. For my non-Canadian readers, and for my US readers who don't have one in their community yet, Tim Hortons is a moderately priced chain of coffee shops that is almost obscenely popular in Canada. In the past, my mom almost couldn't function in the morning without it. She's slowly weaned herself off of the stuff, but in years past, even if she was running late for work, she would stop to buy herself a large Tim's coffee. Based on the drive-thru line-up at Tim Hortons in the morning, I think it's a common affliction among Canadians.

Although I'm not one to enjoy Tim Hortons coffee very much, their cookies have always been my weakness. You can get half a dozen for just a few bucks, and if you're lucky enough to get a batch that's fresh out of the oven, it feels like winning the dessert lottery - warm, chewy, and often with chocolate oozing out. I'd probably sell my soul for their peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies. Luckily, now I don't have to.

I guess I could argue that this week's pick for Sweet Melissa Sundays, Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies, has saved my soul. Not bad for a cookie that takes just a few minutes to throw together.

This recipe involves the usual suspects - butter, sugar, peanut butter, an egg, flour, and vanilla (and in my case, chocolate too) - so I can't explain why these cookies are almost other-worldly in their deliciousness. But they are. If you take care not to overbake them, they're chewy even days later.

We could not stop eating them. My boyfriend ate about 10 in one 24-hour period. So while these cookies are soul-saving, they might be a little dangerous. They will definitely erode your willpower.

But at least, if you're a Tim Hortons cookie addict like me, they might save you a few bucks. A big thank you goes out to
Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner, who was kind enough to choose this fantastic recipe.

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