Monday, September 29, 2008

Macaroni & Cheese

I was asked to make a side dish for our son's cub scout den's Fishing Derby. My son enjoys attending the Fishing Derby each year and each year I make a side dish for it. I usually make macaroni and cheese. I figure that the adults will enjoy it and the kids may, too. To be honest, kids generally prefer the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese from the blue box. In fact, my son is definitely one of those who will only eat Kraft Mac & Cheese. It doesn't bother me. I still like to make homemade mac and cheese now and then. I got this recipe from a friend of a friend. It has served me well. I know you'll enjoy it. It isn't gourmet food. I would call it comfort food.

Apparently, good 'ole mac and cheese has a long history in the U.S.A. I read a blog that indicated some people believe that Thomas Jefferson created the dish! According to an article in a 1996 "Restaurants & Institutions", Barbara Bell Matuszewski wrote that Jefferson served the dish in the White House in 1802. However, according to food historian Karen Hess, Jefferson did not invent the dish, he returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni mold. He was definitely the first president to serve macaroni and cheese at the White House and maybe the last!

I am also going to include a recipe for the dish from Mary Randolph's (Thomas Jefferson's cousin) "The Virginia Housewife," first published in 1824. It is an interesting recipe, to say the least.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz of uncooked elbow macaroni or shells
1 stick of butter
4 cups of milk
12 oz sharp cheddar (grated) cheese, reserve a handful to sprinkle on top
1 teaspoon of salt (I cut this down from 2 teaspoons in the original recipe)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne or black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in flour to make a paste. Add milk. Bring to simmer over medium heat until thickened (about 1-2 minutes). Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese, stir until smooth. Stir the cooked macaroni into the cheese sauce and pour into a 3 quart casserole dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes.

(You can easily do half the recipe in a 1-1/2 or 2 quart baking dish or even double the recipe for a large crowd.)

Mary Randolph's Macaroni and Cheese
from "The Virginia Housewife"

This is an example of a very early recipe for macaroni and cheese.


Boil as much macaroni as will fill your dish, until quite tender. Drain and sprinkle a little salt over it. Put a layer of macaroni in your baking dish, put on it slices of cheese, and on that a few bits of butter, then macaroni, cheese, and butter, until the dish is full, put on the top thin slices of cheese, bake in a 400° oven for 20 to 30 minutes.

The Creative Cook

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chinese Dinner

On Monday, I made the long-awaited Chinese meal for D. He chose Mongolian beef as the main dish he wanted to try. I was a little intimidated to make a Chinese meal since I have never stir-fried anything before. The recipe I used was from but I also found a copycat of the Mongolian Beef dish that you can get at P.F. Chang's. I didn't try that one because I had a bottle of chili paste and hoisin sauce as well as some scallions that I wanted to use. In a few weeks, I'll try the P.F. Chang's copycat recipe and post it for you. Again, I cheated a bit on this meal because I bought the wonton soup at a Chinese restaurant. I asked them if they had any type of Chinese dessert but the owner told me that Chinese aren't too big on desserts. I know that I have eaten some yummy almond cookies and ice cream concoctions but I wasn't prepared to argue with the man. I just asked for a bunch of fortune cookies and called it a day! The Mongolian Beef went quickly (to say the least). I served it with Jasmine rice and steamed broccoli. The first course was wonton soup and the entire meal was followed up with fortune cookies. I just couldn't bear to use a whole cup of oil to stir-fry the beef so I used just 1/4 cup of sesame oil. It worked out fine. I will go out on a limb and call this my first experience making a Chinese dinner a super-success for me! I also used my brand new wok for the first time. It was great!

Mongolian Beef

· 1 lb sirloin or flank steak
· Marinade:
· 1 egg white
· Pinch of salt
· 1 teaspoon sesame oil
· 1 tablespoon cornstarch
· Vegetables:
· 4 green onions, sliced on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
· 1 8-ounce can baby corn
· 1 garlic clove, minced

· Sauce:
· 3 TB hoisin sauce
· 2 TB water
· 1 TB dark soy sauce
· 2 tsp rice vinegar, or 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
· 1/4 tsp chile paste, or to taste

· Other:
· 1 tsp sugar
· 1 cup oil for frying beef (I used 1/4 cup sesame oil instead)
· 2 TB oil for stir-frying

Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips. Add the marinade ingredients in the order given and marinate the beef for thirty minutes. To prepare the vegetables, wash the green onions and slice on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Peel and mince the garlic. Rinse the can of baby corn with warm running water. Drain thoroughly. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside. When the beef has finished marinating, heat the wok and add 1 cup oil. When oil is ready, add the beef and fry until it changes color. Remove the beef from the wok and drain on paper towels. Clean out the wok with a paper towel, and add 2 tablespoons of oil for stir-frying. When the oil is ready, add the garlic. Stir-fry briefly, and add the baby corn. Add the green onions. Make a well in the middle of the wok by pushing the vegetables up to the side. Add the sauce and bring to a boil, stirring to thicken.Stir in the sugar. Add the beef and combine with the sauce and vegetables. Serve hot.

Serves 4.


The Creative Cook