Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Is A Vacation?

I'm staying with my parents for a couple of weeks so that Baby B can spend quality time with his grandparents. And this is the closest thing to a vacation I've had in months. A far cry from my hot tub retreat in the Pacific Northwest, but I'll take it, dammit.

I can't even begin to make excuses to my blog. Let's just say that if my blog was a walking, talking, humanoid friend of mine, she would have dumped my ass a long time ago. And I wouldn't blame her one bit.

Blog, if you're listening, please forgive my shameful self yet another time and let's reach an understanding. See, I have this baby - I know I know, loads of other bloggers out there have kids. But this kid is my very first, and I'm not as efficient as all those other mommy bloggers out there. I'm a slow learner. That's it. No more excuses. Let's just jump right into the reason for your existence - FOOD.

This recipe has been lounging around in my blog's "Edit" page for way too long. It needs to see the light of day and be recognized for its sincerely satisfying qualities. Not only does it stick your ribs and warm your cockles all the way through in the middle of any snowstorm (this one's for you, my unfortunate US Northeast chums), but it's ridiculously easy and good for you. I've made it several times already, and it always gets rave reviews from DH and even Baby B (yes, I feed him everything now - the quicker he learns to appreciate his Mama's food, the better).

Hello, pretty broccoli. I'm about to transform you into something spectacular. Kids will love you again.

Farfalle with Broccoli and Beef (inspired by Kayotic Kitchen)
Serves 6

1 lb ground beef, lean
1 lb pasta (like farfalle, shells, elbows, penne)
1 head broccoli
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
Grated Parmesan for sprinkling over the top
Optional: 1 red bell pepper, diced

For the sauce:
3 tbsp butter
5 tbsp flour
3.5 cups milk
4oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tsp dijon mustard OR 1/2 tsp mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. Heat a couple of tbsp of oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Saute the onions, garlic and ground beef till caramelized. Sprinkle in the herbs and spices.

3. Chop the broccoli into florets and add to the ground beef mixture. If you have chopped red bell pepper, then toss that in as well. Pour in the chicken stock, then cover and cook for an additional 10 mins on low heat. Stir through, let all the liquid evaporate, then set aside.
4. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour and stir consistently till the color turns amber and the raw flour smell disappears.

5. Whisk in all the milk, and keep whisking till sauce starts to thicken.

6. Now add the cheese, mustard, salt and pepper, and continue stirring till sauce thickens sufficiently. Turn off the heat and set aside.

7. Boil the pasta per the package instructions. Dump the cooked pasta directly into the pan with the ground beef mixture. Stir gently to combine.8. Pour the pasta and ground beef into your baking dish - I used a 9" x 13". Ladle over the cheese sauce. Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, then bake for 20-30 mins till deliciously golden-brown on top. Serve lovingly with good ol' fashioned ketchup.

Verdict: How can one go wrong with pasta smothered in cheesy goodness? That's just a rhetorical question, because you simply can't. You can, however, elevate your pasta to great heights, and this is definitely far up that ladder if you ask me. And since DH is such a big baby when it comes to eating his veggies, this is the only way I can get him to eat broccoli. I hope he's not reading this.

I wonder if Ruth at Presto Pasta Nights will still remember me?! I doubt it. My poor blog is just a shadow of her former robust self. While I nurse her back to health, I'll be submitting this recipe to Jen at Tastes of Home, who is hosting the latest round-up.