Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Zingerman's Pimento and Bacon Mac&Cheese

Not Your Average Mac&Cheese
For anyone who has ever visited Ann Arbor, I'm sure you have heard of the delicious and local Zingerman's.  This restaurant serves up delicious food, but not for a small price!  One serving of this macaroni is probably around $13, whereas you can make a batch that serves at least 8 for the same price!  Basically once we saw this recipe in the paper a year ago, we were sold.  
Side note: my family chose to use only half the sauce, and put the other half away for another day. It's plenty cheesy!


{Zingerman's Pimento Cheese}
  • 1/2 lb. sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 1 cup margerine
  • 2 oz. roasted red peppers (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 3/4 tsp. juice from the roasted red peppers {if using jarred peppers}
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
  • pinch coarse sea salt

{You can make the cheese ahead of time!}

{Pimento and Bacon Mac and Cheese}
  • 6 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 3/4 cups hot milk
  • 1 lb. pimento cheese
  • 1 lb. short macaroni
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

How to {cheese}:
Fold all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  Mix well.  That's all!

How to {mac&cheese}:
  1. Melt 6 tbsp. butter with the minced shallot in a medium-large stainless steal saucepan over low heat.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes {flour must foam as it cooks, or sauce will taste like raw flour}
  2. Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time {we did a tablespoon at a time}, and cook, stirring until sauce thickens {bottom right picture}
  3. Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese.  Cook, stirring until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add pasta and coat the noodles.  Remove from heat, add crumbled bacon and dig in!

It's really that simple.

Definitely a go-to recipe for a fancier mac&cheese.  I guess you could say a more "adult" version of the traditional pasta dish?


DIY Blue Mason Jars

How to make Mason Jars into beautiful vases
{using only Mod Podge & food coloring!}
Yesterday I attempted my first craft: blue mason jars!  It was super easy and only took about a half hour, 20 minutes of which you can walk around just waiting for them to be done in the oven.  These turned out great and I placed some colorful fabric flowers in them to help brighten up the room in the winter.  I brought one to a breakfast program for those in need that I serve at this morning..they make really nice gifts!

Trust me; if I can do this, so can you!

What you'll need:
  • Mason jars {or any glass jars should work}
  • Food coloring in desired colors
  • Mod Podge
  • Newspaper/cardboard surface 
  • A bowl for mixing

How to:
1.) Put down newspaper or something thick {cardboard} to protect the surface that you are working on.  Get your mason jars or clear jars out and pour about a 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of Mod Podge into either a bowl or one of the jars. This should last you more than one jar -- I did 3 in different sizes, and it would probably do about 4 regular mason jars.
2.) In your bowl or jar, add about two teaspoons of water. Add food coloring {I used 3 drops blue and 2 drops green} and mix well. I personally added some more Mod Podge to thicken the paste.  
3.) Swirl around in the jar until the jar is completely coated and then pour the remainder into your next jar. Repeat this on all of your jars. You want to get the majority of the paste out of the jar, so turn over so you don’t end up with a puddle in the bottom. Make sure to move the jars around some so they don't stick in one spot {Mod Podge is like glue}..see all the lovely rings left by my jars in the pictures below!
4.) Once fully drained, tuen the jars right-side up and place jars in the oven to the lowest setting, for me this was 175. Having it on the lowest setting will reduce the chance of breakage. Bake for about 20 minutes to set the mixture. 

I let my jars stay in the oven just until they cooled down, then removed them.  In the pictures about, the bottom center picture was taken at the start, whereas the bottom right picture was taken about 10 minutes into the process.  If the jars aren't looking the way you'd like, keep them in there a bit longer!

At the end you'll end up with beautiful jars that would normally cost over $10 and can be used as cute vases or decorative items.  I do not suggest keeping food or drink in these glasses, and have heard that you cannot put water in them due to the food dye {this means fake flowers only!}.  If you'd like to use them for real flowers, use Vitrea 160 for the coloring {glass paint}. 

These jars and bright flowers cheer up the room even with a snowfall outside! 

I added a bow made of twine to these as well.  Makes a cute touch!

 As always, any questions or comments are more than welcome.  Happy crafting and good luck with this project!


Monday, January 30, 2012

South Indian-Style Green Beans

Simple & Tasty Green Beans
The other night I made some Indian scallops and they turned out wonderful!  I paired them with some raita {aka super tasty yogurt} and these green beans!  These are one of my mom's favorites, and they were very quick to make.  Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables, so I love trying out different variations.  These ones have a nice flavor, mainly from the mustard seeds and cayenne pepper.  


1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into about 1 inch lengths
3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 
{serves 4}

How to:
  • Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon salt to it and then cut the beans.  Boil for 4-5 minutes or until the beans are just tender.  Drain immediately and leave in the colander.  These can be prepared early, and just place them in cold water to help them hold their vibrant green!
  • Pour the oil into a frying pan and set over medium-high heat.  Once hot, put in the cumin, mustard seeds, and sesame seeds.  As soon as the seeds start popping {only a matter of seconds} take the pan off the heat and stir in the beans.  Place the pan back on the stove, turning the heat down to medium low.  Stir to mix for about a minute, adding 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cayenne.  Remove the pan from the heat.  

My boyfriend, Lars, came over and got to try out my cooking!  He was super cute and read to my little sister, Nora, while I worked to put finishing touches on the green beans and scallops.  

Let me know what you think if you decide to try these out!  We did 1.5 times the recipe to feed our larger group.

P.S. Any thoughts on Crazy, Stupid, Love? Watched it for the third time last night; the part where he's fixing the lawn gets me every time! 


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Flavorful Indian Scallops

Stir-Fried Scallops in an Aromatic Tomato-Cream Sauce
You will learn that my family loves to eat flavorful, exotic dishes.  I've been have Indian cuisine as my birthday meal since I can remember!  We have some classic dishes that have been repeated throughout the year, but this one is on the relatively new side.  I can't even explain how good this is; you just have to try it!  Originally the recipe calls for shrimp, but my mom strongly prefers scallops, so that's what we use.  When she saw scallops on deep sale the other day she just had to pick some up so we could make this!


{for the sauce} 

1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon store-bought garam masala {can be found at any Indian grocery store..living in Ann Arbor has it's advantages!}
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 fresh, hot green chile (we used a jalapeño) 
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
7/8 cup heavy whipping cream

{for stir-frying the shrimp}

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1-15  fresh curry leaves
1 1/4 pounds medium-sized scallops, peeled, deveined, and washed, then patted dry

How to:
To make the sauce, put the tomato paste in a bowl.  Add the salt, sugar, garam masala, ground roasted cumin seeds, cayenne, cilantro, green chile, lemon juice, dried cury leaves {if you are not using fresh leaves with the scallops} and 1 table-spoon water.  Mix well.  Slowly add the cream, mixing as you go.  Set aside.  

To stir-fry the scallops, put the oil in a wok or frying pan and set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds.  As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop {this takes just a few seconds}, put in the garlic and the fresh curry leaves, if using.  Stir until the garlic turns medium brown and put in the scallops.  Stir until the scallops turn opaque most of the way through.  Add the sauce, turn the heat to medium, and heat the sauce until it begins to simmer.  By then the shrimp should be completely opaque and cooked through.  Turn off the heat.

serves 4 to 5

If you want to find more delicious and simple recipes like this, check out Madhur Jaffrey's Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  Happy blogging & enjoy!


Yogurt with Pecans & Cilantro {Raita}

The perfect cool-down for the spices!
Now I don't know about you, but I always, always, always get the hiccups when I eat spicy food!  Seeing as I love to eat spicy and flavorful foods, this can be an embarrassing problem {boyfriend loves to poke fun at me}.  For those of you that are right there with me, this is a perfect & extremely easy yogurt dish to serve with any Indian cuisine that will cool down your mouth and put your hiccups at ease!


  • 24 oz plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 fresh hot green chilli, very finely chopped {jalapeño}
  • about 1/4 teaspoon salt - or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2-3 green onions {not used today!}
  • 1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped, toasted
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2-2/3 medium, peeled, seeded and chopped cucumber 

How to:
Put the yogurt in a bowl.  Beat lightly with a fork or a whisk until it is smooth and creamy.  Add all the other ingredients.  Stir to mix.

That's right.  It's that easy.  I'm bamboozled as to how it took me so long to attempt to make this!  It's tasty, healthy, and is one of my favorites!  This is best if made half a day to a day ahead of time eaten, so the flavor really develops.  

Let me know if you try this out & comment if you have any questions!


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Lava Cakes Galore!

Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes
Alright.  Let me just start this off by saying these are to die for!  Delicious.  Simply delicious.  & surprisingly easy to make.  They only take about 25 minutes. The trickiest part was definitely flipping the cakes from their containers, but otherwise it was all very simple.  I let my dad flip the first 6, then I did the last two.  The one pictured is one that I flipped! :)  Practice makes perfect, but I have faith that anyone can make these!  After all, I'm no world-class chef.

NOTE: I don't have cake flour in the picture..don't forget about that!  Your cakes would be a mess!

For serving 4:                                      For serving 6:                               For serving 8:
1 stick butter                                             1 stick butter                                     1 stick butter
4 oz bar chocolate                                     6 oz bar chocolate                              8 oz bar chocolate
2 whole eggs                                             3 whole eggs                                     4 whole eggs
2 yolks                                                      3 yolks                                                  4 yolks
1/3 cup sugar                                            7 tablespoons sugar                            2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla                                            3/4 tsp vanilla                                    1 tbs vanilla
1 tbsp flour                                               1 1/2 tbsp flour                                     2 tbsp flour
How to:
  1. Melt butter and chocolate {microwave or double boiler}.  I melted mine for a minute, stirred it, then melted it for another minute.  
  2. Whip eggs, yolks, sugar & vanilla for 10 minutes on high in mixer
  3. Fold in flour, then chocolate mix
  4. Pam-spray 6 oz ramekins then pour in the mix
  5. Bake on cookie sheer or jelly roll pan {to catch any drips} at 450° for 10-11 minutes, then set aside for 5 minutes
  6. Invert onto plate & garnish with either powdered sugar, fresh raspberries or whipped cream
Don't forget to set the timer! ...yes, I walked away without actually pressing the timer button.  Oopps!  Luckily for me, my dad was keeping an eye on the time and we worked with it to get it about right.  As my dad said, "timing is everything in soufflé's", so make sure you get that part right!  
Also, for removing the lava cakes, try loosening the edges up a bit with a knife, then bring the plate to the cake before tipping it over.  Once tipped, tap the top of the container with the handle of the knife {and by tap, I mean hit pretty hard!} as well as the edges.  Make sure you hold the container with a mitt because it will be hot

Enjoy & good luck with getting the cakes to flip!  


Mexican Beef Stew

Beef Stew With Poblanos and Tomatillos

Today I joined my dad in making some delicious Mexican stew!  This is a recipe my family found in Cooking Light a few years ago, and we love cooking {and eating} flavorful dishes such as Indian and Mexican cuisine.  This stew is incredibly tasty, particularly if you like a kick to your food.  It was somewhat time consuming, but since we modified it to make in the slow cooker, it wasn't too bad.  We have a family of 6, including 2 teenagers, and it makes enough to feed all of us and still have some extra!  I hope you try this meal, it's one you'll want to keep around!

*we used fresh tomatillos, but either way works.

How to:
Broil pobamos on foil-lined baking sheet until blackened.  About every 10 minutes, turn occasionally.  Seal in plastic bag for 15 minutes.  Peel, discard seeds and chop.  Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in Dutch oven {or a pan!} and sauté onions for approx. 10 minutes, adding the garlic in towards the end for browning.  Remove.  Coat beef in flour and cook in hot oil {2 tsp} for about 6 minutes, turning beef over, until brown.  Sprinkle with some salt during this process.  Combine with onion.  Add beer to pan and scrape for fond.  Add chiles, water, bell pepper, oregano, cumin, tomatillos and beef broth.  Bring to simmer.  Stir in beef mixture.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for an hour until tender.  Stir in potatoes and simmer uncovered for 50 minutes.  Stir in remaining salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro if you'd like.

Voilà!  A tasty, flavorful meal. 
We actually did this in the slow cooker, so we could prepare it long before dinner time and just walk away from it.  In order to do that, just follow the recipe as usual, leaving out the potatoes until closer to mealtime {otherwise they'll be all mushy: yuck!}.  I had a great time cooking with my pops and learned a lot..including that onions make me tear up like crazy!

If you choose to make this, let me know how it goes!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Mr.President Himself

 "Your president and your first lady where in your shoes not that long ago, we didn’t come from wealthy families, the only reason that we were able to achieve what we were able to achieve was because we got a great education."
-President Barack Obama

{photo from AnnArbor.com}

Seeing Obama speak today was unreal.  He's such an amazing public speaker and really connected with the audience, even responding to a crowd member with "I love you too!".  It was hard not to smile throughout his speech.  The long lines in the cold the past two days were definitely worth the wait. It's still surreal thinking that I will be voting come November.  One thing's for sure: Obama got my vote!

Whatta ham!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The First Supper

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Today I decided to make some homemade, marinara sauce!  Quick and simple, it seemed like a good start for a novice cook such as myself.  I've got to say, it turned out quite tasty!  I just got home from yoga and pilates and am munching on it as I write. Who would have thought yoga would work up such a large appetite?  Anyways, I chose to put mine over some cheese ravioli, but this sauce would work well over any sort of noodle.  I hope you try it out -- it's really a yummy, easy meal to make!  I think the white wine really adds a unique taste that makes this much better than Newman's sauce or another canned marinara.


                       1/2 cup olive oil                                                           1/2 teaspoon dried basil
                       2 cloves garlic, halved                                                  1 tablespoon chopped parsley
                       1 can (1 lb. 12 oz) plum tomatoes                                1/2 cup white wine
                       1 teaspoon oregano                                                     salt & pepper to taste 

How to:

Place oil in an 8" or 10" skillet and heat.  Add the garlic pieces; brown.  Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a blender at the lowest speed for not more than a few seconds -- do not purée.  When the garlic is a golden brown, turn off the flame and let the pan cool a few minutes.  Then add the tomatoes and turn the flame back on.  Add the spices; bring to a boil, and let simmer for 30 minutes.  With the pan covered, then add the wine {and fresh basil if you are using it}, let simmer another 5 minutes, and turn off the flame.  Remove the garlic pieces and the sauce is ready! I added some fresh basil on top of mine; it adds a nice, fresh look to a very simple meal!  {serves four}

If you make this let me know what you think/how it goes for you!  I'd love to hear some feedback.


A Blog Worthy Thursday: Obama Tickets!

So this morning started off just like any other; my alarm went off, I slept in a little, then jumped into the shower for some speedy freshening up.  The difference in this morning came as I was getting dressed, and saw my dad was calling my phone.  I picked it up as I struggled to pull my jeans up, and he told me OBAMA was coming to Ann Arbor {my home town} tomorrow to speak!  I was so excited!  He let me know that the line for tickets started officially forming 5 minutes ago {7:00}and tickets were going to be distributed starting nine.  I basically raced out the door with my wet hair and a bagel in my mouth -- forget school!

As I got there I was a bit discouraged, seeing as I was well back into the line and they only had 3,000 tickets to give out.  Fortunately, around 9:30 a classmate of mine from school was walking around selling extra red ticket stubs that would be exchanged for tickets.  He recognized me and let me have one and move way up in the line and stand with him and some others.  It was surreal!  After waiting in the cold for a good 5 hours, I got inside and my hands were so cold that I could barely sign my ticket. That's right.  My ticket.  I'm seeing the president tomorrow instead of zoning out in AP Stats class! :) anyways, had to share, along with some pictures.

I'll update tomorrow and hopefully have some pictures as well.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who's running this anyway?

Name? Maggie. Cooking experience? Very little.  

 Senior in high school, documenting my way through cooking delicious recipes and making cool crafts for my senior project after drawing inspiration from Pinterest and my undeniable love for good food {luckily my parents cook up awesome meals!}.  The plan is to make a meal for my family of 6 once a week, as well as a DIY project.  Warning: I have been known to mess up Minute Rice and my last craft was probably for an elementary school assignment.  Fingers crossed the food turns out edible and the DIY's not too heinous! 
Thanks for reading and happy blogging.