My First Love – Mac & Cheese

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Oh, goodness. I feel 50% sheepish and 50% totally psyched to be writing this post. Yeah, it’s been an unreasonably long time and I’ve been dreading writing one of those I’m back/excuses, excuses posts that I don’t particularly enjoy reading myself, but here we are. I’ve thought about you a whole lot over the last few months. I thought of you when I went on a trip to LA, while I moved from the east back to the west, while I made (and am still making) a ridiculous amount of felt Christmas crafts. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said ‘yeah, hopefully I’ll blog that at some point’ or the number of ‘to post’ folders I have neatly organized on my laptop (at least I have the organized thing going for me!). If you are interested in the list of excuses, all I can say is: finals, moving, job hunting, working, more job hunting, travel, family and so much family (it’s been awesome being back home again!). Something has definitely been missing from my life though, and I’m feeling really giddy writing this! Like, I actually got butterflies uploading these photos…eye-rolling at myself.

Speaking of butterflies, I finally made myself sit down and blog because I’ve been having a bit of a dilemma/doubt fest regarding my first love – mac & cheese. It’s just been so long since I’ve had really, really good mac & cheese and it’s been extremely disappointing. Of course, this is really all my own fault because I haven’t made it from scratch since these pictures were taken…well back when it was still sunny at dinnertime. I have to admit that boxed macaroni is a definite guilty pleasure of mine. Every time I buy a box I shove it to the bottom of my basket and hope that there’s a self-checkout. I know I’ve mentioned that my brother is my partner in novelty food tasting crime and we’ve been pretty into tasting all the weird macaroni flavors lately. None of them have been very good and I started to wonder if I had lost my taste for this stuff. After all, I used to absolutely hate it as a child. Yep, my tastes have become more childlike over the years. Paul quickly pointed out to me that I probably just need to have some homemade again. Ding, ding. That must be it. And so, this post is here to serve as inspiration for myself and any of you stuck in an unfortunate mac & cheese rut. I am remembering how wonderful and beautiful this recipe was and I think mac & cheese and I might be able to forego couples counseling. Phew. Thank you gruyere, thank you bacon, and thank YOU, for reading this and for not judging me too harshly ūüėČ

DSC_3712DSC_3714Sharing naked photos of your significant other online is wrong, isn’t it? Oops.DSC_3730¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Fully clothed.¬†DSC_3722 DSC_3730 DSC_3733

Tiny Food Party!

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In case you didn’t know, I’m one of those people that loves things in miniature. And tiny food is pretty much at the top of my ‘things that are cuter in miniature’ list. A few years ago Paul and I had a daylong obsession with buying these themed sets of tiny plastic food. They came in a little set with maybe 5 different types of food. My favorites were the carnival set with funnel cake and snow cones and a fast food breakfast set that even came with the styrofoam tray and to-go lid. So funny! And the part that really sucked us in was that they came in a mystery box so you didn’t know which set you were getting. We bought one each at Urban Outfitters, opened them right outside the store and I think promptly went back inside and bought two more. I can’t remember what they were called and I can’t find them online, but maybe I’ll dig them up and take some photos when I’m back in Colorado! If you have any idea what I’m talking about, please let me know!

Ok, so tiny plastic food is awesome, but tiny real food is of course, even better. As I mentioned in the mac and cheese bites post, we had a tiny food party when I was home and it was so much fun. We all had at least one dish to make – even our brother put together the lovely caprese skewers! It’s always extra fun when everyone is assembling together. We used the Tiny Food Party book for the skewers, mac and cheese bites, crab cake sliders, and mini chicken and waffles. Yes, MINI CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! Can you believe it? Not only is it the cutest thing ever, but they were really delicious and a lot more convenient to eat. Our grocery store was out of mini waffles, so we just cut regular ones into smaller circles. I seriously can’t get enough of this book. I’m sure you will be seeing it make some more appearances in the future! How do you feel about miniature food? Cute or just annoying??

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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…

I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog!¬†And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to¬†Pass the Curds¬†for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the¬†Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!

We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!

DSC_4006First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better.¬†DSC_4009Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)DSC_4032Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this.¬†DSC_4039Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem.¬†DSC_4040 DSC_4041Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly!¬†DSC_4043See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg.¬†DSC_4048And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated.¬†DSC_4050And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.DSC_4068Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen.¬†DSC_4073Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!

Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)

Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!

For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For Frying
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish.  Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).

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[EOTW] Burger x2

DSC_0845Today I’m making up for the last two weeks of pretty minimal Eats of the Week pictures. I wanted to make sure I actually cooked this week…I planned to make burgers because we had some buns and ground beef in the freezer. I did not plan on also going to Five Guys tonight for even more burger though. I had been to Five Guys once before in NYC, but only tried a few fries. Last week we noticed one had opened near Boston Common and got pretty excited! Unfortunately, we had just ran into a Wendy’s or a Burger King or something right before, bummer. I gotta say, the Five Guys burger was far better than the ones I made! We resolved to never get burgers at those other fast food places when we are just running around town – always Five Guys. Holy moly, how did this post turn into me typing Five Guys a million times??

Another highlight of the week was stove-top mac and cheese. I used to make homemade mac almost weekly in college (seriously). I haven’t been making it that regularly since, but the past two times I used this recipe and loved the results. I didn’t follow it exactly, but I like the concept. I boiled the noodles first, but not for too long! Then I let them soak in the milk for a while. Great for when you don’t feel like having it baked!

20121209-213254.jpg :: Steak and mushroom shepherd’s pie (kind of made up using what I had). Really filling and comforting! ::

DSC_0851:: Burger #1 ::

20121209-213304.jpg:: Saturday evening walk to get custard after being inside aaall day. Red Velvet for me ::

20121209-213315.jpg:: Burger #2. Plus so many delicious fries and I got to use one of those crazy customizable soda fountain machines ::

DSC_0875:: If I have tomatoes and mozarella around, you bet I’m going to be throwing it on some crusty bread ::

20121209-213237.jpg:: Threw together some mushroom pasta in the 30 minutes I had between getting home and attending class ::