Friendsgiving & Manda Cooks: Jalapeno Macaroni & Cheese

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Thanksgiving Week was kicked off last night with a Friendsgiving Potluck. Thirteen of us each claimed a dish or drink, and piled into an apartment for the feast. Brett and I brought chicken marbella, apple pie, and jalapeno macaroni and cheese. The chicken and pie were repeats for us, but this was (surprisingly) my first time making baked mac & cheese. We also had traditional stuffing, quinoa stuffing, yams, homemade cranberry sauce, two salads and pumpkin pie. Plus a cocktail, and generous pours of wine all around.

Whenever I’m tackling a dish for the first time, I look to my three go-to sources for a recipe: Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, and Deb from SmittenKitchen.com. Deb’s baked mac & cheese recipe is adapted from Martha’s, so it was a done deal. The end result tasted like it was from a restaurant in a good way – do you know what I mean? It was creamy but not gooey, and the top and ends were crispy but not dry. Mm, mm, mm!!

If you are still looking for some Thanksgiving inspiration, a few links I’ve bookmarked with Thanksgiving in mind:
Smitten Kitchen’s Green Bean Casserole — I plan to make this Thursday
Victoria’s Leftover Pasta Salad — an alternative to turkey sandwiches
The Secret Ingredient to the Perfect Grilled Cheese — not exactly Thanksgiving related, and I’m a bit skeptical… but worth a shot?
Thanksgiving Etiquette — fun read
Cranberry Bourbon Fizz — look at those ice cubes!
Sarah’s Pomegranate Rosemary Spritzers — YUM

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Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart (ha!)

Here’s what you need:
1 lb twisty macaroni
4 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded gruyere
4 slices sandwich bread (stale is okay!)
2 big jalapenos, diced and seeds removed
4 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Here’s what you do:
Cook noodles according to directions, minus two minutes of cooking time. Strain and set aside. Tear or slice the sandwich bread into small chunks or cubes and set aside. Pour milk into small pot over medium heat. In a separate, larger pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once butter starts to bubble, whisk in flour – it will get a bit clumpy, but everything is okay. Slowly add in the milk, whisking continuously. Whisk for another 8 or so minutes, while mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in most of the cheese (save some to sprinkle on top), spices, chopped jalapenos, and cooked macaroni. Stir until combined. (Before you add the macaroni, you might want to open a bag of tortilla chips and dunk a few into the cheesy mixture. Just to taste test, obviously.) Butter or spray the inside of your baking dish, then pour mixture in. Top with bread cubes, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 375F for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately if possible, or re-heat before serving.

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Manda Cooks: Enchilalalalaladas

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Enchiladas used to be one of those things that confused me a bit – in restaurants they’re usually a little soggy and taste only like the sauce swamp they’re sitting in. I didn’t quite understand the appeal…until I made them for myself. Now I’m a totally converted, #1 enchilada fan. I love fish tacos in the summer, and enchiladas are like a taco’s cuddlier, cozier, slightly less cool and not as pretty on the outside, but smarter and prettier on the inside (where some would argue it counts more) cousin.

The first time I tried them, I consulted a few recipes because I wanted to make sure I gave them a fair shot. Like most Mexican food, not only can you not really go wrong, but I actually think you go more right when you sort of just wing it. Providing my recipe below contradicts what I just said but deal with it.

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You might already know that I ventured back into the meat-eating world relatively recently. It started with a bite here and there, and then I went to Italy and all bets were off. I ate meat every day and…it was delicious. Since then, I’ve been enjoying my fair share of meat but I still get some stage fright when it comes time to prep and cook it. I usually let Brett take the wheel while I eagerly watch. I’m getting more comfortable cooking it (I tell myself it’s basically a vegetable that you just have to cook through or else you’ll die, but don’t cook it too much or else you’ll ruin the meal…no pressure), but I still let Brett handle the prep part…still a little icky to me.

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Anyway, recipe for my Winging-It Chicken Enchiladas are below (extra lalalala’s optional). Sub in/out fillers as you see fit, but don’t skimp on the cheese.

Here’s what you need:
1/2 pound chicken, cut into small pieces
1 pepper, or 1/2 each of two peppers (does that make sense?), chopped
1/2 can black beans
1/2 small red onion, diced
pickled jalapenos (recipe to come!)
small corn or flour tortillas
1/3 cup salsa verde
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
spices (we used this habanero salt mix we have, plus a chili lime rub, and jerk seasoning)

Here’s what you do:
Saute the peppers and onion with some of the spices for about 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and add black beans. In the same pan, saute and generously flavor the chicken. Cook it through! Add to the vegetable bowl. At this point, I use food scissors to cut things a bit smaller…makes it easier to assemble! You can throw some jalapenos into this mix if you like things extra spicy. Add the barbecue sauce to this mix and stir to combine. To assemble the baby enchiladas, sprinkle some cheese in the middle of a tortilla, then spoon in some filling. You don’t have to fold these up like a burrito, so don’t worry about them “closing”. Roll the tortilla up to the best of your abilities, and place open side down in a baking dish. (I happen to have the perfect baking dish from Crate & Barrel – best purchase ever.) Repeat this until your dish is full – mine holds five. Spread the salsa evenly over the top, then sprinkle with cheese like the world is ending tomorrow. Then place pickled jalapenos in a line across the top (mandatory). Bake in the oven at 375F for about 15 minutes – turn up the heat at the end if you want the cheese to brown a bit. Let sit for just two minutes to cool down, then feast. Top with diced tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, jalapenos, etc.

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Manda Crafts: Kissy Kissy

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A cheetah weekend isn’t really complete without a craft, so I always pay close attention to cute DIYs that I see on Pinterest. I pinned this kiss kiss craft a long time ago, and finally got around to doing it with Charlotte and Rachel a few weekends ago. I have quite the lipstick collection from my days in cosmetics but I rarely venture outside of my two go-tos, so it was nice to put the rest of the colors to use! To ensure our lips were in tip-top shape, we also made a quite lip exfoliator out of brown sugar, coconut oil and honey (equal parts of each). The finished products were so cute and the perfect additions to our bathrooms. Mwah!

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Manda’s Back, and Manda Cooks: French Onion Soup

(please sing the following to the tune of Backstreet Boys – Backstreet’s Back)
omigod i’m back againnnnn
friends, sister, everybody read
gonna blog a little, maybe a lot
gonna show you what i cooked, show you what i bought

is the content original?
kindaaaa
is this the only blog you should read?
probs not
is it worth reading for pico pics?
yeahhhh
is it everything you need?
you better read this blog right now

everybody
yeahhhh
read my blogggg
yeahhhh
everybody
read my blog right now
mandalikes is back, alright

Hello! In case the beautifully written lyrics above weren’t clear enough, MandaLikes is BACK. I can practically hear the screams of excitements from all three of my readers!!

The last time I blogged was…. MARCH 10. The most notable things that have happened since then:
Got a kitten
Went to Italy
Changed jobs
I also went to 11 new restaurants, took 2 cooking classes, and got a kitten. Definitely more to come as far as the kitten is concerned (he is now a large bodied cat with a small head), and potentially more to come on the restaurants and classes (since now I have mad tapas skills and all).

Sunday night I made French Onion Soup for the first time, so let’s just dive into that, shall we?

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I’ve been wanting to make French Onion Soup ever since I scored some oven-safe bowls from the home sample closet at my last job. The bowls sat at my desk for a while, and then sat in my cabinet for a while, but last night was their time to shine! Brett and I didn’t have any plans last night, so I picked a recipe with the longest time commitment attached. I started around 3pm, and we ate around 7pm. Our apartment smelled like caramelizing onions the whole time, which was great. My hair and shirt smelled like onions hours after, which was not so great, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in the name of delicious food.

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We ate the soup in front of the fire with a kale and brussels sprouts salad and large glasses of red wine, plus some extra cheesy croutons on the side (because why not?), and it was Cozy City, USA. I omitted sherry from the soup because I didn’t want to run to the store — I think I will add it next time, but the soup was delicious nonetheless.

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Here’s what you need:
4 yellow onions, chopped pole-to-pole
3 T butter, cut into small cubes
1.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups beef broth
1 small bunch thyme, tied together with cooking twine
salt & pepper
Demi baguette
Gruyere

Here’s what you do:
Coat inside of French Oven (that’s what the Le Creuset website calls them, and it sounds more sophisticated than Dutch Oven so that’s that) with a bit of olive oil, then throw chopped onions and butter in. Cover and place in oven at 375F for about an hour. When you remove from oven, the onions should be sweaty (kind of ew) and just starting to brown. Give the onions a stir, pop the lid a bit, and return to the oven for another 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on stove, over medium-high heat. The onions should be a medium brown, and there should be a dark brown oniony crust formed on the bottom and sides of the pan. Add ¼ cup of water, and try to scrape up some of the crust as the water steams. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until water absorbs. Repeat this 2-3 more times, until onions are dark brown. Add broths, and an additional cup of water, plus thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes. While soup is simmering, slice baguette and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. When you’re ready, remove the thyme, then split soup between two oven-safe bowls and place on baking sheet. Add a few baguette slices on top, plus sliced or shredded gruyere. Turn oven up to Broil, and pop soup in for 5-7 minutes, until cheese is melted. Let sit for a few minutes then enjoy!

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