Just 2 More Weeks!

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In just 2 short weeks I’ll be jet setting around the world! I simply can not wait. I’ve already started setting things aside and this weekend I’ll probably start packing my suitcase. Never in my life did I think I would be able to spend 6 weeks in another country, let alone China! Of course the very best part of it all is that I finally get to see Jesse again, that week will mark 2 months apart for us. 🙁

I can’t really decide if it’s easier or harder to be apart now that I’m in San Diego. When I was in Ohio I felt like I was more disconnected, even though we would be apart anyway, China still somehow seemed like and even bigger step. Here, I still feel connected and somehow strangely a part of it. But of course in Ohio I had my friends and family to help me through too. I can’t tell you how many times Michelle saved me with a bottle of wine and girl talk. That sort of thing is probably one of the things I miss the most about Ohio. I really had some awesome friends there and my family was always there for me.


On a less serious note, one other thing I miss about Ohio is buffalo wings. (are buffalo wings? either way it doesn’t sound right, help me out grammar police!) Yes, there are wings here but I guess I grew used to Buffalo Wild Wings, or B-Dubbs, and now that’s the flavor and texture I crave. Lately I’ve been craving a chicken tender wrap, sub pico for tomato, with spicy garlic sauce (and extra on the side) and a side of tortilla chips from B-dubbs, like nobody’s business. In all honesty there is a B-Dubbs in Huntington Beach but that’s a pretty far drive for one measly chicken tender wrap. So when I saw this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could satisfy my buffalo tooth. (Like a sweet tooth only different)

Yeah, you’re going to need to try this. Like now. The spice, the cheese, the creaminess. Yum. Yum. Yum. I used 2 recipes for inspiration pulling a few ideas from each. And, because I like to use as few pots and pans as possible (Jesse will tell you that’s a lie, but I said I LIKE to, not that I always do), I tried to streamline the recipes.

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
(Adapted from Foodnetwork and 1 Fine Cookie)

2 chicken breasts – marinade in 1 cup buttermilk and 2 Tbsp Frank’s Red Hot overnight*
1 lb elbow macaroni noodles, cooked and drained(shells would work too)
4 Tbsp butter, divided
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped (about 2 large stalks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dry mustard
2 Tbsp flour
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup half-half
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cups Franks Buffalo Red Hot (or other buffalo sauce), divided
1 pound cheddar cheese, shredded**
8 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced or 2 tsp dry parsley
Blue Cheese dressing for drizzling over top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a grill pan over high heat, grill the chicken breasts until the juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of chicken. Chop the chicken into bite size chunks, cover to keep warm and set aside.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook for 4 minutes, or until the celery is soft and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, last 2 Tbsp of butter and 1/4 cup of Franks, stir to coat the celery and onions. Sprinkle in the dry mustard and flour and stir well with a whisk. When the flour is fully combined, pour in the milk and half and half, whisking constantly. Then whisk in the remaining hot sauce and sour cream. Bring to a light simmer, continuing to whisk. Stir in the cheese until smooth and melted. Add the chicken and stir to combine. (at this point you can sing to yourself, just keep stirring, just keep stirring, stirring, stirring). Remove from heat.

In a small bowl melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add the panko, blue cheese, and parsley and stir.

Sprinkle the panko mixture over top of the mac and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Drizzle with blue cheese dressing to serve.

* I liked the idea Jasmin had for infusing the chicken with a subtle hot sauce taste by marinating over night. But I was way too lazy to bread the chicken and fry it in addition to all the stirring I had to do. So I just grilled it. The overnight soak made the chicken incredibly moist with just a hint of spice. You could take the even easier way out and use left over chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. I won’t judge ya if you’re lazy!

**I always recommend shredding your own cheese, from the block, for mac and cheese.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

You may have noticed that I had no updates last week and that was because I was on vacation. I had 2 posts ready to go and expected to be able to post them while I was gone but unfortunately we didn’t have internet access because the house we were staying at had a broken router. This is one of those 2 recipes. I made it for our lunch the day before we left and it was so good.

There is a local coffee shop near my grocery store and it serves a few different types of really tasty sandwiches. My favorite has always been the buffalo chicken salad and I have been wanting to recreate it for a while now. I started by throwing some things together until I was happy with the flavor and the texture. I had to find the right balance of spicy kick and smooth, cool, creaminess. I think what I came up with is just as good if not better than the coffee shop version. It came together pretty quickly and would be great on a tortilla wrap, sandwich bread, a croissant or even just right out of the bowl. I can’t wait to make this again!

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Ingredients

1/2 cup Light Miracle Whip (I intended to use mayonnaise but I grabbed the wrong jar and I think it was the a good mistake :))
1/4-1/3 cup Franks Red Hot
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 tsp paprika
dash of cayenne pepper
Dash of black pepper
1 celery stalk, cut into very small pieces
1-2 pickle spears cut into very small pieces
2-3 chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite size pieces

Ingredients

In a medium mixing bowl combine all of the ingredients through black pepper. Taste test along the way and add more hot sauce if you want it spicier and more blue cheese dressing if you want it creamier. When you have the right flavor add the chicken pieces, celery and pickle.

The best mac and cheese you’ll ever put in your mouth….

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

Was that title too long? 🙂 LOL. In all seriousness, this is really the best mac and cheese I have ever had. I found it on one of my all time favorite blogs Pioneer Woman Cooks. I’ll admit, I’m in love with Ree. Her blog is full of witty commentary and informative cooking entries, plus she has the cutest family ever. If you haven’t had the pleasure of viewing her blog before please go check it out, you’ll be hooked!

PW’s Spicy Mac and Cheese
(source: Pioneer Woman Cooks, my changes are noted in bold)

Ingredients
4 cups cooked macaroni or cavatappi
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 finely diced red onion
Equal amount diced red bell pepper
1 finely diced jalapeno
1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
1 cup frozen corn
2 to 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup half and half
1 generous cup grated Pepperjack cheese (I sometimes use half pepperjack and half mild cheddar)
2 Tbsp butter
Salt
Pepper

Directions

Boil pasta until al dente. In a large skillet, add olive oil and saute garlic and vegetables over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add in canned chilies and stir around, then turn off heat. Drain pasta and add it to skillet. Pour on cream, add cheese, then add salt and pepper to taste and stir gently. At the end, add 2 tablespoons butter and stir again. Check seasonings and serve.