Monday, October 19, 2015

Accidental Aromatherapy - Cheatin' Cheese and Macaroni

As expected, it was a rough morning, due in no less part to the pounding in my chest.  The palpitations have not been this bad for a very long time - years, in fact - and I see a visit to the doctor in my future. The problem is that I've had enough of doctors to last me a lifetime, and I am no more interested in getting back on that particular treadmill than I am in running the New York Marathon.  I know it's my heart, because after struggling to get up to retrieve the Inderal, and having to lie down after taking it, within 15 minutes the worst of the pounding stops. Hum. Well, I'll think about that tomorrow.

Today, if I do nothing else, I am going to prepare the kasha varnishkes. Actually, I've already done something else - popped the defrosted pork loin roast in the oven - so I definitely have to do the kasha. I've been having kasha cravings, and those cannot be denied. This is one of those dishes I grew up with, totally Ashkenazic Brooklyn Jewish cooking, and I make it just as my grandmother did, because she rocked this dish.

I also rearranged some of the other ingredients I bought to do one thing but am now going to do another. So besides the kasha varnishkes, without the mushrooms I had originally planned on, I am going to try an Emerilized version of green bean casserole, with those mushrooms, but without the prosciutto I was going to wrap around green bean bundles. The prosciutto is instead draped over the pork loin, which was already well-seasoned with Jamaican Jolt seasoning prior to my freezing it back in January. All I can say is that my kitchen smells good and is going to smell even better in a few minutes when the onions hit the hot oil.

Speaking of good smells, I had some aromatherapy today and it was quite relaxing. Now, I like essential oils, my favorites being lavender and ylang-ylang, but I am here to tell you that the best aromatherapy is no further than your herb garden. Oh, you don't have an herb garden? You might want to rethink that - you can grow them in pots on a window sill, unless you have a cat. Cats love herbs, and not just catnip. Cats knock over potted plants, just because they can.


Fernleaf Dill

Onion Chives

Lemon Thyme

Crush a leaf between your fingers and inhale (it's okay to inhale here). Some herbs, like rosemary, don't even need to be crushed for you to catch that wonderful aroma.  And truly, the scent of your favorite herb is wonderfully pleasing to mind and body. Even if you don't cook much, you should grow herbs.

Purple Basil

Garden Sage


Spearmint, my favorite

Spicy Globe Basil

Here's another recipe from this weekend's cooking marathon:

Cheatin' Cheese and Macaroni

2 tablespoons butter
16 oz. box large elbows
16 oz. whole milk ricotta
6 oz. crumbled feta
1 cup sour cream

2 jars Ragu Double Cheddar sauce
1 cup heavy cream, divided
1 1/2 cup extra sharp cheddar
1 1/2 cup mozzarella
2 cups pepper jack

1 1/2 cups French's French Fried Onions
2 tablespoons butter

This is an easier version of my Frankenchikaroni. It does not have the buffalo chicken nuggets, but it does have a very rich, very cheesy, velvetty almost fluffy sauce, and the large elbow pasta does it justice.  There is no roux nor Velveeta, but you will have to take a deep breath and purchase two bottles of Ragu cheese sauce. Relax, it's pretty good. I kept the French's onion topping because Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and well, those are French's French fried onions and some of us eat them straight from their container because they are that good. And naughty.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep aluminum pan and put the pan into the preheating oven to melt the butter. Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions, rinse and drain well.  In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni with the feta, ricotta and sour cream. Set aside.

Pour the cheese sauce into a medium saucepan. Add half of the heavy cream to each sauce bottle, put the lids on, and shake well.  Pour the contents of the bottles into the saucepan.  Bring up the heat; add the shredded cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella cheeses and stir until melted. Combine the macaroni and the cheese sauce, and scoop into the buttered pan.

Generously top the macaroni with the fried onions and pour the melted butter over the onions. Bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the onions are uniformly well-browned.

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