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

Cilantro-Lime Rice

If you have ever eaten at Chipotle’s you know all about their cilantro-lime rice. Awhile back I decided to attempt making homemade versions of these yummy burritos. In the next couple posts, I’ll be posting 3 of the main ingredients you need to make burritos like theirs.

I am going to start with my favorite ingredient, the cilantro-lime rice. It was very easy to put together and would go great as a side dish to any grilled/roasted meat. I always cook the rice with 1/4 cup less water than what is normally recommended. I find it helps the rice not get too clumpy. I’ve included the difference in my recipe below.

Cilantro-Lime Rice:

Serves 4

  • 1 cup Basmati white or brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 2 limes
  • 3-4 tbs chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • Salt
  1. In a medium saucepan heat water to boiling. Stir in rice, juice of 1 lime, and pinch of salt. Cover and turn the heat to low and let simmer till rice is tender, about 15-18 minutes. (Can be cooked in a rice cooker)
  2. Remove from heat and transfer rice to bowl. Add the cilantro (as much as you like to taste), juice of second lime, (I recommend tasting after putting in half of the lime to see if it’s enough for you), vegetable oil, and salt to taste. Stir till combined and serve. 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Grilling season is right around the corner. I’m more than ready to be enjoying the warmer weather and grilling on the back porch. We had a beautiful weekend so I decided to smoke a rack of ribs. I’m so glad I had the chance to be outside because this coming weekend we are expecting some snow. Blech!

Normally, I cook my ribs low and slow in the oven and then finish it off on the grill. But this time I wanted to do the entire cooking process in the smoker. I wanted to make a BBQ Sauce that would compliment the long time it takes to smoke ribs. Normally, it takes hours to make a really good BBQ Sauce. I wanted to find something that would be a little easier for everyone who wants homemade but doesn’t have hours to spare. This is it! It’s tangy and sweet, exactly what I was looking for.

Quick and Easy BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbs cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 5 tbs molasses (I forgot to get some used a sugar free syrup)
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  1. In a food processor or a blender, process the onion and the water until pureed and the mixture resembles slush, about 30 seconds. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula to obtain 1/2 cup juice. Discard the solids. 
  2. Whisk the onion juice, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire, mustard, molasses, hot pepper sauce, black pepper, and liquid smoke (if using) together in a medium bowl. 
  3. Heat the oil in a large nonreactive saucepan over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in the ketchup mixture and bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the flavors meld and the sauce is thickened, about 25 minutes. Cool the sauce to room temperature before using. 
Note – The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week.
Source: slightly adapted from The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated

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. 

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

Panko Crusted Salmon

Several years ago my Aunt Terri went to a book signing for Ina Garten. She brought me back a signed copy of “Back to Basics” from Ina. It was/is one of my most prized cookbooks. She told me all about her time with Ina. While she was getting the books signed, my Aunt was having a wonderful time chatting with her. She told her about a recipe she created and would like to share with her. She gave Ina a recipe and that recipe was this panko crusted salmon.

Flash forward to October 2010. I receive a call from Aunt Terri. She had just received her copy of Ina’s new cookbook “How Easy Is That?” and inside was a recipe for Panko Crusted Salmon! She was telling how Ina changed some things up, but it was her recipe. I had to help calm her down cause she had mixed emotions on this. She was excited but wanted some sort of recognition, so here it is!

I will be honest with you, Aunt Terri’s recipe beats Ina’s recipe, hands down! I’m not just saying that because she’s family. My aunt has created what is THE BEST crust for salmon or any other fish. My husband does not like salmon, so when I make salmon for myself and the kids, I always have another fish to prepare for him. I put this crust on tilapia and Jim LOVED it! So don’t be afraid to try this on something other than salmon. I promise you, this recipe will become your favorite fish recipe.

Panko Crusted Salmon:

  • ½ lb. butter (2 sticks)
  • ¼ cup minced garlic
  • ½ cup whole grain mustard
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbs old bay seasoning
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs cracked pepper
  • 1 ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 (3-4 lb.) side of salmon, skin on, bones removed
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Whip the butter with electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until fluffy.
  3. Add the next 7 ingredients and mix well. Mix in the panko crumbs by hand with a wooden spoon.
  4. Lay the salmon, skin side down on the baking sheet and remove excess moisture with a paper towel. Spread the panko mixture on the salmon to 1/4 inch thickness over the salmon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the fish begins to flake. *Note* if the layer of crust is thicker it will take longer to bake.
Source: Aunt Terri original