Jalapeño Popper Mac

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Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
2 green bell peppers
3 jalapeño peppers
½ pound bacon, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons flour
2½ cups whole milk
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
salt and pepper
8 ounces corkscrew pasta
1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup panko breadcrumbs 

Method
Preheat broiler to 500 F. Place the bell and jalapeño peppers on a foil-lined baking sheet and char each side, turning the peppers every 2–3 minutes to ensure they don’t burn. 

Remove peppers from oven and place in a freezer-safe gallon bag. Seal shut and set aside to steam. 

Reduce oven heat to 350 F. Grease a cast-iron pan with butter and set aside. 

In a high-edge skillet on medium heat, add bacon and cook until crispy — about 7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Dispose of bacon grease and return skillet to medium-low heat. 

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. 

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the skillet and whisk in flour until all the butter is absorbed. Continue to work for about 1 minute to remove the flour flavor. Add milk and whisk to combine. Stir in cream cheese. Stir every minute for about 5 minutes to avoid scorching. 

While cream cheese melts, add pasta and a generous sprinkling of salt to boiling water. Cook until al dente, drain and return pot to stovetop. Note: The pasta should still have a bite to it because it will go into the oven for more baking. 

Add the cheddar to the skillet and whisk to combine. Add more milk if needed. Whisk until cheese is melted, smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper and pour over noodles in pot. 

Take the peppers out of the gallon bag and remove the seeds, top and skins. Dice peppers and place in pot with noodles and sauce. Add bacon. Stir until well combined and pour into cast-iron pan. 

Melt remaining tablespoon of butter and mix with breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of pasta. 

Bake 10–12 minutes or until pasta is bubbly and top is browned.

Potato Soup

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Ingredients
6 strips bacon
1 head broccoli
1 tablespoon butter
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 small onion
6 potatoes
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1 carton (4 cups) chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1½ cups milk
1 8-ounce container sour cream
salt and pepper 

Method
Chop the broccoli, carrots, celery, onion and potatoes into small bite-sized pieces (taking care to separate the broccoli florets from the diced stock). Cut the bacon into small strips as well.

After the prep-work is done, fry the bacon strips in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once they’re fully cooked, remove the bacon from the pot and reserve the bacon pieces to top your soup. Remove all but approximately 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pot and discard. Add the broccoli stocks, carrots, celery and onion to the pot and cook on medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes, broccoli florets and butter to the pot and continue to cook and stir the vegetables for 3–4 more minutes. Add the chicken broth and a dash of salt and pepper, and allow the pot to come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked. 

Scoop approximately 2/3 of the soup into a bowl and purée using a submersion blender (a food processor or blender work too, so long as you’re cautious while blending — hot liquid expands, and can be a little unpredictable when mixed). This can be done all at once, or in shifts, whatever you feel most comfortable with. Add the puréed mixture back into the pot, and pour in the milk, cream and 4 ounces of the shredded cheddar. Increase the heat to medium-high and stir continuously until all the cheese is melted.

Dish the soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream, remaining shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of the reserved bacon.

Squash Bisque

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Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 4–6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
salt and pepper
2 cartons (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream

Method
Heat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss together olive oil, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, squash, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Divide veggie mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and roast in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10–15 minutes.

Once veggies have cooled slightly, transfer one-third into a blender with one-third of the chicken broth. Purée until smooth and then pulse in one-third of the heavy cream. Pour into a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, stirring often. Repeat with the remaining veggies, broth and cream. 

Note: Depending on your blender size, this may take more than three rounds.

When ready to serve, ladle from the pot on the stove and drizzle in an extra splash of cream.

Fiery Steak Chili

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Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 pounds sirloin steak, trimmed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, minced
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 16-ounce jar salsa verde
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
½ cup masa (corn flour)
3 cups beef broth
4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled

Method
Cut trimmed steak into 1-inch cubes. 

Heat a heavy-bottomed stock pot over medium-high heat. Add in oil, then steak.

Brown steak, creating a caramelized crust on all sides and stirring as needed.

Reduce heat to medium and add in onion, garlic and chipotle peppers. Stir and cook for 3–4 minutes, or until onions become slightly translucent. 

Stir in adobo sauce, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute.

Add in salsa verde, stir and cover. Let stew for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, place masa into a small bowl and slowly pour in 2 cups of beef broth, stirring constantly with a fork until no lumps remain.

Remove lid and add in the remaining ingredients, including masa mixture and remaining 1 cup of beef broth. Stir to combine, cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving and topping with queso fresco.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Trifle

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Start to finish: 25 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
1 frozen pound cake, thawed
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
¼ cup sugar
½ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread
1 bar baker’s chocolate (optional)

Method
Slice pound cake into even slices, and then into quarters so you have short sticks. Set aside.

In a chilled, stainless-steel bowl, whip together heavy cream, sugar and cocoa powder using a hand mixer until soft peaks form. 

Slightly melt chocolate-hazelnut spread until runny enough to drizzle. 

Place six parfait or high-ball glasses on cookie sheet or tray. Assemble parfaits beginning with the pound cake pieces. Drizzle with chocolate-hazelnut spread and a dollop of whipped cream. Repeat two more times for three total layers. 

Place tray in the fridge for at least an hour, or until ready to serve. Right before serving, top with shavings of baker’s chocolate.

Cheesy Cauliflower Breadsticks

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Start to finish: 50 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
1    pound riced cauliflower, frozen or fresh
2    eggs, lightly beaten
½    cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1    teaspoon Italian seasoning
1    cup ricotta cheese
1    cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3    cloves garlic, minced
½    teaspoon salt

Method
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, set aside.

Steam riced cauliflower in the microwave according to package instructions. If you grate/rice your own, place in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap with a few holes poked in the top and steam 5–6 minutes.

Carefully spread steamed cauliflower on a sheet pan lined with paper towels and set in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, garlic and salt. Mix until fully incorporated. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cooled cauliflower, eggs, Parmesan and Italian seasoning. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough-like consistency is formed. Turn mixture onto parchment-lined baking sheet and press into an even layer, similar to a pizza crust. Bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly browned. 

Remove from oven and carefully flip over parchment, so the top of the crust is now on the bottom of the baking sheet and peel parchment off the now top crust. Schmear with ricotta mixture.

Bake again for 10–15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.

Let rest 5 minutes before cutting.

Everyone’s Favorite Italian Salad

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Start to finish: 15 minutes
Impresses: 6

Ingredients
1 5-ounce container spring mix salad greens
¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, sliced
¼ cup canned artichoke hearts, quartered
¼ cup kalamata olives, halved
¼ cup pine nuts
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 bunch fresh parsley, sans stems
½ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper

Method
Place pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and slightly browned — about five minutes. Let cool.

In a blender, combine olive oil, vinegar, parsley, basil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Pulse until fully combined.

In a large salad bowl, toss together greens, red peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, pine nuts and red onion with ¼ cup (more or less as desired) prepared dressing. Top with extra Parmesan cheese.

Brioche French Toast

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Start to finish: 35 minutes
Impresses: 4-5

Ingredients
1    loaf brioche bread, cut into thick slices
6    eggs
½    cup half and half
¼    cup sugar
1    tablespoon ground cinnamon
½    teaspoon ground nutmeg
1    teaspoon salt
1    tablespoon vanilla extract
½    stick butter, cut into small slices

Method
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, half and half, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Pour into a low-sided dish.

Bring a griddle or skillet to medium-low heat.

Dunk both sides of brioche slices into the egg mixture, allowing each slice to soak up the eggs.

Drop a pat of butter onto the griddle and let melt, coating the grill. 

Place slices on the griddle, making sure not to crowd them. Cook 3–4 minutes per side, or until golden brown.

Serve with additional butter, maple syrup and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Prep ahead
The night before, slice bread and store in a gallon zip-top baggie. Make egg mixture and store in a rectangular storage container. The morning of, all you have to do is dip and grill. Preheat your oven to 300 F and keep cooked slices in a single layer on cookie sheets until ready to serve.

Bacon, Leek & Gruyère Quiche

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Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 12

Ingredients
2 packages applewood smoked bacon
2 leeks
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
18 eggs
1 cup half and half
 salt and pepper, to taste
2 store bought pie dough crusts

Method
Preheat oven to 400 F and liberally butter two cast iron skillets. Unroll pie dough, lightly press into the skillet and prick the bottom of the crust with a fork. 

Slice bacon into small strips and cook in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crispy. While that’s cooking, slice the bottom white section of the leeks into thin, half moons. Remove bacon and let drain on a layer of paper towels. Reserve two tablespoons of the bacon grease and sauté the leeks for three minutes, until slightly softened. 

In a large bowl or blender, beat together eggs, half and half and salt and pepper.

Sprinkle bacon, leeks and cheese into each skillet and top with egg mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool five minutes and then cut into slices.

Prep ahead
The night before, assemble each quiche, pop in the fridge and bake in the morning. If you’re prepping more in advance, instead of cast iron, opt for foil pie pans. Make as directed above and then cover in plastic wrap and freeze until you need a no-fuss breakfast. Straight from the freezer, unwrap plastic wrap, cover with foil and reheat at 350 F for one hour.

Cowboy Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Miranda Rice

Start to finish: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Impresses: 10

Ingredients
1 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
1 24-ounce jar spaghetti or marinara sauce
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 stick butter
1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
cheddar cheese, grated

Method
Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese until blended. 

Combine meat and spaghetti sauce.

Place a few thin slices of butter in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. 

Place ½ of the lasagna noodles on top of the butter. 

Pour ½ of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles and spread well. 

Repeat last three steps and layer remaining noodles, cheese and meat. 

Top with grated cheddar cheese. 

Bake for 30 minutes.

Lasagna Roll-Ups

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Recipe courtesy of Amber Talsma

Start to finish: 1 hour
Impresses: 10

Ingredients
20 lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 30-ounce container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 large eggs
¼ cup parsley, minced
¼ cup basil, minced

Method
Preheat oven to 375 F. Boil lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool and then lay flat on a sheet of foil. Set aside. 

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic, then sauté for 4–5 minutes until vegetables start to soften. Remove vegetables from the pan. 

Add ground beef to the pan and cook until browned. Drain the excess fat. 

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Add the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 

To make the filling, combine the ricotta cheese, ½ cup of the mozzarella, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, eggs, remaining salt and pepper, parsley and basil. Stir to combine. 

To assemble, spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking pan or five 6-inch disposable foil loaf pans. 

Spread 2–3 tablespoons of the filling on each noodle. Then, roll the noodles up so the cheese is on the inside of the roll. 

Lay rolls sideways in the 9x13-inch pan (four rolls will fit in each loaf pan).

Top evenly with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Place pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. 

Classic Lasagna

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Recipe courtesy of Jenny Eisenga

Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Impresses: 12

Ingredients
2 jars spaghetti sauce
1 pound hamburger
16 ounces cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
9 lasagna noodles, cooked just until done

Method
Preheat oven to 350 F. Brown hamburger and drain excess fat if needed. Add spaghetti sauce and stir to combine. Let simmer for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, boil noodles until slightly undercooked. Drain and set aside. 

Combine slightly beaten eggs with cottage cheese, then set aside. 

In a greased 9x13-inch dish, pour ½ cup of the simmering spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan. Lay 3 noodles on top. Add another layer of the sauce, cottage cheese mixture, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and ¼ cup mozzarella cheese. Layer one more time, starting with the noodles. To finish, top with the last 3 noodles, remaining sauce and the last of the mozzarella cheese. 

Cover and bake for 1 hour, uncovering the last 15 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing.