Lobster Mac and Cheese

I love macaroni and cheese and this dish is probably one, if not the best, comfort food I could eat all year round.  Occasionally you need to kick up your macaroni and cheese by adding a special ingredient like seafood.

Ina Garten has upgraded the typical mac and cheese by adding lobster to it.  Lobster is pretty expensive here (unless I can get it on sale) so next time for this recipe I will substitute shrimp or crab. I will save the lobster tails for grilling and dipping in lots of butter.  I do like the flavor seafood imparts to macaroni and cheese and you can take it further by adding a little Old Bay Seasoning or even a dash or two of hot sauce.

I absolutely love the cheese she chose, gruyere and extra-sharp cheddar. I chose an American cheese, Tillamook, which is made from a quality blend of cow’s milk. The distinct flavor and quality of the sauce is over the top!

Normally I would use my slow cooker this time of the year to make macaroni and cheese but I have been wanting to make this recipe since the cooler months of Spring and never got around to it. I couldn’t leave all that lobster in the freezer any longer!

Lobster Mac and Cheese, Adapted

  • 1 lb. cavatappi (I would use only 3/4 lb.)
  • 1 quart whole milk (I used a mixture of 2% and whole milk)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups Gruyere cheese, grated (12 oz.)
  • 2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (8 oz.) (I used Tillamook – love this cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning (optional) or any other seasoning of your choice
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt (I used 1/2 tbsp.)
  • 1-1/2 lbs. lobster meat, 1/2-inch diced ( each lobster tail has 4-5 oz. of meat so you will need about 6 tails)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Thaw lobster tails overnight in a covered bowl.

Trim the bread and let it sit out overnight. Cut the bread into small pieces and process it in your food processor to a medium crumb. For more information go to Homemade Bread Crumbs. These do make a difference in the finished dish…

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Cut the lobster tails along the backs, pull apart the shells and remove the meat. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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DSC_9335Boil the pasta in salted water  according to package directions; drain well.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan but do not let it boil. Using the pasta pot melt 6 tbsp. butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Whisk in the hot milk and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until thickened. Remove from the heat and add the cheeses, 1/2 tbsp. salt, pepper and nutmeg, Old Bay Seasoning (if using) stirring until the cheese melts. Stir in the cooked pasta and lobster. Pile the mixture into 6  (2-cup)  5-1/2″ gratin dishes.

Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter, combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30  minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the bread crumbs are browned on top. Don’t overcook or the lobster can become chewy…

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju 

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Speaking of Ina, a new cookbook “Cooking for Jeffrey: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” will be coming out in October. I just pre-ordered it – I guess that makes 10 cookbooks that I own of Ina’s. Any couple that has been married for 48 years gets my attention and admiration for developing a strong, loving and meaningful relationship.

I am sharing one of my favorite comfort foods with Fiesta Friday #129 where Angie, Jhuls  and Colleen are the co-hosts this week.

 

Frozen Red, White and Blue Smoothies

This smoothie is one of the most refreshing frozen drinks I have ever had. Perfect for this 90 plus humid weather we are having! There are so many good fruits and ingredients in this smoothie that takes it over the top. I mean pomegranate and orange juice, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and yogurt all contribute to a wonderful layered smoothie you are sure to enjoy. Thank you Food Network.

Frozen Red, White and Blue Smoothies, Adapted

Blue Layer:

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 frozen sliced banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

Add the above ingredients into the blender and pulse (or use your smoothie button) until smooth. You will have little specs of blueberries. Carefully pour into the bottom of 4 glasses (I used 3 so you could see the layers better). Tap each glass on the counter and smooth out top with a spoon. I froze each layer for about 30 minutes – I wanted to be sure the layers were frozen so they would not blend into each other.

Wash out the blender so you will be ready for  the next layer.

White Layer:

  • 2 oz. (1/4 cup) orange juice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 frozen sliced banana

Combine above ingredients and blend until smooth. Pour on top of the blue layer carefully. Tap the glass on the counter and spread out with a spoon. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Once again clean your blender.

Red Layer:

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) pomegranate juice – might need more depending on thickness
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries, halved (start with 1/2 cup then add more as needed)
  • 1/2 frozen sliced banana
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

Combine the above ingredients and pour over the white layer. Tap the glass on the counter and smooth out the top. Freeze for another 30 minutes.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

I am linking this refreshing summer smoothie to Fiesta Friday #128.

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Honeybees in my Garden

Honeybees are hard at work today enjoying all the sweet nectar of my lavender flowers. They are fun to watch as they flit back and forth to flowers but sometimes hard to capture in a photo. Many attempts  later and I am proud to share some photos of these hard working bees who are so valuable in my gardens.

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I am linking this post to Fiesta Friday #127 where Angie, Suzanne and Jess are hosting this weeks’ party.

New Bumblebee Pictures

I just love my bees… I have all kinds of bees visiting my lavender right now which is one of their favorite plants. I did not harvest any flowers this year and my 12 plants are loaded with tons of beautiful blooms. This bumblebee has been working hard all day and has gathered lots of  pollen (the orange balls attached to a worker or queen back legs). For more information and pictures see Bumblebees Collecting Pollen in my Garden.

I took many pictures and finally got a shot that focused on this bumblebee which was worthy of posting. If you want bees in your garden and we all do don’t we –  plant some lavender as the bees go crazy over it.

Beautiful head shot don’t you think? Am I being stared at!!! Bumblebees have five eyes – two large ones on the front of their head and 3 smaller ones on the top of their head.

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I am linking this post to Fiesta Friday #127 where Angie, Suzanne and Jess are hosting this weeks’ party.

This is a picture from 2014…

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Simple Hummingbird Hole-Punch Cake

Happy Fourth of July!!! Do you need a simple and quick dessert for your holiday celebrations today? Make this cake which was devoured by some family members. Because of the banana pudding it tasted like banana bread and some don’t care for a banana flavor. You could substitute pineapple or vanilla pudding which is what I will do the next time I make it – then everyone will be happy:)  You also need to chill the cake/pudding mixture for about 4 hours before adding the whipped topping.

This is another dessert I have always wanted to make and finally decided on this simple one from the Southern Lady using a cake mix, pudding mix, crushed pineapple and of all things Cool-Whip. I cannot remember the last time I bought a tub of this light and fluffy topping.

Normally, I do not use cake mixes (except for the many decorated birthday cakes I use to make) as  I enjoy creating desserts from scratch. However, when you have many things to make for a lot of people it is nice to have something easy that is quick to put together.

The Hummingbird Cake was created on the island of Jamaica, after the island’s national bird, the Red-billed Streamertail, nicknamed the “Doctor Bird Cake”. It was so named because of the way a hummingbird gets the nectar from flowers, kind of like the probing a doctor makes with his patients. The cake recipe was used in a tourist promotion in 1968 by Air Jamaica aimed at American consumers to get them to come to the island.

The first known publication of the recipe in the United States was written by L.H. Wiggin which she shared with the February 1978 issue of Southern Living (a great magazine). It was Southern Living’s favorite recipe in 1990 and the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.

So, for almost 40 years this has been a favorite Southern cake and it is made so many different ways and with many of the same ingredients. I do hope to do it justice by making a more traditional version…

Hummingbird Hole-Punch Cake

  • 1 (18.25 oz.) box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped and more for garnish, optional
  • 1 (3.4 oz.) box instant banana cream-flavored pudding mix (you could also use vanilla or pineapple)
  • 2 cups whole milk (I used a combination of 2% and whole)
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 1 (12 oz.) container frozen nondairy whipped topping, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. Or just use a plain spray and then coat the pan with flour.

Prepare the cake mix according to package directions and add the 1 cup pecans in a large bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes (I did cook it for an additional 5 minutes). Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes. Take a wooden spoon and using the end of it poke 1/2-inch deep holes at 1-inch intervals. I will make the holes deeper next time, maybe 3/4″.

In another bowl, whisk the pudding mix and milk about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed pineapple and pour mixture evenly over cake. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve spread whipped topping over cake and sprinkle with chopped pecans, optional.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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There are many different versions and ways to make this cake. You can make cupcakes, bundt cakes, 2 layer cakes or a loaf cake like I did. Frostings vary from salted caramel, cream cheese, glaze or even Cool-Whip. They all sound delicious to me!

Linking this yummy dessert to Fiesta Friday.

Watermelon and Goat Cheese Salad with a Lemon Verbena-Infused Vinaigrette

I have been waiting for summer to arrive when watermelons would be in the market to make some recipes . Back on March 31, 2016   I shared a long post on Salt Blocks for Cooking, Serving and a Few Recipes. One of those recipes I posted, but just now made, is a watermelon appetizer with feta and mint. Very simple and a great way to serve this summer fruit. This appetizer is going to be a favorite this summer.

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I also found this recipe from one of Food 52’s cookbooks and knew I had to make this one too. I know you will love this as much as we did.

Watermelon, Goat Cheese and Pistachios with a Lemon Verbena Vinaigrette

  • handful of fresh lemon verbena leaves – I love this lemony herb (see below for substitution)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt – I used Maldon Sea Salt
  • seedless watermelon
  • pistachios, unsalted – I used roasted and salted and they were delicious
  • goat cheese crumbles (feta would be good too)
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to finish

Roughly chop the verbena and place in a mortar. Add a few drops of the oil and 1 tsp. coarse salt. I am a little salt sensitive but I decided to add the recommended amount and it was perfect. Grind for 2 minutes; add the rest of the olive oil and allow to steep for about an hour at room temperature. Remove the lemon verbena leaves before adding the red wine vinegar.

Even though I used roasted and salted pistachios (that’s what I had in the freezer) I still toasted them for 5 minutes and loved them; crunchy and so flavorful. Once they are cool, chop into small pieces and set aside.

Cut the watermelon into bite-size pieces and place on a shallow platter. Sprinkle goat cheese crumbles over the watermelon. Combine the lemon verbena mixture with the red wine vinegar and drizzle over the watermelon. Add the pistachios and season with Maldon sea salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently and serve right away.

This salad is refreshing and so delicious; I could eat the whole plateful! Be generous with the goat cheese and pistachios.

Substitution: If you don’t have lemon verbena, use 1-1/2 tbsp. minced lemongrass or lemon zest from 1 lemon and 3 tbsp. fresh basil, minced.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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I am sharing this summer salad with Angie and everyone at Fiesta Friday #126. Come join us…

 

Strawberry Filled Muffins

It’s strawberry season in Michigan once again  and the berries are small but so juicy and delicious. I make all kinds of recipes using these beautiful berries including Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry JamStrawberry Cream Cake with Nasturtiums, Strawberry Scuffins, Smoothies, even a Strawberry Tiramisu. Of course they are always good in salads, or with fruit dips These muffins are more cake-like, very light and when you take a bite and get that taste of strawberry jam – what a nice sweet surprise.

Strawberry Filled Muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/4 cups sour cream
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • strawberry jam (or any jam of your choice)

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with liners. The outsides of the muffins are sticky because of the jam seeping through so the liners are nice to use.

In one bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. In another bowl whisk together the sour cream, butter, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir only until moistened.

Fill each muffin liner about 1/3 full with batter. Drop a tsp. of jam into the center and cover with more batter. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until golden.

Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and then turn the muffins out onto the rack and let cool for a few minutes more.

Recipe by cooking with aunt juju

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I am linking these light and “fruity” muffins with Fiesta Friday #126.

Fiesta featured