Category Archives: Pasta

Bacon Beer Cheese Mac and Cheese

bbcmcWe had freezing rain yesterday. Then it warmed up and all the ice melted. It was nice and warm for a few hours until the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. Clouds filled sky. Limbs crashed to the ground.

It’s time to consider comfort food. While I am not a big fan of pasta most of the time, occasionally I really want some. Tonight, I really wanted to make my Bacon Beer Cheese Orzo but I didn’t have any Orzo. Whoa is me. I had a wide variety of other pasta so it was just a matter of modifying my Homemade Macaroni and Cheese to include beer and add the bacon. Super easy.

Bacon Beer Cheese Mac and Cheese
1 pound prepared pasta
4 tbsp butter
half an onion, chopped
4 tbsp flour
1 cup of milk
1 cup of beer
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Start boiling the water for the noodles in a large pot.
2. Melt the butter on medium heat in a pan that will be large enough to hold all the sauce ingredients.
3. Add the chopped onion and saute until slightly translucent.
4. Check your water. If it’s boiling, add the noodles.
5. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and onion and let it sit for a bit so the flour absorbs some of the butter.
6. Add the milk and beer, stirring gently to dissolve the flour.
7. Lower the heat to medium low and allow to thicken. Keep stirring so it doesn’t stick to the pan and burn.
8. Add your cheese and stir until it’s all melty and smooth. I used sharp cheddar. You could use sharp cheddar and something zingy like gorgonzola. So many choices!
9. Your noodles should be done by now. Drain them well, put them back in the pot and add the sauce stirring through until all the noodles are thoroughly covered with sauce.

My Faithful Assistant doesn’t usually love food prepared with alcohol of any kind but he came back for seconds. It felt good. Of course, it could be his never ending growth spurt that is feeding his insatiable hunger. But I can pretend it was so delicious he lost all self-control and ate until he couldn’t move. It’s Christmas time, after all.


Couscous with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

csgcWith the springy weather this week, it felt like time to make some springy food. Strawberries are reasonably priced again. I decided it would be nice to make some sort of side dish with them. As I wandered through Wegmans, I saw a couple interesting things to include in my creation. Goat’s Milk butter from St. Helen’s Farm in Yorkshire in merry old England caught my eye. Who knew it was a thing? Then I saw Goat Cheese with Apricot and Thyme from Vermont Creamery. Couscous seemed like a good thing to use for the main component of my dish. Let the creating commence!

Couscous with Strawberries and Goat Cheese
Two servings of prepared Couscous, still warm
5-6 chopped strawberries
3 green onions, also chopped
2 tbsp butter
1/3 crumbled goat cheese

  1. Add the butter to your prepared and still warm couscous and stir until melted.
  2. Stir in everything else and serve immediately.

This was perfect to me. It was creamy, with a little sweetness from the strawberries and the apricots in the goat cheese and a little savoriness from the green onions. If you don’t have access to the Vermont Creamery Goat Cheese, you can obviously use something else. Add some thyme and maybe even some chopped dried apricots. Dates would be good too.

The verdict? They really liked it a lot! I was surprised that The Spouse not only tried it but went back for seconds. Proof that you can serve food without meat and they will survive! This is very fast to make. Couscous takes five minutes to make, so it’s very easy to throw together for lunch. And I would have no problem eating this warm or cold.

I’m looking forward to trying the other varieties of goat cheese from Vermont Creamery.


Cacio e Pepe

IMG_0338Well it happened again. The chicken was still frozen. And I had such good plans for it. Chicken and Rice in the pressure cooker. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of Facebook’s never-ending flow of recipes, this lovely video from Epicurious came by. BINGO!!! It happens to be the perfect night for pasta in Central Maryland. We are experiencing some epic late winter thunderstorms. Heavy rain, thunder, lightning, big winds! All of it.

I actually had some Romano. It was meant to be. Of course, I made a couple of modifications to the recipe. You can watch the video for the original, or try mine!

Cacio e Pepe
2 1/2 cups shredded Romano cheese
2 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cups Parmesan broth
1 lb pasta, cooked

  1. Combine everything but the pasta in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta – I used Angel Hair – until al dente.
  3. Drain the pasta and put in the bowl with the cheese mixture and stir vigorously until the pasta is nicely coated.
  4. Serve IMMEDIATELY!!

Truth is, I am not a huge fan of pasta. I find it often disappoints. This did not. It was cheesy and and had a nice little kick from the pepper. And it was so fast to make.

If you happen to not have a container of Parmesan broth at the ready, you can use water as they do in the original recipe. And if you don’t happen to have enough grated Romano (I didn’t), you can supplement with a bit of grated Parmesan.

Are you going meatless for Lent? This is a good addition to your menu.


Happy Anniversary, Open Doors!

tmmcOriginal post: July 12, 2014

Last November, I wrote a post about something I called “Let’s Be Thankful Soup”. I made soup for my family with canned goods like the ones I imagine someone would get from a food pantry. It turns out I was pretty spot on.

I was recently put in touch with a really lovely woman named Carol Hill. Carol and her friend Pam Gebhardtsbauer have been running a food pantry called the Open Doors Food Pantry out of their church, the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Highland, MD. This month, Open Doors celebrates one year of service to the community and I was asked to write about them.

Open Doors opened its doors in July 2013 after months and months of planning. Carol said she had visited a church in Carroll County with her mother in September of 2012. The church had a food pantry, and after helping there for a couple months, Carol realized it was something she could do in her own church. She remembers speaking to her pastor and saying, “I think I’m supposed to start a food pantry here.” Her pastor didn’t tell her he thought she was crazy, even though he did. Just a tiny bit. With lots of work, planning and determination, Carol and Pam opened their doors that first month to seven families.

Open Doors is open to its clients once a month and now serves about 30 families a month. Many families have just one parent. Some are shockingly like you and me. They have nice homes in a cozy suburb except at some point, something went terribly wrong leaving them to rely on help from the community until they can recover.

And recover they do! Carol told me that many of the clients do recover from the circumstances that have brought them to her.

While they are with her, Carol makes sure they are treated with the utmost dignity. As she says, she tells all her volunteers “Treat everyone like you would treat your mother, if you liked her.”

I asked Carol about what she needs. Summer, as you can imagine, is a time of great need for families. Many children who get meals at school are not getting those meals now. Their parents now have to stretch their limited funds to provide several more meals a week. Right now, Carol said she needs peanut butter and jelly, pasta sauce, paper goods, and individual servings of macaroni and cheese or Chef Boyardee pasta.

Carol has been very lucky to have some very consistent helpers with her mission. Last year, The Church of Latter Day Saints in Clarksville held an event called The Day to Serve. They collected food and funds that went to Open Doors and plan to do so again this fall.

She has a family that buys fresh vegetables every month for the food pantry and another that buys fresh fruit. She uses the loose change from the church collection plate to buy food from the Maryland Food Bank.

Carol said she can always use help. So if you know anyone looking for service hours, send them her way! But just know, Carol is going to make them work. More than one child has sat around goofing on a smart phone for two hours and left with an unsigned paper.

I asked Carol what people make with the food they get at Open Doors. She said she has searched for recipes online to give the families ideas to help them stretch their food into several meals. One of her favorites is Mac and Cheese with ground beef and stewed tomatoes. She said Mac and Cheese with tuna and bacon is also pretty tasty. Here is a recipe that combines Kraft Mac and Cheese, a staple for many low income families with a little ground beef, some tomatoes and bacon to make some pretty tasty Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese.  I chose to make a sort of Tuna Melt Mac and Cheese. I prepared the Mac and Cheese according to the directions, added a can of tuna, a little onion and tomato and a little extra cheese on top. It was delicious!

July 19th is the one year celebration of Open Doors. The food pantry will operate from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. Then, at 1:00 pm, there will be a picnic to celebrate. If you want to help at the food shelf, the fun starts at 7:30 am, getting ready for the day. If you can’t make it to the celebration, but are interested in helping, you can mail donations to Mt. Zion UMC Church at 12340 Scaggsville Rd, Highland, MD, 20777. Please write “food pantry” in the memo line.

I hope you aren’t ever in a position to go visit Carol or the many of people like her who dedicate their spare time to helping those in need. I am very thankful for her.

July 20th 2013 ODFP Opening Day


Valentine’s Day: Crazy Sexy Pasta

csp2Original Post – February 7, 2013

Valentine’s Day in our house is a bit of a big deal. It’s our oldest child’s birthday. While we don’t buy each other gifts, there really isn’t anything more loving for a couple to do than celebrate the birth of your child over a wonderful meal.

If you’re looking for something special to make your honey (and your family or even just yourself) on Valentine’s Day, this is the dish for you! It’s very quick and easy and incredibly tasty. This dish is so popular in my house, running out of it has been known to make family members cry. They hide leftovers, or in a more recent development, reserve them.

The combination of the salty pancetta with the creamy sauce will make you drool. I used to make this with the traditional three alfredo ingredients of butter, heavy cream and parmesan. I no longer use the heavy cream but start with the same milk sauce I use in my Mac and Cheese. I won’t call this dish light by any means. It’s fatty fat fattening. But it’s nice to indulge once in a while.

Crazy, Sexy Pasta
1- 16 oz box of interesting pasta like Farfalle or Gemelli
4 oz of pancetta or prosciutto
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 TBSP of olive oil
1/4 cup flour
4 TBSP butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 – 3/4 cup Parmesan
pepper to taste

1. Start the water boiling for your pasta. This sauce is so fast that you will have it ready in the time it takes your pasta to cook.
2. Combine oil, garlic and pancetta (or prosciutto) in a sauce pan that is big enough to hold the milk and everything else. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes on medium heat. Remove from pan, drain and set aside. Don’t forget your pasta water! You can probably add the pasta now!
3. Melt butter in the same pan.
4. Sprinkle the flour over the butter and let it soak in for a minute. Then gently mix it around.
5. Add the milk. Some people like to add milk in stages and let it thicken. You can do that or just put it all in at once. Reduce heat to medium – low. Stir frequently until it thickens.
6. When your milk sauce (I heard this term the one time I watched Rachael Ray) is the consistency of a thin pudding, add the cheese. Start with a half a cup and add more if desired. Your sauce should look like the picture below.

7. Add the pancetta and garlic into the sauce and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low.
8. Your pasta is probably done! Drain it well, return it to the pot and pour on the sauce and toss it around.
9. Allow people to pepper to taste.
Serve with a nice salad and a light white wine like a Pinot Grigio. You can toss in some steamed asparagus, too. We’ve done that and it’s fantastic!
I want to emphasize how easy this is to make. My 15 year old son has made this. I decided since it’s his favorite dish that he needed to know how to make it himself. So if you are looking for something really elegant to make for a first Valentine’s Day with your honey, and you don’t feel confident with your cooking, this is it!
Are you planning a less romantic Valentine’s Day? This will work for you, too! Just cut everything in half! You’ll have one serving for dinner and enough for one more meal. Or make the whole thing and have everyone over for an Anti-Valentine potluck!