Pressure Cooker Pasta... and Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

Pressure Cooker Pasta(perfect al-dente!)_... and Creamy Mac and Cheese.  You know, I 'm not much of a pasta person... ok, let me back up a bit. I do like pasta, but somehow I tend to associate it with too many calories. Maybe it's the pasta with the cream sauces. And as I'm writing this, I sound like I don't like a good bowl of creamy alfredo or any pasta coated with lots of butter and cream, but I do! The thing is, I really can't have it often, otherwise I'll really put on the pounds:). So I stay away... On the other hand, I do like a good noodle dish with lots of vegetables... this one is a favorite! However, I'll admit that once in a while I crave a good mac and cheese... one that is creamy and quick to make without being too heavy. 

So for this post, my original intention was to share a recipe that uses the pressure cooker... to cook pasta in half the time it would normally take otherwise, attaining that perfect al dente texture. But as I was cooking the pasta, I thought about the possibilities of turning it into a one pot meal... just to bring about a quick meal. Why not make some creamy mac and cheese? I could hardly remember when I last had a good bowl of macaroni and cheese. It's been years, I'm sure.

HOW TO COOK Quick Salsa

Quick Salsa... I admit that nothing can beat fresh salsa. But, when you live in Montana, fresh tomatoes aren't as readily available during the winter months.... or good ones, anyway. So, I opt to do this version from time to time. It is quick and it uses canned diced(or whole) tomatoes. It works pretty well. The canned tomatoes have to be in their own juice, not puree(check the label). If you can, get an organic one, like Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes. But really, any brand will work just fine. Hope you enjoy...

You will need:
14.5 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
1-2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeno (ribs and seeds removed, or not)
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4-1/2 onion (I added 1/4)
juice of lime (or just as fine)
splash of olive oil

Flour Brownies

King Arthur Flour Brownies...An Awesome Recipe! Have you ever had brownies that are about 1 inch thick and are chewy, fudgy, chocolatey, and a bit cake-like with a nice shiny, crackly top all at the same time? Well, I recently made a BIG batch of brownies...a 13x9 pan! The whole batch had about 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of butter! You know they had to be good:).

My husband has been asking me to make him some brownies...I haven't made brownies for a while now. And whenever I do make brownies, I most always make my World's Chocolatiest Brownies...because my husband thinks they are simply the best. But you see, I have been wanting to make King Arthur Flour's fudgy brownie... a brownie that is KAF guaranteed(meaning they will come out as described). They looked so ... well, like brownies should look,...fudgy with a shiny, crackly crust. I HAD to make them, even if the recipe had well over 2 cups of sugar and 2 sticks of butter. I told myself that it was o.k.... since the recipe did make a BIG pan. I guess I could have halved the recipe. But I didn't. And decided to make the whole batch. I guess I wanted to see what they were like, if it would be a great recipe to have on hand when I need to make a big batch.

Cookies with Chocolate Glaze

Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Glaze. This cookie has a milder chocolate flavor... than say, the brownie cookie I posted earlier. But it still has plenty of chocolate flavor coming from all the chocolate- almond spread, chocolate chips, and chocolate glaze. It's a nice soft cookie....
While the original recipe uses Nutella, I chose to use a chocolate almond butter/spread...just because I had a jar in the house. I can only imagine the hazelnut flavor would be quite delicious. So feel free to use Nutella instead. Yet another cookie that can be made quickly...and varies the cookie platter up a bit:). So here is #4 in a series of desserts. Hope you enjoy...

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread... or Homemade "Nutella" I realize making your own homemade "nutella" isn't anything new. If you've made your own nutella, you know it's totally worth making. Normally, the homemade nutella is made with just toasted hazelnuts, cocoa, sugar and oil... and maybe a bit of vanilla. This version is simple to make... and can make wonderful hostess gifts.  

I'll admit the homemade version doesn't taste exactly like the store-bought version. The homemade has more of a pronounced chocolate and hazelnut flavor, it's also a bit thicker and not as smooth. But that's ok by me. Actually, I like the tiny bits of hazelnuts that give the spread character. However, if you use a super powerful blender, such as a Vitamix, you'll actually get a pretty smooth spread... and you'll hardly notice the "roughness". I used a Vitamix... and you can see in the photos how smooth the spread turned out.

This  homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread is a bit different than the cocoa version because it uses chocolate instead. You can make a dark chocolate version by adjusting the cocoa percentage to your liking and even adjust sugar to preference. Sometimes it's nice to combine milk and dark chocolate... or even use bits of chocolate you may have around. Of course, the better chocolate you use, the better the outcome. If you don't care for hazelnuts, you can opt to use another nut of choice, even peanuts, or some toasted sesame seed paste(tahini) or sunflower seed butter. 

Easy All-Purpose Chocolate Cake;Perfect for Ice Cream Sandwiches

Easy All-Purpose Chocolate Cake...Perfect for Ice Cream Sandwiches. Some time ago, I stumbled upon the FineDinings website. Some of you may have noticed that I have it on my helpful links....some of you may have not noticed it at all:) I enjoy the site and have enjoyed making a couple of her recipes....there's a picture with every recipe, so that is always helpful. It takes a bit to manuever yourself through the site, dodging all the ads...but, there are some wonderful recipes. What I really like about the site, is that you can make some elegant restaurant dishes right in your own home. There are tips on how to make things ahead of time so that the meal can come together without so much stress. I was amazed with the author's creativity and most of all her story. You can read more information about how she started her website will be absolutely amazed! This chocolate cake recipe is from her site and I will soon post another recipe that uses this same cake to make something marvelous! But for now, I will post the chocolate cake....which I used to make ice cream sandwiches! By the way, the chocolate cake is more like a devil's food cake ... soft, delicious, and not too sweet.
Some time ago, I made Giada's Hazelnut Gelato. Now, I like Giada's recipes, but this time around, I was a bit disappointed. Don't get me was edible and all. Actually, some really liked it! Maybe it was just me...but, I wasn't crazy about it. It was smooth... with a faint hazelnut chocolate taste. It had more of a "hot chocolate" taste.... I thought the gelato was a bit more sugary and not as creamy as I would have liked it. Anyway, I still had quite a lot of the gelato in my freezer, and I wanted to use it up. So, I made this chocolate cake and "hid" my gelato between the cake, making ice cream sandwiches. It worked...and my gelato was transformed! But, feel free to use store bought ice cream to make this simple dessert. I am sure kids(and adults) will love it...

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Cauliflower Crust Pizza.... Gluten-Free, Grain-Free. Since I recently shared my now favorite flour-based thin crust pizza, I could not not share a gluten-free version:). This gluten-free pizza crust has swept the blogging world like fire over the past year or so.... although it's been made long before that. But I've been lazily procrastinating making the crust. I'll be honest, I'm not much of a follower of most trends. I say most, because every once in a while, something that's trending may catch my eye... and I'll add it to my to do list, especially if it sounds like something I might enjoy or can tweak. And truthfully, I wasn't  really keen on the idea at first. I mean really, cauliflower? But....  

Chicken with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Chicken with Fresh Tomato Sauce...or Romanian " Mancare de Rosii cu Pui ". This past week I had some really nice garden-fresh tomatoes at my disposal. As I was contemplating on what to do with them, I remembered a dish I grew up with, called Mancare de Rosii. I hadn't made the dish in years. But it would be good to make it...the dish would bring back wonderful memories of the simple meal my mom used to make for us while growing up.
Every summer, my mom would have an abundance of fresh tomatoes in the garden. And we always looked forward to the garden-fresh tomatoes. We most often would devour the tomatoes in a salad...a simple salad consisting of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and seasoned with oil and salt. The salad was often served alongside a main meal. But during hot summer days, the salad would easily be a mid-afternoon "snack" that would cool us down a bit....and we always had plenty of french bread to sop up the tomato juice. Even though we preferred the tomato salad, my mom would use some of the fresh tomatoes to make other dishes...

the seafood.

Summer Vegetable "Ceviche"... without the seafood.  I don't normally post salad recipes. And maybe this isn't a salad per se... maybe it's more of an appetizer or a side dish that can accompany some grilled seafood. Salads in our house are quite simple, nothing out of the ordinary. But every once in a while, I come upon a salad recipe that's worth posting. This is one of them...

This summer vegetable salad is treated in the same manner as you would a fresh seafood ceviche. The salad omits the seafood, yet keeps all the wonderful flavors associated with ceviche. Because this recipe makes use of summer produce, it's an ideal dish to make after a visit to the farmer's market. A cool and refreshing sort of salad that's vegetarian, as well as vegan... not to mention gluten-free.  Perfect for the hot summer months.

Grilled Harissa Chicken... with millet and tomato salad

Grilled Harissa Chicken... with millet and tomato salad. Leftover chicken can be sliced and  used as lunchmeat. I'm always thrilled to add another chicken recipe to my collection of simple and delicious chicken meals. I'll admit these aren't the best pictures... was hurrying up the dish, and really didn't take my time to properly heat up the grill, therefore the lack of good grill marks on the chicken. On the other hand, the chicken came out so moist and quite delicious:). In any case, this recipe came about one day when I decided to do something different with the defrosted chicken breasts I had on hand. Knowing we wouldn't eat them all at one sitting, I immediately thought of grilling them. Grilled chicken always tastes better, and it makes for good leftovers. 
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