#HotSummerEats: Southwestern Cilantro Mac and Cheese

An easy, creamy baked macaroni and cheese with corn and tomatoes… and a kick of Southwestern flair!

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

Welcome to day 1 of #HotSummerEats! Don’t forget to read all about the event and check out the giveaway here. There are lots of great items up for grabs and I’d love for my readers to win. :) </end plug> When I first started thinking about the concept of hot summer eats, barbecue foods were the first to come to mind. And thanks to the sweet lady who served as our cook in my sorority house in college [shout out to RV!], when I hear barbecue, I also think “mac and cheese.” She’d always serve BBQ chicken with mac and cheese, and that combo is fabulous!

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

There are several mac and cheese recipes that I love–a stovetop version and a baked version–but both can be kind of fussy and time consuming. In the summer, especially when preparing food for a party or barbecue, speed is imperative. So when I found a recipe for a baked mac and cheese dish that used sour cream and shredded cheese for the sauce, I was pumped! That is SO easy and sounded fabulous. I also stirred in some of my kitchen staples–canned tomatoes and frozen corn–to kick up this dish a notch.

Southwest Cilantro Mac and Cheese for #HotSummerEats on thepajamachef.com

For flavors, I used some Gourmet Garden stir-in pastes: cilantro and chili pepper. I’ve used these so much in the past and am so glad to say that they’re a sponsor of #HotSummerEats! They’re so easy and convenient to use, and add a ton of flavor in one easy package! The result? This mac and cheese was super cheesy, super flavorful, and super delicious! The easy sauce was just as tasty as some of its more fussy counterparts, though you do have to give it a good stir after baking to evenly distribute to cheese. Small problems though, when this dish is so good! I hope you love it as much as we do. :)

one year ago: Black Bean and Rice Soup
four years ago: Lemony Kale Pasta

Southwestern Cilantro Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 60 minutes
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adapted from Good Cheap Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta
  • 8 ounces Jalapeno Light Cheddar Cheese, cut into chunks [I used Cabot; a pepperjack would also work]
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded – divided
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 – 10 ounce can diced tomato and green chiles, drained
  • 1/2 cup corn, from an ear of cooked corn or frozen works too
  • 1/4 cup Cilantro Paste – from Gourmet Garden [or about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro]
  • 2 tablespoons Chili Pepper Paste – from Gourmet Garden  [or other spice like red pepper flakes or hot sauce, to taste]
  • Lightly Dried Cilantro – from Gourmet Garden, for topping [or chopped fresh cilantro]

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees while a large pot of water comes to a boil. Grease a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta until just under al dente, since it will cook further in the oven. In a large bowl, stir together Jalapeno cheese, half of the shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and chili pepper paste.

When pasta is done, drain and add pasta to the sauce in the bowl. Stir together to combine, then transfer to the baking dish. Note: there will not be tons of extra sauce, just enough to coat the noodles. Place in preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Stir pasta and sauce together in baking dish to recombine and then serve with additional cilantro.

For more #HotSummerEats recipes, click the link below:

Disclaimer: Thank you to Gourmet Garden for providing samples and product to use for#HotSummerEats recipes without additional compensation. I was not asked to provide positive feedback. All opinions are my own. Please check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for more information on their products.

 

Welcome to… #HotSummerEats!

Hot Summer Eats is here. Rallied by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla, a talented group of 18 food bloggers will be posting recipes for a week. From June 1st through June 8th, we hope to inspire you for your summer grill dates and cookouts, provide you with ideas for your beach bonfires, and get you planning those ice cream socials and cocktail hours. Not only will you find over a hundred summery recipe posts, but you can enter to win our awesome giveaway, courtesy of some amazingly generous donations from sponsoring companies. See details below.
The Sponsors
(with links to their homepages, in alphabetical order)

 

The Prizes

BenBella Vegan will provide one winner with one print copy of each of their Spring 2015 releases:Love Fed, by Christina Ross (March 2015); PlantPure Nation Cookbook, by Kim Campbell (March 2015); Plant-Powered Families, by Dreena Burton (May 2015); Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-Based Living, by Lindsay S.
Nixon (May 2015); and China Study Quick & Easy Cookbook, by Del Sroufe (May
2015).

Casabella will provide one winner with a trio of kitchen gadgets that are perfect for summer entertaining: a set of two large ice cube trays; a citrus juicer and reamer; and a cherry pitter.

Gourmet Garden will provide one winner with each of their stir-in pastes (basil, chili pepper, cilantro, dill, Italian herbs, garlic, chunky garlic, ginger, lemongrass, oregano, parsley, and Thai seasonings), each of their lightly dried herbs (basil, chili pepper, cilantro, ginger, and parsley), and two Gourmet Garden logo coolers.

Not Ketchup will provide one winner with a prize pack of four fruit ketchups – Blueberry White Pepper, Cherry Chipotle, Spiced Fig, and Smoky Date.

Quirk Books will send one winner a copy of their cookbook Summer Cocktails by Maria Del Mar Sacasa, photography by Tara Striano.

Spicely Organics will send one winner their Backyard Barbeque Gift Box.

T.Lish will provide one winner with each of the three current flavors: Sweet Garlic, Asian Sesame, and Chipotle.

Members of the Sauceology Group have donated a summery prize pack that includes six delicious products. You will receive either the Calypso Kick or Island Thyme Spice Rub from Caribeque, Garlic Goodness Hot Sauce and Chai Curry Chup from Intensity Academy, Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette from Out of the Weeds, Guava Girl Gourmet Grilling Sauce from Pirate Jonny’s, and Southern Gold Barbeque Gold Sauce from Voodoo Chef.

The Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Thank you to #HotSummerEats sponsors BenBella Vegan, Caribeque, Casabella, Gourmet Garden,
Intensity Academy, Not Ketchup, Out of the Weeds. Pirate Jonny’s, Quirk Books,
Spicely Organics, T.Lish , and Voodoo Cheffor providing the prizes free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for
#HotSummerEats without additional compensation. All opinions are my own.

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

Add some pumpkin to your normal banana muffins for a fun twist on a classic recipe. :)

Pumpkin Banana Muffins | thepajamachef.comWhen you move, you often have a lot of food to use up so you don’t have to haul it across town. Or is that just me? Soooo I hope you can bear with me as I talk about pumpkin in May. I love it year round, and hope a lot of you do too! Ha!

Pumpkin Banana Muffins | thepajamachef.comAs you know if you’ve ever read my blog, I love muffins. SO much. I almost always have them wrapped in sandwich bags to add to our work lunches–it’s so handy. And since I try to make most of my muffins on the healthier side, it’s a fun good-for-you pseudo-dessert to enjoy during the work day. I’m sure some nutritionists/dieticians might disagree with me on this… but heyyy I like my muffins and I’m not ashamed of it. :) Muffins aren’t ever filling enough for a normal breakfast, but they are a great lunchbox addition or snack. I know these muffins don’t look like much, but they taste great. Like their name implies, they’re a cross between banana and pumpkin muffins. Neither flavor overwhelms, and both flavors go great with pumpkin pie spice. I love making muffins with lots of fruit and/or spice so you don’t have to have tons ‘o sugar to get tons ‘o flavor. I know this is a recipe I’ll turn to again and again since I always have brown bananas on hand, and come fall, will have half empty cans of pumpkin to use up. If you want to spice these up a bit, feel free to stir in some sliced almonds or mini chocolate chips. Mmm! Enjoy!

two years ago: Apple Cream Chicken
three years ago: Pork Chops with Balsamic Blackberry Salad + Orzo

Pumpkin Banana Muffins

  • Servings: 12-16
  • Time: 30 minutes
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adapted from Simmworks Family Blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray or line with paper liners. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice.

In a smaller bowl or measuring cup, whisk together bananas, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and vanilla, until fully combined.

Add wet mixture to dry mixture, gently folding until combined. Divide batter between prepared muffin cups, then bake for 13-15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yellow Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

Perfectly fluffy and sweet yellow birthday cake, served up with an airy chocolate frosting. Perfection for your birthday celebration!

Yellow Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting | thepajamachef.comMy favorite cake to make is snack cake, for several reasons. A) It’s easy. B) It’s called a snack cake so I can eat it for a snack… or breakfast. :) C) It’s pretty foolproof. Though I’ve been making layer cakes for years, they are still a wee bit intimidating because of all the what if’s. What if the cake doesn’t come cleanly out of the pan? What if a layer breaks when frosting it? What if, what if, what if? But the thing is… for birthdays, when you want to make people feel special, it’s the fancy cakes you want to make. And to me, fancy cake=layer cake. So every year for Ben’s birthday I try to make him a fancy layer cake. He’s always a yellow cake kind of guy, so for a recent* birthday he asked for his favorite… with some whipped chocolate frosting. Apparently buttercream or cream cheese frostings aren’t exactly his fave. Who knew?

Yellow Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting | thepajamachef.comThis was truly the cake [and frosting] of his dreams. The yellow cake was soft, moist, and fluffy… sweet, but not too sweet–the perfect pairing for a light and airy whipped chocolate frosting. Before this, I had only had whipped vanilla frosting. Whipped chocolate frosting is pretty darn good! It has the essence of chocolate, without the overwhelming richness that most chocolate frosting has. In a word, we thought it was incredible! And since it only contains two ingredients–heavy whipping cream and chocolate chips–it’s so easy to make, and even easier to spread. No complaints here. :) Enjoy!

*when I say recent, I mean… ummm, well, 2014. Yikes. I am b-e-h-i-n-d. :) Cake is still cake though, right?!

one year ago: Italian Tortilla Rollups & an epic bridal shower menu
two years ago: Granola Tips
three years ago: Tortellini Soup

Yellow Birthday Cake with Whipped Chocolate Frosting

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 1 1/2 hours + time to cool
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cake from Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice; frosting from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:

for cake

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

for frosting

  • 1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour desired cake pans [I used 2 round 9″ cake pans but original recipe has other options- 3 round 8″ pans or a 9×13″ rectangular pan].

To make cake, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, then use an electric mixer to mix on low for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl as you go, then increase speed to high and beat for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Divide batter between cake pans, then bake for about 25-30 minutes if using the 9″ pans [or 35-40 minutes for the 9×13 or 30-25 minutes for the 8″ pans]. Bake until the cake just pulls away from the sides of the pan and the top is golden brown. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean as well.

While cake is baking, prepare the frosting. Heat the heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan on low heat until it comes to a simmer. Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl, then pour the hot whipping cream on top of then. Let rest for 5 minutes, then gently whisk until combined, smooth with a glossy texture. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, then refrigerate for 2-3 hours until completely chilled and cold. An ice water bath can speed up the process. When cold, use an electric mixer to whip the frosting into soft peaks.

When cake is done, cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. Frost cake immediately and consider storing in the fridge to keep the frosting set until ready to serve.