Bacon Mac and Cheese

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I didn’t have to try this before I knew it would have to be good because it has three ingredients that create pure awesomeness: bacon + three cheeses + pasta = amazing!
I decided not to make this in a skillet because I don’t have one large enough, and I poured it all in my trusty 13×9 inch baking dish instead.

Verdict: Wow! This was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Even my picky daughter ate two servings and was more than happy to eat leftovers in her lunch 😉 The blend of cheeses, especially the nutty Gruyère works so well along with the smoky and salty bacon. I made a few changes and I have added those modifications to the recipe below – nothing major though. Thanks for reading, enjoy! 🙂

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Bacon Mac and Cheese – adapted from Kelsey’s Essentials via Cooking Channel TV

  • 1 pound dry pasta (recommended: elbow macaroni, shells, penne, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup, plus 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked – reserve about 3 TBSP of bacon fat (*I skipped this step*)

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups warm milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Directions –

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until nearing al dente, but not fully cooked; drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, avoid browning, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring the sauce to a boil. Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper, to taste. Reduce the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Reduce heat to low and stir the dry mustard and cayenne pepper into the bechamel sauce. Gradually add the Cheddar, Gruyere, and 1 cup Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until all of the cheese has melted. Add an additional milk. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.

Add the cooked pasta to the bechamel and stir to coat evenly with the sauce. Pour the pasta in to a buttered 13×9  baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, chopped parsley, and reserved bacon fat. Coat the bread crumbs and chopped parsley with bacon fat and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the macaroni; and then top with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake until the top is browned and the sauce is bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with crumbled cooked bacon. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Caesar Dressing

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Whenever we go out to restaurants, he always orders a Caesar salad…always! I have only tasted a bite or two during my lifetime and I never understood the hype. I knew that one day I would have to make my own dressing, and I was sure that it would make all the difference. Homemade beats bottled any day, right? Well, I was pleasantly surprised with the savory, bold and tangy flavor of this dressing. I’m used to the oil/vinegar based dressings and I rarely make creamy ones.

First I made the homemade mayonnaise which is so easy to make and you don’t even need a stick blender. I whisked it by hand – not the quickest way of course, but easy. I mixed most of the Caesar ingredients in a small bowl before pouring into the mayo bowl to make sure that it wouldn’t separate. My husband liked the flavor and he told me it’s right up there with his favorite Caesar dressing – not too bad for a first time! Also, make your own croutons! 😉 They only take about 40 minutes in the oven and store bought can’t beat the flavor of homemade. Thanks for reading, enjoy! 🙂

Homemade Mayonnaise – adapted from Epicurious 

  • 1 large egg yolk*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup canola oil, divided (*I used 1/2 cup grapeseed oil and 1/4 cup olive oil*)

Directions –

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow, about 30 seconds.

Using 1/4 teaspoon measure and whisking constantly, add 1/4 cup oil to yolk mixture, a few drops at a time, about 4 minutes. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup oil in very slow thin stream, whisking constantly, until mayonnaise is thick, about 8 minutes (mayonnaise will be lighter in color). Cover and chill. do ahead Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

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Homemade Caesar Dressing – adapted from Once Upon a Chef

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (found near the tuna fish in the supermarket)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup homemade mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
 Directions –
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add the mayonnaise, cheese, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Fettuccine Alfredo

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My husband prefers decadent cream sauces to my preferred red, but I’m willing to make the sacrifice to make him happy 😉 I’m already planning on going to the gym in the morning! Any exercise after such a fat-filled, dairy-tastic meal has to be better than no exercise at all! This recipe makes about 6-8 servings and sadly, does not reheat well. Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Fettuccine Alfredo – adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 1 pound Fettuccine Noodles
  • 1 stick Butter
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions –

In a saucepan or skillet, warm butter and cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Grate Parmesan cheese and place half of it into a large serving bowl. Pour warm butter/cream mixture over the top. Reserve some of the pasta water, then drain pasta and immediately pour it into the bowl.

Toss a couple of times, then sprinkle in the other half of the Parmesan. Toss to combine, thinning with pasta water if necessary. Serve immediately as a main course or accompaniment to meat or salad.

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes

Quick Post: This pasta was amazing! I have tried and posted several shrimp pastas here, and this one is sure to be a repeat offender in this house. This was my first time using mascarpone cheese – it’s like butta! It created a smooth and creamy sauce that perfectly complimented the rest of the flavors in this dish. I really like the oven dried tomatoes, because all that richness would be overpowering if not for the presence of the slightly acidic, sweetness of them. They’re worth making, especially if you want to avoid preservatives of most store-bought sun dried tomatoes. The kids were leery of them, but I explained that they’re like tomato-raisins 😉 Thanks for reading, enjoy!

Shrimp Pasta with Oven Dried Tomatoes – adapted from Annie’s Eats

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Olive oil
  • Small pinch of sugar
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 lb. bowtie pasta
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ž cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
  • 6 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (*I forgot to buy this*)
  • Âź cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

Directions:
To make the oven dried tomatoes, preheat the oven to 225˚ F. Place the tomatoes in a small baking dish in a single layer, cut side facing up. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. Bake for about 3 hours, or until the tomatoes are mostly shriveled up. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.

While the pasta is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook in a single layer, flipping once during cooking, just until opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate, tent loosely with foil and set aside. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan. SautĂŠ the onion until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the pan and sautĂŠ just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine or broth and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Return the shrimp to the pan and add in the drained pasta along with the oven-dried tomatoes. Add the mascarpone to the pan and stir until completely melted. Stir in the basil and Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with additional Parmesan as desired.