Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Four Years Ago:

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

The sad news is that my search is over for the perfect macaroni and cheese. 😉 This version was incredible. It’s easy to prepare, the pasta is even incorporated uncooked, and I was able to assemble it in advance and refrigerate it for a couple of hours prior to baking as well.  I also loved that it had dry mustard and cottage cheese in its creamy filling. The golden-brown crispy crust on the top was just the icing on the cake.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I used DeCecco cavatappi instead of elbows (so much more fun) and decreased the amount of butter (slightly). We enjoyed it as part of my husband’s extravagant birthday feast! Absolutely delicious.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings   Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

  • 1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese (not low-fat)
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)(I used whole milk)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (I used my favorite Cabot Classic Vermont 3-year Cheddar)
  • ½ pound cavatappi or elbow pasta, uncooked
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and position an oven rack in upper third of oven.
  2. Use scant 1/2 tablespoon of butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan. (I used a deep 8-inch round ceramic soufflé dish.)
  3. In a blender or Vitamix, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together.
  4. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta.
  5. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes. (I put the assembled, covered dish in the refrigerator for several hours prior to baking.)
  6. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter.
  7. Bake, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

Three Years Ago:

Super Creamy Macaroni & Cheese

Well, here it is. I know you all have been waiting for this recipe to complete my husband’s coke-brined fried chicken with biscuits and gravy birthday meal. 🙂

This is the most indulgent, rich, super creamy, super cheesy macaroni and cheese ever. So much so that I could only bring myself to make one half of the original recipe. It was more than enough- especially because we ate it as a side dish! :/ It would also be a wonderful main dish with a huge green salad. (Half of the original recipe would still easily serve at least 4 people as a main dish.)

This recipe was adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics, via Smitten Kitchen. HBD Mr. Brookcook! ❤

Yield: Serves 10+ as a side dish or 4+ as a main dish

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for casserole
  • 3 to 4 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn or cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces (I used Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane)
  • 2 3/4 cups milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (about 9 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (about 4 ounces) grated Gruyère
  • 1/2 pound short pasta such as campanelle or elbow macaroni

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F on convection. Butter an 8×8-inch (or equivalent), 2-quart casserole dish; set aside. (I sprayed my dish with cooking oil spray instead.)
  2. Place the bread in a medium bowl. In a medium bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave. Add the bread, and toss. Set the breadcrumbs aside.
  3. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. (I warmed it in the microwave instead -one less pot to clean!) Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, and 3/4 cups Gruyère; set the cheese sauce aside.
  6. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the macaroni until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water, and drain well. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Gruyère on top. Sprinkle the reserved breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the grated cheeses.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes on convection (or up to 30+ minutes in a standard oven). Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.

Also- an update!

No ducklings yet… I guess we’ll have to welcome the goslings for now… 🙂

One Year Ago:

Two Years Ago:

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