Veggie Mac & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite meals. It’s the ultimate comfort food.

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This recipe is easy and adaptable. As you can see in the picture, it’s got 2 different pastas! It’s penne! It’s shells! It’s madness! (It’s because I had a little bit of penne left and a little bit of shells left. Resourcefulness!) Clearly, I prefer penne or shells for mac & cheese (usually not at the same time), but elbows or chifferi (twirly elbows) are great choices, too.

It’s really easy to add veggies or meat to mac & cheese. I had some broccoli in the fridge, and I used a frozen veggie medley (Cascadian Farm with peas, carrots, and corn). It’s also really good with yellow squash. You can use whatever cheese you want. I usually 2 different types (cheddar and something else). This time, I used this new chipotle white cheddar and a sharp cheddar. The chipotle cheese was AMAZING. It added this really subtle kick and smokiness that I loved.

So without further ado:

Veggie Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 10 oz pasta*
  • 1/2 cup cleaned and chopped broccoli
  • 1/4 cup frozen veggie
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 cup vegetable stock/broth (or low fat milk for a creamier version)
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup cheese (I used 1 cup chipotle white cheddar, 1/2 sharp cheddar)

*This isn’t quite a whole box–if you’re using a whole box, use 4 Tbs. butter, 4 Tbs. flour, 2 cups broth/milk, 2 cups cheese.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, boil water. Add your pasta, and cook according to the box instructions. A few minutes before the pasta is done (when it’s soft enough to chew, but it’s still got a little crunch), add your vegetables. This will thaw them if frozen and cook them enough so that they’re soft. Drain.
  3. In the same pot you cooked the pasta, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. While the onions cook, prepare a small casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour the pasta/veggie mix into the dish.
  4. Whisk in the flour, making a paste. Now slowly stir in the vegetable stock. Keep whisking so the roux gets thick. Season the roux with pepper (and salt, if you choose). Add your cheese, and whisk it all up, melting the cheese.
  5. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, and give it a stir so everything is mixed nicely.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden on top and bubbly around the edges.
  7. Enjoy!

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My Favorite Go-To Meals

As much as I love to cook, there are days when I just don’t feel like it. I have a few meals that I make often because they’re both yummy and quick to prepare. Here are my favorites:

1. Amy’s Cheese Pizza

This is on the top of the list because it’s by far the easiest to prepare (…it’s a frozen pizza…) I love Amy’s natural and organic foods. They have a bunch of different burritos, soups, and microwave meals, but my favorite is the cheese pizza. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly daring (and haven’t had a whole bunch of dairy lately), I add more cheese. I love cheese. And I love this pizza.

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Visit http://www.amys.com for info on their products.

2. Egg Burritos

If there’s one thing I love more than pizza, it’s burritos. Really, I love all Mexican food. Egg burritos are a quick go-to for me: scramble up an egg (with some pepper, chili powder, and oregano), spoon on some salsa, and wrap it up in a tortilla. At Trader Joe’s, there’s a pepper trio that comes pre-sliced in the freezer section. We almost always have these on hand, so I usually add these to the eggs. If I need some more protein that day, I add some black beans, too, which I always have in the pantry. I can eat these burritos any time of day, and I usually do.

3. “Stir Fry”

It’s not really stir fry, but it is rice or pasta with some veggies mixed in. I boil up some egg noodles or rice, sauté some veggies with olive oil, stir it all together, and dig in. I just tried these no-yolk egg noodles that were really good. My favorite veggies to use for this are Cascadian Farm Organic Veggie Medley (peas, carrots, and corn) and some garlic. Frozen is easy, and they sauté up quick. Add some pepper and a dash of cayenne for a nice kick.

(Sometimes I add the frozen veggies to Annie’s mac & cheese. I obviously prefer the Arthur-shaped noodles, but all of Annie’s is pretty good, especially when you get them $10/10.)

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And I say HEY! what a wonderful kind of day!

4. Grilled Cheese

Did I mention I love cheese? Especially melty cheese. My favorite grilled cheese is with Jarlsberg (mainly for the taste but also mainly so I can make “The Devil Wears Prada” references). Back when I ate meat, grinders were my go-to comfort food. As a vegetarian, all of my sandwiches are really just glorified cheese sandwiches. When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add roasted red peppers, bean sprouts, or yummy spreads. But for a simple, quick sandwich, all I need is some cheese, bread, and a griddle. Yum.

What’s your favorite go-to meal?

Vegetable Hand Pies

OK, I know that “hand pies” is the weirdest name for a food. It’s totally bizarre and sounds odd, but I had no idea what else to call these. They’re not really empanadas, and they’re not pot pies. They’re little triangles of pie crust filled with all kinds of veggies. This is a good recipe to use up all those leftovers you have in the fridge and pantry (that one zucchini, those two random potatoes…I had planned to use eggplant, but it had gone bad.) I basically made this up as I went along, and it turned out pretty tasty. I really would have loved this with the eggplant, but the zucchini was a great addition. I think mushrooms would be yummy, too, if you like them.

I forgot to take a picture until I was putting the leftovers in tupperware.

I forgot to take a picture until I was putting the leftovers in tupperware.

Ingredients

  • pie crust (I used a leftover Pillsbury pie crust from the holiday season. They come with 2 circles of pre-made, pre-rolled dough. It wasn’t quite enough dough for all the filling I made. If you have a homemade recipe you like, by all means, use it!)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (I think…I just sprinkled in enough to coat the bottom of the pan and to keep the veggies from getting gunky and too crispy. And obviously “gunky” is a technical cooking term.)
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces (not peeled)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (It was a really strong white onion. If yours isn’t that strong, feel free to add more.)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste (about half the can)
  • spices (I used salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano. Add or subtract whatever you want.)
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 c. vegetable broth
  • *If you like your pie crust golden and crispy (and really, who doesn’t), you’ll need an egg and about a Tbsp. of water.
  • **chicken, if you want to add meat (I used these precooked chicken strips and warmed them up over medium heat in a separate pan. I separated the rest of the filling and added the chicken to one half.)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your baking sheet (spray or line with parchment paper)
  2. In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes for about 5 minutes, so you can stick a fork in them but not pierce through them. Drain and rinse.
  3. In the same saucepan, heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables and your spices (but NOT the potatoes) and sauté them for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the potatoes and tomato paste and give everything a big stir until combined. Keep on the heat for about 3 more minutes. (Don’t worry if the tomato paste doesn’t incorporate fully. It will when you add the roux.) Take the pan off the heat and set aside. You want to let the veggie mixture cool significantly before assembling the pies (or else the pie crust will melt and it will be messy and awful and you’ll have a glob of veggies and dough and you’ll have to scrape it off the counter. Probably.)
  4. Make the roux! I don’t really know how to explain what a roux is if you don’t know what it is, except that it’s flour, butter, and a liquid (here it’s broth), and it makes a thick sauce-like thing – it’s in a lot of macaroni and cheese recipes. So first, melt the butter in a small saucepan. When it’s all melted, add the flour and give it a quick whisk until it’s made a paste. Still whisking, slowly add the broth. Keep whisking, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pan, until the rue becomes nice and thick. You really will be able to tell when it’s done because it gets creamy.
  5. Pour the roux into the veggie mixture, and stir until everything is incorporated. Let it cool some more. You don’t want a veggie/dough glob.
  6. While the mixture cools, prep the dough. I had 2 circles of dough. I used a pizza cutter and just cut four pieces in each circle, so I ended up with 8 quarter-circles (really 7 because of that veggie/dough glob incident I alluded to). If you make your own dough, I think cutting full circles would be easiest, so the pies turn into half-moon shapes. *At this point, prep your egg wash if you’re doing that. Whisk an egg and a splash of water together, and set aside.*
  7. Now it’s time to put together the pies. For my size quarter-cirlcles, I put about a 2 Tbsp. of filling in each pie. Put the filling to one side of the dough, then fold over the remaining dough (mine were triangle-shaped). Pinch the edges together, creating a pie! Put the pies on your baking sheet (I used parchment paper) and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and flaky. Enjoy!

This was a filling meal for a cold, wintry day. I thought it was easy to make, but if you’re a beginner cook, it’s probably a mildly difficult meal (only for the roux, which can be scary to make at first because it sounds scary and fancy). If you make this, I’d love to hear what veggies you use and how you like it!