Comfort Plus!

Creamy Garlic Mac and Cheese 
Comfort plus describes this new Mac and Cheese recipe.  I mentioned last weekend that I want to make some macaroni and cheese for dinner.
 Hubby suggested that since it was the weekend we should try something new and not my tried and true recipe.  I had saved this recipe from a post by The Noble Pig, a blog from a winery out west that I have followed for years.   It has three different types of cheeses and a crispy breadcrumb topping.  Now the one thing about the topping is that my son for some reason says he doesn’t like the bread crumb topping so when I sprinkled it over the top I left a small portion without the topping.
This dished turned out to be delicious.  We made sure we saved some for our daughter’s return from college.  I will make this one again.
1 pound pasta (elbow, macaroni or any other pasta)
1½ tablespoons butter
⅔ cup Panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup flour (all purpose or plain)
4½ cups milk, divided (I used skim, but 2% or full fat are fine to use)
1 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)
salt and pepper, to season
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder (or a vegetable stock powder)
¾ cup low fat grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
6 ounces low fat mozzarella cheese

Boil pasta in salted water, according to packet instructions, until JUST al dente (do not over-boil)! Drain and rinse well with cold water. Set aside.

Preheat oven grill or broiler to 375°F.

To make the topping – Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large, oven proof pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the Panko breadcrumbs; stir to coat and cook until golden browned. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.

To make the sauce:

Melt the ¼ cup of butter in the same pan / skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until just fragrant (about 1 minute). Whisk in the flour; continue to cook while whisking (or stirring) for at least 2 minutes. Reduce heat down to low; gradually whisk in 4 cups of the milk (about ¼ cup at a time), whisking between each addition to combine. Bring to a boil until beginning to thicken.

In a separate jug, combine the cornstarch and remaining ½ cup milk; whisk until lump free and stir through the white sauce to thicken completely. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the bouillon powder.

Remove from heat and add in the cheddar, ¾ cup of parmesan cheese, and the mozzarella slices. Stir through until all of the cheese has melted. Toss the pasta through the sauce until completely coated.
Top with the Panko and the remaining parmesan cheese. Broil (or grill) in oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until bubbling.

Allow to cool down slightly before serving.


Buffalo Chicken Casserole

This has long been a staple in our house.  Who can not resist hash brown potatoes, chicken, cheese and buffalo wing sauce. A quick and easy casserole we found in one of the check out pamphlets that you see at the grocery store.  We tweaked the recipe a bit to our taste and often top with scallions for a bit of color.  I am sure that once our daughter heads back to school, this will be a casserole she will make many times over.
I recently asked her if she wanted to take down some of my recipes and she told me she didn’t need to.  She would just go to my blog and pull up her favorites.  I have also found another fan in  my niece.  If I post something on Pinterest it quickly get’s added to Aunt Joanne’s Yummy Recipes board.  It is nice to know that someone is using these recipe creations!
So give this one a try.  I have to admit – it is one of hubby’s go to recipes!

Buffalo Chicken Casserole

1 1/4 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
6 cups frozen (thawed) southern-style hash brown potatoes
1 cup ranch or blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (2 oz)
1 can (10 oz) condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup corn flake crumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup chopped green onions (3 to 4 medium)

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
 In medium bowl, stir together chicken strips and wing sauce.  In large bowl, stir together potatoes, dressing, cheese and soup. Spoon into baking dish. Place chicken strips in single layer over potato mixture.  In small bowl, stir together crumbs and butter. Sprinkle in baking dish. 

 Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes; uncover and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and juice of chicken is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Sprinkle with green onions.


Taco Tater Casserole

There is nothing more flavorful and fun that tater tots! Now add them to a taco casserole and you reach a new comfort food high.  I will admit that this is a recipe that hubby made.  He has been preparing a lot of meals lately and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.  He finds a recipe and adds his own special tweaks.    Give this one a try.

Taco Tater Casserole

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (4 oz) can Old El Paso diced green chiles
1 (1 oz) package Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (12 oz) package frozen corn
3 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 (28 oz) package frozen tater tots
1 (10 oz) can Old El Paso red enchilada sauce

Toppings: olives, cilantro, sour cream, tomatoes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. For extra crispy tater tots, bake tater tots for about 10 minutes while preparing the beef mixture – otherwise prepare as follows.

In a large skillet, brown the beef and the onion. Add the garlic towards the end of the browning process and cook for 1 minute. Drain.

Add the green chiles, taco seasoning mix, black beans, corn, and 2 cups of the cheese. Stir together to combine. If your skillet isn’t big enough you may need to stir it together in a bowl.

Pour mixture into the prepared 9×13 pan. Arrange tater tots on top of the mixture in a single layer.
Pour the enchilada sauce on top of the casserole as evenly as you can.

Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until tater tots are nice and crispy. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of cheese on top and place back in the oven for 2-3 minutes or until cheese has melted.
Top with olives, cilantro, sour cream, tomatoes when serving if desired.

For extra crispy tater tots, bake tater tots for about 10 minutes while preparing the beef mixture.

This recipe is inspired from the blog – The-girl-who-ate-everything


Chicken Poppyseed Casserole

I have been traveling quite a bit these days so blogging and cooking for me has been set aside.  .  Hubby has been cooking up a storm while I am away and sends me pictures of what he has created and fed the kids for dinner.  The other night was a Dorito Taco Casserole, I believe? 
So this recipe was from about two weeks ago when I was on a day business trip.  Hubby asked me before I left what would taste good to me.  I saw this on Pinterest and said “Make this!”  Ask and you shall  receive.  This was very good and tasty, just what you expect in a casserole.  I guess my favorite part was the Ritz Crackers on top and I am a fan of poppy seeds too.  (See side note below)

Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole


to 4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
16-oz. pkg. wide egg noodles, cooked
24-oz. container sour cream
(10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
8-oz. pkg. shredded Cheddar cheese
8-oz. pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese
sleeve round buttery crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons poppy seed


Combine chicken, noodles, sour cream, soup and cheeses in a large bowl. Pour into a lightly greased 13″x9″ baking dish. Mix together cracker crumbs and margarine; sprinkle over top. Sprinkle poppy seed over cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until crackers are crispy and golden and cheese is melted.


Comfort Food to the Max! Blue Cheese Mac and Cheese

This is extreme comfort food.  So creamy and so tangy with the blue cheese mixed with the sharp cheddar cheese.    My family is big aficionados of blue cheese.  They will eat it on burgers, with steak, salads and just slices of the stuff. They are also big fans of mac and cheese, so this one is a big hit.
 We made this on a night our son had a sleep over and one of his friends said he liked blue cheese, so he had a helping along with the pizza we had made for the sleepover.  I wonder if he went home and told his mom he had Mac and cheese and she thought it was just the regular old stuff? Nothing is ever the old regular stuff around here!

Blue Cheese Macaroni and Cheese


1 pound spiral tube-shaped pasta
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream 
3 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (optional)
bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly (do not allow to brown).
Gradually whisk in milk and cream. Simmer until mixture thickens slightly, whisking occasionally, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add grated cheddar cheese and 1 cup crumbled blue cheese. Whisk until cheese melts, about 2 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Add cooked pasta to sauce; stir to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup blue cheese. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Bake until sauce begins to bubble, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

Dinner, Pasta, Uncategorized

Baked Ziti like no other!

Last Saturday Morning while planning out our weekend we were watching Food Network and the Pioneer Woman was on. We will watch the her show occasionally if we find an interesting recipe on there, but generally this is not one of our regular shows that we might DVR for later viewing. Yeah, you guessed it … the Barefoot Contessa and Giada might get taped if it looks like something new. But she made a baked ziti dish that was more than just ziti, sauce and cheese. This was a layered casserole where the ziti was pre-coated with the cheese and the sauce was home made. It looked like a hearty dish to make and serve with a green salad.

We made our Saturday trip to the grocery store and got all the necessary supplies to make this dish. Saturday night was already taken up by our Daughter’s friends coming over to get ready for the Sadie Hawkins dance at school so we didn’t want to make the ziti for Saturday night. We picked up extra sausage and cheese so that I could whipped up an old recipe I had for Sausage roll and ordered some pizza for the kids to have while they got ready.

So Sunday after church we began the prep work of making the sauce. While that was cooling we ran off to our son’s basketball game. Following the game we brought a friend of his home for dinner. Once we got home we got right to work in finishing up this dish,. Time was limited because we had tickets to a local college basketball game, but dinner came together relatively quick. The ziti was delicious and it will spoil me for any other ziti dish I have now. A very hearty dish and plenty of leftovers, two nights worth to be exact.

The Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
Two 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce or marinara sauce
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ziti
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella, grated
One 15-ounce tub whole-milk ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
2 eggs


Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and saute until starting to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the ground beef and sausage and cook until browned. Drain off almost all of the fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture. Add the tomato sauce, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and some salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a simmer and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove 3 to 4 cups of the cooked sauce to a bowl to cool down.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add some salt. Cook the ziti until not quite al dente.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, eggs and some salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps). Add the cooled reserved meat sauce and toss to combine.

Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta and the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before


Sunday casserole for Super Bowl

Hubby was going to guest blog on this one, but time ran out and I decided to post this myself.  Now let’s make this very clear, I did not make this dish, hubby did.  He made the substitutions, he did the shopping and then he whipped it all together.  It was a great Sunday Casserole with left overs for a busy week ahead.  I also think that this would be great for the Super Bowl.  Substitutions in bold, so pay close attention. 
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts  (Now he used a rotisserie chicken and removed the meat.  No boiled chicken for us!)
  • Salt and pepper
  • (24 oz.) jar pasta sauce 
  • (5-inch) corn tortillas. – we used flour tortillas
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack (8 oz.)
  • small tomato, sliced 
  • Secret ingredient – 1 pack of taco seasoning


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  2. ORIGINAL DIRECTIONS Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in a small skillet and add cold water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, turning once or twice, until opaque and firm, about 10 minutes. Remove, let cool and cut into small pieces or shred. You should have about 3 cups cut-up chicken.
OUR DIRECTIONS – remove meat from rotisserie chicken.

  1. Mix taco seasoning packet with pasta sauce – Spread one-third of sauce over bottom of a 7-by-11-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 tortillas, slightly overlapping, on top. Sprinkle one-third of chicken and cilantro over tortillas. Top with a third of cheese. Make two more layers of sauce, tortillas, chicken, cilantro and cheese. Arrange tomato on final layer of cheese. Cover with foil and bake until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook until top is lightly browned, 10 minutes more.

More Ham…and Scalloped Potatoes

More leftovers? Yup that is right, we had ham leftovers to use up.  So what do you do with Ham Leftovers…..Ham and scalloped potatoes.

Now I could of used my moms recipe, but I don’t believe she ever wrote it down.  She would just throw something together and the outcome would be good.  But that wasn’t what I was looking for.  I wanted a recipe that if I liked it I would have it the next time we had ham leftovers.  What I liked about this recipe is the sautéed onions and cheese that was added.  I also added a bit of fresh thyme to the sauce.
So, while I am typing this I was just thinking….is Ham the traditional Christmas dish?  Turkey is
Thanksgiving, and I see Ham as an  Easter staple, so what is the traditional Christmas meal? 

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes (From Food Network)


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
12 ounces 1/4 inch sliced baked ham
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and set aside. In a skillet, cook onions in melted butter until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 of the white sauce in bottom of baking dish and top with half of the potatoes. Spread out half of the onions, ham, cheese And another third of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Continue layering ingredients, ending with the remaining cheese on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly. (Test the potatoes to make sure they are done.  It may take a few more minutes to assure they are tender)


Quick, Delicious and Easy

It was Saturday morning and we were planning out our day.  Our daughter was in the school musical and needed to be back at the school by 12:00 p.m. for the 2 p.m. show. 
OK, wait back track…  we got home Saturday morning at 12:30 a.m. from the Friday night performance with two car loads full of 16 year old girls that were going to sleep over.  Now back to Saturday…..  Pancakes were made, fruit was cut up and 7 girls emerged from the basement. Once everyone had departed, we had to take our daughter and a friend back to school by 12:00.  We wanted to stop by the local home improvement store to price out some items for our bathroom remodel and we needed to have a dinner plan so that we could be all done, cleaned up and out the door at 6:00 p.m. to go to the final performance.  Out of the stack of must try recipes came the  Quick Beef and Cheddar Casserole from Food Network.
Well, we had run all of our errands, dropped off the girls at school, picked up our daughter’s artwork from the Scholastic art show and then returned home after a stop at the hot dog stand and then the frozen yogurt store mid afternoon.  My wonderful husband (he likes the shout outs!) said he was going to  head to the gym for about an hour because if he stayed home he would of fallen asleep.  Once he returned he would make dinner.  Well, 4:15 p.m. rolled around and no hubby yet, so I got off the couch and started dinner.  And it was quick, easy and delicious!  This would be great for a week night.  Give it a try! 
Oh, the show was even better the second time around!

Beef  and Cheddar Casserole


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
Kosher salt
3 cups wide egg noodles (about 5 ounces)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
12 ounces ground beef
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts), finely chopped (save some greens for top)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
One 14 1/2-ounce can petite diced tomatoes or 1 can of Rotel tomatoes
2 cups grated Cheddar


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a 2-quart baking dish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and put in the prepared baking dish. Toss with the sour cream, Parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the bell peppers and scallions and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Make a space in the pan, add the tomato paste and toast for a minute. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the diced tomatoes, stir and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

Pour the beef mixture over the noodles and sprinkle with the grated Cheddar. Bake on the middle rack until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle on reserved greens from scallions.


Aunt Liz’s Chicken Casserole

I looked in my freezer the other day and thought wow, we really need to clean this out.  The door didn’t want to shut and there was a few things that we had forgotten about.  so I began to look through and get rid of some things that had been around too long, but low and behold in the bottom drawer there was a package marked Casserole Chicken. Date was still good and we needed to have a few items ready to cook that week with all of the kids activities going on.  I pulled out our handy binder of favorite meals and found this little gem.

Aunt Liz’s Chicken Casserole


2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast 
2 cups uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken into 2-inch pieces,about 7 ounces (make sure they are about 2 inches in length to make it easier to stir)
1 cup (1/4-inch-thick) slices celery
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (10.75-ounce) cans condensed 30% reduced-sodium 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
Cooking spray
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine broth, salt, pepper, and soup in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add soup mixture to chicken mixture; toss. Divide mixture evenly between 2 (8-inch) square or (2-quart) baking dishes coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over each casserole. Cover with foil coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

This is from Cooking Light so less guilt when enjoying!
Now doesn’t a nice casserole sound delightful?