Saturday, March 31, 2012

Baked Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese is one of those comfort foods that everyone loves in some form. Growing up, I never had the stuff from a box, and I was OK with that. Mom always made it from scratch using Velveeta, milk, butter, and whatever pasta we happened to have. As I started making it for myself I started adding pepperjack cheese, broccoli, bread crumbs, and baking it from time to time. Then one day I came across this recipe from How Sweet It Is and we decided we should try it. (By the way, that blog is definitely worth a look...good stuff happens there..)

On a side note, Law School Husband made a big decision this week. He decided that he did not want to continue this career path. After talking with several professors, friends, and me, he withdrew from school and is now searching for what will truly make him happy. I am very supportive of this decision, however I can no longer call him Law School Husband! From now on, he will be known as TBDH (to-be-determined-husband or the-best-damn-husband).

Back to food, I am not typically a fan of food that has buffalo in the title, but this intrigued me. It doesn't have much buffalo sauce and it is a change from standard mac and cheese. So we gave it a shot. I have made this several times now and it gets better every time I make it!

Time: 35ish min
1 lb pasta (shells, elbow macaroni, whatever floats your boat)
2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or cubed (I almost always use some sort of leftovers for this)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese, about 4 oz or half a small brick
1/3 cup shredded cheddar, and a little extra for topping
1/3 cup buffalo sauce
1 tsp garlic pepper
salt and black pepper
1/3 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Cook chosen pasta according to standard directions, drain and set aside.

In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, melt the tablespoon of butter. When it had melted, add the flour and whisk to make it smooth. Let your roux sit for a bit and get a pretty golden color.

Yours should look more golden than this...remember I do food, not photography.

Once the roux has become golden, add the milk and stir to mix in the roux. Continue to whisk or stir until the milk has thickened. Next, add in the grated cheese and keep stirring until the cheese melts in to the milkyness and everything become smooth.

Not quite smooth at this point..

Once it is all smooth, add in the buffalo sauce and garlic pepper. Stir it all up and add salt and pepper to taste.

So orange and delicious...
It if seems a little thin, it will be ok. Baking it helps it thicken a bit more. Once the sauce is seasoned to your liking, combine the pasta, chicken and sauce. I just dumped everything into the pot I cooked the pasta in but do whatever you please.

Mix it all up until everything is combined. Grease a 9x13 pan or a preferred casserole dish. This can also be made in individual ramekins if you feel like it. Dump the mixture in and make it even.

Mine is much small than a 9x13, but I was also only making a half recipe.

Top you pasta with some extra cheddar cheese and bread crumbs and throw it in the oven!

Mine was already in the oven before I realized I needed to snap a picture.
After about 20 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly. I recommend turning the broiler on for 3ish minutes to help the bread crumbs crisp up more and create a nice crust on top.

Dish it up and enjoy!

I'm tempted to try this with bacon, but TBDH was sure how the bacon would be with buffalo sauce...I just really like bacon. It is suggested in the original posting to top your plate with green onions, Gorgonzola cheese, extra buffalo sauce, or cilantro, but we like it just as it is.

Original post at

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Creamy Cajun Pasta

I didn't realize until a friend asked me about my blog that I haven't posted in almost a month. School has been crazy! Everything has been piling up and my blog has honestly slipped my mind. But I'm back! It's spring break and my batteries are slowly recharging. I plan to start posting more frequently again. The recipe for today is one that I have made several times and that I have started spotting on pintrest. Cajun Chicken Pasta comes from the popular Ree Drummond If you have not visited her site, your probably should. She has some amazing recipes on there and even has her own book now. Good stuff. This pasta is absolutely delicious if you like spicy, creamy pasta. It's got a cajun zing, veggies, and a creamy sauce to top of your pasta of choice.

Time: 30-40 minutes (depends on how fast you chop and slice things)
3 chicken breasts cut into cubes (I normally use 1 huge one for LSH and I and it makes plenty)
4 tsps cajun mix (use whatever you have or the recipe to follow)
1 lb pasta (Pioneer Woman uses fettuccine but I just use whatever long pasta we have.)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter (You know it's good when olive oil AND butter are involved.)
1 whole green bell pepper sliced
1 whole red bell pepper sliced
1/2 onion sliced (she used red but I always use yellow)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Cayenne pepper

Go ahead and cook the pasta according to directions and let it hang out while you get everything else cooked.

Before you do anything else, make sure you have all your ingredients ready to go. I'm lazy and do not always prep my ingredients before I start cooking. You better do the right thing and prep for this one or else you will have some issues. Cube that chicken, slice those veggies, and have cups ready for you broth and cream. Also have a whisk available.

Toss the cubed chicken with 2 tsp Cajun seasoning.

Pour 1 Tbsp olive oil in a deep heavy skillet (preferably not non-stick) over medium high heat and introduce the oil to 1 Tbsp of butter. I'm not really sure why both are necessary, but it doesn't seem like something to be messed with. Once the oil and butter are well acquainted, throw in the chicken and watch it sizzle. Brown the chicken on all sides and remove it to a plate. The chicken does not get fully cooked in this step.

Leaving the pan hot, add in the other Tbsp of oil and butter and let them get reacquainted. Throw in the peppers, onions, and garlic. Careful with this step because stuff my sizzle and pop as it hits the pan! Sprinkle on the other 2 tsp of Cajun seasoning and cook over the high heat. The goal is to stir slowly and allow the veggies to blacken as much as possible. Once they are good and blackened, toss in the tomatoes and cook for another 30 seconds or so. Remove the veggies to the same plate or bowl as the chicken.

Still keeping the pan over high heat, pour in the wine and chicken broth. Scrape the bottom of the pan as the liquids heat up and get all those blackened goodies incorporated into the sauce. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium low and pour in the cream whisking fiercely. Cook the sauce until it starts to thicken. At this point, taste and decide if cayenne pepper, black pepper, or salt are needed. We like it spicy but it's up to you.

Once it has thickened a bit more, add the chicken and veggies to the sauce, including all the juiced from the plate/bowl. Stir over medium heat for a couple minutes until the sauce thickens even more and is bubbly.

When it has reached your desired consistency, toss in the pasta and mix it all up. Top with a bit of parsley and you are good to go! FYI, the longer this pasta sits, the thicker it will become.
Original recipe:

Cajun spice mixture (from TLC Cooking)
1/4 cup salt
2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp dried cloves

Mix it all together! This makes a lot but it's a good spice mix to just have on hand. It keeps well in a air-tight container.