Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vegan Mac n Cheese and Some of the Best Freakin Chocolate Available: Plugging other people's cooking for once

Oy! This month of activity has yet to slow down! Between family events, house hunting (we are THISCLOSE to buying a place!), and the like, it seems like we've barely had a second to relax. Of course, all this buzzing about is for good reason, so I really can't complain. Count one's blessings and other such Pollyanna-isms, right?

Any who, this month Tony and I had to do without our 2 closest buddies in the city. Matt & Meredith run an extremely groovy online shop over at, where you can buy some excellent graphic tees, bags, etc. while supporting local animal causes. They are also the authors of the equally groovy ex-boyfriend blog, which you really ought to be following by now.

Anyway, M&M - in addition to being outstanding drinking buddies - are also phenomenal chefs. Vegan chefs, at that. They can do things with rice milk and leeks that would blow your mind. So as an homage to our departed travelers, we decided to make some vegan mac and cheese using a recipe Matt developed.

Now, some of you might remember my failed previous attempt at this dish, but Matt's recipe is pretty awesome and pretty idiot-proof. All you need are a handful of easy-to-find ingredients, a sturdy pot, and the self restraint to keep from sticking your head directly into the finished dish. If you, like me, have more creme brulee ramekins than most French restaurants, then I suggest spooning out some of the finished M&C, sprinkling each ramekin with toasted breadcrumbs, and then giving it a few minutes under the broiler. You won't even know it's vegan. AND it's a tad better for you than regular blue-box brand M&C, as there are no trans fats, cholesterol, or gluten to muck up your system. I'm not posting the recipe just yet (it is Matt's, after all), but I'll be happy to share it per request.

This month I've also been lucky enough to sample some of the OUT OF THIS WORLD goodness that is the Sweeteeth line of chocolate bars out of Charleston, SC. My older sister introduced the family to the confectioner after she won a contest by inventing a plum & mascarpone truffle, which I never got to try (*grumble, grumble*). The store is planning to open an online shop soon - THANK GOD - so in due time you'll be able to munch on the A’Chocolypse (Candied Ginger) or the Cinnapsis (Cinnamon Apple and Candied Pecans - my personal fav) or the Sea is for Caramel (Salted Caramel - excellent for the taunting of loved ones, such as your brother-in-law).

On a recent trip down to Clemson, Tony and I decided to stop in Raleigh to hang with his cousin. Leslie lives and attends school in the area, no too far from her mom, who joined us for dinner. We went to Mez, where Leslie's boyfriend works, to dine on some high end Mexican cuisine. Tony and Leslie had different versions of fish tacos, while I put the hurt on a chille rellenos filled with roasted veggies, raisins, almonds, and cheese. This was followed by a plate of piping hot churros served with an extremely decadent Mexican hot chocolate, which we took turns drinking.

Finally, I haven't really had a chance to post about them in detail, but I've been tweaking a few home recipes using the goodies sent over by innBrooklyn. The roasted red peppers were sauteed with the onions from the pickled cauliflower and then added to some roasted turkey kielbasa. This was served with a side of vegan M&C and some roasted asparagus and sliced beets. Later in the week, we mixed the cauliflower with some diced tomatoes, added some sugar to tone down the acid in the dish, and then added some roasted garlic. After a few minutes, we had a decent topping for some grilled chicken breasts. Oh yeah...

June is just around the corner and I'm already staring down the barrel of a supersaturated calendar: a retirement party in Pittsburgh, a dual-baby shower (which I volunteered to host in a moment of madness), a trip to Atlantic City to watch Conan O'Brien do his thing, closing on a friggin house already, and joining my buddy Indira as we run the 2010 Baltimore 10-miler.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need a second to catch my breath.

Monday, May 10, 2010

WWBBD: Hammy Figure Skaters & Mac n Cheese for Grown-ups

Sincerest apologies for the blogging delay. Things (mostly house hunting) have been busy. And exhausting. Good lord finding a house is a pain that just won't quit. On top of costing amounts of money I haven't handled since I last played Monopoly, checking out houses often leaves Tony and I without time to make a proper meal.

Thank the Almighty for DVR. And for Food Network, which helps us unwind from a long day of property scouting as well as providing ideas for quick and easy meals.

It also provides some seriously campy entertainment. My new culinary guilty pleasure is without a doubt the latest in celeb-tv-food making:

Holy camp, Batman! WWBBM is a 30-minute can of ham. Mr. Boitano is a tad on the fey side at times and his show is about as cheese-tastic as...well, men's figure skating, but he does make some mean eats.

Case in point: Brian Boitano's Cheese Cart Mac n Cheese. It's the adult version of the boxed stuff, complete with toasted bread crumbs. SERIOUS YUM.

Great news! The kind folks over at innBooklyn decided to share some delectable and eco-friendly picnic gear and treats with yours truly. Tony and I get to try out some compostable picnic wear by Wasara whilst chowing down on pickled cauliflower, beets, and peppers. I've not actually had the opportunity to eat any of these, so if you have some recipe ideas for how to enjoy them, feel free to share!

I'm hoping to have some good news (and a second attempt at vegan Mac n Cheese, 'cause I just can't get enough of the stuff) by week's end. And I swear I will get that give away up on the boards. It's good to pass that kind of karma along, right?


Cheese Cart Mac and Cheese
(Recipe courtesy Brian Boitano and the Food Network)

1 pound orecchiette pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk, at room temperature
1/4 pound Asiago cheese, shredded
1/4 pound fontina cheese, shredded
1/4 pound Gouda cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Crunchy Garlic Bread Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups fresh bread crumbs, toasted*
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, in a saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk in the flour and cook stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and whisk well to get rid of all the lumps. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cheeses and season with white pepper and salt, to taste. Drain the pasta from the water and return it back to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to combine.

  3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the parsley, bread crumbs, and Parmesan. Mix until the bread crumbs are completely coated with butter mixture.

  4. Serve the mac and cheese in small bowls topped with the garlic bread crumbs.

Cook's Note:

If you can't find fresh bread crumbs then cut about a quarter of a loaf of crusty Italian bread into small cubes. Add the cubes in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Put the bread crumbs onto a sheet pan and toast in a preheated 375 degree F oven until lightly brown and toasted, about 8 minutes.