Panera Mac-n-Cheese


Every Friday my kids have a half day of school and one of our favorite things to do is go to Panera for lunch. 9 times out of 10 all of us order the mac-n-cheese. It’s seriously one of the best we have ever had. When I learned that they have the recipe on their website, I jumped for joy. Not only is this one of our favorites to make at home, it’s super easy. It’s just as creamy and full of cheesy goodness like the one you can buy. I’m so happy to be able to make this at home when we have cravings but can’t get out of the house. I know you’ll enjoy as much as we do.

Panera Mac-N-Cheese:

  • 1 (16-ounce) package of rigati pasta (or other small pasta shells)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% reduced fat milk
  • 6 slices white American cheese, chopped
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk (or cream); cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute and serve.

Source: Panera

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

There are times when I see something on my Google Reader and I have to make it right away. This is one of those times. Pioneer Woman posted this recipe and it looked so good, that I knew I had to make it ASAP. What makes it even better is that I already had all the ingredients. It was totally meant to be. I am going to admit something… I am not a huge chicken fan. If given the choice, I won’t ever pick chicken. I will make it and eat it, but I won’t ever get seconds. I loved this dish so much, that I got a second piece of chicken! Even my daughter, who doesn’t like a lot of saucy things, loved it. This says a lot. The only thing I changed from the original recipe was adding shallots. Personally, I love shallots, but my husband said I could leave them out next time. It’ll be up to you and whether you want to add them or not.

You must go make this dish now! It’s fast and easy and you won’t regret it.

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce:

*Serves 4-8

  • 4 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or 8 chicken cutlets
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 3 whole Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 2 medium shallots sliced thin (optional)
  • 1 cup Brandy (or White Wine If Preferred) *I loved the Brandy*
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Grainy Mustard
  • 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 cup (to 1/2) Chicken Broth
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  1. If using chicken breasts and not cutlets, cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise so that you have eight smaller, thinner chicken cutlets. Salt and pepper both sides.
  2. Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook cutlets on both sides until nice and golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken from the skillet and keep on a plate.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the shallots to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Next add the garlic to the pan and saute it for a minute, stirring to make sure it won’t burn. Next pour in the brandy (or wine if using) being careful if cooking over an open flame. Then just let the brandy bubble up and cook until it’s reduced by half.
  4. Throw in the mustards and stir to combine, then pour in the cream. Stir in chicken broth, adding more if the sauce seems too thick. Taste sauce and adjust whatever you think it needs. Add chicken breasts back to the pan, nestling them into the sauce. Allow sauce to cook for another few minutes, shaking the pan if needed to move things around.
  5. Serve chicken with the sauce spooned over the top.

Source: slightly adapted from Pioneer Woman

Chicken Piccata

WOW, is all I can say about what has been going on the past couple weeks with us. For those who aren’t familiar with our situation, my husband lost his news job last year. We ended up moving back to his home state of PA, while he pursued an instructor job at Penn State University, and took a break from his journalism career. But, the draw of news was way too strong and an opportunity came to get back in the business and also be close to family. I am proud to say that he’s the new News Director for WJAC in Johnstown, PA. There are so many things that we are thankful for and looking forward to. This past year we have been with my in-laws, and getting back out on our own, well, I can’t even put it into words. I’m excited to have my own kitchen again so I can cook and bake like crazy. I hope my husband’s new staff is ready for me. They have no idea how much food they will be eating. The next couple months we are going to be house hunting, kids finishing school, and moving,  so I will do my best to post as much as I can.

Back in January, my husband got me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated magazine. One of the bonus items I received was their All Time Best Recipes magazine. It’s filled with many great things and one of them is this Chicken Picatta. I couldn’t wait to make it so I went out and got everything I needed. It was amazing, everyone loved it, especially my son. My son seriously loves lemons and this was right up his alley. The sauce is surprising light and refreshing with the lemon, chicken broth and butter. It was a great weeknight meal, serve with rice and a nice arugula salad.


Chicken Picatta:

  • 2 large lemons
  • 8 chicken cutlets or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in half, lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tbs) or 1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbs drained small capers
  • 3 tbs unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tbs minced fresh Italian parsley leaves
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.
  2. Halve 1 lemon pole to pole. Trim ends from one half and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; reserve.
  3. Sprinkle both sides of cutlets with salt and pepper. Measure flour into pie tin or shallow baking dish. Working 1 cutlet at a time, coat with flour and shake to remove excess.
  4. Heat 2 tbs oil in heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Lay half of chicken pieces in skillet. Saute cutlets, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Turn cutlets and cook until second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat and transfer cutlets to plate in oven. Add remaining 2 tbs oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add remaining chicken pieces and repeat.
  5. Add shallot or garlic to now-empty skillet and return skillet to medium heat. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds for shallot and 10 seconds for garlic. Add broth and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape skillet bottom with wooden spoon or spatula to loosen browned bits. Simmer until liquid reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and capers and simmer until sauce reduces again to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter until butter melts and thickens sauce; swirl in parsley. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Recipes

Chicken In A Pot With Thyme and Lemon

The flu bug has officially visited my house. I was the second person to get hit and hopefully the last. I can finally look and think about food again. I was wanting to post this recipe earlier but there was no way I could even think about it. Thankfully I’m on the mend and can start giving you wonderful recipes again.

Cooking a whole chicken in a pot is the classic French way to cook a chicken. I’ve never tried it before and I’m so glad I finally made it. I now have my favorite way to cook chicken. The recipe comes from my new America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook, which is now one of my favorites. I loved that everything is cooked in one pot. You brown the chicken with the onions and then throw it in the oven. After 2 hours of baking, I checked the chicken to find it was not done. I decided to crank the temp on the oven to 350 and let it go for 40 minutes. That did the trick, the chicken was cooked perfectly. The sauce was my favorite part of the meal! We spooned it over the chicken and the basmati rice pilaf I made to go along side it. I could have kept eating the sauce with a spoon. This made a great Sunday night dinner for us, but could easily be made during the week.


Chicken in a pot with Thyme and Lemon:

  • 1 (4lb) whole chicken, neck and giblets removed
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced thin
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  1. Adjust oven rack to the lower position and heat the oven to 250 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, tuck the wings under the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken, breast-side down, and scatter the onion, garlic, bay leaf and thyme around the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides, 10-12 minutes. Turn the chicken breast-side up.
  3. Off the heat, place a large sheet of aluminium foil over the pot and press to seal, then cover tightly with the lid. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until the breast registers 160 to 165 degrees and the thighs register 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 50 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a carving board, ten loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Strain the juices from the pot into a fat separator (if you don’t have one strain them into a bowl and skim off the fat), reserving the strained vegetables. Let the juices settle for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the defatted juices, strained vegetables, and any accumulated chicken juice back to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, stir in the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve the chicken and remove the skin. Serve, passing the sauce separately.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

Weeknight Bolognese

I love a good bolognese and in order to achieve that it takes all day to make. The past couple weeks have been down right chilly and snowy. When the weather is like that, I want hot comfort food to warm me up. I wanted something like bolognese but didn’t have time to spend all day in the kitchen. My daughter is keeping me super busy with her cheerleading schedule and finding time in the kitchen has been hard. So, I turned to Ina’s new cookbook to help me out. She has a weeknight bolognese that doesn’t take long to make. This turned out fantastic. If you are like me this time of year, and have to run around like a crazy person. You can take comfort in knowing that you can still put a delicious meal on the table, even in the middle of your busy holiday schedule.

Weeknight Bolognese:

  • 2 tbs good olive oil, plus extra to cook pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground sirloin4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • Kosher salt & black pepper
  • 3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small pasta (I used 1 pound)
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  1. Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5-7 minutes, until the meat has lost its pink color and has started to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 more mintue. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tbs salt, and 1 ½ tsp pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a splash of oil, and the pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box.
  3. While the pasta cooks, finish the sauce. Add the nutmeg, basil, cream, and the remaining 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce and ½ cup Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with Parmesan on the side.

Source: How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Lemon Chicken Breasts

I’m on an Ina Garten “How Easy Is That?” kick. I love her new cookbook! There are so many great and easy recipes in it. I wish now that I had already bought all my Christmas gifts for family, because this cookbook would make a perfect gift for a lot of them. Anyway, I saw the recipe for lemon chicken breasts and I had a lot of the ingredients already. I knew I had bought chicken breasts from Costco a few week backs and pulled them out of the freezer. As I go to make the dish, I realize I didn’t buy chicken breasts but instead bought chicken tenders. Ugh! Well, gotta make the best of the situation so I used the tenders and I don’t think it made one bit of difference. I ended up doubling the recipe because I had a lot of tenders. The sauce is amazing and really made those chicken tenders taste great. I’m looking forward to trying this with chicken breasts next time to see how those turn out.


Lemon Chicken Breasts or Tenders:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbs minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 dry white wine
  • 1 tbs grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on or 1 package of chicken tenders
  • 1 lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9×12 inch baking dish.
  3. Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Source: How Easy is That? by Ina Garten