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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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!


French Onion Soup

3 little words. Say them and I am yours. Here we go: French Onion Soup. I love it. Even though I went to college in France for a year, I actually never had French onion soup until a visit to Maryland. So I had to travel across the pont to discover this delicious dish from a country that I have visited more times than I can count. This is the way I prepare this meal at home. The recipe below makes two servings as a main course and 4 servings as a starter.

Ingredients

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  • 2 large onions
  • ¼ cup of unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) of beef broth
  • Optional: ½ cup of white wine
  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4-6 slices of baguette bread
  • 3,5 ounces (100 grams) of Gruyère cheese

Cut each onion in 4 quarters and cut each part into relatively thin slices. Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat, add the onions and let them cook until the onions are softened and transparent for approximately 5 minutes. Proceed by adding sugar and after 1 or 2 minutes add beef broth, salt, pepper and thyme (plus the optional wine). Let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup simmers, cut off 4-6 thin slices of baguette bread (depending on the size of the bread and the size of your bowls), rub half a garlic clove over the slices and fry them in a pan with a bit of olive oil until crunchy.

Fill the soup into 2 suitable bowls that can resist the oven heat and place the bread slices on top. Ideally they should cover the bowl entirely. Cut the Gruyère cheese into thin slices and place them on top. The slight advantage of slices over simply grating the cheese is the slightly more solid texture you get after the soup has been in the oven. The important thing however is to have multiple cheese layers. The soup should then bake in the oven for 25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius/390 degrees Fahrenheit.

Et voilà. You are now all set to enjoy a delicious meal.


Halloumi fries – Golden rays of edible sunshine

Who doesn’t love fries? I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they look like rays of sunshine. But who said that fries have to be made out of potatoes or their equally tasty relative – the sweet potato? That’s why this recipe uses halloumi. Don’t let their innocent appearance fool you though. If you thought that normal fries are filling, you haven’t encountered halloumi fries yet. They can easily make you feel very stuffed – but are sooo delicious at the same time. Hence, this recipe serves 2 (or 4 if served alongside another dish).

Ingredients

Halloumi_fries

  • ½ lb (250 grams) of halloumi
  • 1 cup of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon of granulated garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • Lots, and I mean lots of sunflower oil

Quick and easy dip

  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 garlic cloves

Start with the dip. For that, pour the mayonnaise into a small bowl and add the garlic by using a garlic press, as this allows for the liquid from your cloves to already dissolve a bit. Then place the dip in the fridge until the fries are ready.

As for the fries: Cut the halloumi into sticks. They should be about the size of your ring finger. Not too thick, otherwise the frying will leave you with a “raw” core, but not too thin either, as the fries would then break very easily and most likely not survive their bath in the oil.

The secret star of this recipe is the coating, as halloumi in and of itself does not have a distinct flavor. So, the taste is pretty much defined by the spices that are used. Mix the flour with the spices in a flat bowl or soup plate. Coat your fries in it evenly. The beauty of halloumi is its inherent moisture, which means that the flour easily sticks to them.

Take a small or smallish pot and fill it approx. 1 inch/2.5 centimeters with the sunflower oil. This fits the theme, as sunflowers are the suns of the plant world. But I digress… Bring the oil up to a high temperature (try NOT to boil it, as oil burns can be truly nasty) and carefully immerse your fries in the pot. The frying should take approx. 2-4 minutes, depending on how golden you would want the sticks to be. The one in the picture was in the oil for 3 minutes.

Enjoy!