Years ago during South by Southwest, my husband and I snuck out for a meal by ourselves. We ended up at the Moonshine Grill in downtown Austin. On the menu was an amazing macaroni and cheese with spicy green peppers. The moment we returned home, I started trying to recreate this recipe.
Over time, I stopped trying to make Moonshine’s mac and cheese, focusing instead on making my own. My ever-faithful bookclub has cheerfully (and hungrily) endured my experiments over the years, and there was only one major failure. Note to all: soymilk is not a good substitute for real milk in this instance.
You live, you learn.
From my perspective, the key to good mac and cheese is a mix of cheeses that bring appropriate meltiness and flavor. As a rule, I rely upon good old-fashioned regular milk when making my cheese sauce, but have, once or twice, tried out evaporated milk. The latter does add an interesting creaminess to the sauce…and that weird evaporated milk smell completely disappears in the sauce.
Needless to say, this recipe makes excellent leftovers. I do find that gluten-free pastas tend to absorb a lot of sauce, so I tend to go heavy on the sauce, lighter on the noodles.
Chicken — tasty, versatile, convenient — chicken is my fallback for many a weeknight dinner. It’s fast and easy, and there are so many ways to prepare chicken that I feel guilty when I fall back on traditional baked chicken breast with rice and veggies (don’t get me wrong: I love this combo, but it can get a bit monotonous).
I feel less guilty once grilling season rolls around because everything tastes better hot off the grill.
On the other hand, I’ve fallen in love with pan sauces. They are a terrific, easy way to pep up ordinary chicken. The mustardy, creamy sauce here brightens up any cut of chicken. Added bonus is it brings loads of flavor to accompanying rice or potatoes (or even GF bread or biscuits).
I’ve made this with a variety of cuts of chicken, but (typically!) prefer bone-in skin-on thighs for their flavor. You can substitute for what you prefer, adjusting cooking times accordingly. Also, regular smooth Dijon mustard works quite well here.
One thing I’ve learned from my regular delivery of organic fruits and veggies is that sweet potatoes are pretty much a year-round food in Southern California. After trying my friend Roxanne’s incredible sweet potato salad at a dinner she hosted, I begged for her recipe when it became apparent I had a glut of sweet potatoes.
She sent two of her favorites, and I found myself blending them together (of course!). Needless to say, this is the type of salad that invites creativity. I’ve included some suggestions at the end of the recipe and invite you to use your own imagination for variations.
You cannot tear me away from a good potato salad (or any good potato, for that matter). I love the mix of starchy potato with a great dressing. Over the years, I’ve shifted toward vinaigrette dressings for my potato salads because it feels lighter, especially on hot summer evenings. This recipe has been my summer go-to potato salad for several years now. It even catches the attention of those who, and I cannot understand this!, don’t like potato salad.[box type=”info” size=”large”]Make It A Meal!
Serve with grilled tri-trip, roasted corn, and grilled summer fruit with ice cream.[/box]
This quick sauce is great for serving over chicken or pork chops. Or salmon. Whatever. It takes just a few minutes to prepare, so you can throw it together while the meat is cooking.