Kraft Macaroni & Cheese


Growing up, my all time favorite food was Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

INTERESTINGLY, Wikipedia.org and About.com Inventors say that Kraft was introduced in the US and Canada in 1937 during World War II.  The rationing of milk and dairy products, in addition to an increased reliance on meatless dinners, created a great market for the product, which was considered a hearty meal for families.  Their advertising slogan was:”Make a meal for 4 in 9 minutes.”

By choice and absolute pleasure rather than war time hardships and food rationing, I pretty much lived off of Kraft Mac & Cheese for the large majority of my childhood and adolescence.  I loved all of the special pasta shapes, like pin wheels, spirals, and blue Blue’s Clues dogs, which tasted even better than the original elbows.  Unashamedly, I was able to gobble down an entire box myself, which is most likely why I was such a chunker. But who am I kidding? Kraft remained a staple food group in my life all through college as well.

Ty had never had boxed Macaroni & Cheese, which led me to believe that he had a sad and deprived childhood.  SO, when he came to visit me in the US, we had a Mac & Cheese eating marathon where we indulged in Kraft and two kinds of Annie’s. Luckily he liked boxed macaroni and cheese, which reaffirmed my love for him.

When I moved to South Africa, I began having intense night sweat-inducing withdrawal as the bright yellow, artificial, creamy, cheese left my system.  Luckily, my mom sent us an emergency package full of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese sachets.  Since we had a limited supply, we rationed ourselves to 1 packet per month (like during war times), which enabled us to effectively maintain our supply for nearly 1 year.  It was devastating when we finished our last sachet and were forced to go many months without it.  However, earlier this month, a sweet sweet girl named Ann organized one of her American friends to bring us a few boxes when she came to visit!  Ty and I were unable to control our urges and are down to one box again!  Luckily, my mom’s friends are coming to South Africa JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME to refill our supply!

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (complete with pasta and sachet of cheese)
  • water for boiling the pasta
  • 2 heaped tbl butter
  • 1/2 milk

Directions

  1. add water to a pot and bring to a boil
  2. add the macaroni and cook on high
  3. strain the pasta when it is done cooking and pour it back into the pot
  4. place the pot on the warm burner and add the sachet of cheese, butter, and milk and stir vigorously.  Add more milk if you want the sauce to be thinner
  5. note: I am an extreme purist when it comes to Macaroni & Cheese so I would recommend adding NOTHING else
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Chicken a la Queen


Every year, my stepmom makes turkey tetrazzini with the leftover turkey from Thanksgiving dinner, which is my absolute favorite meal not only because of its creamy, chicken-y, pasta goodness but also because it is special, in that I have to wait an entire year to enjoy it! When I first moved to South Africa in 2009, I cooked a giant Thanksgiving feast and of course made turkey tetrazzini with the leftovers to continue the tradition all the way in South Africa.

Salford Road Thanksgiving 2009

Ty absolutely loved it and from that moment on, I was determined to incorporate the comforting taste of home into our South African diet and embarked on a journey to create the perfect rendition of turkey tetrazzini.

As I was writing this post, it became evident that my experimentation occurred in phases:

  • Phase 1 – substituted chicken for turkey because it is much more convenient but just as delicious
  • Phase 2 – refined my sauce recipe to perfection
  • Phase 3 – mixed the sauce and pasta together and served immediately as opposed to baking it in the oven because it is quicker and dirties less dishes but is just as delicious
  • Phase 4 – experimented with vegetables to give a healthy flare
  • Phase 5 – learned (kind of) how to exhibit self-control in order to prevent oneself from going back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths
  • the most delicious Chicken alla Queen recipe for any and all occasions – not just the day after Thanksgiving!

Chicken alla Queen

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers (incase you haven’t realized by now, we love our leftovers))

  • 1 heaped tbl butter
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 500g shredded rotisserie chicken or homemade boneless skinless herbed chicken breasts
  • 250g sliced brown mushrooms
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbl maizena (corn starch)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your liking (Ty’s favorite is gouda (on everything))
  • 250-300g pasta with ridges (I prefer penne)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. melt the butter in the pan and saute the onions and garlic until lightly brown
  2. add the chicken (raw or cooked) and mushrooms and stir in the spices
  3. when the mushrooms have softened, add the stock, milk, and cheese
  4. at this point, cook the pasta
  5. once the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat down to medium
  6. create a maizena paste and slowly mix it into the sauce
  7. let simmer for 5 minutes while stirring periodically
  8. if the sauce is not thick enough to your liking, add a bit more maizena paste
  9. once the pasta is done, mix the pasta into the sauce and serve
  10. top with a dash of salt and pepper to taste

Mozambican Fish Braai


To celebrate the New Year in 2010, Ty and I went to Mozambique.  Despite getting lost for 3 hours, being forced to drive through mini-lakes with unknown depths, risking our lives on a rickety raft across a wild river, getting stuck in nearly knee-high sludge without airtime, sliding closer and closer to water-filled trenches, and putting up our tent in near hurricane weather, we woke up to cloudless skies and the woes of yesterday forgotten!

We were Queen and King of Pisane Lodge and spent 5 luxurious days lounging around, chatting, frisbeeing, playing rummikub, being looked after by 10 stray dogs who adopted us, soaking up the sun on the beautiful beach, and eating like gods.

One afternoon we spotted a spear fisherman leaving his rowboat with a gigantic catch.  We ran down to the shore and asked him what kind of fish it was and if we could buy it. It was a gorgeous, massive barracuda with shimmery scales and yes, we could buy it for a mere R70, inclusive of scaling, gutting, and de-boning! wow! We proudly walked back to camp, excitedly started up the braai, and prepped the fish with whatever goodies we had in stock.  It was the absolute best fish I’ve ever had and sustained us for 5 meals!

Last month Ty and I started ordering fresh, sustainable, local, seasonable deeeelllllliiiccciiiiiioouuusssss fish from Julie.  She is a SASSI “South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative” participant who delivers the freshest fish straight to your door anywhere in Cape Town. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!  We first ordered flawless Norwegian Salmon and proceeded to make the most delectable melt-in-your-mouth salmon sushi rolls for two nights in a row.

Last week we ordered Angelfish and had an amazingly delicious reminiscent Mozambican Fish Braai after an awesome afternoon of rock climbing in Silvermine Nature Reserve with UCT’s Mountain & Ski Club!

Mozambican Fish Braai

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 400g Angelfish
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 heaped tsp diced garlic
  • 1 julienned red pepper
  • 1 chopped tomato or a handful of halved cherry tomatoes
  • some oil
  • salt & pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 1 cup cheese (of your preference)
  • about 1/4 cup Mrs. Ball’s Chutney

Directions

  1. Prepare the braai
  2. Rub the fish with oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and place it in a disposable metal deepdish pan
  3. Layer the veggies, spices, cheese, and chutney on top
  4. Cover with tinfoil and cook for 10-15 minutes until the fish is beautifully flaky and the veggies are aldente

Zhoozsh Peanut Butter Thai Chicken


My all time favorite Thai dish is Pad Thai and the absolute best can be found at Sophia’s in little old Davis, California.  I have a thing for the sweet and savory juxtaposition and food textures, which makes peanut sauce with crushed peanuts a deadly combination for any food-related self-control.  Couple that with bottomless Thai Iced Tea and you have made it to tastebud ecstasy plus an extreme case of fond reminiscing about my college years at UC Davis.

I have not tried making Pad Thai myself but am in love with the idea of a peanut buttery thai curry, as you now know why, so was very excited when I came across a recipe for Peanut Butter Chicken with Curried Spinach in my new Zhoozsh cookbook.  The Zhoozsh! cookbooks are written by Jeremy and Jacqui Mansfield, who are famous for their easy to make, delicious, and down to earth recipes, which are presented in an intimate story-like photo journal fashion full of memories, humor, and love.

I saw their second cookbook “Faking it” at the bookstore a few months before Christmas and immediately was endeared by its unique style and laid back guidance on how to cook a diverse range of dishes from South Africa and beyond.  I was also immediately sold on the idea of “faking” gourmet and cooking on a budget, as I am still a young professional/student who cannot afford to always buy fancy ingredients. However, the more I cook, the more I realize that you do not need fancy ingredients to cook an awesome meal anyways! I then made it my goal to not so discretely beg Ty to get me “Faking it” for Christmas, which landed me a copy of my own from Ty’s grandma so that I would not have to go to the bookstore and surreptitiously take photos of the recipes using my iphone.

For my first Zhoozsh recipe experience, we made lamb rubbed with a fresh mint and coriander pesto for Christmas and accidentally burnt the lamb to the point that all the fresh the flavors dissipated but the lamb was still awesome.  However, the pesto looked, smelled, and tasted really great on its own so I will definitely try it again!  For my second attempt at making a Zhoozsh recipe, I successfully made Peanut Butter Chicken with Curried Spinach, which was quick, easy, tasty, and just absolutely lovely!

Zhoozsh Peanut Butter Thai Chicken

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic
  • 2-3 chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 4 pieces of boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size cubes
  • 2 heaped tsp curry powder
  • 11/2 tsp salt
  • 1 packet chopped english spinach
  • 3 tbs crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • spaghetti or thai noodles
  • a handful of crushed peanuts

Directions

  1. saute the onions and garlic in oil and stir in the tomatoes
  2. add the chicken, curry, and salt and saute until browned
  3. add the spinach and cook until wilted
  4. meanwhile, cook your pasta
  5. stir in the peanut butter, coconut milk, and sugar; let simmer and thicken while stirring continuously
  6. mix the pasta and sauce together
  7. garnish with crushed peanuts

Foolproof Banana Bread


Growing up, whenever we had over-ripe bananas in the house, my stepmom and I would make banana bread with the beautiful and coveted Kitchen Aid mixer, which I can only hope that I have in my kitchen one day. My job was to measure out the ingredients and help pour them into the mixer and I remember watching with excitement as they swirled and blended together to make heaven.  The best part was and still is licking (or taking entire spoonfuls of) batter from the bowl and wooden spoon, even if it meant getting a tummy ache. Why does batter on a wooden spoon taste so incredible?

The spicy sweet aromas that float from the oven through the house during the excruciating hour of baking banana bread makes my mouth salivate and my tummy grumble.  Once the bread is done, I have no self-control and am unable to prevent myself from cutting a piping hot piece and tossing it back and forth in my hand as I take my first of many bites.

Last weekend I clumsily whipped up my stepmom’s famous banana bread in a matter of minutes and popped it into the oven an hour before having to leave the house.  An hour later, when we were getting ready to go, I stuck a fork into the middle of my bread and was strangely greeted by goo.  I stalled for as long as I could but finally took the bread out of the oven so that we would not be late and it proceeded to collapse on itself. I sadly accepted the fact that this banana bread was a dud but there were too many confounders to identify where I went wrong.

This week I was determined to get back on that horse and bake a successful banana bread.  I decided to try a different recipe and chose Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked Up Banana Bread.  I meticulously measured every ingredient and followed every direction to the T, which is not my MO, but I figured I needed a guarenteed win after last weeks failure.  The batter looked and tasted amazing (check), the smells coming from the oven were salivating (check), the bread was rising, browning, and cracking down the middle (check), and lastly my fork came back clean (check).

Foolproof Banana Bread 

Ingredients

  • 3 over-ripe mashed bananas
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. preheat the oven to 350F (176C)
  2. melt the butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds and mash the bananas
  3. mix together the butter, mashed bananas, sugar, egg, vanilla, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove
  4. slowly add the flour and mix thoroughly
  5. stir in the chopped walnuts
  6. pour the batter into a buttered bread pan and bake for about 1 hour or until your fork comes out clean
  7. if you have self-control and are able to wait for the bread to cool, it will easily slide out of the pan

Cheesy savory breakfast potatoes with eggs


My favorite meal of the day is breakfast, which is synonymous for eggs, either in a fry up full of veggies or simply sunny side up, sometimes with cheese, sometimes with beans if I’m craving a taste of England, but always served with some sort of carb.  A true breakfast, in my sense of the word, only happens during the weekend, because I am too lazy and too rushed in the morning to even contemplate cooking breakfast during the week.

The other day I decided to wake my Ty up with breakfast in bed with a fried egg sunny side up served with cheesy savory breakfast potatoes.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 tbl oil
  • 1 chopped onion (or a few stalks of spring onions)
  • 1 heaped tsp garlic
  • 2 potatoes
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 cup cheese of your liking
  • 4 eggs
  • fresh rocket
  • salt & pepper

Directions

  1. In a pan, add 2 tbl oil and sautee the garlic and onions until soft and lightly browned
  2. While the garlic and onions are cooking, thinly slice up the potatoes, put them in a bowl, add a drop of water, and microwave for 2 minutes until parcooked
  3. Once the garlic and onions are cooked, add the potatoes to the pan and toss with salt, pepper, paprika, and chili flakes, cover, and let cook on low heat for about 5 minutes
  4. Transfer the potatoes to an oven friendly baking dish, generously sprinkle with grated cheese, and grill in the oven on high until the cheese is fully melted, bubbly, and starting to brown a bit
  5. while the cheese is melting, in the pan you used to cook your potatoes, cook your eggs any way your heart desires with some salt and pepper
  6. when the eggs are finished cooking, pull out the potatoes and serve together with a garnish of rocket

Veggie Risotto


The very first time I had risotto was during my second year of university.  I can’t believe I went 19 years without eating it!  A friend made asparagus risotto and it ended in violent food poisoning for him but a content tummy and a whole new world of risotto cooked with everything for me.  Food poisoning will always mystify me despite that I took epidemiology of infectious diseases last year and learned all about the nasty culprits – food handlers – and how to track a food poisoning outbreak.

Renee (who taught me how to make grape pizza) also made a killerrrrrrr veggie risotto that was so delicious, so foodgasmic, and so moreish in every way.  When I moved to South Africa I tried my hand at making risotto for Ty and I.  No pun intended, because making risotto entails pretty much continual stirring for about 40 minutes that ends in a dead arm. Risotto is kind of like a baby. You feed it, nurture it, and help it grow.  My all time favorite risotto is chicken marsala risotto but I struggle to find marsala wine here in South Africa, so the next best thing is risotto with anything else.

One major barrier to making risotto is that Ty passionately hates parmesan cheese, which is a critical ingredient.  He cannot bare the unpleasant smell and taste produced by Butyric acid, the same ingredient found in vomit.  I on the other hand, love parmesan regardless and am appalled by Ty’s distaste.  Nevertheless, to appease him, I add a small handful of whatever cheese we have in stock instead of parmesan.

This is my Veggie Risotto recipe.  I tend to just add whatever veggies I have in the fridge and so I encourage you to go crazy and add whatever your heart desires.

Ingredients (serves 2 + leftovers)

  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 heaped tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbl butter
  • 1 cup risotto rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cheese (gouda, cheddar, edam)
  • 125g brown mushrooms coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped squash (zucchini, patty pan, round zucchini)
  • 1 chopped red or yellow pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • salt and pepper
Directions
  1. melt the butter in a pan and sautee the onions and garlic until lightly browned
  2. add the dry risotto and stir for about 5 minutes
  3. mix together the wine and chicken broth
  4. turn the heat down and add about 1/4 cup broth at a time and stir until the broth is absorbed
  5. while the risotto is cooking, in a separate pan, add some oil and sautee the veggies with salt, pepper, garlic salt, and paprika until al dente
  6. if you run out of broth and the risotto is still not fully cooked (a bit crunchy in the center), add more water and let it absorb. it should take about 40 minutes for the risotto to fully cook
  7. when the risotto is almost done (fluffy and gooey), stir in the veggies and cheese
  8. enjoy!