Double Duty Meal Idea – Alphabet Veggie Mac and Cheese

Veggie MacHave I ever mentioned how much I love food posts? I could write about ingredients and texture and methods all day. However, my usual problem with food posts is this: I make something, think it was good, and then wish I would have snapped a picture and wrote down what I did. Or at least left myself a few leftovers.

So, while this is still fresh in my brain and littles are napping, here’s what we had for lunch. You’ll notice I called it double duty, because I try to get everyone (twins, toddler, and mama) eating together most lunches. It’s honestly easier that way, and it reinforces that we all eat what’s put in front of us. This is tricky though – the twins only have two teeth, Ellis is in a semi-picky toddler stage, and me? I’m just hungry. all. the. time.

Thus, today we put together homemade mac and cheese. It’s a little bit of a riff off this great recipe from Skinnytaste that my friend Jessica made for us a while back at her house, minus the baking and bread crumbs. Lunch has to be ready quick for my crew.

Here’s what I love- the alphabet noodles are small and soft enough that my 8 month old twins can eat them with a spoon, or with their fingers. My toddler was stoked that there were letters in her lunch bowl. And I liked how I secretly packed it full of carrots and cauliflower and kale. And cheese. Real cheese.

Alphabet Veggie Mac ‘n Cheese

2 cups alphabet noodles
1 cup cauliflower florets
3 averaged sized leaves of kale, ribs removed
Handful of carrot sticks
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp butter
1 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
Celery salt, Garlic to taste

Method

1. Bring salted water to a boil. When boiling, add alphabet noodles and cook according to directions.

2. Meanwhile, throw carrots, cauliflower, and kale in a food processor. Process till the mix resembles crumbs.

3. Heat a small frying pan with 2 tbsp of butter. Add processed veggies. Stir in a few shakes of celery salt and garlic powder, or real garlic if you have time. Stir occasionally for 2 minutes. Add chicken broth, and simmer on low.

4. Drain noodles, and return them to the pot. Still in the other two tbsp of butter, the milk, and the cheese.  When cheese and milk are incorporated, add veggies and any remaining broth. Mix well. If you want it creamier, add more milk. Or cream. Cheesier? You know the drill. Need more protein? I’m sure chicken would be a great addition. Make it your own, and put the box to shame.

Spinach and Mushroom Fritatta

So, remember when I had this great idea to post the foods I was making/craving while I was pregnant with the twins? Right. I think I got, oh, about three posts in. I promise I ate WAY more than that, but food blogging requires one to remember to take pictures, so I didn’t get very far. C’est la vie.

Anyway. This morning my mom is here helping out since the twins had the flu this weekend. Yes. First flu at two and a half months. Awesome. But this morning they are feeling a bit better, and Ellis actually slept in for once, which means one thing in my world.

Hot. Breakfast.

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Today’s fridge contents: Spinach, mushroom, onion, and cheese. Very frittata worthy.

So here’s what was on the menu: Spinach and Mushroom Frittata (gluten-free for those that are interested)

Fritattas are the lazy man’s omelet. Instead of having to worry about flipping, turning, rolling, or tearing, you just throw all your ingredients in an oven-safe skillet, start it on the stove top, and finish it in the oven. The whole process takes about twenty minutes, and it’s as versatile as the contents of your fridge. Eggs. Meat. Cheese. Veggies. Noodles. Whatever you want, really. Since I’m trying to limit the amount of ingredients I use in my cooking (less ingredients, less bowls, less cleanup), I kept this one basic.

Ready?

Spinach and Mushroom Frittata

Stage one: Veggies sauteed, cheese and egg mixture added. Waiting to set.

Stage one: Veggies sautéed, cheese and egg mixture added. Waiting to set.

4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 c. onion
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. mushrooms
2 c. spinach
1/3 c. havarti cheese
Salt and Pepper

Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop your onions, cut your mushrooms, shred your cheese.

Method: In an oven-safe pan (remember, you’re going to transfer from stove top to oven in five minutes), saute the onions and mushrooms in the butter. When they are brown, add the spinach, and cook for no more than a minute. There’s no need to totally wilt the spinach – you want it to have some body. Salt and pepper the whole works. After the spinach is done, top with the shredded havarti. (Save a little bit to sprinkle on the top.)

Meanwhile, mix the milk and eggs together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the veggies. No need to stir. Let it cook on low temp for 3-5 minutes or so. When it’s mostly set, slide it into the oven.

Final product. One pan, one knife, one bowl. one cutting board. Easy cleanup - yes please.

Final product. One pan, one knife, one bowl. one cutting board. Easy cleanup – yes please.

Bake: 10-15 minutes or until set. Top should just be starting to brown. Top with a little extra cheese, cut into wedges, and serve.

Hot breakfast. Twenty minutes. Bam.

PS – this is usually acceptable lunch and dinner fare as well, as long as there’s a little meat and maybe a few more eggs involved.

What’s for supper? Crab cakes!

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Crab cakes – the finished version

You know those meals that get a hold of you and won’t let go? There’s some thing about the flavor, the texture, the simplicity… last night, that meal was Crab Cakes.

I know. I live in the Midwest. Seafood is a little bit sketchy in these parts. Everything is frozen, shipped, thawed, and glared at under florescent meat market lighting. And you know the worst offender of “seafood”? Imitation crab. Really. What the heck is surimi? How is it processed? What is that funny pink color on the outside?

Forgive me, but I don’t care.  Whenever I have the chance to swing by a Byerly’s, their imitation crab legs are one of the first things I pick up. I was assured that they were made in house, which I don’t really know what to think about, but the texture is firmer, the flavor is more meaty and less sweet, and they are generally under $5 for a package.

So, crab cakes hit the menu last night. I don’t really have a defined recipe for these, so what follows is a loose set of ideas. If you think you need more crumbs, more egg, more anything, go for it. Honestly, you really can’t screw these up too badly. The ingredients are simple and bright, and the whole meal comes together in about 15 minutes. Seriously. If you’re in a rut and need a new idea for this weekend, give these little guys a go. I promise they are worth it.

Ingredients 037

1 package of imitation crab legs (I prefer the kind from Byerly’s.)

1 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (or cilantro if you’d prefer)

3 green onion spears

1 egg

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp dijon mustard

Sea salt/fresh cracked black pepper
Method:

1. Shred the crab in a medium mixing bowl

2. Add the panko, dill, green onions, salt, and pepper. Mix.

3. In a separate bowl, mix the dijon mustard, egg, and lemon juice till combined. 041

4. Pour the sauce over the crab and crumbs. Mix again.

5. Heat a large skillet with two tbsp. vegetable oil

6. With your hands, take a biscuit sized patty of crab and press it together.

7. Place in the pan. Cook on medium high heat until crispy and brown, roughly 4 minutes per side.

8. Serve over whatever greens you have on hand. I prefer spinach and arugula.

9. If you’re a sauce person, grab another mixing bowl, and add Miracle Whip, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk together, pour over the top. If you’re feeling lazy, a dollop of miracle whip on the side of your plate to dip the crab cakes in will accomplish similar results.

Dutch Baby Oven Pancakes

Dutch Baby Pancakes

In my 12 week post, I mentioned my love for Dutch Baby pancakes. Here’s the deal – even if you hate to cook, you should probably try these pancakes. And if you really hate to cook, fine. Order them at the Original Pancake House. They are the souffle of the breakfast world – crispy and puffy around the edges, eggy and dense with lemon butter goodness in the middle. We need a picture.

pancakeDoes that help? I know you were probably thinking of traditional style pancakes. That’s where you’re wrong. This one-pan beauty can be made in pie dish, a cast iron skillet, or a good old 9×13 pan if that’s what you’ve got on hand.

The batter is simple. The results? Divine. My one caution… unless you’re a skimpy breakfast eater (which I have never been), make one per person. Or, plan on serving them with a few other breakfast items, because otherwise, they go way too fast and everyone leaves brunch secretly hungry. (An awful, awful feeling.)

Here is the recipe. Now, go make breakfast. Or if you’re me, supper. I can eat these any time of day.

Dutch Baby Oven Pancakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

4 eggs
2 c. milk
2 tbsp. white sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ c. flour
2 tbsp. butter (for melting in 2 pie plates, skillets, glass pans, etc.)

Directions:

Place 1 tbsp. butter in each of your two pie plates. Set aside.

Beat eggs well. Add milk, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Mix. Add flour slowly, and mix till smooth. (A balloon whisk works the best here.)

Put your baking pans in the oven. Leave them there until the butter is melted. Take pans out.

Pour pancake batter equally into the two pie plates.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20, or until edges are slightly browned and puffy all the way around.

For extra-naughty goodness, as soon as the pancakes come out of the oven, sprinkle them with powdered sugar. To get that superfine restaurant sugar pattern, put your powdered sugar in a flour sifter and tap it over the pancakes. This works with metal loose leaf tea strainers as well. Stuff them with fruit, drown them in syrup, coat them in butter. These babies are vehicles for all manner of breakfast goodness.