Friday, June 10, 2011

Baked Mac n' Cheese

This dish is one of my family's favorites, it is comfort food at its best.  It can be done simply with one cheese, no onions, garlic or chicken or it can be added to and customized as much as you like.  While I realize it isn't what most may consider a summer dish I really think it is perfect anytime you want a comforting and satisfying meal.

I love this with three cheeses, onions, garlic and some chicken or ham.  I have been known to add polish sausage.

Baked Mac n' Cheese

1 1/4 cup Gouda cheese, shredded
1 1/4 cup Jarlsberg cheese, shredded 
1 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 roughly shredded chicken
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
1 cup milk
1 pound small shells or elbow macaroni
3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs which are courser give great texture)
1 T. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Boil the macaroni in salted water until it is just fork tender.  Do not make it too soft, it should be very al dente (firm but not hard).  Pour cooked pasta into a strainer and run cold water over it to stop the cooking.  Allow to drain completely.  Place in a bowl.

In a skillet heat the olive oil and add the onion, cook until tender and beginning to caramelize, add the minced garlic and saute a minute or two.  Do not allow the onions or garlic to burn, the garlic will become bitter.  Remove from heat and mix into the cooled macaroni.

Spray a 3 quart casserole dish (9 x 13 works well) with nonstick spray.  I like using a glass dish so you can see the layers of gooey cheese after it bakes.  Add just enough macaroni to the baking dish to cover the bottom  (about the depth of one macaroni) so that very little of the bottom of the dish shows through the macaroni layer.   Layer with the cheeses using 1/3 of each and top with about 1/2 cup of chicken.

Add another layer of macaroni and repeat cheese and chicken layers.  Make a third layer of Macaroni, cheese and chicken and top with a thin layer of macaroni.  

Pour milk over the top of the whole dish, it will settle on the bottom.  As you bake the macaroni the milk will heat up and steam the macaroni softening it a little more.

Combine the Panko bread crumbs and melted butter in a small bowl until butter is well distributed.

Spread the bread crumb mixture evenly over the dish.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly.....YUM!!!

Allow to sit for about 5 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Uncle Ben's and the Thai Sticky Rice with Mango

Uncle Ben's has introduced whole grain rice to their line up of products.  Through Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program I was provided with a box of this rice and asked to create a kid friendly dish.  Hopefully I was successful.

Kids love dessert and so I decided that that was the way to go.  Thai Sticky rice is usually make with a short grain rice that has much more starch than is in a long grain rice so I needed to find a way to add starchiness.  I added rice flour to the rice once it was done cooking and that seemed to do the trick.  Coconut milk is a key ingredient in this and canned works great.

This is typically served with mango sliced and placed on top of the rice but  thought it would be fun to put it on the bottom. Whatever you decided to do remember it is best served fresh but it can be rewarmed (don't let the appearance scare you away) with additional sauce added.

Thai Stick Rice with Mango

1 package Uncle Ben's whole grain rice
1/2 tsp. coconut flavor
1 tsp. rice flour
2 cups canned coconut milk
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3 ripe mangoes
whipped cream, optional

Cook rice according to the directions on the package adding the coconut flavor to the water before cooking.  DO NOT stir the rice and the end before it sits to absorb the remaining moisture.  After the rice has set for 5 minutes, stir in the rice flour and cover.  Allow to sit while preparing the sauce.

Place the coconut milk in a heavy pot and heat over medium heat until hot. It will be thick and possibly clumpy but liquefy as you heat it.  Do not boil the coconut milk, just get it warm enough to be steamy.

Add the sugar and salt to the coconut milk and stir until it dissolves completely.

Pour 1 cup of the coconut milk sauce over the cooked rice, cover rice and allow to sit and absorb the sauce for 30 - 60 minutes.

The rice will absorb most of the sauce.

While you wait for the sauce to be absorbed peel and slice the mangoes.  There is a great video HERE that shows you how to do this if you need help.

To serve, place a mound of rice on each plate (or bowl) and place mango over or around the rice.  Ladle some of the remaining sauce over the rice and mango.  Top with whipped cream if desired.

As I said I decided to place the mango on the bottom this time but it comes out tasting great!

The traditional dish usually has stickier rice but this is version works well and cooks up much faster.