macaroni with four cheeses

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We’re still enjoying the Easter ham. I feel like a miser, doling it out piece by piece! To accompany the ham tonight, I made this macaroni with four cheeses in the sauce: white cheddar, Emmentaler, Edam, and Parmesan. This macaroni is light but flavorful.

Prep time: 25 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes

2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup each grated Emmentaler and Edam cheeses
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
1/2 chicken bouillon cube
1 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Salt and pepper
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil cooking spray
Scallions bias cut, thinly

In a large pot, boil water with a little oil and salt. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside in the empty pot.

Heat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium high heat. Turn off the heat and add the flour, stirring with a whisk until incorporated. Turn the heat back on to medium high and gradually add the milk, stirring, then add the bouillon cube, mustard and pepper. Add salt to taste. Add half the cheeses and stir until blended. Continue stirring over medium high heat. The longer the sauce is heated the thicker it will become, so only heat it as long as you like. If it is too thick, thin it with a little milk or water.

Add the remaining cheeses to the pasta in the pot. Toss to incorporate. Scrape the pasta and cheese into the prepared baking dish. Scrape the cheese sauce into the baking dish and mix well. Sprinkle the Panko on top. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.

Bake 35 minutes or until the top is golden and the cheese sauce bubbles. Let rest 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle scallions on top of each serving. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese to sprinkle as a topping.

young coconut cheesecake

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Young Coconut Cheesecake (adapted from Emeril Legasse)

When I was a child in Jamaica, my mother made her own coconut milk. When she was ready to make rice and peas, my mother grated thick slabs of coconut meat from “old” coconuts that barely had any water left and the jelly inside had thickened and dried. First, she steeped the grated coconut in hot water. When it cooled, she would put the coconut in a muslin cloth, twist the top, and squeeze out the milk. Today, coconut milk is sold in cans or in UHT packages–a real time-saver! I like slow food but that’s too slow for me.

For this recipe, two young coconuts will yield about 2 cups coconut jelly. Before scooping out the tender jelly inside, first drain the water from the nut. Save the water for a refreshing drink on ice –with a little gin is also nice!

Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 60-70 minutes (30-40 for 7-inch springform)
Resting time: at least 8 hours or overnight

Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter plus 2 tablespoons for prepping the pan

Coconut Cheesecake Filling
3 x 8oz. packages Philadelphia cream cheese, softened 30 minutes at room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
6 large eggs
8 oz coconut milk or coconut cream
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon zest of one small lime
1 1/2 cup shredded fresh young coconut scooped out of the nut and sprinkled with 1 tablespoon flour

Coconut Whipped Cream
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/2 cup shredded fresh young coconut scooped out of the nut and patted dry with paper towels

Special equipment: 10 inch springform pan, large roasting pan not higher than the springform pan

Prepare the coconut. When the water is drained, use a kitchen zester to scoop the jelly out in strips. A zester has four or five little metal circles on the head and a handle for grasping. Use only the most tender jelly, discarding any that are tough and thickened. Divide; sprinkle flour on 1 1/2 cups coconut and gently toss. Set aside.

Make the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Brush melted butter on the sides and bottom of the pan. Combine crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press crumbs onto the bottom of the pan. Use a measuring cup to smooth the crumbs into the edges of the pan. Bake 6 minutes or until golden. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Cover the bottom and sides of the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil. Set aside. Don’t turn off the oven.

Make the filling. Cut the cream cheese blocks into 1 inch cubes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese together on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar and combine. Add eggs one at a time. Then add the coconut milk. Add the flour, salt,vanilla, and zest blending until smooth. Add the 1 1/2 cups shredded young coconut and fold until just incorporated. Scrape mixture into the cooled crust.

Bake in a bain marie or water bath. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water to come up to 1 inch of the side of the pan. Bake 60-70 minutes or until set. The center should jiggle slightly when the pan is shook. Remove from the water bath. With a thin blade, loosen the sides of the cheesecake from the pan. This prevents pulling and cracking of the cheesecake top as it cools. If it cracks anyway, no matter because you’ll cover the top with coconut whipped cream! Cool the cake completely on a wire cooling rack, about 2 1/2 -3 hours. Don’t remove the sides of the pan. Chill in the pan, preferably overnight or at least 6 hours before finishing with the whipped cream topping.

Cake Baker’s Note: If dividing the batter between two 7-inch springform pans, bake 30 minutes then test. If the jiggle in the center is too much, bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Make the coconut whipped cream. Combine the whipping cream and sugar in another large mixing bowl. Whisk until soft peaks form. Add coconut milk and whip until stiff peaks form. Fold in the 1/2 cup shredded young coconut. Spread on top of the chilled cheesecake. Refrigerate in the pan. Remove the sides just before slicing and serving.

chicken with lime-cilantro-celery rub roasted with garlic and potatoes

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This classic recipe is such a simple one-pan dinner. My addition of the citrus and herbs gives it a complex flavor that hardly needs anything more. The chicken is moist and juicy and the skin is crisp. The secret to crisp skin chicken is to make sure the skin is patted dry.

Chicken with Lime-Cilantro-Celery Rub Roasted with Garlic and Potatoes

prep time: 30 minutes
baking time: 50-60 minutes

1 x 4-5 lb whole chicken, rinsed and patted dry inside and out
1 lime, halved
zest of two small limes
2 medium onions, quartered
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Chinese celery, leaves and stems chopped
2 heads garlic, peeled
4 potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper
olive oil

Heat the oven to 350˚F.

Mince half of head garlic. Add the zest, cilantro, and celery. Mince fine and place in a small bowl. Set aside.

Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the lime halves, one onion, and the remaining half a head of garlic. Truss the legs with kitchen string.

Loosen the breast skin and stuff between the skin and the breast with the garlic-lime-cilantro-celery mixture. Brush the skin with melted butter. Salt and pepper the chicken to taste.

Put the potatoes, remaining onion quarters, and the remaining head of garlic in the roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. With your hands, mix the vegetables with oil and seasoning. Clear a space in the center. Nest the prepared chicken in the middle of the vegetables.

Roast for 50-60 minutes or until the chicken registers 160˚F when tested with an instant read thermometer. Let rest 10 minutes then carve.

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mango surprise: butter cake with mango, whipped cream, and passion fruit

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It’s mango season now, and we are suffering. It’s like going to heaven and having nothing to eat but your favorite fruit. Such a punishment.

But mango doesn’t bake welI, and the fresh sweet taste of a mango is incomparable. So I made my favorite butter cake as a bundt for dessert and filled up the center with mango and whipped cream, then drizzled passion fruit on top. It was an easy dessert to make and it is so light and refreshing.

Just perfect for a hot summer night. Songkran is next week, which means midsummer is approaching. Got to make more desserts that are cool, light and refreshing!

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