Cooking and Composition

adventures in discourse and dinner

In the Kitchen: Goat Cheese Pasta Bake with Chicken — November 10, 2013

In the Kitchen: Goat Cheese Pasta Bake with Chicken

So, last week Lovie and I had a marathon writing night for NaNoWriMo, and I posted (albeit briefly) about making this delicious pasta bake. One of many things that Lovie and I have in common is our love of both chicken and carbs, specifically in the form of pasta and potatoes.

Normally when we cook, we go for chicken and noodles, especially now that Lovie has perfected it as a crockpot meal. But this week, we were in the mood for a little something different. Thanks to Pinterest, we got it stuck in our heads that we really needed baked macaroni and cheese, but we couldn’t quite find a recipe that we really wanted to follow. So we decided to make one up.

NaNo Sprint Night!

Making up a recipe has never worked out so well.


  • about a pound (1 box) of pasta
  • about 1 cup of half-and-half
  • about 1 cup of milk
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 6-8 ounces shredded Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce.

3. Cut the goat cheese into smaller pieces, then combine with milk and half-and-half in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat.

4. As goat cheese melts, add in about half of the shredded cheese blend and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Reduce heat to allow to thicken without overheating.

5. Prepare chicken breasts as desired. We grilled it on a George Foreman Grill for about 10 minutes with just a little salt and pepper.

6. Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 square baking dish with butter (or cooking spray, if you prefer to be healthier).

7. When pasta is done cooking, drain and set aside.

NaNo Sprint Night!

8. Cut chicken breasts into strips or small pieces as desired.

9. Assemble all the ingredients in the baking dish, stirring together to ensure the cheese sauce coats the noodles and chicken. Sprinkle with remaining shredded cheese blend.
10. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is golden and melty.

11. Eat too much of this delicious meal, spend the next five days thinking about making it again.

Polka Dot Cakes and Tea Parties — September 8, 2013

Polka Dot Cakes and Tea Parties

Long, long ago in July, before I accepted a new job and moved back “home” and started teaching for the semester, a couple of my friends hosted a Tea Party. I was very excited to dress up, drink tea, and enjoy a variety of refreshments made by friends who, frankly, have more baking and cooking talent in their pinkies than I do overall. Nicolyn and I made a polka dot cake that turned out wonderfully! I don’t have a recipe to share–Nicolyn is like a baking wiz so I didn’t actually do much beyond mixing and filling pans and shaping polka dots–but I thought these pictures were definitely share-worthy!


We adapted the directions from Once Upon a Pedestal, who used a cake pop pan to make the polka dots. You can find those instructions here.

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies — July 15, 2013

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookies

If you are anything like me, the cravings for all things sweet and chocolaty hit you at the worst possible times: when you’ve just finished what should have been an overly-filling meal; when you’re in the middle of your elliptical work out at the gym; when you are in your pajamas, curled up on the couch reading a book. At least for me, these cravings are very hard. Once I realize I might want something chocolaty, the desire doesn’t go away until I’ve indulged. It would be great if there were a bakery or something similar close by, where I could pop in and by a single, small item really quickly. But that just isn’t the case. So I’m often left with choosing between going through the McDonald’s drive-thru for cookies, buying ice cream, or going to the grocery to buy something to make or something pre-packaged. The other day, I knew nothing pre-packaged was going to get rid of my desire for something warm, gooey, and chocolaty.

This is a bad predicament to be in.

Luckily, I remembered the simplest recipe for cookies I have ever made. It had been a similar night, when I was bored and had spent hours looking at food on Pinterest (this is a great way to create those sugary sweet cravings, by the way), and I ran to the store at ten at night to make this cookies after finding the pin. The recipe for these cookies is so easy, it’s really hard for me to resist going out and buying everything I need to make them again.

The recipe seems to originate over at The Lazy Mom, and I’m sure these cookies (bars?) are as great a treat for kids as they were for me and the boyfriend and friends. In fact, I’m so pleased with them that I have spent the past several nights thinking about different combinations that might be fun to try.

Chocolate M&M Lazy Cake Cookie Ingredients

  • one box chocolate cake mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 5 TBS melted butter
  • 2 cups M&Ms (I used a medium-sized bag, which I think is equivalent)


Melt the butter and beat the eggs. Mix with the chocolate cake mix. Mix in M&Ms.


It really is that easy.

Spread it all into a pan. I added an extra layer of M&Ms on top for prettiness. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.


They look delicious and crackly when they come out of the oven!


Serve however you want. I think in a bowl with ice cream is best, but these were just as wonderful eaten straight from the pan. Of course, the night I made them I couldn’t quite wait for them too cool all the way.


There are a lot of combinations of these that would be oh-so-good! I’ve made ones with white cake (which the Lazy Mom recommends) and mini Rolos. I was thinking recently that strawberry cake and mini chocolate chips would be a nice summer treat, too. With all the candies available–and the numerous ones that are currently marketing mini and bite-sized versions–the flavor combinations will keep me making these cookies over and over and over again!

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Lemony Baked Tilapia — June 2, 2013

Roasted Asparagus Salad with Lemony Baked Tilapia

Yesterday morning, I took my first trip to the farmer’s market, and I have been really, really excited about it. I usually don’t wake up early enough to get there before it closes, but I am going to start making a point to do so. I decided, based on a friend’s suggestion, to get some asparagus.

farmer's market asparagus


Now, I’ve only eaten asparagus twice–once I spit it out, and once in macaroni and cheese. But I decided to start with it as a focal point for tonight’s meal because I am trying to eat healthier. This meal was a “crowd-pleaser” in the sense that both my boyfriend and I liked it pretty well, and I would probably make it again (with some slight modifications). The original recipe available at Once Upon a Chef.

Roasted Asparagus Salad


  • 1 bundle of asparagus
  • 3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided use
  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 1/4 TSP pepper
  • 1 TSP fresh lemon zest
  • 1 TBS fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese



1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

2. Toss asparagus with 2 TBS EVOO, salt, and pepper

Oiled, salted, and peppered, and ready to bake
Oiled, salted, and peppered, and ready to bake

3. Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes.

4. Cut asparagus into 1.5 inch pieces

5. Add remaining EVOO, lemon zest and juice, and feta cheese. Toss together. Season with extra salt, pepper, zest, or juice to taste.

Finished salad.
Finished salad.

6. Serve at room temperature

Even as I was cooking, I was pretty hesitant about this dish. I’m a horribly picky eater, especially when it comes to texture. I wanted the asparagus to still have some “bite” to it, but it seemed pretty limp as I was cutting it up. Luckily, it kept a nice crispness around the outside. I think this dish would probably taste a little better grilled, but apartment living means no such luck. And I didn’t think it would get the same flavor on my George Foreman grill, so I went with baking instead.

A complete meal!
A complete meal!

The complete meal turned out really good! I served it with some baked tilapia seasoned with Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Seafood Magic and lemon, as well as a slice of this fantastic rosemary-olive oil bread I bought at the farmer’s market, too. This meal is definitely a keeper, and I can’t wait to see what else I can find at the farmer’s market to inspire me to cook and eat better.

Off the Box: Sweet & Spicy Baked Shrimp Tacos — May 24, 2013

Off the Box: Sweet & Spicy Baked Shrimp Tacos

Brought to you by Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter

Prep time 15 min; Total time 20 min

Makes 8 tacos


Spice Mixture

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 TBS firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBS plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 TSP ground allspice
  • 1/2 TSP course ground black pepper
  • 1/2 TSP ground red pepper
  • 1/4 TSP garlic powder
  • 1/4 TSP ground ginger


  • 1/4 cup Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter, melted
  • 1 package (16-oz) thawed, uncooked medium shrimp


  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 TBS lime juice
  • 2 TSP chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 TSP chili powder


  • 16 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 cups coleslaw mix


1. Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

2. Combine all spice mixture ingredients in small bowl. Dip shrimp in melted butter and then in spice mixture. Place onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until shrimp are pink and coating is bubbly.

3. Meanwhile, combine all sauce ingredients in small bowl.

4. To assemble tacos, stack 2 warmed tortillas onto each individual serving place. Top each with 1/8 of total baked shrimp and 1/4 cup of coleslaw mix. Drizzle with Sauce





Off the Box: Sugar Dipped Butter Cookies — May 17, 2013

Off the Box: Sugar Dipped Butter Cookies

butter cookies cover

Brought to you by Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter

Prep time 25 min; Total time 1 hour

Makes 5 dozen cookies


  • 2 cups sugar, divided use
  • 3/4 cup Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TSP baking powder
  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • Water


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine 1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy.

2. Add egg to sugar and butter mixture. Continue beating until well mixed.

3. Reduce speed to low and add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat until well-mixed.

4. Place remaining 1 cup sugar in small bowl.

I added some food coloring to make the sugar pretty.
I added some food coloring to make the sugar pretty.

5. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip top of each ball in water, then in sugar. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

6. Bake for 8-14 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.

They were pretty cute pre-baking!
Rolo Cracker Cookies — May 4, 2013

Rolo Cracker Cookies

This is how excited I was when making these.
This is how excited I was when making these.

I found this recipe Pinterest (of course) from Recipe by Photo, which linked me to Lick the Bowl Good. This is seriously one of the easiest and fastest recipes–kind of like the pretzel-hershey kiss-m&m snacks (that I’m sure I’ll share eventually, once I make them again). If there are two things I have loved my entire life, they are Rolos and Ritz-type crackers. So this recipe had my name written all over it.

Rolo Cracker Cookies

ingredientsThe ingredients are pretty self-explanatory. You only need Rolos and Ritz crackers. All I could find at the store were Rolo minis, but they worked out well! I also bought wheat crackers to pretend like I was being healthy. It counts, right?


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place some crackers salty-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet (every time I bake anything like this, I use foil because clean up is so easy!)

step 2 add rolos

3. Put a Rolo in the center of each cracker. If you use the minis, they taste OK with just one, but the flavors are a little better if you use two Rolos. I tried both the first time around, and I think I enjoy eating the fuller ones a bit more. The chocolatey-caramely taste is a little stronger and balances much better with the salty cracker.

4. Bake for 3-5 minutes.

5. Squish down the Rolo(s) with another cracker, salty-side up.

step 4 add second roloTry not to eat all of them before they cool. They are seriously so good! The ones in the center have two mini Rolos, while the ones in the outside row have only one. You can see the chocolate starting to ooze out the side of the center ones. This makes them even yummier.