mozzarella pesto mac and cheese

I prepped my Mother’s Day brunch months in advance, I prepped my birthday cake months in advance (coming next week!), so obviously I also prepped my birthday dinner months in advance. I promise this isn’t a statement about my faith in Eggboy’s cooking skills so much as it is an example of my obsession with meal prep. I don’t know if it was obvious but I started planning my baby meal prep the moment the little pee stick flashed the word “pregnant” on it. Sorry, I’ll never talk about pee in a recipe post again. So back in like August when I was planning all of this, I thought what will I want to eat on my birthday in May? It was so far in the future but macaroni and cheese always has and always will be my number one favorite food, so I figured that was the most reliable choice.

So here is a version of mac and cheese that I have been really loving these days. It’s not as cheesy as the casseroles that I grew up eating on every special occasion, it’s more saucy and milky, and pretty mild, flavor-wise. I knew I’d be prepping giant batches of it to have on hand for my whole maternity leave, so I went with something that was on the lighter end of the spectrum, at least for mac and cheese. It’s got a pretty green dollop of springy pesto (I used store-bought but would have used homemade if I had basil back in March!), and these individual servings make it really easy to heat quickly. They’re perfect to pair with salad or, my go-to sides as a 7-year-old, apple slices and cold baby carrots. 

If you’ve never made mac and cheese before or are looking to create your own version of mac and cheese with all of your favorite cheeses and mix-ins, this is a great basic recipe to start with. It’s pretty barebones, which means that it lends itself nicely to switching up or adding more cheeses (any cheese should work! less melty ones, like feta, won’t yield a smooth sauce but they’ll still be tasty), adding different flavors (paprika, nutmeg, sriracha, harissa, a little mustard, etc.), veggies (peas! onions! broccoli!) or meats (hot dogsssss!!!!). You can really go wild here. 

And of course, you don’t have to make individual servings or make this to freeze ahead. Bake this in a big casserole dish! Immediately! Or do what I do and just stand over the pot and take a million test bites, just to make sure it’s good, before it gets dumped in the casserole and browned in the oven for other people to eat since you’ve just filled up on “test bites.”

I’ve used Our Family cheese and noodles here, which I always have on hand in case of mac and cheese emergencies! 


Mozzarella Pesto Mac and Cheese (Freezer Friendly)

makes 10 servings

Ingredients

1 lb (16oz) Our Family mini shells or macaroni noodles

1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter

1/2 c (65g) all-purpose flour

6 c (1.44kg) 2% or whole milk

1 1/2 c (6oz) shredded Our Family mozzarella

1 c (4oz) shredded Our Family swiss

3/4 c (3oz) shredded Our Family parmesan, divided

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

5 tb prepared pesto

10 tb (32g) panko breadcrumbs 

Directions

If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 375ºf. If prepping for the freezer, see directions below.

Cook the noodles to al dente per the directions on the box. Drain and set aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Stir in the flour and cook for about a minute. Add the milk, one cup at a time, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon after each until thickened. Add the mozzarella, swiss, and 1/2 cup of the parmesan and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add this point if you want to add fun mix-ins like cut up hot dogs or crispy bacon or peas or hot sauce, now’s the time to do so. Stir in the noodles. It may seem overly saucy at this point but once it bakes up, it’ll be perfect!

To bake immediately, pour into a 9” x 13” casserole dish, dollop all over with the pesto and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan and bake for 25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly. Enjoy!

To prepare for the freezer, divide into 10 individual containers (I like these because they are safe for the oven, microwave, and freezer). Add a heaping teaspoon of pesto to the tops of each and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan. Let cool slightly, wrap well in plastic wrap, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven at 375º for 25 minutes covered with foil plus 20 minutes uncovered, or until browned and heated through. Or reheat in the microwave by heating for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through. Enjoy!


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

this recipe was created in partnership with our family!

Here is a PDF of the freezer labels that I made! They are for Avery labels #6570.

spring veggie white matzo lasagna

I am so curious to see what our opinions are re: matzo after Passover is over this year because since last year’s Passover, we have basically kept the itsy bitsy Kosher section of our grocery store in business with our aggressive year-round matzo eating habit. I ate an insane amount of it while I was pregnant, with peanut butter and jelly, with Kewpie mayo and sliced cheese, and in extra shallot-y matzo brei covered in ketchup. Matzo was my go-to 3am snack, in bed. I am pretty sure Bernie is 1/3 made of matzo. Eating matzo is different when you have the option to eat bread though, right? Which is why we never got sick of it. This week without the option though, I’m afraid we’ll get sick of it and I’ll have to find another easy 3am snack. What a dramatic life we lead! 

When it came to baby meal prep, I was told over and over to make lasagna! So a matzo lasagna, one big enough to provide enough leftovers for a few good days, was an obvious choice for Passover. And I wanted to make sure it was veggie packed, so I converted my spring vegetable quinoa hotdish in Molly on the Range to a freezer-friendly layered situation. The matzo pieces get nice and soft with the white sauce, and the flavors of leeks, chives, ricotta, and peas whisper spring! Even though it’s totally loaded up with cheese and milk, the ricotta and bright flavors add a nice sense of airiness. And there’s layers upon layers of spinach in this. So go ahead, have seconds!

Thanks to Our Family for partnering on this post and providing all of the cheese for this delicious Passover supper!


Spring Veggie White Matzo Lasagna

Makes one 9” x 13” casserole

Ingredients

Sauce

1/4 c (57g) unsalted butter

2 large leeks, chopped

4 scallions or ramps, chopped, white and green parts separated

Kosher salt

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tb matzo meal

3 c (720g) whole or 2% milk

1 c (236g) vegetable stock

1/4 c (75g) chopped chives

1/2 c (55g) fresh or frozen peas

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp onion powder

Black pepper

Hot sauce, to taste

Filling

1 large egg

1 (15oz) container our family part skim ricotta

3/4 c (3oz) our family shredded parmesan cheese

2 c (8oz) our family shredded mozzarella

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 c (5-6oz) fresh spinach

9 sheets matzo (I use lightly salted matzo)

Directions

If planning to bake immediately, preheat the oven to 350ºf. If prepping ahead, see directions below.

To make the sauce, in a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the leeks, the white parts of the scallions or ramps, and a pinch of salt and cook until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, and then stir in the matzo meal and cook for another minute. Add the milk, one cup at a time, stirring until thickened after each. Add the vegetable stock and continue to stir until thickened. Stir in the green parts of the scallions or ramps, the chives (reserving a small handful for the topping), peas, nutmeg, onion powder, a few turns of black pepper, hot sauce, and salt to taste. Remove from heat.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, mix together the egg, ricotta, 1/2 cup of the parmesan, 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, and the salt.

To assemble, spread 1/2 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 9” x 13” casserole pan (see specifics below on type of pan you should use if you’re planning to freeze). Layer in the following: 2 sheets of matzo, a third of the cheese filling dolloped all over, 1 cup of spinach, a layer of sauce, 2 sheets of matzo, another third of the cheese filling, 1 cup of spinach, a layer of sauce, 2 sheets of matzo, the remaining cheese filling, 1 cup of spinach, remaining sauce, and then sprinkle the top with the remaining 3 sheets of matzo broken into pieces, and the reserved parmesan, mozzarella, chives, and a few turns of pepper.

Bake, covered with foil, for 45 minutes, and then for an additional 15 minutes uncovered, or until golden brown on top. Enjoy!

To freeze: I’d recommend using a foil pan that you can place directly in the oven from the freezer. Otherwise, you can use glass or enameled cast iron pan, but it would be best to defrost it in the fridge overnight before baking to avoid cracking the pan. Once the lasagna is assembled, let it cool slightly and wrap in plastic wrap or foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, bake at 350ºf covered in foil for 1 hour 30 minutes, and then uncovered for an additional 15-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top and heated through. Enjoy!


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

this recipe was created in partnership with our family!

spinach and artichoke chicken and biscuits

My quest to fill every inch of all of our freezers continues this week with a mashup of two great things: chicken and biscuits and spinach and artichoke dip. The chicken and biscuits part is inspired by one of the first dinner recipes (after mac and cheese) that I remember making with my mom, the chicken and biscuits from Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures. We used that book all the time growing up! And I remember that in the process of learning to make their chicken and biscuits, I learned that a roux can be used to thicken milk for purposes other than making mac and cheese. This was mind blowing to me! So rather than adding a bunch of cheese and noodles to the sauce, we added chicken, herbs, and veggies, and then topped it with biscuits and baked it all so that the tops of the biscuits got golden and the bottoms soaked up all of the delicious creamy sauce. It was the best. Especially during long dark homework-saturated Chicago suburban winters. A marked up version of this recipe is in the homemade cookbook that my mom made me awhile ago for Valentine’s day, and it is one of my favorite nostalgic things to make.

When it comes to meal prep for Poppy Seed’s arrival, I was advised early on to bring on the comfort foods, so chicken and biscuits jumped to the top of my list. But I also wanted to sneak in vegetables, which is where the spinach and artichokes come in. Spinach and artichoke dip is the best form of balance, no? You get vegetables but they’re blanketed with creaminess and cheese, so yes, I’m all about this. I typically don’t love chicken and cheese together but cream cheese is different, it’s milder and adds its signature subtle tang, so I’m letting it be a part of this. The result is really reeeeeeally good. It’s heavy on the comfort, carbs, and veggies, three things I plan to load up on during Poppy Seed’s first days, and dairy milk adds to the nutrition factor. 

The hardest part about this recipe is opening the can of store-bought biscuits, which remains the scariest kitchen task of all time. It’s so loud! And unpredictable! But I’ve opted to go this route in the interest of convenience since I still have a bazillion things to do before my due date. You can, of course, use homemade biscuits.

I’m so pleased to have partnered with Milk Life on this recipe! Dairy milk has always played a starring role in my kitchen and also in my most cherished memories with family and friends. I can’t wait to make new memories with Poppy Seed and these chicken and biscuits!!


Spinach and Artichoke Chicken and Biscuits

Makes 8 individual servings

Ingredients

3 tb unsalted butter

1 large onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c (33g) all-purpose flour

2 c (472g) 2% or whole milk

2 tsp chicken soup bouillon (just the bouillon itself, not diluted in water)

1 lb boneless skinless chicken thigh or breast, chopped into 1/2”-3/4” pieces

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Black pepper

1 (8 oz) block light cream cheese

1 (10 oz) block frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 (14 oz) can artichokes, drained and chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped

Hot sauce

8 store-bought flaky buttermilk biscuits (or homemade biscuits)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a splash of water

Flaky salt, for sprinkling

Clues

If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 400ºf. If planning to freeze, see freezer directions below.

In a large skillet or pot set over medium high heat, melt the butter and add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring until soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the flour so that it gets evenly distributed and cook for an additional minute (it’s ok if the pan looks dry at this point). Add half the milk, stirring continuously with a whisk or wooden spoon until thickened, and then repeat with the other half of the milk. You’ll know it’s thick enough if it coats the back of a spoon. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the chicken soup bouillon and then add the chicken, thyme, and a few turns of pepper and simmer, stirring often, for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Add the cream cheese, spinach, artichokes, parsley, a few good shakes of hot sauce, and a few turns of black pepper. Stir until the cream cheese is melted. Taste and adjust as desired.

If baking immediately: divide into eight 8-oz oven-safe ramekins or foil containers and top each with a biscuit (squish the biscuits a little bit so that they’re wide enough to cover the whole top). Brush the tops of the biscuits with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper and flaky salt. Place on a baking sheet (in case any of the mixture overflows) and bake until the biscuits are golden brown on top; begin checking for doneness at 15 minutes. Let cool slightly and enjoy!

To freeze: let the mixture cool slightly. Divide into eight 8-oz oven-safe freezer-safe ramekins or foil containers and top each with a biscuit (squish the biscuits a little bit so that they’re wide enough to cover the whole top). Brush the tops of the biscuits with egg wash and sprinkle with black pepper and flaky salt. Cover with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, place it on a baking sheet, and bake at 400ºf covered for 30 minutes, remove the foil and continue to bake for about another 15 minutes, until the biscuits are browned and the whole thing is heated through. Let cool slightly and enjoy!


-Yeh!

Thank you, Milk Life, for sponsoring this post!

Photos by Chantell and Brett Quernemoen.

mazariner

OK, I am officially in major baking mode for the holiday season. But Molly, aren’t you always in major baking mode?? Well, uh, yes, but consider this major baking mode plus because these days I’m not just testing blog recipes and baking the occasional birthday cake, but I’m also cranking out tasty lil gift boxes for people around town and my entries for the various cookie swaps that I’m going to this month. 

So what does baking mode plus look like? There is a steady supply of butter softening on my counter at all times, my fridge is filled with stacks of discs of dough wrapped in plastic wrap, two stand mixers are out on the counter, I have a regular container of well beaten egg wash sitting in my fridge ready to go at a moment’s notice, the smell of almond and vanilla is in the air, there is probably flour on my face, and I am dressed warmly in fluffy socks and sweaters because I like keeping it kind of cool in the kitchen so that doughs are easier to handle. Also, Christmas movies or ice skating are always always on the TV. And water is in my cup. Because cold Midwest tap water has been at the top of my cravings list and also because everything I read about drinking tea while preggo is kind of a question mark?? I can’t really keep it straight, so I’ve pretty much been avoiding it altogether, even though I realllly want to complete this vibe with sugar cookie Christmas tea, which is probably just vanilla flavored water, but I’m just that paranoid. 

One treat I’ve been baking a ton of has been Mazariner, Swedish almond tarts. They are basically a buttery crunchy cookie cup filled with dense almond cake. In my mind, they’re marzipan in tart form, and you know how marzipan runs through my veins this time of year. I always used to get them for dessert at IKEA when my mom and I would go eat Swedish meatballs. They weren’t the prettiest dessert because they were unglazed and just two shades of brown, but they were by far the tastiest. I don’t actually know if they serve them anymore, but still to this day, I just cannot get enough of the texture of the filling. It’s a texture that I don’t see too often in desserts because even though it’s cakey, the only leavening agent in it is eggs, so it’s extra dense, almost as if it wants to be a blondie when it grows up. The whole tart is quite sturdy, which is one reason why I plan to gift a bunch of these this month. I’ve been topping them with a powdered sugar and heavy cream glaze, which makes a thick cloud-like topping, and to some of them I’ve been adding cranberry juice for bright natural color. And it’s kewt to decorate all of them differently, with fresh cranberries, herbs, sprinkles, etc., you know the drill!

And I’ve partnered with Pampered Chef on this post because their tools have been such amazing help during my big long baking days. I seriously use their stackable cooling racks every single day because of how much I can fit on them and how much space I save. I also love their medium sheet pans because of how sturdy and heavy duty they are. Other tools of theirs that rock are their pretty marble rolling pin, small spreaders (perfect for decorating these tarts), medium scoops (great for distributing the tart filling evenly), sturdy serving spatulas, heavy duty silicon-coated sauce whisks, classic batter bowls, muffin pan, small glass mixing bowls, and stainless steel mixing bowl set. All of the bowls I’ve used in this post have lids, which are so great because sometimes I need to keep glazes and egg washes going for a couple of days, or prep fillings and such a day in advance. Thank you so much, Pampered Chef, for providing these tools and sponsoring this post!!


mazariner

makes 12

Ingredients

Shells:

1/3 c (67g) sugar

1 3/4 c (228g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 tsp kosher salt

3/4 c (168g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed

2 large eggs, separated

Filling:

1 c (120g) almond meal

3/4 c (150g) sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

6 tb (85g) unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp almond extract

1 large egg

Glaze:

1 c (120g) powdered sugar

1/4 c (60 ml) heavy cream or 2 tb cranberry juice

1/4 tsp almond extract

To decorate: sprinkles, fresh herbs, sliced almonds, fresh cranberries

Clues

To make the shells, in a food processor, pulse together the sugar, flour, and salt to combine. Add the butter and continue to pulse until mealy. Add the egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for the filling) and pulse until the dough comes together. Press the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.

To make the filling, combine the almond meal, sugar, salt, and butter, either by blending it in the food processor (no need to clean it out after making the dough, you can just use it immediately for this step), or by stirring it together in a large bowl (I find it’s easiest to get in there with my hands). Add the almond extract, egg, and the reserved egg whites from the shells, and continue to blend/stir until smooth and combined. Set aside while you mold the shells. 

To mold the shells, grease a muffin tin. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4” thick, dusting with more flour as needed. Cut out 3” circles and press them into the muffin cups, pressing so that the dough comes all the way up the sides. No worries if the dough tears, just patch it up additional dough. Freeze the shells for 15 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Fill the frozen shells with the filling so that it comes up about 1/4” from the top. Bake until the tops and edges are lightly browned; begin checking for doneness at 30 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then use a small offset spatula or a knife to remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and heavy cream or cranberry juice until smooth. Add additional powdered sugar or liquid to thicken it up or thin it out so that you get the consistency of a thick glue. Spread the glaze over the cooled tarts and decorate with sprinkles, herbs, cranberries, almonds, and anything else you’d like! These will keep for several days at room temperature or in the fridge. 


-yeh!

thank you, pampered chef, for sponsoring this post!!

photos by chantell and brett!