Vintage Recipe: Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese

WIN_20160106_180537Mac ‘n Cheese is the ultimate Midwestern American comfort food. If you’ve been following Crowded Earth Kitchen for a while, you know that we have a big old foodie crush on Paris… but not even Paris does Mac ‘n Cheese as well as the American Midwest. We’ve been experimenting with recipes for Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese for a while, working to create a recipe that just simply doesn’t need to be improved any further. This is it. Enjoy!

WIN_20160106_170048Ingredients (Fills a deep dish pie plate)

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup light cottage cheese

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/2 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound box of medium shells or macaroni noodles

WIN_20160106_163123Directions

Step 1) Pour chicken stock into a large saute pan and boil for 10 minutes or until reduced until only about 1/2 cup of liquid remains. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Step 2) Add shells or macaroni to a large pot of boiling water. Cook until al dente, or just a bit chewy – don’t overcook! Drain when al dente is reached.

Step 3) While pasta is cooking, add mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, and sharp cheddar cheeses to the saute pan with the reduced chicken stock. Heat on a low setting, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted.

Step 4) After shells or macaroni are cooked and drained, add the cottage cheese, sour cream, and curry powder to the melted cheese mixture. Stir over low heat until thoroughly blended.

Step 5) Combine the cooked, drained noodles and the cheese mixture. Stir until noodles are evenly coated, and transfer the mixture to a greased deep dish pie plate or casserole dish. Sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Step 6) Cover with foil and bake your Ultimate Mac ‘n Cheese in a preheated 325 degree oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately with a fresh green salad.

World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread

cinnamon-bread-cropped

Half Loaf of Cinnamon Bread – Look at that yummy center!

I really shouldn’t share this, because I’m giving one of my big secrets away. You see, I like to bake loaves of this cinnamon bread for other people, because who doesn’t love cinnamon bread?! People seem to be under the impression that baking this bread is a real labor of love. Well, here’s the big secret… this recipe is stone simple and takes hardly any time at all to prepare.  😉

Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves of World’s Easiest Cinnamon Bread)

2 loaves bread dough*

*Either thaw two loaves of Rhodes frozen white bread dough, available in the freezer section of any supermarket, or make a batch of Simple Bread dough and stop at the end of step 5!

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 generous tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

Step 1) Melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Step 2) Grease a counter top with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out the dough into a rectangle approximately 10″ wide and 16″ long.

Step 3) Beginning right along one of the 10″ edges, spread half of the butter/sugar mixture over the dough rectangle. Leave about an inch along each of the long sides bare. Leave about 2 inches along the far, 10″ edge bare.

Step 4) Gently roll up the dough, beginning with the 10″ edge covered in butter/sugar, and rolling toward the 10″ bare edge. The 10″ bare edge should be on the bottom of your rolled up loaf, with the seam on the bottom. Gently pull the side ends down and tuck underneath the loaf.

Step 5) Repeat Steps 2 – 4 with the second half of the dough and the second half of the butter/sugar mixture.

Step 6) Grease a very large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Then, lightly sprinkle the entire baking sheet with cornmeal.

Step 7) Carefully set your two loaves on the baking sheet, with the seams on the bottom. Leave at least 3 inches of space around all sides of each loaf. If your baking sheet is not large enough to allow this, use two baking sheets!

Step 8) Allow your loaves to rest while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees (do not begin preheating until Step 7 is complete). Then, after your oven is preheated, place your loaves on the center rack. Bake for 25 minutes or until loaves are light golden brown. Remove loaves from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Optional: After loaves are cool, drizzle with cream cheese frosting for an added treat!

Pepper Steak Stew

beef2This simple slow-cooker recipe offers up the hearty, savory flavors of traditional pepper steak, but uses a less expensive cut of beef. I like to double this recipe and freeze half for workday lunches Enjoy – your tummy and your wallet will thank you!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat Continue reading

World’s Easiest Chicken Chili

chiliHow  easy is this chicken chili?

It’s so easy, you’ll be eating chicken chili faster than you’d be eating if you picked up dinner at a fast food drive-thru. Don’t believe me? Set your stopwatch, and let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 4 – 6)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (you can buy this frozen or even canned if you’d like) Continue reading

Weeknight Spaghetti Bake

win_20161005_192041Think lasagna, but simpler to prepare. If you can boil spaghetti noodles, you can make Weeknight Spaghetti Bake successfully! Squares of this one dish meal can be enjoyed on their own or served with a crisp green salad. This dish freezes well, too – perfect for busy weekday lunches!

Ingredients (Makes 1 large pan, serves 8 – 12)

1 pound box of spaghetti noodles

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup olives, sliced mushrooms, and/or diced peppers (your preference)

1 pound lean ground beef

4 cups spaghetti sauce (homemade or store-bought)

2 cups shredded mozzarella and/or mild cheddar cheese

Salt and Pepper

win_20161005_164553Directions

Step 1) Brown ground beef. Drain, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Step 2) Cook spaghetti noodles to al dente, according to package directions. Drain well. Toss spaghetti noodles with egg and parmesan cheese. Transfer spaghetti noodle mixture to a greased, 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Spread noodles evenly over bottom of pan.

win_20161005_165219Step 3) Use a teaspoon to spread ricotta cheese over the spaghetti noodles. Top with olives, sliced mushrooms, and or diced peppers, and sprinkle with crushed, dried oregano.

Step 4) Next, top the ricotta and vegetables with ground beef. Pour sauce over the ground beef, making sure to coat the entire pan evenly with sauce. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven.

win_20161005_165712Step 5) After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven. Remove foil and sprinkle shredded cheese over the entire pan. Return pan (uncovered) to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Step 6) Allow Weeknight Spaghetti Bake to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving. Enjoy!

win_20161005_175432

Drunken Spare Ribs

WIN_20160103_092431It’s springtime, you’re busy, and the fussiness of holiday meals is behind you for a while. Spring is the perfect time of year to pull out your slow cooker and make a few easy, hearty, delicious dinners. Drunken Spare Ribs are perfect busy day fare. You can throw everything in the slow cooker in less than five minutes on a busy morning, and have a hot, delicious meal waiting for you at the end of the day. Enjoy!

WIN_20160102_203803Ingredients (Serves 4)

2 pounds boneless spare ribs Continue reading