Grilled Mac & Cheese sandwiches with tomato soup

This dish is one of those hidden champions for days when you don’t feel like leaving the house again to go food hunting at the grocery store, yet you feel like some soul food. Now anyone can have a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup to dip or Mac & Cheese any day when you need a quick dinner fix. But how about elevating your impromptu dinner game to the next level and combining the three and thus creating an exciting new twist. The recipe makes 4 servings as a main course or 8 smaller servings as a starter. My favorite idea for this dish: 16 amuse-gueule/hors d’œuvre if you serve the soup in tiny cups and cut the sandwiches into 4 pieces or use thin baguette slices. It’s simple, yet I doubt your guest will have ever had this exact, mind-blowing combo.

Ingredients

For the sandwich

  • 1 cup of Mac & Cheese sauce (for my version of the recipe, please click here)
  • 1 cup of elbow noodles
  • 8 slices of sandwich bread or 16 thin slices of baguette
  • Butter

For the soup

  • 20 fresh tomatoes
  • 5 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon of ground pepper

I suggest starting with the tomato soup: chop the onion, garlic and tomatoes into dices. Then melt the butter in a pot and add the garlic and onion. Fry for 5 minutes at a medium temperature while stirring. Then proceed by adding the tomatoes and let everything cook for another 5 minutes while continuing to stir. Afterwards, add the vegetable broth and tomato paste, as well as the spices. Let everything simmer for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and use a blender to smooth the soup until you reach a texture you like (since there are two types of people in this world, those who prefer smooth as silk when it comes to tomato soup and those who like chunks in it). Lastly, add the cream to your soup. You most likely won’t need extra salt, as the vegetable broth will provide that.

As for the sandwich, cook the noodles for 7 minutes and prepare the Mac & Cheese sauce. Ideally, this should be a thicker sauce, just like for a Mac & Cheese dish that you would bake in the oven and that would be a bit stiffer. For a recipe to follow, check out the recipe for my version of Mac & Cheese, which is the one I use for this dish. Mix the sauce with the cooked noodles in a bowl and set aside.

Butter each bread slice on one side (and don’t be stingy with the butter) and get a pan to medium heat. Place a generous load of Mac & Cheese on the non-buttered side of 50 percent of the bread slices and place a second bread slice on top, the buttered side facing upwards. The Mac & Cheese layer should be about as thick as a finger. Fry the bread until golden brown and press a spatula on it ever so gently to make everything glue together nicely.

Enjoy!

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Lasagna Rolls with Broccoli Chicken Alfredo Filling

I am willingly admitting that I have a slight addiction to Alfredo sauce, it is just soooo tasty. This recipe therefore ticks that box and also perfectly coincides with my love for lasagna in all possible varieties. Two soul food options in one, if you will. It serves 4 people as a main course. The recipe uses chicken, but vegetarians can easily substitute this by replacing the meat with 1.5 cups of sweet corn.

20180428_205609-1862710015.jpgIngredients

  • 10 fresh lasagna plates (standard size)
  • 2 cups of my Alfredo sauce (for the recipe click here)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • ½ (roasted or cooked) chicken
  • 1 cup of shredded Gouda cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded Mozzarella
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • A little bit of butter or oven pan spray

If you opt for homemade Alfredo sauce, start by making the sauce first and set it aside. Then cook the broccoli for 8-10 minutes and in the meantime shred your roasted chicken. If you happen not to have fresh lasagna plates at hand, let your plates cook for 6-7 minutes until they are soft enough to be rolled up. Al dente is desirable, as the noodles will continue to soften in the oven. Chop the broccoli into smaller bits and mix it with the chicken in a large bowl. Add Gouda and ground pepper until well mixed. Afterwards, add half of the Alfredo sauce.

Take a large pie skillet and either rub a little bit of butter on the floor or use oven pan spray to avoid the noodles “gluing” themselves to the skillet. Cut the lasagna plates in half along the long side of the plate. Add 1-2 tablespoons of the broccoli-chicken-Alfredo-mix onto the lasagna plate slice and spread it out to cover approximately 2/3 of the pasta. Then roll it up and place the result in the skillet. Repeat until all the rolls are tightly packed. Proceed with drizzling the remainder of the Alfredo sauce and shredded mozzarella on top. Let the lasagna bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit/180 degrees Celsius for 25 minutes.

P.S. This dish does not include salt. I generally use as little salt as possible, as I believe the food we consume on average already contains enough salt as per the ingredients (e.g., cheese, roasted chicken in this case) and so there is normally no need to add extra. Our hearts will thank us in the long run to opt for lower salt in our diet.

P.P.S. As per its nature of consisting of lots of tiny rolls, this dish also lends itself as a nice buffet food option for parties and also stays tasty even when served after it having cooled down.


Greek Veggie Feta Casserole

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Greece is the origin of so many amazing things: democracy, philosophers that are still as relevant today as they were more than 2,000 years ago and, of course, olive oil and feta cheese. I have yet to encounter someone who was not completely in awe of the wonderful Greek islands and their tasty food. This casserole dish, while not following an original recipe, draws heavily from Greek cuisine and is a great weekday meal option with limited preparation time. This recipe makes 2 servings as a main course or 4 servings as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 very large or 2 medium-sized zucchini(s)
  • 6 medium-sized tomatoes
  • 1 cup of pitted black olives
  • 1 chopped medium-sized onion
  • 9 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) of feta cheese
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 3-4 slices of ciabatta bread
  • 4 chopped garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the zucchini, tomatoes, olives and feta into dices. Chop the fresh basil. Bring a pan to medium heat and fry the chopped onion and 2 of the chopped garlic cloves with 5 tablespoons of olive oil. After 1-2 minutes, add the zucchini dices. Let it cook for 5 minutes and then mix in the tomatoes and olives, as well as the basil, and fill everything into a casserole. Drizzle the feta on top and then bake it in the oven for 25 minutes at 360 degrees Fahrenheit/180 degrees Celsius.

In the meantime, cut the ciabatta bread into dices. Add the 4 remaining tablespoons of olive oil and chopped garlic cloves to a medium-heated pan, as well as the ciabatta bread dices. Make sure to mix everything well and fry the bread for 3-5 minutes until crunchy. The bits will be added as a topping after the casserole is done and out of the oven.

Want to make the dish carbs free? Simply leave out the ciabatta bread.

Enjoy!


Chicken Alfredo Pizza Ring

img_20180304_172411_9221031382317.jpgEating can be so much fun and I consider this wonderful snack Exhibit A to make my case. It is just so tasty and thus the ideal food for watching a game, as a party snack or just because you deserve a treat. If you make everything from scratch, this dish requires about 30 minutes of prep time. If you use ready-made Alfredo sauce, I’d say it can be done in 20 minutes.

Ingredients

  • Fresh, ready-made pizza dough (1 package for 1 large pizza)
  • 5 cups of shredded, roasted chicken
  • 10 strips of bacon
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • ½ a cup of grated parmesan
  • ½ a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • ½ a teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ a cup of Alfredo sauce (either ready-made or look up my recipe on this blog)
  • A bit of butter to grease the bundt cake baking mold
  • Aioli sauce (again, you can buy this ready-made to save yourself a bit of prep hassle)

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit/205 degrees Celsius. Cut the pizza dough into 1 inch squares (ca 2.5 centimeters). Roll the squares into little balls and place them on a baking tray. Let the balls bake in the oven for 10 minutes. By pre-baking the dough balls separately, you ensure the final pizza ring is uniformly cooked.

In the meantime, fry the bacon in a pan until crispy. Make sure you place it in a cold pan and then let the temperature rise to a medium heat. Thereby you make sure the bacon is less greasy and much crispier than frying it in an already-hot pan. Once that’s done, drizzle maple syrup over the bacon and let it crystalize for about a minute. This adds a nice sweet flavor to the bacon and an interesting twist to our otherwise very savory dish. Cut the bacon into small chunks for the next step. Afterwards, chop the basil leaves and place them in a big bowl, together with the pre-baked pizza dough balls. Add the shredded chicken, bacon bits, mozzarella and parmesan, as well as the spices. I use garlic powder rather than chopping up a garlic clove, as this ensures that the garlic can really fully infuse the entire food mix while being less intense in terms of taste.

Grease a bundt cake form with butter and then add the mix. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit/205 degrees Celsius for approximately 25 minutes, until golden. Turn the baking mold upside down onto a plate. Ideally, the pizza ring should gently slide out by itself; if not, give it a little bit of extra help with a spatula.

Pour the aioli into a small bowl and voilà – your party snack is ready to make a bunch of people very happy.

Enjoy!


Chicken avocado salad with peanut butter-honey mustard vinaigrette

This salad is a wonderful meal option after an intensive workout, as it is healthy and also supplies you with a generous amount of protein and nutrients. I like it, because it has a little bit of everything: chicken, crunchiness, the creaminess from the avocado, the sweetness from the honey, the wonderful flavor of the mustard, the nutrients from the nuts and lots of vitamins. This recipe makes about 4 servings.

Ingredients20180127_1007481177650871.jpg

  • 5 handfuls of chopped Romano lettuce
  • ½ roasted chicken
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 handful of cashew nuts
  • 1 large/burrito-sized wheat tortilla; alternatively 1 generous handful of crispy tortilla strips (if available in your country)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 4 tablespoons of sweet corn

Ingredients for the dressing

  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon (approx. 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

Place the lettuce in a large bowl. Tear the roasted chicken into smaller chunks, cut the avocado into dices and chop the cashew nuts into smaller chunks, and add them all to the bowl. Mix in the sweet corn and cut the carrot into thin carrot sticks and the onion into dices and let them join the rest of the ingredients. As for the tortilla strips, if you live in the US you can buy them ready-made in any well-stocked grocery store. I haven’t yet seen them outside of the US; however, it’s not exactly rocket science to do it at home. Simply heat up your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius. Use a cooking brush to apply a thin layer of oil to the surface of the tortilla. Bake it on a baking paper for approx. 10 minutes, then chop the crispy tortilla into thin strips.

As for the dressing, maybe you were wondering why peanut butter is listed here. Well, truth be told, it just adds an amazing flavor to the vinaigrette, BUT it is also one of the best and tastiest ways of getting a good protein dose. Despite being calorie-dense and thus seemingly counterintuitive as a smart ingredient, it is also very rich in healthy fat, along with the protein and fiber, which your body craves after a session in the gym. So, peanut butter is basically a “repair kit” for your muscles. In terms of the honey, I strongly recommend acacia honey, as to me it provides the best flavor. Also, honey is nature’s hidden medical champion, as it is anti-inflammatory and helps your system recover after exercising.

Just a side note, but a great trick to preserve cilantro that I came across a couple of years ago, is to keep it in the freezer. Thereby, it stays fresh longer.

Enjoy your meal!