Archive for August, 2010

Sherry & Squash Mac N’ Cheese

Posted in American with tags , , , on August 31, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

This is the absolute creamiest cheesiest full of flavor macaroni and cheese you will ever have!  The secret to this mac n cheese is the cooking method. So read along to find out the secret! And best of all, this macaroni is butter-less and flour-less.  I did use some cream, however. But if you want to make this healthier you can substitute with regular milk. And did I forget to mention the wine?? It makes a huge difference…and the acorn just makes it seem like you are eating something healthy. I love deceptions!

Now to the special cooking method. When you boil the macaroni, only boil for about 3 minutes. Immediately drain and place in saucepan.  Add wine, cream, milk and salt and cook on med until al dente.  Cooking it this way will allow the macaroni to absorb all the delicious flavor, so the pasta itself is not bland.  When al dente, add pureed acorn, onion, garlic, and all the cheese! Finish off with some pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and salt.  Either serve this way or bake with more cheese and panko bread crumbs if you like a crusty finish. Super easy, so give it a try!

The leftovers where even better.  All the flavors were able to incorporate and come together, and the sherry and marsala taste was more subtle. Read on below to find out how to prepare it to retain it’s creaminess.


  • 1 acorn squash: peeled, cubed and roasted in oven with olive oil and salt, then pureed
  • 1/2 onion, sautéed and pureed with acorn
  • 1 big clove garlic, sautéed and pureed with acorn
  • 1 box/bag macaroni
  • 3/4 c. sherry wine (or dry white wine)
  • 2 tbsp marsala wine (optional)
  • 1 c. cream
  • 1 c. milk
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 c. sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. any other cheese (I used asiago & mozzarella)
  • cayenne pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Panko bread crumbs (optional)

Peel and cut acorn and bake with olive oil and salt until tender. Then puree.

Milk and wine is added and cooked on med heat until al dente

Add pureed acorn and cheese to macaroni. Serve as is or bake with extra cheese (mozzarella) on top and panko bread crumbs

NOTE: If the mixture is not creamy enough before placing in the oven pour more cream or milk on top. This will ensure it’s creaminess!



Special care must be taken when re-heating mac n cheese to retain it’s creaminess.  Preheat oven to 425.  Place a bit of cream or milk in remikin.  Add mac and cheese and a bit more cream or milk on top.  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese in bubbly, about 5-7 minutes.


Indian Enchiladas

Posted in Indian, Mexican with tags , , , , on August 30, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I made this for my family visiting from Utah.  Although we had been busy almost every day sight seeing, my sister asked if I could make dinner, at least just once.  Of course I said yes! I asked what they wanted and they immediately replied with indian saag and masala.  But because i’ve already made this dish recently I wanted to make it a little differently. So I made it into a classic mexican dish: Enchiladas!

I made the traditional saag aloo but added some wonderful hungarian feta cheese which made it even better.  To the masala sauce I added coconut milk and dark chocolate for an extra kick.  Final result….fantastic!!

If you don’t like spinach you could make chicken tikka masala enchiladas! Or shredded beef could work as well. If you want to keep them vegetarian you could also make lentil enchiladas. The possibilities are endless, people!


  • Spinach & potato Filling (see below)
  • Indian Masala sauce (see below).
  • Flour or corn tortillas
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Top with greek yogurt (with grated garlic and a pinch of salt)
  • Serve with side salad (I used romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, red onion, feta. Dressing: mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of cream.

Step 1:

  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3 tbsp curry
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • Red chilies (whole or chopped, seeded or not)

Directions: Saute onion until tender. Add garlic and ginger. Add spices. Divide in half and place other half in other pan.

Step 2: Spinach filling

  • About 3-4 potatoes, chopped in small pieces
  • 2 packages frozen spinach, defrosted and fully drained from any moisture
  • About 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 lime juice
  • 1/3 c Feta cheese

Directions: (1) cut potatoes and place in pan with hot oil. Add salt and pepper. Brown potatoes and set aside. (2) to 1/2 of onion mixture add spinach.(3)  Slowly add coconut milk and reduce. (4) Add lime juice and potatoes. (5) Remove from heat and add feta cheese.

Step 3: Masala Sauce

  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 c. coconut milk
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 lime juice
  • Adjust taste with salt, and more curry
  • Adjust heat with more red chilies or red pepper flakes
  • Optional: 1 tbsp chocolate baking powder or dark block chocolate or mexican mole

Directions: (1) to 2nd half of onion mixture add tomato sauce and paste. (2) Slowly add coconut milk and simmer on low for about 7 minutes. (3) Add cream/yogurt and lime. (4) Taste and adjust with salt and cumin. (5) Add chocolate (optional).

Step 4: Assembling Enchiladas

  1. Add a bottom coat of masala sauce to baking dish.
  2. Place spinach filling on tortilla and roll.
  3. Fill baking sheet with a single layer of enchiladas
  4. Top with masala sauce and mozzarella cheese
  5. Heat in 350 degrees oven for about 10 minutes, until cheese melts
  6. Garnish with cilantro

Chinese Orange Tofu “Chicken”

Posted in Asian with tags , , , on August 29, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

My brother’s favorite meal is orange chicken. Since he is in town I was bound to make this awesome meal, again. I know I’ve already blogged about orange tofu before, but because it was one of my first blog posts, the picture I had taken was not at all appetizing. So here is a much better representation of Chinese Orange “Chicken”.

I also must say this recipe is WAY better than your ordinary chinese restaurant.  Not only is the sauce way better and more flavorful with a slightly peanuty-taste, there are no chunks of mystery chicken fat that always made me suspicious and discussed while I would eat any chinese breaded chicken. And this is true whether you try my tofu version or you make your own real chicken version, because you will know exactly what you are eating. But trust me, the tofu version is extremely good…so give it a try!

Orange “Chicken” Recipe

Triple Dessert Chocolate Cupcakes

Posted in Dessert on August 28, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I generally dislike cupcakes, or cakes for that matter.  I don’t like the classic bland fluffy cakes and I HATE most frostings.  I have always disliked frostings, but when I learned they are mostly made from sugar and butter, and at times shortening it makes me sick to my stomach.

These cupcakes are a small version of a favorite cake I like to make for birthdays. I make a cheesecake-like flan as the bottom layer, or sometimes I will add the flan as a middle layer surrounding a flavorful cake. I then top it with a creamy, decadent mousse. So it’s really 3 desserts in one. Can’t beat that!

Every time I make this type of cake I play around with the flavors. I have made white chocolate flan with orange cake topped with white chocolate mousse topped and strawberries and coconut…or dulce de leche flan topped with chocolate tort and a dulce de leche mousse.  This cupcake was made using a chocolate  flan, a dense chocolate brownie, and chocolate orange mousse.  Definitively for chocolate lovers. After you have one of these “cakes” you will never want to go back to regular cakes again!

Flan Ingredients:

  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 c. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk (can replace with evaporated milk or heavy cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 c. powdered baking chocolate, sweetened OR good quality melted chocolate


  1. Blend everything together in blender.
  2. Pour flan mixture in cupcake liners about 1/2 of the way.
  3. Place flan cupcakes on a water bath in oven at 325 until almost set, about 10-15 minutes
  4. Take out of oven.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

  • Your favorite chocolate cake (I used boxed brownie mix+ 1 tsp instant coffee)

Directions: mix ingredients together. Add about 2 tbsp of cake mix on top of flan. Increase oven temp to 350 and bake for 10-15 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Continue to cook on water bath. When ready, take out of oven and cool for about 30 minutes. Then place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Chocolate-Orange Mousse Recipe

  • 1 bar bittersweet chocolate
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee
  • 2 -3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 c. heavy cream, whipped
  • Orange zest
  • 2 egg yolks


  1. Place pot of water to boil. Place a large mixing bowl on top of pot and add chocolate, butter, vanilla, sugar, and coffee. Let the steam melt the chocolate.
  2. In the meantime, whip the cream until you have stiff peaks.  I do this by hand, but you can also use an electronic mixer.
  3. Add orange zest to whipped cream.
  4. Once chocolate is melted, remove from steam and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, and mix thoroughly.
  5. Finally, gently fold in the whipping cream to the chocolate mixture.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours
  7. When cupcakes are ready to eat, add mousse on top of cupcakes with a pastry bag. NOTE: these cupcakes must be kept in the fridge, specially if they already have the mousse on top. If not, the mousse will melt!

Baked Eggplant Parmesan with Gin Marinara and Basil Fettuccine Alfredo

Posted in Italian with tags , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I used to make chicken parmesan often, being one of Mark’s favorite meals.  Since going vegetarian I have been wanting to make eggplant parmesan. I love eggplant, but Mark and I are not on the same page on this one.  After a day of hiking we were on our way home, tired and hungry.  Mark came up with the idea of making both chicken and eggplant parmesan.  He agreed to help so I gave in.  We only needed 1 onion and 1 chicken breast from the store so we made a quick stop. I ran into the store, waited in the butcher line only to find out they didn’t sell chicken. I visited the packaged chicken section for the first time in 3 months and I could not justify spending $6 for more chicken then we needed.  I left with my onion thinking that Mark could go to another store while I started cooking.  Surprisingly he said he would just eat the eggplant. I don’t think it was his changing attitude, however. I am willing to bet everything I have on pure laziness.  Anyways, this forced him to eat the eggplant.  He liked it, but he said it just didn’t taste like chicken.  Really?? Are you sure the taste wasn’t similar? I mean, they look similar, don’t they? I don’t know what he was expecting. I mean, it is “eggplant” parmesan. He did eat it though, he just wasn’t jumping with happiness.  I, on the other hand, loved it and had it again for lunch the next day. It was awesome.

The gin marinara sauce and the basil fettuccine alfredo were excellent as well, and Mark definitively agreed.  The most consuming part about this dish is waiting for the marinara sauce to reduce (about 30 minutes total). The rest of this dish is super easy. Give it a try!

Gin Marinara Sauce

Gin Marinara Sauce Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 tsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 big can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1/3-1/2 c. red wine
  • 1 shot gin or vodka
  • Handful chopped basil
  • 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese


  1. In hot olive oil add onions and a bit of salt. Add garlic, black pepper, and italian seasoning.
  2. Add canned whole tomatoes, squeezing each tomato to break apart. Do not add remaining tomato juice in can.
  3. Add red wine and gin.
  4. Add chopped basil.
  5. Heat on med/low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with more salt to taste.
  6. Blend with emersion blender and add parmesan cheese.

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan Ingredients

  • 2 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Flour
  • Salt + Pepper + italian seasoning
  • 1 egg
  • Panko bread crumbs
  • Marinara Sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese


  • Pre heat oven to 425
  • Place peeled and sliced eggplant in cold water for about 20 minutes while you make marinara sauce
  • After 20 minutes, remove from water and sprinkle a bit of salt on both sides of eggplant
  • Combine flour, pepper, salt, and italian seasoning in bowl
  • In 2nd bowl combine egg and 1 tbsp water
  • In third bowl add panko bread crumbs
  • Dip parmesan in flour, then egg mixture, then panko
  • Place eggplant in greased casserole dish
  • Heat for 5-7 minutes and flip over for another 5 minutes
  • Take out of oven and add marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese
  • Heat for another 7-10 minutes

Basil Fettuccine Alfredo

Basil Fettuccine Alfredo Ingredients

  • 1/2 package fettuccine, cooked with 1 tbsp olive oil to prevent sticking together
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1/3 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • A pinch of nutmeg


  1. Boil fettuccine in salted water until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil on pasta and set aside
  2. In saucepan, place cream, milk, garlic, cream cheese, parmesan, salt + pepper and heat on low.When cheeses are melted and sauce thickens, add mozzarella and nutmeg.
  3. Combine pasta and alfredo sauce. Add basil leaves.

Caribbean Rum Bread Pudding

Posted in Breakfast/Brunch, Dessert with tags , , , , , on August 22, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I hardly ever make bread pudding, mainly because Mark hates the consistency of it, but also because it is slightly unhealthy..just slightly. Because my brother, sister and their friends are visiting from Utah I took the opportunity to feed them something I usually don’t get to make.  I made this for breakfast, and served it with fruit and yogurt to make it a bit more balanced and healthy.

The result? Everyone loved it (and I say everyone since Mark didn’t get any). The custard had a great flavor, but I think what made this so good was the challah bread I used.  I made a honey cinnamon challah bread about a month ago to make french toast.  I froze the leftover bread and it was perfect for this quick and easy breakfast.  If you want to make your own challah bread google a recipe or find one on youtube, and add honey and cinnamon. It’s a bit time consuming but you will have a huge loaf of good quality bread perfect for french toast or bread pudding.  Why, you ask? Well, the challah bread is more dense than most breads so when you soak it in a custard it will not fall apart. Using day old bread that is a bit crusty also helps make it better. If you don’t want to make it and can’t find it at the store, get day old french bread or even stale croissants. Don’t use loaf bread, you will not get the same results.



  • Challah bread, or dense good quality day-old bread


  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. regular milk
  • 1/2 c. condensed milk
  • 1/2 package cream cheese (optional)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 c. caribbean rum
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks


  • Rum drunken raisins (see below)
  • walnuts
  • coconut flakes
  • Orange marmalade (or pineapple)


  1. Grease casserole dish
  2. Cut challah bread into 1 inch cubes to fill about 2/3 of dish
  3. Blend custard ingredients together
  4. Add custard to bread
  5. Add rum drunken raisins
  6. Refrigerate overnight
  7. Next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees
  8. Add walnuts, shredded coconut, and a thin layer of orange mermalade
  9. Heat in water bath for about 30-45 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean
  10. Serve warm or cold.

Rum Drunken Raisins:

  • To a handful of golden raisins add enough rum to cover. Place in jar and let the raisins sit in counter for at least 1 week, preferably 2.
  • The more time you let the raisins sit, the plumper they will get and will absorb all the rum. Also, the longer you let it sit the less it will taste like alcohol.

Plantain Arepas

Posted in South American with tags , , , , on August 21, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Arepas are the staple street food in Venezuela and Colombia.  They are super easy to make and super delicious.  They are made using Masarepa, a precooked cornmeal (different than Mexican Maza). The taste is similar to a Mexican gordita, but it has a smoother consistency, and they are stuffed with your favorite ingredients.  Stuffing these babies are so much fun…the possibilities are endless.  So far I have only made plantain arepas and cheese arepas–both delicious.  But you can stuff these with shredded meat, chicken, veggies, or seafood. You could also try making a sweet version…I think that’s what I will attempt next time.



  • 2 1/2 c. warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 c. White Masarepa PAN brand (found in latin american store)

Arepa Directions:

  1. Place 2 1/2 c. warm water in bowl
  2. Add 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp oil, and 1 egg and mix
  3. Slowly add approx. 2 c masarepa until it comes together into a smooth ball
  4. Form gordita-like disks about the size of your hand (you want them thick enough to cut through the middle to stuff)
  5. Cook on low/med heat in buttered pan about 6 minutes on each side
  6. Cut in half and stuff


  • Fried Green Plantains
  • Black beans
  • Avocado
  • Cotija cheese
  • Sour cream

Plantain Directions:

  1. Slice plantains 1/4 inch thick
  2. Fry plantains until they are cooked through
  3. Remove from oil and smash to flatten
  4. Fry again until golden brown
  5. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne pepper

Note: You can slice the plantains as big/small as you want. I found that the big slices were easier to eat in the arepas, but the smaller ones were easier to make as they broke less often.

Arepas Sandwich Directions:

  1. Cut arepa in the middle and add sour cream to both sides.
  2. Stuff the arepa with black beans, plantains, avocado, and cheese.
  3. Now take a big bite and enjoy!