CUT Macaroni and Cheese

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I figured it was about time to post another macaroni and cheese recipe.  Because it’s been that kind of winter.  Because it’s the ultimate comfort food.  Because I need to seriously get back in shape before my sister’s wedding in a few months and this was one of my “last hurrahs” as far as indulgent main dishes.  (On a sidenote, isn’t it so funny how you can start swearing off a certain dessert/drink/food, and then that’s exactly what you start insanely craving? Yeah, well, this happens to me a lot.)

This is the ultimate in mac and cheese recipes (well, at least my definition of a great mac and cheese.), which is served as a side dish in Wolfgang Puck’s chain of CUT restaurants.  This is how I like mine:  creamy (probably the most important part-I want each and every noodle to soak up the cheese-which is why I used the shells….more concavity for cheese to collect in), a nice sharp cheesy taste, and a little bit of buttery crunch on top from baking it.  I love a creamy stove top macaroni and cheese for the consistency, but I love the texture of a topping from a baked mac and cheese (although I find that baking a mac and cheese sometimes ruins the nice creamy consistency).  This one combines both features.

You can also play around here with what kind of cheeses you put into this dish-although I wouldn’t skip on the creme fraiche.  It gives the dish such a creamy consistency and this light flavor.  The other thing?  This recipe makes a ton of mac and cheese, so unless you are feeding a small army, you could make half.  (I ended up freezing a lot of mine.)

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CUT Macaroni and Cheese

Servings: at least 8-10

 

Ingredients

6 tablespoons  unsalted butter

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 bay leaf

4 cups milk  (I used skim.  It was fine to use here-use whatever you have on hand.)

1 and 1/4 cups crème fraîche

1 and  1/2 teaspoons sea salt

3 and 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 and 3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I used a mild cheddar, but sharp would be just as good.)

1 pound whole wheat pasta shells, cooked al dente

3/4 cup whole wheat panko

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2. Generously spray a 3- to4- quart baking dish with cooking spray.  (I actually used a Dutch oven for this.)

3. In a 4-quart saucepan (or a Dutch oven if it’s oven-safe) over medium heat, melt the  butter.

4. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring, until blended, about 1 minute (it will be clumpy).

5.  Add the bay leaf and slowly whisk in the milk until mostly smooth (don’t worry if you still have a few clumps of flour.).  Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened (about 10 minutes or so for me).

6.  Remove the bay leaf and discard.

7. Add the crème fraîche and the sea salt, whisking until smooth, and bring the mixture to a simmer.

8.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1 and 1/4 cups  of the mozzarella and  1 and 1/4 cups of the shredded cheddar.

9.  Season the cheese mixture to taste with additional salt (and pepper, if you like.)

10.  Add the cooked pasta to the cheese mixture and add 2 cups of the mozzarella. (if you are using a Dutch oven that you will bake the mac and cheese in.  If not, combine everything in a large bowl and then transfer to your prepared baking dish)

11. Sprinkle the pasta with the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and cheddar.

12.  Top the pasta with the whole wheat panko and Parmesan cheese (if using).

13. Bake until the panko is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Source:   Adapted from Williams-Sonoma.

February 4, 2014 - 10:05 am

Josie - Mmmm this looks amazing, Shanon. I have the same requirements in mac and cheese. The combo of creaminess and crunchy top is key.

Also, I love your use of the word concavity :)

February 4, 2014 - 10:35 am

srlacy - Hahaha! YES! I was wondering if anyone would notice that. I love it! Concavity=excess cheese.

February 4, 2014 - 7:35 pm

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - I seriously need to get into better shape before my own wedding this summer! lol This pasta is making me want to steer right into carb town though….I feel like this recipe is worth it.

February 5, 2014 - 12:18 am

Joanne - I’m supposed to be on a wedding diet also, and all I can think about is CHEESE, CHEESE, and MORE CHEESE. Definitely adding this to my last hurrah menu. You know, the one I have every sunday before I start over on Monday. :P

February 5, 2014 - 6:17 pm

Carol at Wild Goose Tea - Even though in my part of the country, we have had a mild winter–knock on wood—-I live in the Pacific NW—even winter and in fact every season is a most excellent reason to revisit macaroni and cheese. This recipe has what it takes!

February 6, 2014 - 7:10 am

bellini - Macaroni and these is the ultimate comfort food.

February 19, 2014 - 2:37 pm

Phi @ www.sweetphi.com - Wow! This looks incredible! Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite things in the whole wide world!
You’re SO right about the second you want to swear off something, you want it all the time! My best friend is getting married this year so I need to start swearing off a LOT of things haha!
I’ve never seen Mac N Cheese with creme fraiche…where does one buy creme fraiche?

March 10, 2014 - 7:26 pm

Mariah Eddins - I have seen creme fraiche in other places I have lived, but it is not available where I currently live. Could you give a good sub? Whipping cream? Whole milk? What would you recommend?

March 10, 2014 - 9:27 pm

srlacy - Hi Mariah-

Greek yogurt or even sour cream would be equivalent alternatives. Hope these work for you-the mac and cheese is awesome!

Cherry Almond Chia Smoothie

 

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about blogging lately.  Food blogging in general.

Ahem….stepping up onto a small soap box…tapping a microphone.  “Is this thing on?”

The reason why I’ve been thinking a lot about food blogging lately is because I have been reminding myself a lot lately of why I even blog in the first place.  Which, in all honestly, I think is a question that a lot of people out there who blog should ask themselves. I’m lucky in the sense that I’m not completely reliant on my blog as a means for paying my bills, and honestly I think it’s pretty amazing that food blogging can actually be a full-time career for some.  But I’m also constantly amazed by sometimes the lack of inauthenticity out there in this little world.  Yes, most of us modify or slightly adapt someone else’s recipes (and hopefully cite or make reference to the original creator/writer of the recipe instead of taking credit for it completely).  Some of us create our own recipes…or tell about major kitchen fails.  There’s a mixture of professional photographers gone food bloggers and vice versa.  It’s a whole big huge world of people-and all of us have strengths and weaknesses.

But here’s my (humble) opinion.  There’s absolutely no “right way” to be a blogger.  You don’t have to have a *persona*.  You don’t have to update Twitter/Facebook/Instagram ad nauseum.  You don’t have to comment on 8,000 other blogs a day.  You don’t have to have a professional design a logo or a website.  You don’t have to build your own wooden backgrounds in every single color.  You don’t.  It’s your blog, and you can run it any way you want to.  Remember, for most of us, this isn’t a full time career.  It should be a fun, low-pressure hobby (well, at least that’s the way I want to see it.)

I’ve had a few discussions lately with some of my food blogging friends and non-food blogging friends, and I feel like there’s this weird sense of pressure to out-comment, out-compete, out-tweet, and out-pin every other blogger out there. (p.s. At least for my non-food blogging friends, all this “Share Me! Tweet Me!  Pin Me!” stuff is a major turn-off.)  There’s this swirling sense of some people acting on auto-pilot without any sense of true friendship.  I think back in the day where there were only a few blogs out there (way before I even had one and just read them), and I feel like there was more a sense of comraderie and support.  The market is saturated with bloggers now, so people feel like they have to frantically jump/shout/sing/get attention/gain (or even pay for…yikes) followers any way possible in order to stand out.  And I feel like people just lose their own identity when they do this.

So this is why I started  a food blog…in all honesty.  I was going through a horrible separation with my now ex-husband.  Cooking was a horrible experience-he even threw a spatula at my face once because I wasn’t scrambling his egg *correctly.*  I used to dread spending time in the kitchen. And the saddest part was that cooking had been something that I had really loved before I met him.  And I lost that part of me.  So, with the prodding of my friend Annie to start my own blog to get my mind off of things, I decided to take that part of me back and just start coming from a place of love.  It became a cathartic release-I could do what I loved, make food for my family and friends, and create something completely positive out of something that had hurt me so much before.  And it truly has become an integral part of who I am-it’s been a constant place of comfort for me through several moves, completion of my training, and the opening of a new chapter in my life.  Looking back over the past four years, I’ve seen a major growth in myself that’s actually translated into the blog.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I feel like actually writing it all down somehow recalibrates me in a way.  When I’m frustrated about the lack of good lighting in the evenings, the pressures of a few deadlines (most of them self-imposed), or a sense of pressure to keep up with everyone else, I have to re-set myself.  After all, you’re really here for the recipe of a cherry almond chia smoothie.  Not my *brand*.

*throws microphone down and jumps off soapbox*

 

So this smoothie-creamy and full of flavor.  The chia seeds add an extra dash of fiber to keep you fuller longer (always an issue with smoothies for me….I never feel full.)  Using frozen, pre-pitted cherries cuts down on time, and you can add/adjust the flavor profile here to your own liking.  I added a teaspoon of almond extract just to give a little almond-y boost to the smoothies, but play around with it.

 

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Cherry Almond Chia Smoothie

Servings: 2

 

Ingredients

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 cup vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup frozen pitted sweet cherries

1 tablespoon vanilla-flavored whey protein powder

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

 

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Instructions

1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

2. Serve immediately: the chia seeds will swell and gelatinize a bit over time, so this is a smoothie that you will want to drink right away.

 

Source:  A Curvy Carrot original.

January 28, 2014 - 5:31 am

Tina - This looks and sounds absolutely delicious. Havent seen vanilla almond milk over here, just had the plain almond milk that I love but is too expensive if not in a special offer… (think 95c for a litre of organic soy or rice milk versus 2.89 € for almond milk…)
Tina in Germany

January 28, 2014 - 6:26 am

volim slatko - Very good, I am in the process of trying out chia seeds and I have to admit that I like …. thanks for any advice or idea

January 28, 2014 - 8:26 am

Annie - Girl, I love when you speak your mind like this. You know this is exactly how I feel about the “blogging world” and why I tend to stay on the outskirts in general. So much of it feels fake, and I just like having fun with it. Yeah, I have a brand, but only because it’s mine – not because I care about how it compares to anyone else’s. I am glad you took the time to recenter your thoughts about it, and I hope that cooking and blogging always continues to be a fun thing for you. I love you.

On a lighter note, I can’t wait to try these smoothies. I have been wanting some new smoothie flavors lately and these sound fantastic. Also, the photos are gorgeous.

January 28, 2014 - 3:04 pm

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - This was really refreshing to read, and actually, one of the reasons I follow your blog is for the writing over the food sometimes. We can’t always looooove with crazy excitement each others recipes, but we can love each others words! In this case though, I totally dig this recipe. Chia seeds in smoothies are so freaking fabulous.

January 28, 2014 - 3:15 pm

Molly - I was lured into this post by the delicious looking smoothie photo, but convinced to re-read the post three times by your authenticity. I totally agree with you and I have always believed that blogging should just be a fun activity to be enjoyed. Isn’t there some saying about how choosing money over passion dilutes the quality of the project? Anyway, thanks!

January 28, 2014 - 6:51 pm

Joanne - YES. I find I often get swept up in the feeling of “I’m not doing enough” or “I should be doing more” when really I should realize that I should just do what I want and what makes me happy…because if I’m not or if I’m constantly stressed out, then what’s the point. Thank you for this!

January 28, 2014 - 7:25 pm

Sara @ Confectionary Tales - As a blogger who blogs as a hobby, your post made me really happy. Sometimes I feel like my blog doesn’t count as much because I don’t get thousands of views per day, that I still use a .blogspot.com address, that I haven’t upgraded in any way or post 5 days a week. Whenever I think that, I have to realize that I love my blog and hobby the way it is.

Anyway, your post was just very refreshing to read. Just as refreshing and delicious as those smoothies look!

January 29, 2014 - 7:10 am

Lauren - I love your blog for personal insights just like that one! Plus delish & wholesome recipes. Thanks for sharing! Keep it up!

January 29, 2014 - 11:55 am

Coleen @ The Redhead Baker - I’m so sorry you had to go through that experience with your ex-husband. I really enjoyed reading your “soapbox speech.” I feel like the only blogger who doesn’t have an ad network, and or have “brand relationships,” and really, I just don’t have time for any of that. My blog is a hobby, and when I don’t let myself get overwhelmed, it’s a fun one.

January 29, 2014 - 12:47 pm

Amanda - Thank you for speaking your mind! I have unfollowed many food bloggers on Facebook and Pinterest because they clog up my feed with self-promotions. I am tired of reading about their free kitchen remodels, free trips and near-constant sponsored posts. This couldn’t have come at a better time.

January 30, 2014 - 3:23 pm

Emily - I really appreciate the honesty and authenticity of this post and of your blog in general. It is one of my favorites and I love your recipes and your voice. Thank you for taking the time to blog.

February 3, 2014 - 12:43 pm

Phi (from sweetphi.com) - This post…wow…truly inspirational! I honestly love coming to your blog and reading your posts and what you have to say-they leave me with the most positive ‘you can do it’ feelings and you are such an amazing writer, THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts!
And I love how you summed it up so beautifully-sometime it does feel like the community aspect has been lost so it’s nice to read someone else shares that view :)
I was actually JUST talking to my husband about that last night, how the blogs I truly love to read now-a-days are the ones that actually have an interaction with others.
~the recipe here looks amazing too, I’m going to have to add it to the ever growing list of your recipes I need to try!

February 3, 2014 - 5:57 pm

Amanda - Your site is always a refreshing read, so please don’t change a thing! I just wanted to say that I love seeing a smoothie recipe that doesn’t have banana in it…it seems like bananas are the #1 requirement for something to be called a smoothie, and unfortunately I can’t stand them! :) Going to try this one as soon as I can get all the ingredients, sounds delicious.

February 5, 2014 - 3:25 am

Sarah Grace - I absolutely love making smoothies with chia seeds. Such a great texture, and not to mention healthy! This looks so delicious.

xoxo Sarah Grace, Fresh Fit N Healthy.

February 6, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Abbie @ Needs Salt - This smoothie looks absolutely delicious and so refreshing! I think I’m swooning over the color quite a bit, too. Pretty.
Pinned!

February 17, 2014 - 4:37 pm

Courtney - Oh, Shanon. I wish I could reach through my screen and give you a big hug. I agree with what you said and am glad to have friends like you who can relate. You are awesome.

April 1, 2014 - 5:56 am

Cherry Yogurt Coffee Cake » The Curvy Carrot - [...] that you like.  Since I was using cherries, and I love a cherry-almond combination of any sort (see here  or here), I added in some almond extract for both the batter and the glaze.  If you aren’t [...]

Chipotle Cheddar Cornbread

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I find cornbread an often overlooked and understated quick bread companion to most meals (at least in my book).  Then I make recipes like this one and realize that I’m missing out on a lot.

I’m trying not to be a carb-a-holic.  I avoid pasta if at all possible, don’t eat a lot of breads/rolls, and I realized I’m not really baking as much as I used to (although I was dying to make some of this last weekend).  I’m not gluten-free, I’m not gluten-intolerant, or any of those things.  I just mostly don’t buy bread products because I never end up using it all. (This is coming from someone who recently cleaned out her freezer and realized that she had a frozen loaf of bread in there that she had been occasionally and rarely eating from…that was over a year old.  Probably not a good idea.  No?  I don’t know how long that kind of stuff stays good in the freezer.  Anyways, I got rid of it.  Also it had small ice crystals all over it, too, from me not appropriately storing it the last time I used it. Oh well.)  This also explains why sometimes I go nuts at restaurant when they do serve bread before dinner.

Anyways, this recipe is a great twist on your standard slightly sweet, slightly savory traditional cornbread.  I found that the chipotle chiles added a bit of a smoky flavor here (it wasn’t hardly spicy at all, in my opinion, so if you want more spice, add more.  And, as a sidenote: I used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for this recipe. Which was probably why it wasn’t that spicy.) You could even throw in some more little bits of veggies-some chopped spinach or garlic, too, since this bread batter is fairly forgiving as far as accomodating add-ins.  I used a mild cheddar cheese here and was a bit disappointed with the flavor, so use a sharp cheddar (or even a pepper Jack) if you want a slightly more intense cheese flavor.

Serve it with some butter and this chili.  And you’ll warm right up.

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Chipotle Cheddar Cornbread

Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients

3/4 cup cornmeal (I used a medium-grind cornmeal, which was nice.)

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup milk (I used skim.)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons chopped chipotle chilies (I used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce because I forgot to buy real peppers at the store.  I think that’s what gave the cornbread a nice, smoky flavor and less spice-which I actually prefer.  Use what you like best here.)

2-3 green onions, sliced

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated

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Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
2. Generously spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.3. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, stirring to combine.
4. In another bowl (use a medium-sized bowl), whisk together the egg and milk.
5. Add the melted butter,  chilies, green onions and cheese, stirring until just combined.
6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center  comes out clean, about 18 to 20 minutes.
Source:  Slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma.
January 23, 2014 - 10:11 am

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar - Mmm this bread looks so good!

January 23, 2014 - 7:14 pm

Joanne - If I had to choose one kind of bread to eat forever, it would definitely be cornbread. I love the hint of spice you added!

January 24, 2014 - 8:21 pm

Rebecca - I think chipotles are just smoked jalepenos, no? maybe I’m wrong though! But I like the flavor of chipotles in adobo sauce much better -nice and smoky without the extreme heat

January 26, 2014 - 8:51 pm

Theresa Sea - I made this today (sans green onions) to go with our veggie soup-it was so amazing! Loved the smoky spice, and it was perfect! I had to bake it a little longer than listed because it wasn’t quite done in the middle.

Thank you! :)

January 29, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Megan - I made this bread for Sunday night dinner, and it is almost gone. It was amazing…I love chipotle. Thanks for a new favorite recipe for me.

February 5, 2014 - 12:32 pm

Crystal S. (Apples & Sparkle) - Yum, I love your addition of chipotle in this cornbread, I never would have thought of that. Perfect to warm you up. : )