Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Red Peppers

I hope you aren’t one of those people who envisions the color yellow or orange when thinking of cheese.

kraft-mac-and-cheese 2If you are, I’m sure you have lots of company. How many of us were introduced to macaroni and cheese as a child in the form of Kraft’s infamous blue boxes and the orange cheese sauce? Heck, I enjoyed it then. My mom would add cut-up hot dogs, which probably made a huge difference in boosting the bland taste of that cheese. Then there’s baked cheddar Goldfish, another childhood staple (and a fairly good snack choice). At some point, the color orange became associated with enhanced flavor.

This upbringing was misleading! I was duly educated during a tour of the Cabot Cheese facility a few years ago. Cheese should be white, not yellow! Sure it can be a natural additive that gives cheese an orange hue. And OK, apparently it is added, or left out, to signal where the cheese was made. But in the case of Kraft macaroni and cheese, some people believe the dye his harmful. And when think about the main ingredients, isn’t it a little odd? When was the last time you saw yellow milk?

Now that I have finished my tirade, I am going to tell you about my adapted macaroni and cheese recipe, that happens to come out orange. Ha! It is naturally colored that way because I include the spice turmeric. Someone had recently reminded me about turmeric’s purported inflammation-relieving properties, which made me want to use it.
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I adapted a recently published Cooking Light Chicken-Broccoli Mac and Cheese recipe that has turmeric on the ingredients list, but I left out the chicken and substituted red bell pepper for the broccoli. I also followed some of the methods in another recipe from Betty Crocker that had the same ingredients I wanted to use.
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I had been looking for a recipe that uses bacon, because I had a little left in a package that was expiring. I never hear anyone else dealing with this. Am I the only one in the world who has trouble using up bacon?

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Red Peppers
Adapted from Cooking Light and Betty Crocker

6 ounces uncooked pasta, such as macaroni (of course), shells, penne, or rigatoni (my favorite)DSC_8697
2-3 slices of bacon, to taste, roughly chopped
1 (about 6 ounces) red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 (about 1 ounce) green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/4 Cups low-fat milk
, 1% ideal
1 Cup low sodium chicken stock,
OR 1 teaspoon of Better-Than-Bouillon Chicken Base dissolved in 1 Cup hot water
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour
about 1 1/4 Cups (5 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded; I used this amazing cheese
1/4 Cup panko
1 Tablespoon butter

With the two different recipes, there are two approaches: 1. cooking the bacon and vegetables and sauce in a pan and then transferring everything into a casserole dish to bake for awhile, and 2. cooking the bacon and vegetables and sauce in the same pan you will put in the oven to broil briefly. I chose 2. One less dish to wash!

In a medium saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, leaving out the salt.

Prepare your vegetables of choice, chopping or slicing them down so they aren’t much bigger than your pasta of choice.
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Cook bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until browned. Remove the bacon from pan with a slotted spoon. Pour all but 1 1/2 teaspoons of the drippings out of the pan.

Such a tiny amount of bacon!

Such a sad, tiny amount of bacon!

Add peppers and green onions to the pan and sauté over medium heat for about 4 minutes.
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Add in the garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with turmeric; cook 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

Have your other ingredients measured and ready! Also, preheat oven to broil.
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With a whisk, combine 3/4 teaspoon salt, milk, stock, and flour. Add mixture to pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook until thickened, about 2 minutes, and then turn off the heat.
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Add pasta mixture and about half of the cheese and toss together.
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Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter in a dish and combine with panko; sprinkle over pasta mixture. Top with bacon.

Looks like a party, doesn't it?

Looks like a party, doesn’t it?


Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts and just begins to brown. Watch closely. It might not brown evenly. No worries. The imperfection means it is real food!

Enjoy your creamy and naturally cheesy macaroni and cheese!
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Spicy Potato and Cheese Galette

Don’t you love it when things come together? When what you are looking for falls right into your lap? When everything clicks?

I wish I had this experience for something other than cooking inspiration.
In the past week or so, I have been very strict about not purchasing groceries, so that I really focus on using what I have. The reason is that I will be taking a brief hiatus from cooking. I will be otherwise occupied in the coming weeks. You can expect some kind of report afterwards. Let’s just say it is for a fun reason. And I will still be eating well. And let’s also say that I may be enlarging my ecological footprint by taking a plane. OK, OK, so I’m going on vacation! To ITALY and FRANCE! *Excuse me while I daydream*

This has gone OK, this grocery abstinence. One of that last perishable items I faced was a leftover bag of russet potatoes. I should note that I know these take a long time to “perish,” so while I wouldn’t necessarily need to worry about a couple of weeks for potatoes, these have been diminishing for awhile.

Back to talking about how things work out: I popped over to Joy the Baker‘s blog, and what do I see but “Roasted Potato Galette with cheddar and chives.” She made it look and sound delicious…and the fact that she made a Jack Bauer reference hooked me even more. I had been considering homemade knishes, but I felt lazy about mashing the potatoes (if I was truly lazy, I would have avoided a recipe that involved pastry!)

Spicy Potato and Cheese Galette
Adapted from Joy the Baker

For the Crust:
1 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup/1 stick cold unsalted butter
scant 1/3 cup cold buttermilk

    OR

in my case, 2 heaping tablespoons of plain yogurt mixed with 4 tablespoons of nonfat milk to start. Make a splash extra for times like now when we are still suffering through winter’s dry air which leads to extra dry flour

For the Filling:
2 russet potatoes, mostly peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds (plus 1 extra for snacking)
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
(to taste)
1/2 Cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
3 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 large egg, beaten

Make the crust, which needs resting time.

    Cheater method

:
Cube your butter and then pop it into the freezer to keep it extra cold.
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In the bowl of a food processor, process flour, sugar and salt. Take butter out of freezer and add to processor, pulsing until the butter is distributed throughout the flour in pebbles.

Pour into a bowl. Create a well in the mixture and pour in milk mixture.
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Use a fork to bring together, distributing the moisture throughout the flour. If it’s not coming together, add a little extra milk/yogurt.

Is your lightly floured work surface ready?
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Dump out the shaggy dough mixture. Press it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
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Make the filling:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Move the top rack to the upper third of the oven.
Peel and slice your potatoes.
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Place rounds on the sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle on Old Bay Seasoning and toss to coat evenly. Spread the potatoes to minimize overlap as much as possible.
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Bake until tender and delicious, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven.

To assemble the galette:
Beat the egg and set aside. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper with a little oil added and set aside.

Roll the dough into a rough circle about 1/4″-thickness. By no means do the edges need to be perfect. Move the dough to the center of the prepared baking sheet.

Lightly brush the middle of the the crust with egg.
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Add a layer of cooked (and slightly cooled) potato slices to the center of the pie crust, leaving about 2-inches of pie crust surrounding on all sides. Scatter shredded cheddar cheese and chives. (I may have only had freeze dried chives. I hope you can forgive that.) Repeating, adding a second layer of potato slices and cheese and chives. Add more potato slices until it looks about right–remember if you made extra potato like me some will stay out) top with the final portion of cheese and chives.
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Trim edges that are super uneven from the crust, leaving about 1 1/2-inches on all sides. Brush the edges with egg wash. Fold the sides up against the potato stack and gently press to seal. Brush the outside of the pie crust edges with egg wash.

Bake until golden brown and bubbling. Joy said it would take 15 minutes for this–for some reason it took mine about 25. Remove from the oven and observe the bubbling buttery beauty. Dig in.
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Bacon Optional

I’ve been doing OK lately at cooking and documenting healthy recipes. It’s true, two of my featured recipes in January came from Cooking Light. Then we hit Super Bowl weekend.

Along with Super Bowl weekend came the inspiration for a party menu theme: “wrapped or stuffed.” “Wrapped or stuffed” certainly leaves open the opportunity to use fruits and vegetables and grains, but one is much more likely to please certain crowds by using cheese and bread and…bacon. One of the dishes I served was cream cheese stuffed jalapenos with bacon topping (optional).
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These jalapenos were spicy, and a bit of work to clean out, so I ended up having a handful of extra ingredients this week. Somehow I came across a recipe for jalapeno corn fritters (yes, more fritters!) that could be made entirely with ingredients I had on hand. I don’t even remember what search terms I was using, or whether this was Pinterest, but I’d say I struck gold.

Jalapeno Popper Corn Fritters
From Closet Cooking

1.5-2 Cups corn kernels, frozen is fine
1/2 Cup flour
1 egg
scant 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese
, grated
1/4 Cup cream cheese, room temperature
2 jalapeno peppers (to taste, and depending on size), diced
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon coriander seed
, toasted and ground
2 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed

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Begin by toasting coriander seeds and then grinding in a spice grinder, clean coffee grinder, or with mortar and pestle.
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Prepare vegetables.

Yes, those are gloves! I recommend them for using with hot peppers.

Yes, those are gloves! I recommend avoiding direct skin contact with hot peppers.


Mix all of the ingredients (corn, flour, egg, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, jalapenos, bacon-if using, paprika, coriander, green onion, cilantro and lime juice) in a bowl.
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Heat a little oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Form mixture into patties, about 1/4 Cup each. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.
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You could serve these with a creamy, buttermilk-based dressing, or consume them as is, like me. The recipe author even used a jalapeno popper flavored dressing.
These didn't even make it to the table before being consumed by my husband and me!

These didn’t even make it to the table before being consumed by my husband and me!

To add to the gorging, I also had some free bags of regular potato chips lying around and was thus inspired to make a potato chip cookie recipe I found on Smitten Kitchen. It may be the copious amount of butter, but they were extremely delicious. Now that the week is over, I’ll be cutting back on the cheese, butter, and bacon…I swear.
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