Mac and Cheese: The Next Level

By simply using the words “comfort foods”, you have got yourself a whole conversation when in a group of friends. It’s meaning is as wide and as varied as we are.

One common comfort foods may be pasta. That old familiar “blue box” macaroni and cheese may have been one of the first things you were allowed to cook by yourself. Even the most poor college student could rummage through the couch to find enough to afford a meal to make it through one more cram session. As adults with children of our own we may even still reach for our powered packet friend from time to time. But mac and cheese doesn’t have to be a last resort and we can even ditch the blue box, at least for the moment.

Once the pasta is boiled and drained the real corner stone of any great cheese sauce it the roux. Roux is not just for the great kitchen chefs behind sparkling sliver doors. It’s for you too, I promise.

While it’s binding abilities may seem a bit mystifying it’s really not magic. If you can understand a one to one ratio you’ve got it! When making a roux you need equal parts of fat to dry. The trick is equal parts by weight not by volume(Thanks, dad!). So that means if you are using four tablespoons of butter you need to whisk in four tablespoons of flour. Keep stirring while it’s cooking. The cook time depends on your own preferences. However, the darker the roux the less thickening ability it will possess. Once it’s to your liking, add your cold cream, milk, or the liquid of your preference and… Bingo bang-go! You have a great base for your cheese sauce.

Now comes the fun part. The cheese! The tried and true cheese of choice is of coarse cheddar. If you are at my house, the sharper the better. For those of you who like a kick, pepper jack is always tasty too. Gouda and blue cheese can add depth and dimension for those with a more distinguished palette. Mix and match, pick and choose, with the cheese the world is your oyster.

mararoni and cheese

Steamed veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach can all be used as stir in options. Although, steaming them first and removing as much water as you can is helpful. Adding extra liquid may thin out your dish. Finishing touches can be anything from simply adding additional cheese on top, some precooked bacon, ham, chicken, or even pork chops. Once finished, you have a one-pot meal that the entire family can enjoy.

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Comfort Foods: Cabbage Rolls

In a world of speed and convenience, cabbage rolls do not fit the model but it is one of our family favorites. When you have the time(and it can take 3 hrs to prepare from start to finish), it is a wonderful meal to share with your family. Feel free to adapt this recipe with any changes to suit your own family’s pallet.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage(pick your color, any color)
  • 1 lb ground meat (beef/pork/chicken/turkey/tauntaun)

    Yes, purple cabbage is a little disturbing but yummy!

    Yes, purple cabbage is a little disturbing but yummy!

  • 1/2 c long grain slow cook rice
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 onion(chopped)
  • 1 15oz cans tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Combine the meat, rice, eggs, and onion in a bowl, adding salt and pepper if you wish, and set aside.
  2. In a pot or saucepan simmer the tomatoes, tomato sauce, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce long enough for the brown sugar to dissolve and stir to an even color. Then set aside.
  3. Now, take the head of cabbage and discard the first few leaves. They tend to be tougher, even after cooking. The tender under leaves are better anyway. Remove the leaves with a minimum of ripping from the head.
  4. Blanche the full leaves in a simmering water bath to soften. No more than 3 minutes per leaf.
  5. Optional: Before or after blanching take a knife and cut the thickest vein off the back of the leaf. Doing so will allow the leaf to wrap more readily around the meat and rice mixture.
  6. Wrap 1/4 cup of the meat mixture in the cabbage leaves. Makes about 10-12 rolls.
  7. Cut the remaining cabbage and place in the bottom of a 9×13 casserole pan.
  8. Place the cabbage rolls on the loose cabbage and pour the tomato sauce over the cabbage rolls.
  9. Cover and bake at 375° for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.

 

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Sherburne County Backroads Returns!

Welcome to Sherburne County Backroads. The name has not changed. In fact, Sherburne County Backroads has been in existence for nearly 10 years with many iterations in between. In the last two years it had been very much neglected but never forgotten. Well.. by me anyway.

While the Facebook Page  and Twitter account have maintained a steady flow of information over that time, the website had become irrelevant and dated. In a world of even faster moving media, it became apparent that a serious retool was needed to make it a place worthy of your time. Here are some of the changes:

  • We have added another writer(and hopefully many more in the near future) to diversify the perspective given from our articles.
  • We have made the site more visual and interactive. It is clean but more visually appealing now.
  • We are focusing our content around areas of our particular interests, food and country living. At least until we get this thing rolling

 

We hope that Sherburne County Backroads can provide you with a wealth of information, humor, and insight that you can use in your daily life. Thank you for stopping by.

 

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Real Cranberries, the Forgotten Fruit

 

Norman-Rockwell-ThanksgivingNorman Rockwell brought the all American image of holiday Utopia to life for generations to come. But long before it was reduced to a bowl shaped red gelatinous marvel in an infamous print, the glowing red gem known as a cranberry was so much more.

The natives of what would become the New England States used these beauties as more than just a food but as dyes and medicine as well. Early settlers counted on them to treat scurvy and other illnesses. Would be presidents even traded them to one another in return for books and information. Somewhere through the lines of history this fabulous, once treasured fruit has been displaced and almost forgotten. It has been demoted to nothing more than a can shaped ambiguous goo to be pushed around on your plate until, when the perfect moment arises, to be hidden under the table and fed to the anxiously waiting family dog.

Some of us do nothing more with the glittering red fruit  than pouring a splash of its juice over ice, or suffer an even worse fate, being over looked all together. OH HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN! Many folks are perfectly content to let it be at that and nothing more.

However if you are looking for ways to restore these beauties to their former glory, there are a number of ways you can do so. If you are up for a road trip, head on over to a little town in Wisconsin. Every year Stone Lake, WI holds their very own Cranberry Festival, complete with a royal coronation and dinner, wine tasting, crafting fair and even a marsh tour.

For those who might want to stay closer to home, there are a number of ways to add cranberries to your holiday table. Stuffing, breads, and muffins provide you an opening to reintroduce the noble cranberry back into your diet.

Looking for an old world flare?  You can simply simmer a quart of the fruit with a cup of water until it resembles marmalade. Remove from the stovetop and stir in a pound of brown sugar and strain and serve. Another option is use molasses in place of the brown sugar. For a more modern flavor add the rind of orange or lemon or even add a cup of red wine while simmering.

Here are just a few ideas to help you bring back this old time favorite to your family.

May there always be a place at your table and in your heart for those you hold dear. Happy eating, folks.

 

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