Cheesy Bake

I hope that everyone survived winter storm Nemo! I celebrated my mom’s birthday AND 6 month vegetarian anniversary on Friday by sitting inside anxiously awaiting the skies to open and dump snow on us. It was a welcomed day on the couch (working, of course) after taking an evening Bikram yoga class the night before. It was my first class, and since I bought a 30 class card, I will definitely be writing about it in the future! Despite the not-s0-great weather, I did make a mean mac ‘n cheese that I wanted to share.

So ridiculous
So ridiculous


For anyone that knows me, they know that menu planning is something I really enjoy doing; you can find me scouring the internet (mostly blogs and Pinterest) and cookbooks most days of the week looking for inspiration for meals weeks in advance. I’m usually thinking about my next meal before I’ve finished the one in front of me! I make the recipes as instructed a decent amount of time, but I often tweak a few things based on what I have in the house, or my personal taste preference. It usually isn’t enough of a change to warrant a blog post about it, but every once in awhile I do take a recipe and really make it my own, using the original more as a loose guide and inspiration. So, when I found Budget Byte’s Jalapeno Popper Mac ‘n Cheese, I knew immediately I was going to make it. I just didn’t know until about half way through that I was going to change a lot of it.

Baking macaroni and cheese is awesome. Who knew that adding a little bit of breadcrumbs and throwing it in the oven for a few minutes would add so much texture and flavor to such a simple kitchen classic! Using three different kinds of cheeses may seem like overkill to some, but to a cheese lover like myself, there’s no such thing as too much! The cream cheese definitely kicks this over the top (I need to cook with it more). This version isn’t spicy (to me), so if you want to kick it up a notch feel free to add more jalapeños or some other kinds of peppers. It’s a perfect recipe for a cold winter night (which we’ve been having a lot of recently), or to bring to a potluck. You won’t see this on any “skinny” or “diet friendly” lists, but it’s definitely something you should make and enjoy (in moderation of course).


Jalapeño Popped Baked Mac ‘n Cheese adapted from Budget Bytes
– Serves 4-6 –

1 lb. pasta (elbow, spiral, etc.)
1 Tbsp oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/3 cup milk
5 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-3 jalapeños, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (any variety will work)
1/2 & 1/4 cups of Panko style bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package. 
3. As the pasta cooks, make your cheesy roux by combining the oil and garlic first in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, cooking for 1-2 minutes.
4. Next, add in the milk, parmesan cheese, and cream cheese. Cooking until the cream cheese is melted and everything is combined. Add the Greek yogurt and jalapeños. 
5. Drain the pasta, and add it back to the original pot. Pour the cheesy jalapeño mix and 1/2 cup of the Panko bread crumbs over the pasta and stir to combine. 
6. Fill a greased 9×9 baking dish with the macaroni and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs and shredded cheese. 
7. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes before digging in! 

Jalapeño Crab Cakes with Slaw & Salsa

I just so happened to super crabby all week, so I thought, what a better way to end the week then with something involving crab meat?! I’ve actually had this particular recipe in my hands for about a year, but never got around to making them. Since I’ve had it for so long, I of course don’t remember where I found the recipe, but when Googling it, it did come up on Epicurious, so we’ll stick with that!

I’ve never really been a huge water-creature fan; eating, swimming with, smelling, etc. I know I grew up loving shrimp and scallops, but at about six or so I swore them off. I guess I had a few bad experiences, like my great-grandmother pointing out a vein in a shrimp to turn me off from all seafood. As I got older, though, I decided to venture back out and sampled some salmon, tuna, crab, and other similar seafoods. Realizing they had some health benefits, I decided I would keep shrimp out, but let everything else in.

Since I don’t really buy seafood that often, I forgot how expensive it is! A pound of crab meat was almost $20! Thankfully the rest of the ingredients were cheap, and I have left overs for tonight’s left-over-arama!

Making the crab cakes was easy; I was just petrified of cutting the jalapeños. When I was younger I played with a pepper in a neighbor’s yard and made the mistake of touching my face afterwards without washing my hands. Believe me, that will never happen again! But then when talking to my mom about the recipe, she told me just cutting the peppers burned her hands so badly she need to put them in ice water. So what did I do? I took two plastic sandwich bags and put them over my hands, and chopped away!

As you all know, I’m impatient, so quick recipes are favorites of mine. Each of the cakes only take about 8-10 minutes, depending on how large you make them. Because my pan only fit 2 at a time, I turned on my oven (only to 200 degrees) and put the cakes that were already done in the oven to keep them warm, while I worked on the others.

We weren’t sure what to have with the cakes aside from the slaw and salsa, so I just grabbed a bag of the steam-fresh redskin potatoes that Green Giant makes. They were okay – I wasn’t a huge fan of the butter sauce, but it worked well enough. It was a huge meal – two crab cakes with slaw, the potatoes, AND a salad?! I was stuffed, in a good way.

The cakes had just the right amount of spice from the jalapeños without being overpowering or not noticeable, and the panko bread crumbs added a really nice crunch. And instead of using a typical mayo-based remoulade to go with them, a nice medium-spiced salsa was perfect.

Jalapeño Crab Cakes with Slaw & Salsa
-Serves 4-

1 pound fresh crabmeat, picked over, patted dry
1 1/3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 tablespoons chopped seeded jalapeño chiles (I used one)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1/4 cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
4 cups (about 6 ounces) coleslaw mix [I used Rainbow mix]
2/3 cup purchased salsa
1/3 cup sour cream
Lime wedges

1. Line rimmed baking sheet with waxed paper. Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Stir in eggs.
2. Using moist hands, shape mixture into 8 cakes, each about 3/4 inch thick. Arrange cakes on prepared sheet.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in each of 2 medium skillets over medium heat. Add 4 cakes to each. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.
4. Mound slaw mix on 4 plates. Top each serving with 2 cakes. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and lime wedges.

Happy nomzing!