5 Amazing Mac & Cheese Recipes

Since the weather is finally getting colder where we are, I’m in full comfort food planning mode.

This has led me to realize that I have quite the collection of macaroni and cheese recipes on the blog. Whatever you call it (mac, mac and cheese, macaroni, macaroni and cheese), you can bet these recipes will be just the thing from traditional to creative.

Without further ado, here are 5 amazing Mac & Cheese recipes:

Classic Mac & Cheese

macaroni and cheese

This recipe is just a classic with lots of cheese, seasoned breadcrumbs and pasta cooked perfectly to hold its shape. Also, it feeds a ton of people! It’s custardy, savory and so comforting.

Mac & Cheese Tot Casserole

mac and cheese tot casserole

This is something a little different for mac and cheese lovers, and you’re going to just love it. There’s broccoli mixed in with the pasta and cheese sauce, and tater tots are crisped on top. It’s like a marriage between a classic casserole and mac and cheese.

Spinach Artichoke Mac & Cheese

If you’re a spinach artichoke lover like me, then you will find this mac and cheese to be your ideal meal on a cool fall or winter night. It allows you to play around with pasta shapes and fun cheeses.

Bacon Brussels Mac & Cheese

Here’s another creative take on our favorite side, and it’s got bacon and Brussels sprouts to add lots of flavor. It’s smokey, still got lots of tasty fall veg, and will fill you up for sure!

Truffle Mac & Cheese

I make this mac and cheese almost every  year for my husband’s birthday, and it’s an Ina Garten wonder! It will cost you a little more than usual with the truffle butter and mushrooms, but it lends a wonderfully earthy flavor and also makes a lot of mac!

Ingredient of the Month: Chives


chives

If you have an herb garden, then I bet you’re like me and tend to experiment with various herbs. I’ve found in my herb-story (if you will), that I started growing rosemary several years ago then added basil then mint, and then lavender, chives, sage and thyme this past year.

It’s fun to try new things as far as growing herbs because they’re cheap and you get to find new ways of using them in your cooking.

Which brings me to our Ingredient of the Month: chives!

These little spiky green guys were the surprise of my summer herb garden. They were super easy to grow, loved the sun and added the finishing touch to many of our dips and entrees.

Tell me more:

Chives are an allium (relative of garlic and onions) that grow in long, thin green stems (or scapes) with white roots.

Where do I buy chives:

If you don’t have a window spot or pot or herb garden to grow chives in, you can usually find them in the refrigerated or fresh herb section of your grocery store. Look for chives that are strong and not slimy.

How do I store chives:

I just clip my chives from my garden right when I need to use them. If you buy them from the grocery, then just refrigerate them in the container they came in. They are best used as soon as possible or can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

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6 Fave Recipes for 6 Years of Blogging

What’s happened in the past 6 years?

Well, other than 643 blog posts, a lot. I’ve switched jobs a few times, built this blog on my own on WordPress,  and improved my writing and photography (still improving, I hope). Although the blog and I have changed somewhat, the reason why I do the blog has stayed the same.

Think fruitful is a good writing and cooking outlet for me and a good recipe/food inspiration spot for you!

It’s been such a treat to grow with you all, experimenting with recipes, types of posts and even my writing style. I feel like I’m writing to a small but dedicated group of folks, and that’s pretty special.

In honor of this auspicious 6-Year Blogaversary, I’m going through 6 of my favorite recipes. These are foods that I just can’t stop cooking month after month and year after year.

Here are my 6 faves:

Mom’s White Bean Hummus

This dip is my go-to appetizer and can be ready in only a few minutes with a can of white beans, rosemary, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Great with crudites and pita chips!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

I heard from many of you that this was one of your favorite think fruitful recipes, and I totally agree. We usually make this once every few months, and it hits the spot when you’re craving some Indian food.

Pulled Pork Tacos

This is another recipe that has a good following, and I’ve been making this one for many years. It’s another slow cooker wonder that is great for a group!

pulled-pork-tacos

Curry Dal

My husband and I have been hooked on this recipe for many years, and it’s such a great weeknight recipe to serve on rice with cilantro yogurt.

curry-dal recipe

Vegetable Stock

I keep my vegetable scraps every week so I can make a batch of stock every other week or so. It’s such a great way to use what you would throw away to make a delicious liquid for soups, sauces and more.

Easy Pie Crust

I don’t make pies every month, but when I do, I definitely use this pie crust recipe. It’s almost foolproof and so simple with the food processor. Perfect for holiday cooking!

easy-pie-crust

Here are some of your fave think fruitful posts:

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another 6 years!

Simple Saturday: Grilled Potato Skins

grilled potato skins

Isn’t it funny how we all have really sophisticated foods that we like, while at the same time there is some really junky stuff that we get excited about eating.

I assume I am not the only one who is this way.

While I love fresh oysters, a fine wine and nouveau French food, I’m also a big fan of Cookout burgers (if you don’t live in NC, sorry), Oreos and Fritos.

I suppose our varied tastes are what makes the world go round, and I still think all things in balance.

So, with that in mind, today I’m giving you a recipe that is more on the tailgate side (one you may not expect to see on this blog) but yet it is easy and tasty!

We discovered these Grilled Potato Skins a few months ago and found them to the perfect pairing with our grilled burgers. They’re also fun to get into the toppings. Hello, chive Kerrygold butter (classing it up a bit). Then, you can throw on cheese, bacon and sour cream.

They’re the perfect crispy, soft boats of flavor for your last grill of the summer/fall/whatever season you’re in.

grilled potato skins

Here’s how you make Grilled Potato Skins:

  1. Microwave a few washed and pricked potatoes for 4-5 minutes on high until mostly cooked through.
  2. Let the potatoes cool a bit and slice in half, scooping out most of the insides (and setting aside for mashed potatoes or potato cakes).
  3. Brush the insides with butter or chive butter and throw on a medium grill, skin side down, for 10 minutes or so until they start to brown on the bottom.
  4. Take off the grill and top with cheese, chives, sour cream, bacon and/or green onions and enjoy!

Fall Fave Recipes

Finally, finally, finally, it is below 90 degrees and the cold, crisp air is coming through.

Everyone is going apple picking, and we’re all stocking up on well, stock, and butter and everything you need to make some amazing soups, casseroles and baked goods.

It’s fall, y’all!

And I’m raring to make some amazing fall recipes. Some from my blog that I’ve made before and some from others that I’ve always hoped to make!

So, here’s my list of current and hopefully future fall faves:

Chili

We all know that chili is a fall/winter staple. And I’ve made some super tasty chilis myself, from white chicken to classic to vegetarian in a skillet. I’ve also seen recipes for chili with cornbread topping which intrigues me greatly.

Chicken & Dumplings

I have dreamed of making chicken and dumplings for quite awhile, and it seems like this season might be a great time to do it. It’s one of those southern dishes that I’ve only had at potlucks or heard about people making, so it would be fun to make at home sometime soon!

Beef Stew

A lot of my fall recipes include meat, but I guess we don’t cook it too much so that’s OK. I’m still a fan of #meatlessmonday, though! I’ve also never made a beef stew, and it sounds like just the thing to fill with chunks of tender carrots and potatoes, and eat while watching a British mystery show during a good rain.

Shepherd’s Pie

I keep running across tasty-looking lamb recipes, like shepherd’s pie. I love mashed potatoes and casseroles, so I might have to make this classic for the first time.

What are you planning on making this fall?

Food Adventures: Homemade Dumplings

homemade dumplings

I would highly recommend creating a food adventure for you or your family.

Whether it’s having a homemade pizza night, ordering a cuisine of take-out that you’ve never had before, or making your favorite food from scratch, it’s good to shake things up sometimes.

It’s always fun to explore new tastes and stretch your boundaries as a home cook.

homemade dumplings

My husband and I did this recently when we decided to make homemade Chinese dumplings, everything from scratch. It also helped a lot that Saveur led the way with the recipe instructions and encouragement.

Although it took some elbow grease, I made successful dumpling dough, and it wasn’t that hard. I also got the chance to make some amazing scallion pancakes. This was especially impressive for someone who is usually horrible at making doughs.

homemade dumplings

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A Date with Sticky Toffee Pudding

sticky toffee pudding

I’ve been wanting to make this dessert for months, or years…it’s been on my list for awhile!

It’s likely that I’ve been craving it since discovering it, which might have been when I went on a college choir trip to Ireland. At the retreat center where we were staying, they served us some amazing cakes (or puddings) with incredibly buttery sauces. I mean, in the bowl, half of the height of the cake would be covered in sauce. It was amazing!

sticky toffee pudding

And now I know that it was so amazing because the sauce was made of butter, vanilla and sugar. But, seriously, what’s not to love about a delicious, spice-filled cake covered in a caramel-like sauce?!

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How to Save Money: Buying Airline Tickets

How to Save Money is a think fruitful series with helpful hints and tips for taking control of your finances, including budgeting, grocery shopping, traveling and eating out

I know it’s been a few months without a How to Save Money post, but I’m super happy to be back today with a few more money-saving tips for y’all.

Take it from someone who has booked more than 5 pairs of flights in the past 6 months, buying airline tickets is no easy feat. But, there are a few tips and tricks that I can give you to make booking easier and cheaper…which means money back in your bank account. Can I get an alright?!

1. Get on Google Flights

Google Flights has saved me hundreds this year figuring out when is the best day and cheapest airline to fly with. Whenever I’m even just starting to plan a trip, I will hop on this site to see the simple calendar of prices for various days. How it works is that it aggregates all of the airline routes and prices so you can make the best decision about when to fly.

2. Be flexible on airlines

Although I wish I could direct you to one great airline that always has the cheapest rates, that just isn’t the case in this marketplace. I always end up using Google Flights to find the cheapest flights, no matter the airline. I know that there are some serious airline loyalties out there, but if you want to keep the price as low as possible, you’ve got to be flexible about who you’re flying with.

3. Buy early and on Sunday

So, when should you buy your airline tickets to get the best price? A good thing to do is to track flights on Google Flights so it lets you know when they go up or down and you can move on them quickly. I usually book flights 3 or 4 months before a trip if I can, and they say that Sunday is now the best day to buy!

4. Keep up with frequent flyer miles

If you are a “frequent flyer” as they say, then you’ll want to register for the loyalty program of whatever airline you’re using so you can rack up those points. I don’t travel quite enough to buy trips with my miles, but I know people who do and it can equate to free trips (and who doesn’t love that).

So, where are you going next?!

Ingredient of the Month: Dates

dates

Let’s talk about dates.

Not the going out kind, but the eating kind!

Normally with these Ingredient of the Month posts, I highlight an ingredient that I love using that you may or may have not tried. Today, I’m sharing an ingredient that I am hoping to start using more but am relatively new to!

So, dates, what’s up with these sweet, pruney looking fruits?

dates

Tell me more:

Dates or date palm is a very sweet fruit that is often used in Middle Eastern food. They are cylindrical and red or yellow. Dried dates (which is what you will usually find in the grocery store) are more dark purple or black.

Where do I buy dates:

You can find dried dates at many grocery stores or specialty food stores. I bought Medjool dates at Trader Joe’s.

Where do I store dates:

Dried dates can be stored at room temperature until opening, then they should be refrigerated and can last a year.

dates

How do I cook with dates:

Dates are a really great sugar substitute, which is why you’ll often find them in baking recipes. If you’re looking for a healthier way to sweeten things like baked goods or smoothies, then dates might be right up your alley!

Here are some more great date ideas:

Fruitful Travels: Charleston, SC

image (3)

I love the fact that there are so many fun and foodie-friendly cities within easy driving distance of us in NC.

From the beach to the mountains, we’ve got plenty to choose from. And, oh the Southern food and seafood that abounds. One place that encapsulates all of that is Charleston, SC.

My husband and I have traveled together and with my family to this spot once a year, and we just can’t get enough!

From the sites and eats and architecture, we love exploring this city. We’ve stayed in some great beach homes in Isle of Palms and this amazing airbnb in Mount Pleasant.

Here’s what else we enjoy in Charleston:

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