Buffalo Chicken Mac N’ Cheese

A few weeks ago, the always delightful fellow mama blogger, The Mrs. of Trying Our Best, tweeted about making a Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese casserole. You had me at Buffalo, mrs.! 🙂 I asked her if she would share the recipe, and she led me to the Food Network’s version of the recipe. She doctored it up to be lighter and healthier, I doctored it up to be more “me”. 🙂 (I will share her link when she has it ready.) I am sharing tonight because this dish is my contribution to an AFC Championship party (GO STEELERS!) tomorrow night, and if I get people asking how I made it, I can direct them here.

What you need:
1 lb. macaroni noodles
2-10 oz. cans of chicken (white in water)
Chopped Onion (spice, to taste)
Olive Oil (to coat pan)
3/4 c. Buffalo Sauce (I also used Frank’s)
7 tbsp margarine
2 tbsp flour
3 c. 2% milk
16 oz. cheese, shredded, your choice (I am a fan of colby jack, so I bought 2 8 oz bags of that)
1 c. bread crumbs

Mix it up…
1. Boil the water in a pot. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 dish with Pam. When water is boiled, add in the macaroni.

2. At the same time the mac is cooking, I put the chopped onion spice and olive oil (ok, I used EVOO with roasted garlic this time) into a pan and start to “brown” the onion”. Add in the chicken and allow that to heat/get a light tan color.

3. Start the cheese sauce by melting the margarine in a saucepan and SLOWLY adding in the flour and milk. Keep stirring, but check that macaroni and chicken, too! Add in the cheese, a bit at a time, until you have a super creamy sauce like this:

4. Time to add the buffalo sauce to the chicken and stir.

5. By now, your macaroni is ready and so is the cheese. Remove both from the heat. Drain the macaroni. Add about 1/2 the macaroni to the 9×13 dish. Add about 1/2 the cheese sauce to the macaroni (trying hard not to burn yourself whilst taking a camera phone picture and dumping/stirring:)

6. Now your chicken should look like this:

…which means it is time to mix that in with the macaroni and cheese sauce. Slowly add in the rest of the macaroni. Top with the bread crumbs. Put in heated oven for 25-35 minutes until the top is nice and crispy.

7. Remove your finished product from the oven. Allow it to cool a few minutes, dig in and enjoy!

Homemade Pizza

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Last night, Greg asked what we wanted for dinner. For some reason, I was seriously craving homemade pizza. He worked his magic on the dough (I have never seen him prep dough, it was quite honestly intimidating ’cause he is so good!), Arianna ran trash duty, Evan chilled in his sling, and I seasoned the pie. Ari had her special non-cheese version in the oven and was so excited when the timer went off, “Pizza done! Pizza done!”.  We thoroughly enjoyed cooking together, and it made us realize we don’t do homemade often enough. It was simply delicious and called for a repeat tonight. Looks like we are breaking out the bread machine more often!!! (On another note, it made Greg think of a gift wish for us–a pizza pan probably wouldn’t fit in our oven, but a baking stone sure could be nice!)

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches

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Tonight was a yummy meal that was very filling and hearty, perfect for 13 degree weather! Last night I tossed a pork loin in some garlic, season all, and chachere’s cajun. Next I threw it in the crockpot with some water, white zin, sweet baby ray’s bbq sauce, sweet and sour salad dressing, ketchup, and garlic/onion sauce. After letting it marinate all night, we set it on low just before 8 and let it cook almost 12 hours. What resulted was pork that fell apart and was so tender and juicy…a perfect sandwich! My husband prepped corn and a brocoli/cheese pasta. A great meal! Yum!

Other Treats…

Yesterday, the big successes were clearly the cake and white chocolate cookies. But, I spent the day working on crossing a few things off my Christmas Treat list. Not all of them turned out great, and I am ok with that.

First up was How Sweet Eat’s 3-minute-fudge. I am doubting my microwaving skills because I think know I just didn’t let it get smooth enough. Still, it tastes great and is ready to be pulled out on Christmas morning. Note, I sprayed my baking pan and it stuck, thus the torn out by fork look compliments of the Mr.

I also tried How Sweet’s Cake Batter Chocolate Bark and I swear it was supposed to have a beautiful White Chocolate top layer. Apparently, I spread the white chocolate while it was too hot and it melted my layer of chocolate underneath. The husband, always seeing the positive, cheered me on, saying “That’s how we do it in our house, mix up that chocolate and white”. He is so insightful, huh? Here it is, on the wax paper post-freeze and in the tub ready for storage.

And finally, the treat I had been craving. Yet, I messed it up, forgetting a very important step! I forgot to bake the crackers once the toffee covering was on! Go over to “Trying Our Best” to find a good recipe for this treat as I think I’ll be heading out to buy some more chocolate and try this one again. Ours was quite smooshy, but it still tastes half-ok. 🙂

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

white chocolate cherry shortbread

One of my favorite Christmas (and wedding) cookies is this delicious concoction from Better Homes & Gardens, White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread cookies.

These were a staple when I was pregnant with Evan!

 

You start with finely chopping 1/2 cup of marascino cherries. I cut into one and immediately decided this was going to take FOREVER. Out came the food processor and they turned out the PERFECT consistency.

Next was mixing flour, sugar, and butter until it was fine then adding in the cherries, white chocolate, red food coloring, and almond extract. One of my Christmas wishes is a good set of mixing bowls, because I could not get this dough into a nice ball within my largest mixing bowl, so I threw it on the counter to get what I needed.

The next step said to use a sugar coated glass to squish balls of the dough…I used a sugar coated kid and she absolutely loved it.

Off they went into the oven for about 12 minutes and they came out perfect.

After some cooling time, I made the white chocolate/shortening dip and rolled them in a glitter and sprinkle mix. We then resisted their temptation as the 60 cookies stared us in the face. (Ok, it made 62, but Greg and I could NOT hold back so we ate them.) Success indeed!

And here is the recipe:

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

5. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

6. To Store: Layer cookies between waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Vegan…or Lactose Free…Icing

During my attempt to bake the day away, I made a delicious recipe that only called for 1 tablespoon of yellow cake batter. What was I going to do with the 99% of the box that was left? Make a cake. Who cares that it was missing a tablespoon, the cake still came out great. Since our little girl is lactose intolerant, we find very little that she can eat…but cake with the RIGHT icing is one of those things that is actually ok to give her. So, I needed to find an icing recipe that would work with all this cake I baked.

Luckily, I took the Wilton I Course in Cake Decorating and knew that with some milk, powdered sugar, flavor, and shortening I could have icing. But, the problem with that, uh, milk! So I started desperately searching the interwebs and I stumbled on this recipe and substituted the 1/2 c margarine (which I didn’t have a vegan or lactose free version of) with the other 1/2 cup shortening. I HATE soy milk, but I figured, it’s for my daughter, so go with it. As I was mixing, I tempted fate and took a taste. Indeed, the icing was the fluffiest, most delicious concoction. The little one tested it and we waited for an allergic reaction (there was none) and the cake to finish (always takes forever). Here is what happened…

Christmas Treat List

With 12 days and 27 minutes to go until the DEFINITE arrival of Baby #2, I can’t think of anything else but what treats I want around the house for Christmas! Here is the list that I made this morning that I would like to be responsible for making (in addition to this, I really hope my dad gets to make his mom’s Butter Cookies and Pizelles)…and pictures and details will follow as I get around to making these:

Puppy Chow (ala Chex box recipe)
Snickerdoodle Chex Mix (ala Chex box recipe)
Cake Batter Chocolate Bark (thank you How Sweet Eats!!!
Three Minute Fudge (again, thank you to How Sweet Eats)
Trufle Fudge Brownies (Tastefully Simple) with Peppermint Dip (Le Gourmet Chef)
Crock Pot Chex Mix (CD Kitchen)
Hidden Mint Cookies (my most favorite holiday treat)
Rainbow Cookies (ah, thank you Betty Crocker)
Double Chocolate Cookies (again, thank you Betty Crocker)
White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies (an amazing cookie from the ‘Ski wedding brunch and the recipe can be found at Better Homes & Gardens but is now a cookbook favorite of mine)
Cracker Candy (my mom makes this and it is amazing…but I have a HUGE craving for it, so I am not waiting for her to make it, lol)
M&M cookies (going to give this recipe a shot)
Peppermint Bark (goodness to I love me some Paula Deen)

Let’s see what I can accomplish between waiting to go into labor, spending 3 days in the hospital, bringing baby home, and opening our house to guests! Stay tuned.

Massive Meal Plans!

Arianna and Greg are blessed with this uncanny ability to sleep in most of the day while I am at work, but it’s like they have this secret code for the weekend.  They let me sleep in a little, somewhere between 8 and 9, and let me have about 30 minutes of personal time to either check my Frontier (which I haven’t done in weeks) or scrap book (and 30 minutes is NEVER enough).  But after that time is up, Arianna is banging on her door yelling something about her babies (this morning it was, “Mama, they hurt!!!”) and only Mama can hear the yells and knocks.  So I go to her room to see what she needs (today I asked her what hurt and she said “My Ellies”) and solve the issue (her stuffies, big bekt/blanket, and boppy were in a closet, a result of allergic reaction proofing the room on Thursday, so we had to let them loose) then get her dressed and take her downstairs (today I have the help of Greg since they let me sleep in a good bit later).  Yesterday though, Arianna was on a huge kick to go to Giant Eagle.  Why? She feels that she is too old for her high chair so she sits at the table and eats her breakfast.  I was reviewing the ad to see what we needed for the week and she needed to see an ad and make a list too.  She didn’t want to stop, so I decided to take stock of the pantry and freezer and make meal lists.  I realized that either thanks to foodperks or coupons I have a very full stash of food and should make the most of what we have before we totally forget we have it.  Thus, the list of meals until October 10.

One thing to preface this list is that it is somewhat limited by the following facts:

  1. We are eating mostly beef, pork, or meatless dishes due to my pregnancy driven chicken sickness.  This baby does not like chicken.
  2. The dishes are either quick and easy for Greg to prepare while caring for Arianna during the day or casseroles/slow cooker recipes that I can pull together nights before and he toss in when ready.
  3. We know what we like and we stick with it.  It doesn’t mean it’s always healthy, but it means that we eat what we want.  With a baby in a belly and an husband with an incredible metabolism, it works for the here and now.
  4. We have a lot of events planned for the fall plus we do dinner with my parents at my Grandma’s house every Friday, so this list isn’t really a HUGE list of meals, but a thought process of how and where we will be eating.
  5. Some of these meals make great leftover portions when cooking for two, so it is highly possible we will see a shift in meals through the month of October.

So, if you have come looking for great ideas or innovations, you may not find them here; however, I do have a great store house of recipes for slow cooker meals as well as other favorites once I can do chicken again that I will try to post soon.

Here it is, the list of meals!

Week 1

Sunday: Pork Roast, Mashed Potatoes, and Corn (my first pork roast ever…)

Monday: Sloppy Joes, Noodles, Green Bean Casserole

Tuesday: Homemade Pizzas from shells (10/$10 at Giant Eagle ‘til Wednesday AND 10/$10 Pepperoni!)

Wednesday: Pulled Pork Sandwiches (leftovers from the pork), Rice or side dish

Thursday: Dinner out (doctor day)

Friday: Family Dinner

Saturday: Bus stops, Tailgate BBQ

Week 2

Sunday: Island Brunch, Wedding Dinner

Monday: Bus stops

Tuesday: Kielbasa, Homemade Mac & Cheese, Carrots

Wednesday: Spaghetti, Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Chicken Casserole (yes, I will attempt some chicken…) and Beer Bread

Friday: Family Dinner

Saturday: Kennywood

Week 3

Sunday:  Roast and vegetables

Monday: Burgers, Corn on the Cob

Tuesday: Lasagna

Wednesday: Leftovers (it is bound to happen with the roast and lasagna)

Thursday: Sausage Gravy, Biscuits, Taters

Friday: Family Dinner

Saturday: Reunion (will need to make a dish to share, not sure what that will be yet)

Week 4

Sunday:  Dinner Out (celebration!)

Monday: Mexican Night—most likely Tacos and Rice

Tuesday: Tater Tot Casserole (thank you Kim for reminding me! Greg has been missing me making this!)

Wednesday:  Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Green Beans

Thursday:  Stromboli

Friday: Family Dinner

Saturday: Skillet Meal Fajitas

Week 5

Sunday: Pork Roast and Rice

Monday: Chili and Cornbread

Tuesday: Baked Potato Bar, Beer Bread

Wednesday: Steak Salads (Pittsburgh Style with Fries of course!)

Thursday: Bacon, Pancakes, and Hash Browns

Friday: Homemade Pizzas with homemade dough

Saturday: Family Reunion (will need to make a dish, not sure what)

Week 6

Sunday: Idlewild

Monday: Kielbasa and Pierogies

Tuesday: Ari’s birthday, Dinner Out

Wednesday: Baked Ziti Casserole

Thursday: Cheese Steak Sandwiches and Fries

Friday: Shepard’s Pie and Mashed Potatoes

Saturday: Ravioli

And that takes us to Arianna’s party day! So I know the list isn’t spectacular but it is easy and will hopefully keep us from grabbing pizzas or running to get take out.  Enjoy!

Progress

Last night’s dinner of burritos was amazing and so easy…however; the husband is enjoying leftovers tonight because I got sick through the night and ended up staying home today. After a sick visit to the doctor, I found out I was close to dehydration and am having an adverse reaction to an antibiotic.  *grrs* So tonight, it’s clear liquids for me and leftovers for Greg. Hopefully tomorrow I can stomach the Ham BBQs, been looking forward to this Pittsburgh Yum staple for a few days now. Some prayers for my sanity would be awesome.

Work/Life Balance

NOTE: Again, another Monday post.

It all started a long, long time ago, probably back in high school.  My days at school had to be full as they could (senior year I took 2 study halls because I had taken pretty much every class I could have and it drove me CRAZY) followed by band practice, work, and catching up on TV and ICQ.  College kept me even busier—starting work at 6 am two days a week with 5 am managing hockey practices three days a week (crazy lady, I know), taking 18-21 credits per semester, being a student leader, and spending weekends back and forth from home spending time with family and friends.  At one point for a Leadership Conference, I even presented on Time Management.  My adult life has not slowed down in the least, probably got even busier with being a mom and having a sick elderly grandmother.  Several people have commented on wishing they could have the balance I do, but let me tell you, it’s tiring.  I am so blessed to have a great husband who stays at home with our daughter and takes care of the housework and laundry.

However, there is one area where I struggle as an adult.  In high school and college, I was always able to get food whether from a cafeteria or work. There was no thought process, no planning.  When I taught elementary school, breakfasts and lunches were easy too—dinners got a little shaky but I had friends who were willing to eat dinner out OR I was so sick that it didn’t matter to me if I got an evening meal or not.  Now that I have moved back to PA and have to manage a house and work for a grocery store, it is not as easy to get meals.  Sundays, I will typically buy myself a loaf of bread or bagels to add to my desk peanut butter stash for breakfasts; however, I lack at planning lunches.  We have a café that delivers to our building, but often the options are either not all that healthy or appealing to my pregnant self.  And dinner? Forget that. The kid is guaranteed to eat a hot dog or chicken nuggets with fruit sides (we are still ferociously working on non-potato veggies and other meats, but her nickname before she was born was chicken so it has stuck with her palate apparently), so she’s an easy fix.  But for the husband and I, especially me being pregnant, we rarely can pull together a meal.

So like my good friend Amanda over at The Pantry Challenge, I have a pantry full of food that could be cooked, yet I spend $50-$70 a week on groceries.  Last year, when we blogged as a team, we’d have challenges to make meals at home and post our successes and failures.  I feel like I did pretty good, but between Arianna learning to walk and talk, Greg working at the Pizza shop, holidays, travel, and buying the house, it all fell to the wayside.  I know Greg loved when I’d cook at home, but sometimes eating dinner out is so much easier, right? Well, with a baby on the way and even with all my great couponing skills, I feel like I need something more to push us into the black for 2010 (before baby arrives and I am not working for 6-8 weeks).  For the past few weeks, I’ve been jotting down meal ideas on random pieces of paper then throwing them into a list of potential meals.  So we have our staples—I can’t do chicken right now and never was a big fan of fish or pork—and good old go to meals.  So, I am trying to plan meals based off cravings and what’s in the pantry.  There is no way I could totally pantry cook—Amanda is a hero—however, I can use what I have available to make things we really like that either Greg can have ready when I get home OR I can do up as quick casseroles for him to reheat.  (Plus, I LOVE having 2 crock pots to make anything we want sitting all day!)

This week, I have bought and prepared for five meals and planned them out like so:

Monday: Bean (or chicken for Greg) Burritos with Fiesta Taco Rice (yay rice cooker!)

Tuesday: Ham Barbeque Sandwiches and Fries

Wednesday: Breakfast for Dinner (Sausage, Biscuits, Gravy, and Potatoes)

Thursday: Baked Ziti Casserole

Friday: Veggie (chicken for Greg) Stir Fry (getting a hand-me-down wok is AWESOME!)

Let’s see how it all goes down, and if we are able to keep up with the house, food, and balancing being a family with a hard working mama!