Friday, January 23, 2015

The Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Over the years, macaroni and cheese or as many of you know it, mac n' cheese, has been my golden unicorn. In Sweet and Spicy Monkey language a Golden unicorn is something that I strive to accomplish yet it remains out of my reach.

I don't understand it, I can bake anything from apple pies to lemon meringue pies (I will share with you one day when I get in a pie mood) to making fudge, baking cakes and cookies, and whipping up some delicious dinners like chili, soups, and even a turkey for Thanksgiving.

Yet I cannot make a decent mac n' cheese. Yes, something as simple as mac n' cheese remains my golden unicorn.

Oh, I can whip up a mean dish of Kraft macaroni and cheese, even adding some of my favorites to it like crushed red chile peppers or pepper jack cheese. I'm a mac n' cheese wizard when it comes to Kraft, but when it comes to homemade, I just can't get it right.

And I've tried some of the best recipes for mac n' cheese, yet mine just don't turn out the same. They always come out dry and mealy. None of that long, stringy cheese like you see in the magazine photos.

I was starting to give up all hope on ever being able to make homemade mac n' cheese.

That is, until I came across this recipe for the perfect macaroni and cheese by Martha Stewart. I figured if I couldn't make this, then I could finally hang up my pots and pans and call it a day.

Or challenge Martha Stewart to come show me what I'm doing wrong and teach me how to finally make homemade mac n' cheese. I figured if anyone could teach me, it would have to be Martha herself.

So I decided to give it one last hoorah and try to make Martha’s recipe for macaroni and cheese.

I have to say, even though my kitchen looked like a bomb exploded in it, this is an easy recipe to follow and it turned out deliciously cheesy! And the toasted buttered bread on top gives it that little crunch that sends this mac n' cheese over the top.

Now when I saw nutmeg as one of the ingredients it caught my interest. Nutmeg in macaroni and cheese? I don’t remember Kraft having nutmeg in their mac n’ cheese. Needless to say, the nutmeg pairs well with the cheeses, almost giving it an addictive flavoring.

The cheese sauce is like none I’ve ever had before, perfectly creamy and not at all greasy. A two thumbs up from me Martha on perfecting this cheese sauce.

Oh Martha, will you ever forgive me for not coming to you when I first began this long journey for the perfect bowl of homemade mac n' cheese? Thank you for finally letting me capture my golden unicorn with your recipe for the perfect macaroni and cheese.

Excuse me now as I go ride my golden unicorn on the sandy beaches while eating a big bowl of Martha's mac n' cheese. To be continued soon....

In the meantime, I hope you get a chance to make this recipe soon, as it makes for the perfect comfort food on these cold winter nights.

Martha Stewarts - The Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 12


6 slices of English Toasting sandwich bread, cut into small pieces with crusts removed

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)

5 and ½ cups whole milk

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 and ½ cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

2 cups Gruyere, grated OR 1 and ¼ cup Pecorino Romano, grated

1 lb. elbow macaroni


Preheat oven to 375F degrees

Prepare a 3 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray or you can use butter.

In a small bowl, add together sea salt, nutmeg, pepper, and cayenne. Set Aside.

Grate cheeses and place in separate bowls. Set aside.

Cook macaroni as directed on box. Remove from heat while macaroni is al dente (undercooked). Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process and remove any lingering starches. Rinse well as the starches are what cause the mealy texture to your cheese sauce. And the macaroni will cook completely when you place your finished product into the oven.

For now, leave macaroni in colander, draining, until we’re ready to add it back in.

Place bread pieces into a medium bowl. Set aside.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and pour over the bread pieces, mixing well. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat milk over low to medium heat, stirring constantly so it does not boil.

In a small saucepan, melt remaining 6 Tablespoons of butter. When butter starts boiling, add in flour and stir well. Remove from heat.

Add a small amount of heated milk, about 1 cup, to butter and flour mixture. Whisk until blended.

Slowly add in milk and butter mixture into pan of heated milk, whisking constantly, until all ingredients become smooth in texture and mixture boils. Mixture will become thicker as it heats.

Remove pan from heat and add in spices and 3 cups grated white cheddar, 1 and ½ cups grated Gruyere cheese OR 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, if using instead of Gruyere cheese. Blend well until mixture is smooth.

Add macaroni to cheese sauce, mixing well so all macaroni is covered in sauce.

Pour into prepared casserole dish.

Sprinkle remaining 1 and ½ cups grated white cheddar and ½ cup grated Gruyere OR ¼ cup grated pecorino Romano cheese.

Place in preheated oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove dish from oven and sprinkle prepared bread crumbs over the top.

Place dish back into the oven and continue cooking for 20 minutes or until bread crumbs are a golden brown.

Remove dish from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe from ~ Martha Stewart

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Caramel Mocha Cappuccino Fudge

Oh. Yes. I. Did. I took that A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Mocha Cappuccino Fudge recipe that I made a couple weeks ago and added ooey, gooey caramel swirled into each bite. Just when you thought it couldn't get any just did!

One bite of this fudge and you'll feel like you're dining somewhere in Italy while sipping on a caramel macchiato cappuccino while watching all those Italian men walk by.

Hey, a girls gotta dream and that's what I'm dreaming of when I have this fudge {smile}.

Of course you might have your own versions of sugarplums dancing through your mind when you try this fudge but I'm willing to share mine with you too. After all, what kind of friend would I be if I didn't?

Back to this fudge, my mouth is watering as I try to come up with words to describe it to you....

creamy....buttery soft....and sweet...with a kiss of caramel and coffee.

It's like a little taste of heaven on your lips! But don't take my word for it, try it for yourself and let me know what it reminds you of.

Caramel Mocha Cappuccino Fudge


1 and ½ Tablespoons of instant coffee

1 Tablespoon hot water

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

¾ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup white chocolate chips

¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 – 7 ounce jar marshmallow fluff

¼ cup caramels, each square quartered

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 candy thermometer

Sprinkle of sea salt before serving (optional)


Spray a 9” x 9” pan with nonstick spray and wipe excess off with a clean paper towel. Or you can grease the pan with butter. Set aside.

In a mug, add instant coffee and hot water and mix together until coffee is dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add butter, sugar, cream, and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring continuously until butter melts and sugar dissolves.

Bring to a boil, continuing to stir, until temperature reaches 240F degrees (116C) on your candy thermometer.

After reaching 240F degrees (116C), remove pan from heat and add quartered caramels, both chocolate chips (semi-sweet and white), and marshmallow.

Continue to stir until caramel and chips are melted and marshmallow is blended. You can place on low heat to help melt the caramel, chips, and blend the marshmallow more easily. You want the caramel and chips completely melted.

Add vanilla to mixture while pan is away from the heat source.

Place about 1 to 2 cups fudge in a small bowl. Just eyeball it because the measurement doesn’t need to be exact. This is what makes the swirls in your fudge. Set aside.

Mix in the coffee with the original saucepan of fudge until it’s completely blended.

Quickly pour into prepared pan.

Place the fudge that you set aside earlier on top of coffee fudge mixture. Using a firm, thin spatula or butter knife, spread in thin swirling, circular patterns over coffee fudge, making sure not to over stir. Do this lightly over the top of the fudge.

Let cool at room temperature for at least 8 hours before cutting. You can place in refrigerator but keep in mind, it will be difficult to cut when cold.

If refrigerating, let warm to room temperature before cutting.

Best served at room temperature.

Before serving, sprinkle with a little sea salt for that Salted caramel flavor.

Can be stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

All content and images are property of Sweet and Spicy Monkey. Please do not reprint this content without my permission. If you wish to include this recipe on your site, please re-write in your own words and use your own photographs and link back to this post for original recipe.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Candied Ginger

As promised, here is the recipe for making candied ginger at home for a lot less than they sell it in the stores.

Have you ever tried candied ginger? Or yet making your own candied ginger at home?

I wanted to make my own candied ginger for my Gingerbread Cake and saw the price of what they were asking for it at my local grocery store, about $12.00 for a small spice jar! Unbelievable, $12.00! I knew there had to be a way to make it myself for a whole lot less. And I was right.

The cost to make your own candied ginger at home is less than $5.00. All you need is ginger root, sugar, and about 20 minutes of your time. That's it! Well, a food scale too, but lucky for me, I already had one of those.

The only recipe I could find for making candied ginger was for making one pound of candied ginger. I don't know about you, but one pound of candied ginger is way too much for me and I didn't need that much. So I've streamlined the recipe so you can make it for any amount you want.

It's so easy to make, I can't believe I've never had candied ginger before. And after learning how to make it, it's definitely not going to be my last batch here.

The best part about making this at home, is getting to suck on the spoon after your finished! The spoon becomes a giant candied ginger lollipop!

See, there is fun to making foods yourself at home {smile}.

Candied Ginger

Makes 2 ounces of candied ginger


2 and ½ cups water

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced*

2 ounces granulated sugar (2 ounces = 4 Tablespoons or  ¼ cup sugar)

Wax paper


Add water and prepared ginger into a small saucepan. Bring to boil and continue boiling for another 15-20 minutes or until ginger has softened.

Remove saucepan from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Pour off ginger infused water into a separate container. Set aside.

Add ¼ cup of the ginger infused water back into the saucepan along with the granulated sugar and the pieces of softened ginger.

Over medium to high heat, bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the sugar does not burn.

Once sugar water starts to boil, turn heat down to medium.

Continue stirring while sugar water boils until it begins to evaporate and starts to resemble a dry, crystallizing boil, about 15-20 minutes.

Once you notice this, remove pan from heat and quickly place candied ginger on wax paper.

Let cool completely before eating.

Can store in an air tight container for up to two weeks.

Inspired by ~ Alton Brown's  Candied Ginger Recipe

*Helpful Hints*

- I stored mine in the refrigerator to prevent it from becoming soggy. At room temperature I noticed the sugar started melting and losing the dry crumbles.

- *Slice ginger into small bits because in large bites, the candied ginger has quite a bite of spiciness, almost like pepper.*

All content and images are property of Sweet and Spicy Monkey. Please do not reprint this content without my permission. If you wish to include this recipe on your site, please re-write in your own words and use your own photographs and link back to this post for original recipe.
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Shared with: Savoring Saturdays #47

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gingerbread Cake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Just because the Holidays are over, doesn't mean you've seen the last of gingerbread recipes, no ma’am (or sir). After all, if foods were only allowed to be made during certain times of the year, we would all get pretty bored with eating.

And after you get a taste of this gingerbread cake, you'll agree with me.

I added a secret ingredient to this gingerbread cake to keep it moist. Well, not really a secret because I’m about to tell y’all right now…{whispering}…pumpkin. Yep, you heard right, pumpkin is my secret ingredient to help keeping this gingerbread cake moist.

Along with this scrumptious orange cream cheese frosting and a touch of candied ginger to top it all off, Oh My! You won’t ever think that gingerbread is only for December again.

The orange cream cheese frosting is light and pairs well with the gingerbread. While the candied ginger adds an extra zing to top it off.

Each of the flavors are delicious all by themselves, but layer them upon each other and it becomes a flavor party for your taste buds!

This gingerbread cake will soon become a favorite of yours, no matter what time of year it is!

Gingerbread Cake

Makes 1 and ½ loafs or one 9” x 9” cake


2 and 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 and ½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 and ½ teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon allspice

2 large eggs

1 cup pure pumpkin puree

¾ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup coconut sugar

¾ cup molasses

¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup ginger infused hot water*


Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

Grease 9 ½” x 5 ½” x 3” loaf pan and a 5 ½” x 5 ½” x 2” dish with butter or a non-stick spray. Can also line pans with parchment paper. Or you can use a 9” x 9” square pan. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, add the sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Set aside.

Combine eggs, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, coconut sugar, molasses, and butter into a large mixing bowl. Blend together until smooth.

Mix in ginger infused hot water.

Slowly add in dry ingredients, blending thoroughly.

Pour mixture into prepared pans. Leaving about ½” to 1” from the top.

Place into preheated oven and bake for 60-70 minutes for loaf pans, or until knife inserted into middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove loaf from pan and cool thoroughly on wire rack before frosting.

*For 9” x 9” square pan, bake for 35-40 minutes at 325F degrees and let cool in dish before frosting.

How to make Ginger Infused Water


2 and ½ cups water

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and sliced


Add water and prepared ginger to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for another 15-20 minutes, or until ginger softens.

Remove saucepan from heat and set aside.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting


1/4 cup ginger infused water

1/4 cup orange juice

4-5 cup powdered sugar

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon orange extract


Add all ingredients into a large mixing bowl and using your whip attachment, whip until mixture gets soft to firm peaks. Refrigerate until gingerbread cake is thoroughly cooled.

Once cake is cooled, spread over top of loaf and serve.

*Helpful Hints*

- Recipe for how to make your own candied ginger at home is coming later this week.

- Orange Cream Cheese frosting can also be served as a dollop over individual gingerbread cake slices before serving.

Inspired by ~ Old Fashioned Gingerbread Cake.

All content and images are property of Sweet and Spicy Monkey. Please do not reprint this content without my permission. If you wish to include this recipe on your site, please re-write in your own words and use your own photographs and link back to this post for original recipe.
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 Shared with: Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party #131, Sweet and Savoury Sundays #97

Friday, January 9, 2015


Another arctic front is moving through this week and I have just the drink to help you warm up, wassail. What's a wassail, you ask? Wassail dates back to the 1400's and is an Old English tradition.

Wassail comes from "waes Hael" and means to "be well" or to "be healthy". At the beginning of the year, the lord of a manor would yell out "waes Hael", a crowd would soon gather and reply with "drinc Hael" which means "drink and be healthy". As years went by, people carried on this tradition by going to the neighboring homes around Christmas time, with well wishes and carrying with them a hot, spiced ale drink which came to be known as wassail. The tradition of going around to neighboring homes and wishing well became known as wassailing.

Wassailing is also performed in the Fall in the hopes that it would scare away evil spirits in the apple trees and make for a better apple harvest in the following year.

January 17th or around this time is the traditional date for wassailing.

The original Old English recipe for wassail has eggs and cream listed as ingredients but the recipes differ depending on what part of the country you are from.

The main ingredients of wassail includes a blend of spices such as ginger, cloves, and cinnamon mixed with apple cider or apple juice and simmered for a few hours so the flavors can blend together nicely. Other juices like cranberry and orange juice can also be added along with orange, lemon, or lime slices.

You can drink this like it is or make it a little more festive and add your favorite bourbon, brandy, wine, or rum to it.

The result is a robust, spiced juice drink that warms you up from the inside out.

I hope you find this drink as flavorful as I do and make it your favorite during these cold, winter months.



3 cups cranberry juice

3 cups Apple cider

1 cup orange juice

3 cinnamon sticks

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 Tablespoon whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 to 1/2 cup honey, sweeten to your taste

1 lemon, seeded and sliced

1 orange, seeded and sliced

1 lime, seeded and sliced

1 cup fresh cranberries

your favorite bourbon, brandy, wine, or rum *(optional)


Add all ingredients into a crockpot and cook on Low setting for 4-6 hours.

Strain fruit and spices if desired.

If serving with alcohol, pour in your favorite bourbon, brandy, wine, or rum into the cup before serving.

Garnish with cinnamon stick, cranberries, and/or orange slice.

Meant to be served hot.

*Helpful Hints*

- I served this wassail with my old time favorite, Southern Comfort, and the result was delicious!

- Can refrigerate leftovers and warm up before serving.

Recipe inspired by ~ The Sassy Slow Cooker

History of Wassailing obtained from: The History of Wassailing and Mumming
All content and images are property of Sweet and Spicy Monkey. Please do not reprint this content without my permission. If you wish to include this recipe on your site, please re-write in your own words and use your own photographs and link back to this post for original recipe.
Follow Julie's board Sweet and Spicy Monkey on Pinterest.

Shared with: Sweet and Savoury Sundays #95, Savoring Saturdays