Hard Cider Mac & Cheese

I wish I had known about cooking with hard cider sooner. I got my first dose of it’s culinary awesomeness at Thanksgiving 2011, when I added it to my pan gravy. We have about a case of of our local, homebrew cider left from that same year – that I’ve kind of been hoarding. But, when I saw this recipe I couldn’t resist going down to the basement to pull a bottle out.

I’d made a beer macaroni & cheese before, and I’d deemed it my favorite. But this version definitely gives it a run for it’s money. The hard cider lends a wonderful flavor, without being overpowering. And the addition of finely chopped Granny Smith apples and onions? Brilliant.

Spring is on the horizon, and I’m looking forward to it – but I’m trying to get my fill of winter warming favorites while I still can. And, nothing tops a big bowl of creamy, cheesy pasta. Especially when you bring booze to the party too!

Cajun Shrimp Pasta

Shrimp. Pasta. Spicy cream sauce. What’s not to love here? This Cajun chicken pasta has long been one of our weeknight favorites. Comes together so quickly and easily, it’s a dish I know I can always turn to on those nights where I want something good and comforting – but I don’t feel like putting that much effort into dinner.

So, it was only a matter of time before I swapped out chicken for other proteins. Like, shrimp. All truths being told, I think I love this dish with shrimp, even more than the chicken. Think shrimp alfredo, but kicked up with the addition of cayenne pepper, sliced bell peppers, and onions that have been sauteed for a bit of a crunch amidst the tender pasta. Rich and decadent, with a bit of heat – it would be a perfect dinner for Fat Tuesday. Or, for Valentine’s Day for that matter. Dinner is ready in under 30 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to do “other” things with your Valentine 🙂

BLT CarbonaraI feel like we’ve been crazy busy lately – it’s always something on our schedules one weekend or another. Poor Jon just got to brew beer for the first time in two months last week! Plus, we’d all been sick for pretty much the entire month of January. Stomach bugs? Check. Coughing up lungs? Check. Faucets for noses? Check.

This has been the first week this month where we’ve all felt good, and I’ve been playing catch-up with house chores that kind of got put by the way-side while I was sick myself, or playing nurse maid. Seriously, where does all this laundry come from? I’d swear I live in a house with 5 teenage girls the way these boys go through clothes! Anyways, with all the housework, I wasn’t feeling cooking dinner the other night. But, I wasn’t feeling anything out either. So, I mustered up some energy and went to the kitchen to make this quick pasta. A few ingredients, and a little bit of time – and you’ve got yourself one terrific and satisfying meal.

If you’re worried about using raw eggs in your pasta – hear me out. It’s not really raw eggs, because the eggs cook (more or less) in the pan with the hot pasta. It transforms into a thick and luxurious sauce that can’t be achieved with any substitutions. If you’re that worried about it, let it cook on the heat for a little bit longer than 2 minutes. But, there really isn’t anything to worry about – you don’t think anything about licking brownie batter off the spatula when you’re done baking, do you?

The original recipe just calls for bacon and tomatoes, but I happened to have a half a bag of baby spinach hanging out in the fridge that I needed to use – and thought that a green leafy component would make it a BLT, which is always a fun twist. I served it with simple green salads and focaccia bread.

Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

Last week it was in the 60’s here, all week long (albeit raining). Then, on Thursday it got cold enough to get a little bit of snow. Enough for Andrew to have a little bit of fun in at least! And now, it’s REALLY cold. So, when I came across a recipe for this pork tenderloin I thought it looked great, something to transport me to a warm tropical beach – and away from the freezing tundras of coastal Maryland.

Super duper easy too. I just threw together a marinade, let the pork do it’s thing – and then used the method that I’ve used for pork tenderloins in the past; seared it off on the stove first, then finished cooking in the oven. Since I didn’t want to let all that delicious flavor in the marinade go to waste, I went ahead and brought it to a boil on the stove then served it as a sauce alongside the sliced tenderloin.

I love the flavor that the peanut butter and soy sauce lend, as well as the little kick of heat from the crushed red pepper. The original recipe called for mango chutney, which I didn’t have, so I just used some peach-hot pepper jelly that I’d gotten from TS Smith & Sons last year – and it turned out beautifully. But, orange marmalade or apricot preserves would be good too; just something that’s sweet, with a little bit of chunkiness to it.

I served it with garlic rice pilaf (recipe coming tomorrow) and sauteed snow peas – and everyone cleaned their plates. If you’re looking for a change of pace, or to bring some exotic new flavors to the dinner table – definitely mark this one down on your menu soon!