Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese is hearty and delicious. You don’t need to make a cheese sauce, so it comes together easily. And the addition of dried thyme makes it smell amazing.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

It seems like everyone is on a special diet these days. Food allergies are practically an epidemic. Also, there’s the usual rash of restrictive fad diets. Veganism is spreading like wild fire. Of course, the irony is not lost on me that veganism might be a great way to decrease the chances of wild fires. But I’m not there yet.

Sadly, science still hasn’t come around to the diet of my dreams. If only we could all save the world and lose weight by being carbetarians. All carbs all the time. With a little cheese thrown in from time to time for good measure. I mean, you can eat other stuff, too. I’m not trying to deprive you. You just don’t ever have to feel guilty about about eating potatoes and pasta in the same dish. A girl can dream, right?

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese would loom large in the diet of a carbetarian. This hearty pasta dish features crispy pancetta, nutty gruyere, and a good hit of thyme to make the whole thing sing. You won’t want to stop eating this.

We’re keeping the clean up to a minimum by cooking the potatoes and the pasta in the same pot. Next, we’ll crisp up the pancetta in the same oven-proof skillet we’ll bake the whole dish in later. Finally, mix the cheese, cream, and other ingredients into your drained pasta, then put it back in the skillet to bake. Keep it simple. Keep it delicious.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

There’s no shortage of things to feel guilty about these days. May I suggest you make and eat this Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese with nothing but joy and pleasure. No guilt necessary.

Recipe adapted from Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson.

Finally, if you like this recipe, you might also love this Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese. It’s awesome!

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are creamy, cheesy, and packed with veggies. This is an excellent meat-free meal, even for picky eaters who normally turn their nose up at vegetables. Yes, that’s me.

As a food blogger, the things I have always struggled most with is photography. We live in a visual world these days, and the pressure to make your life look perfect online has never been higher. It seems people will spend hours styling a shot that makes them seem effortlessly chic. The irony really smacks you in the face.

When I took these photos, I had a moment of real self-defeat. I made the wrong choice before this dish even went in the oven. That left it looking less than perfect by the time I got it in front of the camera. I was criticizing myself in a way I would never speak to another person.

What could I do? I could have started over. I could have bought all these ingredients again and taken more photos that may or may not have been better. What I’ve decided to do instead is share with you what this dish will really probably look like when it comes out of your oven. I’ve decided to remind you to be kind to yourself and allow yourself space to grow. This is the gift I’m going to try to give myself.

Guys, I also really want you to make this recipe. Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are absolutely perfect for Autumn. It’s a great option for meatless Monday, but any day of the week will do. I love this dish, and I normally stay far away from vegetables. Chewy pasta, soft squash, creamy bechamel, and of course, plenty of mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of sage make for the perfect dinner.

While nothing here is difficult to make, there are a few components to this dish. And your kitchen will not be clean by the end. I use frozen butternut squash chunks to save some time. And any time you make pasta, the first thing you should always do is put a pot of water on to boil. If you call in a little help to stuff your shells, you could easily get this on the table on a week night.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

We’re keeping it real here, friends. We’re always learning, we’re eating awesome food, and we’re doing it all with kindness.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Cowboy Spaghetti

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I look forward to occasionally staying at a hotel or a person’s house with cable so that I can relive my Food Network binging days when things get boring. I was a bit let down the last time I tried this. Food Network in the UK is sort of awful. They basically only have a handful of shows that the play in four to six hour blocks. One of them is Jamie Oliver, and that’s beautiful, but they also play The Pioneer Woman for hours on end, and I just can’t abide. It’s a good thing no one reads my blog because I’m sure I’d get kicked out of the blogosphere for it, but I find her show so annoying and contrived.

I miss the good old days when Saturday and Sunday mornings featured a different show every half hour, each one with actual recipes and cooking, not silly food competitions or restaurant tours. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen shared a clip of Sandra Lee making a cocktail the other day, and it was a hilarious hit of nostalgia. I vote they make a Food Network Classic channel where they just replay all the great shows from the 2000’s. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

It’s official. Bacon makes everything better. Case in point, this Cowboy Spaghetti. What makes this different from regular spaghetti bolognese? There’s your standard onion, garlic, and tomato, but along with bacon, there’s also beer instead of red wine, a bit of hot sauce, and cheddar cheese instead of parmesan. It’s an absolutely delicious twist on a family classic. I was proclaiming myself a genius as I ate. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice Geoff stealing the remaining bacon that was meant to accompany the rest of the pot of pasta.

This is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe from her 30 minute meal days, so you know it’s easy to accomplish. It will also easily feed your whole family, as we’re cooking up a whole package of spaghetti here. With just the two of us in the house, we’ll be eating this for probably three days, but I’m not mad at it.

Cowboy Spaghetti | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Cowboy Spaghetti has all the good things. Who’s coming over for dinner?

Cowboy Spaghetti
Serves 6
Cowboy Spaghetti is an awesome twist on a family classic, loaded up with bacon and cheddar cheese.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound spaghetti
  2. salt
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 3 slices of bacon
  5. 1 pound ground beef
  6. 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. black pepper
  9. 1 tablespoon hot sauce (or more if you're into that sort of thing)
  10. 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  11. 1/2 cup beer
  12. 1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  13. 500 grams tomato sauce or pasata
  14. 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
Instructions
  1. Put a large pot of water over high heat to boil. Don't forget to put a lid on it, or it will take forever. When the water boils, add salt and spaghetti, stirring occasionally.Cook according to package instructions, but check it a minute early to make sure your pasta isn't overcooked.
  2. In the mean time, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cut your bacon with scissors right into the pan. Cook to desired level of crispness (the correct answer is very crisp). Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and pour off some of the fat, leaving enough to coat the pan.
  3. Add your ground beef to the pan to brown. Season with salt and pepper. Depending on how lean your beef is, you may want to drain the fat off before proceeding.
  4. Add the white part of your green onions (save the green tops for later) and garlic to your ground beef and then season with hot sauce and Worcestershire. Add the beer and scrape up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and sauce. Bring everything back up to a simmer and check for seasonings. This is usually where I add more hot sauce. Simmer for about five minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a bit and for all the flavors to marry.
  6. After you drain your pasta, put it back in the pot, then pour the sauce over the spaghetti and stir to combine.
  7. Top your bowl or plate of spaghetti with plenty of cheddar cheese, a sprinkling of crunchy bacon, and the green tops of your green onions.
Adapted from How to be Awesome on $20 a Day
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/

Mac & Cheese Cups | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Mac & Cheese Cups

Mac & Cheese Cups | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I love going out to eat. I get so excited to read a new menu. I love watching other people’s food go by just to see what’s coming out of the kitchen. If there’s a table that looks right into the kitchen, all the better. On a good day, we’ve gone to a place where I want to try a bunch of different stuff. My husband and I will negotiate to make sure we’re not getting the same thing so we can taste each other’s food. There’s the internal struggle about whether to get a cocktail or a dessert because I know I can’t afford both.

But lately, when my food arrives, I’m often underwhelmed. I don’t know if it’s because I’m used to outrageous American food or if British restaurants just aren’t that great unless you’re rich. More often than not, what I’m eating looks impressive, but it’s not any better, and occasionally noticeably worse, than what I could make for myself at home. 

Mac and cheese is one of those foods that’s hit or miss out in the restaurant world. Sometimes a place will describe this supposedly legendary mac, and what you end up with is pasta in a soupy white sauce with some shredded cheddar sprinkled over the top. The whole thing gets shoved under the broiler and brought to you bubbling and boring rather than properly incorporated, creamy, dreamy, gooey, and good. I assure you, today’s recipe is anything but disappointing.

Mac & Cheese Cups | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

These Mac & Cheese Cups have a buttery, cracker crumb crust, so we’re already off to a good start. I swear Ritz crackers are a true manufacturing miracle. We’re mixing our al dente macaroni with cheddar and garlic and herb soft cheese for a punch of bold flavor. A few more creamy ingredients help hold everything together. Pop all this into a muffin cup to bake, and you’ve got something truly awesome.

Mac & Cheese Cups are also versatile. We ate them for lunch in front of the TV while watching football, still warm and gooey, but you could also make them into a cheesy side dish for dinner, or serve them up at a party. These are good hot or cold. When they’ve been chilled, they actually hold their shape really well and are much easier to eat with your hands, so if you’re serving them at a party, don’t be afraid to make them ahead and stash them in the fridge.

Mac & Cheese Cups | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

There’s a lot of great food in the world, but chances are, some of the best food will come from your very own kitchen. Why not start with Mac & Cheese Cups. I assure you, they’re awesome.

Mac & Cheese Cups
Serves 12
Mac & Cheese Cups combine a butter cracker crust with chewy gooey mac and cheese for a great little party food.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 ounces elbow macaroni
  2. 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs, or similar (about 12 crackers)
  3. 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  4. 1.5 ounces butter, melted
  5. 2.5 ounces garlic and herb soft cheese, such as Boursin or cream cheese
  6. 0.5 ounces cold butter
  7. 1 egg
  8. 100 ml milk
  9. 30 ml sour cream
  10. Pinch of salt
  11. Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F (175C), and lightly grease the cups of a standard 12 cup muffin pan.
  2. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it's boiled, add a fat pinch of salt and your pasta. Cook for one minute less than the package instructions, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Drain.
  3. While your pasta is cooking, combine your cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup of your shredded cheddar, and your melted butter in a mixing bowl until fully combined. Divide your crumb mixture between your 12 muffin cups. I use the bottom of a shot glass to gently press the crumb mixture into the bottom of each cup to flatten it down. Set this aside until your pasta is ready.
  4. Once your pasta is cooked, combine the cooked pasta, remaining cheddar, garlic and herb cheese, and cold butter in a mixing bowl. In a measuring jug, add in your milk, use displacement to measure out your sour cream, then crack the egg into the jug. Give this mixture a good whisk to smooth it all out, then pour it over your pasta mixture. Finally, sprinkle in your salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and give the whole thing a good stir until it's evenly combined.
  5. Evenly divide your pasta mixture into the twelve cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it's bubbly and just starting to hint at browning.
  6. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove them. I use an offset spatula to get them out. Run your spatula around the edge of each cup to loose then up, then carefully slide the spatula down the side and underneath. They should release fairly easily.
  7. These can be served hot, cold, or anywhere in between.
Adapted from Everyday Annie
Adapted from Everyday Annie
How to be Awesome on $20 a day http://awesomeon20.com/

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

For the past week I’ve been living the Olympic dream. I’ve been carefully honing my time management technique and training hard on my fast forwarding skills to get through about 16 hours of BBC Olympic coverage every day. At the halfway point, I’m all caught up, and I’ve taken in all the Olympic glory. I’m ready to go for the gold in week two.

My favorite is always the figure skating, and I don’t care how many time he falls down, Patrick Chan of Canada is absolutely exquisite. His performance is masterful and draws me right in. I did also love the two Japanese men. They were the perfect contrast of earth and air. Hanyu was light and ethereal while Uno is supremely grounded and powerful.  Who was your favorite on the ice?

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

While I watch athletes at peak physical form, I am perfecting my butt groove in my couch and eating food that almost certainly would not be allowed in the Olympic village. A prime example is this BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese. Al dente pasta is loaded up with masses of cheese and complimented with salty, sweet, and spicy pulled pork. It’s a real winner.

This dish is a great way to use up leftover pulled pork if you’d made your own, but it’s certainly not necessary. I used store bought pulled pork, or you could pick up a takeaway portion from your favorite smokehouse. Being a stovetop mac, this dish won’t dry out and the cheese stays super silky. Stir in as much of your favorite BBQ sauce as you like. 

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I will never be an Olympic champion, and I certainly don’t want to eat like an elite athlete, but I feel like a star when I serve something as awesome as BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese. You’ve got to try it.

BBQ Pulled Pork Stovetop Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces short pasta
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used skim and it was plenty rich)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces shredded swiss cheese
  • 1 ounce grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces pulled pork
  • 1/8 cup barbecue sauce

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta in plenty of salted water according to package instructions.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, melt butter, then sprinkle the flour over it. Whisk butter and flour together into a paste and allow to cook for a couple of minutes until it smells nutty.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk. Try to prevent lumps. Add garlic powder and cayenne. Let it thicken until it just starts to bubble.
  4. Stir in the cheese and mix until smooth. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir pulled pork and barbecue sauce together in a small bowl.
  6. After you've drained your pasta, return it to the pot. Pour over the cheese sauce and stir to combine. Fold in pulled pork mixture. You can add pepper if you like, but taste it before adding any salt. You may not need it since the pork is so salty.
  7. Drizzle on some extra barbecue sauce at the end if you like.
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