Saturday, April 26, 2014

Home-Made Thick and Creamy Mac & Cheese

OK, this has got to be one the best macaroni and cheese dishes I have ever made. I've tried lots of different recipes from web, cook books and even my Mom's homemade recipe, but this one had ZING! and was just as creamy and tasty the next day when we re-heated it for lunch.


16 oz box elbow noodles (I used Barilla. In my opinion, it's the best brand out there.)
16 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I think I had one bag of Meijer brand and one bag of Kraft but it really doesn't matter what kind you use)
8 oz shredded Mexican Style Four Cheese (I used Kraft brand, cuz it was what I had in my fridge)
2 cans (10.5 oz) cream of chicken soup, undiluted (I had Meijer brand)
1 cup low fat sour cream (again, Meijer brand)
1 to 1 1/2 cups low fat milk (I buy less than 2%. I didn't really measure this, I just sort of poured it in, but it was roughly one to one and a half cups.)
Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic and Bacon Bacon seasonings

My process:

Preheat oven to 375°

Cook, drain, and dump noodles back in pot. But only if your pot is oven safe - otherwise, pour noodles in large mixing bowl and have a 13 x 9 inch greased casserole dish set aside for the baking.

Now, I'm a huge fan of Tastefully Simple products. 
If you're not, or never heard of them...What's wrong with you!?!
Their products are absolutely amazing and will enhance the flavor of any food you cook!
Find a local consultant and stock up your kitchen spice cabinet! Now! Seriously!

Once I cooked the noodles and put them back in pot, I shook in about 1-2 tbsp Garlic Garlic and 1-2 tbsp Bacon Bacon. These are the Tastefully Simple products that will become staples in your kitchen, along with their Onion Onion spice too! I kid you not!

Buuut, if you don't have these or aren't planning on getting any soon, then you can just as easily replace these two ingredients with fresh minced garlic (about 3 cloves) and either real cooked/chopped bacon bits (if you've got that much time and energy to do that) or buy the store-bought kind that come in the little pouch. I do use the Meijer brand Real Bacon Bits or Pieces quite often in baking recipes. Honestly, because I can't stand the greasy smell of cooked bacon in my house! P-U! But I would NOT recommend the crunchy salad style bacon bits. Those are just plain nasty!

OK, moving on. Next add one 8 oz bag (or half) of the Sharp Cheddar Cheese and one 10.5 oz can of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup. Stir well using the wooden spoon.

Add about one cup, or so, of milk and the rest of the cheddar cheese. I just sort of poured it in there. Didn't really measure, but I know it wasn't any more than 1 1/2 cups. Stir again.

Last, add the 8 oz of Mexican style Four Cheese shredded cheese and the remaining can of cream of chicken soup. Stir it all up nice.

Now, if you're still using the same pot you cooked the noodles in that is oven-safe for baking, then put it in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Otherwise, dump it in the (lightly greased) baking dish and cook it that way.

After about ten minutes, I took it out and gave it a stir to make sure it was creamy and not too dry. It should be nice and thick and creamy, but if not creamy enough for you, then add a bit more milk or sour cream. Milk might make it runnier as opposed to the sour cream that would make it creamier. The choice is yours. I didn't need to add anything.

After stirring, put it back in oven to bake for another 10 minutes. 

When done, eat and enjoy!

When I reheated it the next day, I shook on some Tastefully Simple Garlic Pepper to boost the flavor even more and I was not disappointed. It was so freaking good!

Feel free to post any comments or questions. Happy cooking!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Chicken Vegetable Slow Cooker Soup

Hmmm. Both kids have ball games tonight. Not going to be home to cook, so I raided my fridge to see what I had. Mostly vegetables. So, I tossed a bunch of stuff in the crock and this is what I created.

I do not know how this is going to taste when it's done cooking, but I'll be sure to let you know! Can't be too horrible right? I mean, these are all pretty basic ingredients! Not sure if the chicken will screw up a perfectly good vegetable soup or if it will just enhance it making it better. Who knows?

What I do know is I needed something easy and non-time consuming that will be ready when my kids get home from their ball games and are "...starving Mom. What's for dinner? Is it done yet?"!

1 pkg (approx. 1 1/2 lb) chicken tenders (vein removed and diced)
4 small red potatoes (skins on, diced - approx. 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 onion, cut however you prefer, approx the size of a tennis ball
1 1/2 cups diced carrots (I cut up carrot chips in to smaller pieces, but could use baby, matchstick or cut your own from whole)
2 small zucchini, skin on, sliced rounds (I used the nice small fresh spring zucchini)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 box (32 oz) vegetable broth
3 tsp fresh minced garlic
3 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
sprinkle in a dash of salt if you prefer

So, I basically just tossed this all in the slow cooker and am cooking it for 6 to 8 hours on LOW, or until everything is nice and tender. I'm sure I'll stir it a couple times throughout the day to mix up the herbs and spices.

There ya go. I'm sure this is similar to any other vegetable soup that's out there in cyber or non-cyber world, but I didn't follow anyone else's recipe. I made my own.