Panera Mac-n-Cheese

 

Every Friday my kids have a half day of school and one of our favorite things to do is go to Panera for lunch. 9 times out of 10 all of us order the mac-n-cheese. It’s seriously one of the best we have ever had. When I learned that they have the recipe on their website, I jumped for joy. Not only is this one of our favorites to make at home, it’s super easy. It’s just as creamy and full of cheesy goodness like the one you can buy. I’m so happy to be able to make this at home when we have cravings but can’t get out of the house. I know you’ll enjoy as much as we do.

Panera Mac-N-Cheese:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package of rigati pasta (or other small pasta shells)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% reduced fat milk
  • 6 slices white American cheese, chopped
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk (or cream); cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute and serve.

Source: Panera

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Chipotle Chicken – Copycat Version

It’s a rare thing for me to make exact copycat recipes. But I’m a huge fan of the popular chain, Chipotle. I’ve already made a cilantro-lime rice that rivals theirs, and a corn salsa. Now it’s time for the main ingredient, the chicken. This chicken is full of strong flavors and you can turn up the heat or turn it down by how many chili’s you put in it. I didn’t put the whole 7oz of chipotle peppers in because I didn’t want it too spicy. I was able to find dried ancho chiles in my local Walmart’s produce department. You should also be able to find the chipotle peppers in adobo in Walmart’s Hispanic section. When you make this, use the leftover peppers in adobo in my hot corn dip. It’s to die for!

I will admit, that while these were really good, nothing can beat the actual burrito’s at Chipotle’s. Maybe it’s the atmosphere. But you can have fun with your family making them at home. I put everything together and then set everything out on a table so people could make their own burrito’s. Make sure you have plenty of lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and of course, the cilanto-lime rice and corn salsa. It’ll make your burrito’s shine!

Chipotle Chicken:

  • 5-6 boneless and skinless chicken breasts, pounded flat (about 1/2 inch thickness)
  • 1 (2 ounce) package dried ancho chiles or 4-6 ancho chiles
  • 1 (7 ounce) can chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (discard chipotle pepper, skim out seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 red onion, quartered
  • 1/4 cup oil (canola/vegetable/olive)

 

  1. Soak the dried chilies overnight in water, until soft. Remove seeds. (If you forget to do this part, like me, pour boiling water over chiles and let soak till soft, about 30 minutes)
  2. Add chilies and rest of the ingredients in blender or food processor. Puree until smooth. Place chicken in a ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Let refrigerate and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Once chicken is ready, prepare your gas or charcoal grill. Cook over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes per side. Make sure the chicken is cooked thoroughly. When done, take off heat and chop into small dices. Enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from Chipotle Fan

Homemade Vegetable Fried Rice

My family loves Chinese food and we do a good amount of take-out. I know we could lessen that and so I decided to begin to make my own version of our favorite things. The first step was fried rice. A long time ago we went to one place that put ginger in their fried rice. I loved it and haven’t found anyone else that does that. I knew that was a must ingredient to my homemade fried rice. I also love hoisin sauce and thought that might work in the rice too. I’m so glad I decided to add these two ingredients into the dish, the rice turned out to be some of the best I’ve ever had.

Making your own fried rice is really easy, but you do have to plan in advance. From what I’ve read, using cold cooked rice is the best way to get the right texture. I made the rice in the morning and put it in the fridge when it was done. If you don’t have time to do it in the morning, make it the night before. Either way, you must make your rice in advance.

Homemade Vegetable Fried Rice:

  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice, white or brown, cold
  • 3 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 3 tsp finely minced fresh ginger or freshly grated ginger (using microplane)
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
  • 2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 tbs low-sodium soy sauce (you can add more to taste)
  • 2 tbs Hoisin Sauce
  1. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a wok or 12 inch skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook 2 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and 2 tbs of the ginger, cook until fragrant. Add half of the green onions, peas and carrots and cook until they are warmed, about 3 minutes. 
  2. Push the vegetables to the side of the pan; making a hole in the center and add the remaining 2 tbs oil. Add the eggs to the center of the pan and whisk constantly till the eggs are just about cooked. Mix into the rest of the vegetables. 
  3. Add the rice and break up the clumps stir everything together then flatten the rice out. Let sit untouched for about 2 minutes. Stir the rice and add the soy sauce, remaining 1 tbs of ginger, and hoisin sauce, continuing to break up any rice clumps. Add the remaining green onions and adjust seasonings, to taste. Enjoy!
Source: Gina Marie Original

 

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

We have been doing really good about eating better and I’m constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas. I have my go-to recipe when it comes to pork tenderloin but there are times I want something different. When I got the new America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2012 magazine, I saw on the front cover was a fabulous looking pork tenderloin. This is the first recipe I’ve tried out the magazine, and there will be a lot more to follow.

I loved the combination of fennel and artichokes. I left out the olives because my husband despises them, but left them in the recipe so you can choose to put them in or not. I find it’s very important to get the silverskin off the tenderloin. If you don’t, the pork can be chewy and will get into a weird shape while cooking.

The picture above shows what the silverskin looks like. Take your knife and angle it slightly upward and use a gentle sawing motion to cut the silverskin away from the meat. That’s it! Very simple and makes for a better tenderloin.

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

  • 2 (1lb) Pork Tenderloin, trimmed of all visible fat and silverskin
  • 2 tsp dried herbes de Provence
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, stalks discarded, bulbs halved, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slives
  • 12 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and patted dry
  • 1/3 cup pitted nicoise or kalamata olives, chopped coarse
  • 8 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbs grated lemon zest plus 2 tbs juice
  • 2 tbs minced fresh parsley
  1. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat pork dry with paper towels, then season with herbes de Provence, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. 
  2. Combine the fennel and 2 tbs water in bowl, cover and microwave until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain fennel well and toss with artichokes, olives, 2 tbs oil, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper to taste. 
  3. Spread the vegetables in a large roasting pan. Lay pork on top of vegetables. Roast pork and vegetables for 15 minutes. Turn pork over and add tomatoes to roasting pan. Continue to roast pork and vegetables until meat registers 140-145 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes longer. 
  4. Transfer the pork to carving board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir broth and lemon zest into vegetables and continue to roast until fennel is tender and tomatoes have softened, about 10 minutes.
  5. Stir remaining 2 tsp oil, lemon juice, and parsley into roasted vegetables and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice pork 1/2 inch thick and serve with vegetables. 

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

There are times when I see something on my Google Reader and I have to make it right away. This is one of those times. Pioneer Woman posted this recipe and it looked so good, that I knew I had to make it ASAP. What makes it even better is that I already had all the ingredients. It was totally meant to be. I am going to admit something… I am not a huge chicken fan. If given the choice, I won’t ever pick chicken. I will make it and eat it, but I won’t ever get seconds. I loved this dish so much, that I got a second piece of chicken! Even my daughter, who doesn’t like a lot of saucy things, loved it. This says a lot. The only thing I changed from the original recipe was adding shallots. Personally, I love shallots, but my husband said I could leave them out next time. It’ll be up to you and whether you want to add them or not.

You must go make this dish now! It’s fast and easy and you won’t regret it.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce:

*Serves 4-8

  • 4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or 8 chicken cutlets
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 whole Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 medium shallots sliced thin (optional)
  • 1 cup Brandy (or White Wine If Preferred) *I loved the Brandy*
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Grainy Mustard
  • 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Chicken Broth
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  1. If using chicken breasts and not cutlets, cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise so that you have eight smaller, thinner chicken cutlets. Salt and pepper both sides.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook cutlets on both sides until nice and golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken from the skillet and keep on a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the garlic to the pan and saute it for a minute, stirring to make sure it won’t burn. Next pour in the brandy (or wine if using) being careful if cooking over an open flame. Then just let the brandy bubble up and cook until it’s reduced by half.
  4. Throw in the mustards and stir to combine, then pour in the cream. Stir in chicken broth, adding more if the sauce seems too thick. Taste sauce and adjust whatever you think it needs. Add chicken breasts back to the pan, nestling them into the sauce. Allow sauce to cook for another few minutes, shaking the pan if needed to move things around.
  5. Serve chicken with the sauce spooned over the top.

Source: slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman

Baked Penne with Chicken and Kale

Lately, I’ve been all about healthier eating. I am feeling a lot better and even losing weight. But I have to admit that I can’t cut everything out, I must have my baked pasta’s! But who’s to say you can’t eat baked pasta? As long as it’s healthy, go for it! That’s where this recipe comes in.

We really loved this dish. I was so happy to see my kids eat everything including the Kale. Kale is one of those greens that has many nutrients and vitamins. I don’t make it often, but I think that will change. I did omit the red bell pepper, but that’s because my husband can’t eat them. I’m leaving it in the recipe because I’m sure it tastes great in the dish. The recipe also calls for leftover chicken but I didn’t have any. I took chicken breasts and roasted them in an oven for 35 minutes, till they were done and shredded that. All in all, it’s a dish I do plan to make again. I really think you and your family will enjoy this meal.

Baked Penne with Chicken and Kale:

  • 13.25 oz box whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or minced
  • 2 bunches kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 48 oz ricotta, part skim
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 oz Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups leftover chicken, shredded. (you can roast 2 chicken breasts in the oven at 375 degrees for about 35-45 minutes, till done)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot pot.
  3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high. Add onion and red bell pepper, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add grated carrot and garlic, cooking another 2 minutes. Add kale, toss, and cover, turning off the heat and letting sit for 5 minutes. Transfer to the pot with pasta.
  4. Stir in ricotta, lemon zest and juice, hot sauce, 1/2 cup Parmesan, chicken, and reserved pasta water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to baking dish. Top with remaining Parmesan. Bake until bubbly and the top golden brown, 30 minutes.

Source: Slightly adapted from Foodie Bride

Beef and Barley Soup

I love making soup because it’s so versatile. You can adjust any of the ingredients to your own personal liking or add things as you wish. Beef and Barley is one of my families favorites. When I make soup I usually just throw it together. But I wanted to share with you our favorite soup so I made sure to write down everything I did so I could pass it on to you. Please feel free to adjust this to your taste.

Beef and Barley Soup:

Serves 4-6 people.

  • 1 1/2 – 2lbs cubed stew meat
  • 4 tbs Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 carrots, diced small
  • 1 onion, diced small
  • 1 garlic clove chopped finely
  • 1/2lb-3/4lb fresh green beans, ends cut off and cut into small pieces
  • 1 (15oz) canned corn, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or beef broth to deglaze)
  • 2 (32oz) Beef Broth
  • 1 (32oz) Chicken Broth
  • 3/4 cup instant barley
  1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, add 2tbs olive oil. Salt and Pepper the cubed beef. Once the oil is hot, add the cubed beef in batches and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from pan and continue browning the meat till all the meat is browned.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and add the remaining 2tbs of olive oil and the carrots and onion; saute till softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine (or beef broth) to deglaze the pan. Let simmer for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and chicken broth,(If you need to add more broth, use chicken broth) bay leaf, fresh thyme, canned corn, green beans, and diced tomatoes. Let simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hours. Add the barley for the last 20 minutes of cooking. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Enjoy!

Source: Gina Marie Original