Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Servings: 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours

Jill’s note: I’ve been making mac and cheese quite a bit lately, after realizing it doesn’t have to be loaded with calories. Though it tastes decadent, this recipe (and my Beer and Bratwurst Mac and Cheese) has just about 500 calories per serving. You can use any kind of cheese you like in the recipe, though I think the blue cheese really makes the dish. For the shredded cheese, I usually go with a mix of cheddar and pepper jack cheeses.

2 chicken breasts (about ½ lb total)
8 oz pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
¾ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheese
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
½ cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place the chicken breasts in a baking dish, cover with foil, and cook for one hour, or until the chicken’s internal temperature is 165 degrees. When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken with a fork, and set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and celery, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chicken, cook for 2 minutes, and add ½ cup hot sauce. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Buffalo Chicken

Melt the butter in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Then, whisk in the milk. Add the remaining ¼ cup hot sauce, and stir until thickened, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the shredded cheese until melted.

Remove from the heat, and stir in the buffalo chicken and pasta. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the blue cheese and bread crumbs. Bake until bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Broil for a few minutes to brown the top.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

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Guinness Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Guinness Ice Cream with Chocolate-Covered Pretzels

Servings: 1 quart
Prep time: 45 minutes
Chill time: 2 hours
Freeze time: 4 ½ hours

Jill’s note: This recipe marries many of my favorite things. By itself, the ice cream has a buttery, malty flavor. The chocolate-covered pretzels add sweet and salty hints to every bite. It’s perfect for St. Patrick’s Day (or really any day).

12 oz Guinness
1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 cups half & half
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
6 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
6 oz dark chocolate
1 tbsp shortening
24 mini pretzels

In a large saucepan, simmer the Guinness over medium heat until reduced by ¾ in volume, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the heavy cream, half & half, sugar, and salt to a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together until they lighten in color. Then, while whisking, add ½ cup of the simmering cream mixture to the egg yolks. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the cream mixture. Reduce heat to low, and stir often until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a clean bowl. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour, stirring occasionally. Then, stir in the vanilla and Guinness reduction. Chill in the refrigerator for another hour, stirring occasionally. At this point, you can cover the mixture and chill it for up to one day.

To make the pretzels, add water to the bottom pan of a double boiler. Place the chocolate and shortening in the top pan, and start heating on low. Stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, and dip the pretzels in the chocolate one at a time. Place each chocolate-covered pretzel on wax paper to let the chocolate set. (Refrigerate to speed up this process.) Once set, chop the chocolate-covered pretzels into pieces.

To make the ice cream, transfer the chilled mixture to an ice cream maker, and let it churn for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and mix in the chopped chocolate-covered pretzels.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, and freeze until firm, for at least four hours. Store this way for up to one week.

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Marshmallow Pizza

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Marshmallow Pizza

Servings: 12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Nancy’s note: I used to make this fun, easy recipe for my kids when they were small. Though, adults always seemed to love it, too. The pizza’s chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow combination is similar to two of my kids’ other favorite desserts: Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats and Cookie Pops. If you want more chocolate flavor than peanut butter, try making the pizza with a brownie crust instead of peanut butter cookie.

½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup peanut butter
½ tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 ½ cups flour
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the sugars, butter, peanut butter, egg, and vanilla together. Add the flour, and mix until combined. Press the dough into a 12 to 14-inch pizza pan, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, and sprinkle with the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until the marshmallows are lightly browned.

Let the pizza cool slightly, and cut into slices.

Pepperoni, Stuffed Shells, and Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Ricotta, Bell Pepper, and Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Servings: 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Jill’s note: Many people subscribe to the philosophy that bacon makes everything better. I often feel that way about pepperoni. My favorite pepperoni to use when cooking is Applegate Natural Pepperoni. The slices are large (about 4 inches in diameter), which makes them versatile, and thin, so they crisp up nicely in the oven. Their spiciness cuts through the richness of this cheesy stuffed shells pasta bake. Adding bell peppers to the shells’ stuffing also helps balance the dish and make it more colorful. After just 30 minutes in the oven, the final product is bubbling, fragrant, and hard to resist.

24 jumbo pasta shells
3 cups ricotta
3 bell peppers, finely chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
24 oz jar of pasta sauce
5 oz pepperoni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Add the pasta shells, and cook until al dente. Drain, and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, bell peppers, ½ cup mozzarella, and basil together. Season with salt and pepper.

Ricotta and Bell Peppers

Spread ⅓ of the pasta sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with the ricotta mixture, and arrange the shells in an even layer on top of the sauce.

Ricotta and Bell Pepper Stuffed Shells

Spread the remaining pasta sauce over the shells. Top the sauce with the pepperoni, and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Ricotta, Bell Pepper, and Pepperoni Pasta Bake

Cover with foil, and bake until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and broil for a few minutes to brown the top.

Doughnut Tiramisu

Doughnut Tiramisu

Servings: 12
Prep time: 30 minutes
Chill time: 3 hours

Nancy’s note: This recipe (adapted from Food Network magazine) is a fun twist on a classic dessert. The cake doughnuts don’t soak up as much liquid as ladyfingers, so the dessert is less delicate and more substantial than a traditional tiramisu. You could try yeast doughnuts in the recipe, but I’m afraid they might become a bit too soggy. All in all, it’s a delightful dessert, with no actual baking required. :)

16 oz mascarpone cheese
⅓ cup powdered sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 tbsp caramel topping
2 tbsp espresso-flavored vodka
1 cup heavy cream
1 ½ cups strong coffee
2 tbsp chocolate syrup
12 cake doughnuts, halved horizontally
Cocoa powder, for dusting

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone, ⅓ cup powdered sugar, caramel topping, and vodka together with an electric mixer until smooth. In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream and 2 tbsp powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold half the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Repeat with the second half, and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, combine the coffee and chocolate syrup. Dip half the doughnut halves into the coffee mixture. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. If necessary, cut the doughnut halves so they fully cover the bottom of the pan. Spread half the mascarpone mixture on top of the doughnuts.

Dip the remaining doughnut halves in the coffee mixture. Arrange them in a single layer on top of the mascarpone layer. Spread the remaining mascarpone mixture on top. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Dust the top of the tiramisu with cocoa powder. Cut into 12 pieces, and serve.

Doughnut Tiramisu

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Pots de Creme

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Pot de Creme

Servings: 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Chill time: 4 hours

Jill’s note: These pots de creme are what I’ll be making this Valentine’s Day. They’re inspired by my favorite chocolate (at the moment), Dark & Sea Salt Caramel Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares. It took me many tries to perfect the baking method for this recipe. Pots de creme are typically baked covered so a skin doesn’t form over the custard. I found this method to be more trouble than it was worth. Instead, I lowered my original baking temperature by 25 degrees and extended the baking time by about 10 minutes. The result is delicious pots of custard with just a hint of skin on top. I think I made the pots five times in as many weeks to get the recipe right. Still, I never tired of eating them!

For more romantic, sweet, and savory recipe suggestions, check out our Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest.

1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup whole milk
4 tbsp butter
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp sea salt, plus more for garnish
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), coarsely chopped
6 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place six 6-ounce ramekins in a large baking pan.

Heat the heavy cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture just starts to bubble. Remove from the heat, and cover to keep warm.

In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir frequently for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat, and carefully whisk in the warm cream mixture. Then, whisk in the chocolate until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together until they lighten in color. Then, slowly whisk in the chocolate-caramel mixture until smooth. Pour the mixture through a fine strainer into a large measuring cup with a spout.

Divide the mixture among the six ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the baking pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the pots de creme are set around the edges, but still jiggle in the center.

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Pots de Creme

Remove the ramekins from the water, and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. Top each pot de creme with a sprinkling of sea salt, and serve.

Salted Chocolate-Caramel Pot de Creme

Spicy Broiled Oysters

Spicy Broiled Oysters

Servings: 12 oysters
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Nancy’s note: Oysters are a fixture on Valentine’s Day menus thanks to their romantic reputation as an aphrodisiac. They’re also a nice alternative to all the sweet dishes typically associated with the holiday. This is (unintentionally!) our third spicy recipe in honor of Valentine’s Day in as many years. If you want something sweet and spicy, check out our Spicy Triple Chocolate Brownies and Spicy Spiked Hot Chocolate.

¼ cup butter, softened
2 tsp finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp tequila
12 oysters

In a small bowl, mix the butter, shallots, garlic, cilantro, Sriracha, lime juice, and tequila together. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Scrub the oysters thoroughly, rinsing them well under cold running water. Hold each oyster flat side up in a kitchen towel, and slip the tip of an oyster knife into the shell near the hinge. Pry upward to open. Run the knife along the inside of the top shell to sever the muscle that joins the shells. Lift off the top shell. Run the knife underneath the oyster to free it from the rounded, bottom shell. Place oysters on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.

(Some quick advice about shucking oysters: definitely invest in an oyster knife, use a cut glove, and clean each oyster thoroughly beforehand.)

Preheat oven to broil. Top each oyster with a dollop of the spicy butter. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes. Serve warm.

Spicy Broiled Oysters