Alternately titled “Best Mac & Cheese Ever”. ;)

Honestly, I’m not much of a mac & cheese person but I tend to experiment with it a lot since Spencer loves it and I get tired of his favorite version that features diced ham and canned mushrooms.

Awhile back I saw a recipe for bacon macaroni and cheese and made a mental note to remember it but then what happened? I forgot where I saw it. Doesn’t that always happen? So I set out to come up with my own recipe and it’s perfect. So ridiculously decadent with all the cheese and bacon and baby bella mushrooms. I even used heavy cream but regular milk would work just fine.

Bacon Mushroom Mac & Cheese
Ingredients
  • 1 pound small pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound bacon diced
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream or milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 cups extra sharp white cheddar shredded
  • 1 cup Swiss shredded
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • spray olive oil
Instructions
  1. Bring a lot pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta, stir, and let boil.
  2. While pasta is boiling, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is cooked and slightly crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour off some of the bacon grease (or all & add a little more olive oil to the pan) and add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour until mixture is smooth. Slowly add in chicken broth and cream, whisking the whole time. Continue whisking until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cheeses until melted.
  4. Preheat oven to 375.
  5. Once pasta is al dente, drain and put in large bowl. Add bacon, mushrooms, and cheese sauce and stir to combine. Pour into prepared 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs over the entire pan and spray lightly with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and panko is slightly browned.

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You guys know what tonight is? It’s LOST night!! I have been waiting for this since last summer when I watched all 5 previous seasons in, like, 2 weeks time. I’™m absolutely addicted to the show and it’s not often that I enjoy a show so much. If I’m working on the computer, I almost always have a LOST episode on in the background.

One of my alltime favorite parts of the show is when (undead) Locke says, “I think this is the best mango I’ve ever eaten” so I wanted to do Mango Avocado Salsa in honor of the premier. And you know they ate a lot of fish on the island so I served in on top of pan-fried tilapia that I lightly coated in flour with a little Creole seasoning sprinkled in.

The salsa is amazing. The sweet and spicy combo was perfect on top of the fish! Even Spencer, who typically wouldn’t touch anything like this, loved it. It was also very good with tortilla chips.

Mango Avocado Salsa
Ingredients
  • 1 mango diced
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes seeded and diced
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and minced
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. Gently combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.


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These brownies are the hidden gem of Dorie’s book. I’ve had her book for a couple of years and have flipped through it countless times and never once noticed this recipe. See, if it doesn’t have a picture, I usually don’t pay much attention. As soon as the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group made them though, I knew I wanted to give them a try.

Basically they’re brownies with a chocolate chip cookie layer on top. Yeah. How in the world did I overlook this recipe for so long?! This was a fun brownie to make and it’s a definite crowd pleaser. I mean, who doesn’t like brownies and chocolate chip cookies?

Chipster Topped Brownies
from Baking: From My Home to Yours
Ingredients
For the brownie layer:
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate coarsely chopped
  • 2 sticks 8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
For the cookie layer:
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan, line it with wax or parchment paper and butter the paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. To make the brownie batter:
  3. Put both chocolates and the butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, heat just until the ingredients are melted, shiny and smooth. If the mixture gets too hot, the butter will separate from the chocolates. Remove the bowl from the heat.
  4. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale, thick and creamy. Beat in the salt and vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate and butter, mixing only until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then, still on low speed, add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the batter. Using the spatula, fold in the walnuts, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Set aside.
  5. To make the cookie dough:
  6. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Working with a stand mixer in the cleaned bowl or with the hand mixer in another large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add the egg and the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Still on low, mix in the chopped chocolate. Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls over the brownie batter an, using a spatula and a light touch, spread it evenly over the batter.
  8. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cookie top is deep golden brown and firm and a thin knife inserted into the brownie layer comes out with only faint streaks of moist chocolate. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.
  9. When the brownies are completely cool, carefully run a knife between the sides of the pan and the brownies, then invert them onto another rack, remove the paper and turn right side up onto a cutting board. Cut into bars about 2 inches by 1 inch. (You can cut larger bars if you're serving to cookie lovers with Texas-size appetites.)

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It’s been a long time since I’ve done 2 BBA breads in one week! My mom gave me a kitchen scale for Christmas and I’ve decided that it is so much more fun than measuring cups so I’ve been having a lot of fun with bread.

These Kaiser rolls were a little intimidating. There’s a fancy (maybe not) shaping technique that you have to use to get that little nub on top of the roll and the directions in the book weren’t much help for someone like me. “One end should come through at what would be 7 o’clock and the other end should come through at 5 o’clock.”Sounds easy enough but manipulating the dough so that it actually happened? Not so much. Mine were all over the clock.

Otherwise an easy bread though. It’s another 2 day recipe but this time you make a pate fermente which is just all-purpose flour, bread flour, salt, yeast, and water. That has the rise and then rest overnight. The next day you cut it into small pieces and mix it in with the rest of your ingredients.

So how were they? Perfect. Seriously perfect. My husband said that this is the best bread for a BLT and the man knows his BLTs! I only wish I would’ve had some poppy seeds to sprinkle on top with the sesame seeds. I definitely recommend this recipe and imagine the rolls would be great for just about any sandwich.

If you’re interested in the recipe, check out The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and visit the BBA blogroll to see what the other bakers are up to.

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Am I the last BBA‘r to make Italian bread? I feel like I am! I’ve been seeing Kaiser rolls and Lavash crackers pop up on all the BBA blogs lately and I’m still stuck on Italian bread! I put it off because the last bread I made was the French bread and this one seemed almost exactly the same to me.

It was a 2 day bread (aren’t they all?!) which is another reason it took me so long to make it. On more than one occasion I’ve opened the book, saw that I needed to make a biga (just flour, yeast, & water kneading together and rested over night) and promptly closed the book.

Don’t ever show up on my doorstep looking for parchment. I buy it twice a year and run out within a week.

There was nothing difficult about the bread. I did have some trouble shaping it into torpedos if you can’t tell but that’s because I’m impatient not because it was a tricky dough.

And this is where I complain about hearth baking:

I just don’t get it. Hearth baking (a steam pan under the bread & spraying the sides of oven with water) is Annoying. Yes, with a capital A. I’ve made a lot of bread in my short baking life and I can’t tell the difference between a bread baked with a steam pan under it and one baked without. But when Peter Reinhart tells me to do it, I do it just in case this is the one bread that will be messed up if I don’t.

These little rolls make the best sandwiches. They’re so soft on the inside and the crust is deliciously chewy. I still can’t tell the difference between it and the French bread so I think one day I’ll have to make them both and do a side by side comparison.

As usual, if you’re interested in the book check it out here and make sure you visit the BBA blogroll to see what all the other bakers have been up to.

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