“The early bird may get the worm, but its the second mouse that gets the cheese.” ~ Jeremy Paxman

Macaroni and Cheese is honesty one of my favorite foods of all time.

I really don’t think you can beat the kind in the blue box with the powder but it is always such a luxury to order the Mac n Cheese with black truffles in a fine restaurant.

Being someone that is still (yes still) trying to get the final baby pounds off, it’s not something I feel I should very make often. But luckily I get to indulge in my guilty pleasure more often because it is my sweet stepson’s favorite thing to eat and he always ask for me to try and make different ones.

I am always happy to oblige. 🙂

Copycat Panera Mac & Cheese

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 ¾ cup whole milk
  • 8 oz. shredded white cheddar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ Tbsp of dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1lb pasta, cooked (corkscrew, shells, elbow etc.)

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium high heat until melted. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute to make your roux.

Reduce heat to medium and while whisking constantly, add the mild, cream, salt, pepper, mustard,  and hot sauce.

Continue to whisk until it starts to bubble.

Reduce heat to low and add cheese. Keep stirring until completely melted.

Remove from heat and stir in pasta.

Let sit for 4-5 minutes and serve.

Copycat Panera Mac & Cheese

-abp

 

 

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“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” ~ Pablo Picasso

One of my latest food obsession is Zoe’s Chicken Protein Plate. Actually, I’m pretty obsessed with anything Zoe’s – I’m sure you have noticed that I use their seasoning in most anything I cook that calls for seasoning.  If you don’t have a Zoe’s near you – I am truly sorry. 😦

Luckily, I have one practically in my back yard!

Back to the Protein plate. I’m a carb girl, so this is pretty impressive that I love it so. My mom and I usually get one and split it for lunch a couple times a week. The plate has Zoe’s signature slaw and their grilled chicken and onions.  The chicken and onions is pretty self explanatory but I had to Google the copy cat recipe of the slaw. Both SUPER easy.

The ease of picking it up really can not be beat but I wanted to make it for dinner one night and when making it for more than 2 – it is more cost efficient.

Zoe’s Slaw

(copycat recipe)

  • 1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 (6 ounce) package crumbled feta
  • 6 -7 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a splash of white vinegar along with this)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
Mix all ingredients except for feta cheese in a large bowl. When well combined, stir in the cheese.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

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-abp

“Life has got all those twists and turns. You’ve got to hold on tight and off you go.”~ Nicole Kidman

I’m always looking for simple side dishes (that pretty much cook themselves). Because of this, as I have mentioned before – I love roasted vegetables of any kind! With Brussels Sprouts and asparagus right up top of my list.

I was happy to run across a recipe that adds a little different twist to normal roasted asparagus due to the addition of mushrooms and a little soy sauce.

Great way to switch it up!

Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
  • 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
  • 4 ounces shiitake (or any mushroom blend besides white button) mushroom caps, sliced
  • 1½ teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
Preheat oven to 425°. Combine olive oil, pepper, asparagus, and mushrooms on a foil-lined baking sheet; toss to coat. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until the asparagus is crisp-tender. Drizzle with soy sauce.

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-abp

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” ~ Robert H. Schuller

I have been on a quest for interesting, great tasting salads.

On Facebook I talked about needing to get more salads (with some kind of protein) into my diet.

But they had to be good!

As I have mentioned before – everything I blog about comes from something I have cooked to eat with my family. I only wish my blog was impressive enough that I actually cooked full time for it. But sadly, not yet. A girl can dream, though!  🙂

So when the thought of a serious diet started, I questioned it with – “What in the world will I be able to blog?” I can’t write about a bagged salad with grilled chicken and a bottled lite vinaigrette every week!

I received lots of great feedback from my friends on Facebook and I foraged Pinterest, because of this, I am starting to get a pretty good list going.

The following is an example.

Apple Harvest Salad

(adapted from Life Made Simple)

Salad

  • 6 cups of lightly packed spinach, torn
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 large fugi apple
  • ½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ Craisins
  • ½ feta cheese

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Add greens to a large dinner plate or salad bowl. Top with the cooked (and cooled) quinoa, apple chunks, pepitas and craisins.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot and vinegar in a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil by pouring in a steady stream, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serve alone or with a protein.

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-abp

“Be happy. It’s one way of being wise.” ~ Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Wow.

That’s all I can say.

I just had the BEST diet food I have ever eaten.

No joke, I couldn’t stop eating it.

Which probably negates the whole diet thing when you eat 3 servings…….

Any-who.

If I could find 8-10 menu items that good, that are also good for shedding the pounds – this old girl might just pull it off.

I have to thank my sweet friend, Alexandra, for bringing this dish to our Christmas dinner. She shared the recipe she had found, I tweaked it just a bit and this family is happy!

It’s actually just a side dish but you can make it a meal easily, several different ways.

Tonight, I cooked a few seasoned fish filets in a skillet to go with it but you could easily add chopped chicken for a one bowl dish.

If you are looking to loose a few pounds or get a little healthier – this dish is for you.

If you are not worried about any of those things – this dish is for you!

I feel extremely “earthy” after this meal. 😉

Chopped Kale Salad

  • 6 cups of chopped Kale (chopped into small bites)
  • ½ cup toasted almonds
  • ½ cup Craisins®
  • 1½ cup cooked, whole grain quinoa
  • Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard (store bought is great)
  • 3 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Vinaigrette – Whisk together the mustard and the vinegar, slowly whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad – In a large bowl, toss together the kale, almonds, craisins and quinoa. Stir in dressing.

Serve alone or with a protein of your choice.

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Yum!

-abp

“One man’s poison ivy is another man’s spinach.” ~ George Ade

Side dishes really are a thorn in my side.

That’s why a love a roast. You have your meat, carrots and potatoes all together and the most you have to think about is finding some kind of bread to go with it.

But, alas, you can not have roast every night.

Sometimes you just have to make sides.

Luckily, I have finally found a side that is almost as easy as throwing a bag of salad in a few bowls.

Sautéed Garlic Spinach and Tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (I used the kind in a jar)
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 bag of prepared (bagged) baby spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium/high heat in a large skillet.  Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to pop. (I then kind of squash them with my spatula). Add in garlic and cook for 2-4 minutes, or until fragrant.  Place the spinach in the pan and mix around until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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This is so very simple, good and healthy. You could very easlily change up this up to fit your taste buds as well. Examples being  – add shallots or top with Parmesan cheese.

-abp

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I have two friends that I do not get to see as much as I used to so we have tried to get together for breakfast once a month so we could catch up.  We would always meet at a restaurant but since Elizabeth has come along we have found it easier to meet as each others homes.

We first did a wonderful Christmas breakfast at one friend’s house so this time I thought I would have them to mine.

Although, we had lunch because there was no way that I would have me, Elizabeth and food ready in time for breakfast!

No lady’s luncheon would be complete without a good fluffy fruit salad. The salad of choice that day was Cherry Dream.

Cherry Dream Salad

(adapted from From Glitter to Gumdrops)

1 can Cherry pie filling (24 oz)
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 can of Crushed Pineapple, well drained
2/3 bag Mini Marshmallows
1 cup Chopped Pecans
16-24oz Cool Whip (according to how fluffy you want it)

Combine all the ingredients except for pie filling and cool whip.
Stir in pie filling, then fold in Whip cream. Chill for at least 4 hours.

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“A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.” ~ P. J. O’Rourke

As mentioned in the about me section – as a child, I was made to eat 3 bites of everything on my plate and I had to absolutely not like it 3 times before I was not made to eat it anymore. This, in turn, pretty much made me like most everything. Except for two things and after forcing these two down at three sittings, I would not eat:

1. Liver

2. Brussels Sprouts

I still will not eat liver but I LOVE Brussels Sprouts.

And they are supper duper easy to make.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

  • Fresh Brussels Sprouts
  • Olive oil
  • Favorite seasonings (I use Lawry’s seasoning salt and Zoe’s Kitchen Seasoning)

Preheat oven to 400º.

Trim and cut smaller sprouts in half and larger ones in quarters.  Toss in a bowl with other ingredients, coat completely. Place evenly in one layer on a backing sheet lined with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

There you go! Feel free to change up spices/seasonings. Also great with garlic and/or onion.

bru

-abp

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

I have spent the day taking down Christmas decorations – a job I loathe.  I’m thrilled when it’s done and my part is done, just waiting on the hubs to disassemble the trees and carry them upstairs.

That, spaghetti and finishing up the last few episodes of Downton Abbey (so we are ready for season 4 in January) will be the extent of our New Year’s Eve celebration.

Wild, I tell you. Wild.

Since we are just having good old sketti for dinner, I’ll give you the chutney recipe we had Christmas night to go with our Sage-Crusted Pork Racks (recipe coming later).  It was very, very good!

Pear Chutney

(adapted from Southern Living)

  • 5 ripe pears, peeled and diced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook pears in 2 Tbsp. hot olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a bowl; wipe Dutch oven clean. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add raisins, garlic, and ginger; sauté 5 minutes. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and dried crushed red pepper, and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until spices are fragrant. Stir in vinegar and maple syrup, and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until reduced by half. Stir in pears; cook, stirring constantly, 3-5 minutes. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Pearchutney

This paired perfectly with the pork!

-abp

“Down South, even our vegetables have some pig hidden somewhere in it. A vegetable isn’t a vegetable without a little ham hock.” ~ Paula Deen

Who likes a good old vegetable plate night? I do, I do!!!

And that’s exactly what we had tonight.

Any vegetable done any way as long as there is a slab of cornbread beside it!

I chose not to make it too complicated by adding McKenzies frozen Golden Creamed Corn. I’m telling you folks – unless you have someone who gives you homemade creamed corn – this is the way to go! It’s awesome.

Just plop in a pot on the stove and heat it up.

I also made roasted honey gold potatoes and onions. Also pretty easy, quartered honey gold potatoes, sliced onion, olive oil and seasoning.

Plop that in the oven.

The new recipe I wanted to try tonight is a copycat recipe of The Cracker Barrel’s lima beans.  And these are super duper easy too!!!!

You will need:

  • 14 oz. frozen Lima beans
  • 14 oz can chicken broth, plus ½ can water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • ½ Tablespoon sugar
  • 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped (plus 1 Tbsp bacon grease)
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Put everything except the bacon in a pot and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, add bacon and simmer for 20 minutes or until lima beans are cooked through. (I’ll admit, I cooked them a good bit more than that, because here in the south we have a tendency to cook the healthy out of them 🙂 )

I add to cheat a tiny bit – when I went to make dinner I realized that I only had 2 pieces of bacon left – oops. Luckily I had the baking sized bacon bits left over from the Teriyaki-Ranch Chicken to add with it – I don’t think that will make too much difference. Not with the 2 real pieces of bacon and a little bacon grease to boot!

Not a whole lot of pictures on this one because, well, it’s not that complicated. 🙂

But here’s one of the whole meal – nothing real pretty but who cares! It’s delicious down home goodness on a plate!

One more thing – I showed you my cornbread FAIL, so here’s a picture of what it’s supposed to look like!

Hope everyone has a great week!

abp