Idaho Potato Spanish Mac and Cheese

I’m the biggest fan of mixing my starches and carbs together to create one satisfyingly delicious dish. If you ask me, potatoes, cheese and pasta are meant to be together forever. Maybe that’s because I don’t think of potatoes as a starch or a carb, that’s crazy, especially when we all know it’s a vegetable. So therefore it’s perfectly acceptable to have potatoes with a side of rice or pasta or bread, or perhaps even all three of them at the same time in the same meal. Have I totally lost my mind? Sure, but at least it’s for something as delicious as carbs on carbs on carbs. I’m no stranger to this logical way of eating, either. Ask my mamma about how when I was a little boy I’d only want to eat rice and potatoes all day long. It was one of my favorite things to have for dinner. White rice with a side of “any kind of potatoes” you can imagine. I wasn’t picky. Although there was this one dish in particular she would make for me where she’d boil whole potatoes, drain them and allow them to cool down. She’d then peel the potatoes, cut them in half (length wise) and then quickly pan fry them until crispy on both sides and while they were still hot she’d sprinkle salt on top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Might sound like something so ordinary but let me tell you, they were out of this world….especially on top of some white rice. I did warn you, I was a weird kid. 

I’ve teamed up with Idaho Potato to bring you a few new and exciting recipes this month, and if you’ve been tagging along with me for the ride then you’ll know this is the fourth recipe in this partnership made in heaven. We’ve come to the end of the month and for this last recipe I decided to go comfort food all the way home with one of my favorites, mac and cheese! Idaho Potato Spanish Mac and Cheese just made so much sense to me, you know? A manchego cheese sauce mixed with pasta, green olives, caramelized onions and peppers, crispy Spanish chorizo and of course lots of shredded potatoes. It’s all of the ingredients I love in Spanish cuisine rolled into one deliciously American classic. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve added potatoes to a mac and cheese recipe, though, and you know what, I’m sure it won’t be the last. The first time I made magic happen was with this Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese last week. First it was Ireland and now Spain, I guess I should just jump on the theme I’ve created here, and start a new series called “Mac and Cheese From Around The World!” Or something like that. I’ll have to work on the name a bit more. You’d be surprised how far I can take this. The ideas are already spinning around in my mind. In the meantime though, let’s take a trip to Spain together. I think you should add mac and cheese to your upcoming weekly meal plan. Don’t let me convince you though, let the recipe speak for itself! 

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Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese

I recently partnered up with Wisconsin Cheese to celebrate National Cheese Lover’s Day. This might come as a shock to many of you, but I Jonathan Melendez, am a cheese lover. There I said it. I’m a cheese lover from way back, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I have to be honest though, I actually had no idea a day celebrating people like me existed. Cheese lovers. Finally there’s a holiday where my non-stop eating of cheese all day long is perfectly acceptable. That’s cheese for breakfast, cheese for lunch, cheese for a snack and cheese for dinner. All the cheese you could ever possibly dream of. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate such a momentous occasion than with a big heaping serving of macaroni and cheese. Maybe even two servings. What? It’s my holiday, I’ll party if I want to. It’s the mother of all cheese recipes, but this isn’t just any ol’ mac and cheese recipe. This one here is a fancy mac and cheese recipe. I couldn’t do a simple everyday take on it. Where’s the fun in that? 

I’m going to warn you right off the bat, because I believe in full disclosure…sometimes, this is actually going to be somewhat of a shortened post. I’ll share a few photos and funny anecdotes (obviously) like always, but for the recipe itself you’ll have to visit the site it’ll live on All Things Mac and Cheese! Just like the name states, it’s mac and cheese everything and anything. You’d be surprised what you’ll find on there. Sure, I could go on and on and tell you all about it, but I figured it would be a lot easier for you to just go and check it out yourself. Plus, I’m too lazy to type anymore than I already have to. The most important thing though is that my Irish Colcannon Mac and Cheese recipe is on it, so there’s definitely something to search for. 

Listen to me going on and on about mac and cheese when we should all be out there celebrating National Cheese Lover’s Day. What are you waiting for? There’s so much cheese to eat and so much mac and cheese to make. If you start now, you might (just might) be able to catch up to me. I can’t make any promises that I won’t beat you. It is my holiday after all. 

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Salmon, Mint and Pea Pasta

I know that 99.9% of the time I’m posting decadent recipes on here, packed with butter, sugar, chocolate, caramel, cheese and cream. And that was all just a couple days ago with that Chocolate Butterscotch Hazelnut Cake! I don’t get tired of posting these tempting recipes because A) they make us all happy and B) it’s not like I’m telling people to eat them every single day of their lives. Every other day…sure. I think it’s totally fine to have some fun once in a while and when you want to have said fun, you can stop by this site and let loose. I’ll still be here tempting you. Let’s live a little. There are so many people out there already that take themselves too seriously when it comes to food, so we definitely don’t need one more person posting diet recipes and telling you what you should or shouldn’t be eating. Sure, I don’t always post a healthy recipe on the site, but hey when I do, it makes them that much more special. That 00.1% of the time a healthy recipe does make an appearance, it’s refreshing because it occurs so infrequently. 

Although I’ve turned to the dark side and sold my soul to a healthy recipe this time around—it has peas and salmon in it, which is packed with good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids by the way and it’s as healthy as I’m going to get so enjoy it—I didn’t forget my sinful roots completely. I tossed in some pasta because I couldn’t help myself. I don’t think I could ever just go cold turkey on the entire comfort food situation. And let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be much fun if I did. With the New Year though, I figured it was time to explore some healthier options and do some good in the world by sharing a delicious healthy recipe. Can you blame me? It’s my good deed for the year. 

I’ve partnered up with Nikon USA to bring you this healthy recipe and also to talk about the New Year and all of the possibilities that come with it! I feel like 2015 is going to be a MEGA great year for all of us. Let’s look forward and do the very best we can, even if the very best means failing a couple times along the way until we succeed. No one is keeping tabs on how many times we slip, but they are taking note of all the good we’re doing. In the end, that’s all that really matters. 2015 is your year. Shine bright like a diamond (sorry Rihanna). It’s okay to make healthier choices and to want to change certain aspects of your life through resolutions and what not, but don’t let it dictate your life. There’s still plenty of doughnuts, cake, cookies, and potatoes to devour, but first, we have to eat all of this healthy Salmon, Mint and Pea Pasta (it’s actually ridiculously delicious).  

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Paella Pasta Salad

I’ve always wanted to make a paella for the site. It’s something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while now. I’m a sucker for rice, in any shape or form. In any recipe, really. My motto is, the more rice the better. Serve it to me every single day for the rest of my life and I’ll be happy as a clam (pun intended). I began brainstorming recipe ideas this past week and for some reason paella kept popping up in my head. Perhaps it was a sign pointing me to make paella, because the time had come for me to finally make this recipe happen. It could’ve been a sign, but really if I’m being honest, it was my stomach doing all of the thinking because I really just wanted an excuse to eat paella this week. Go figure. Anyhow, there I was brainstorming when it hits me, “Jonathan! You should make a paella but create it with a twist because there are a million paella recipes already out there!” Just like that, that’s how it happened. Word for word, and I know what you’re thinking, yes I do talk to myself in first person. It’s what I do. 

Aside from talking to myself, I’d also like to point out the fact that it’s currently the third of November. The THIRD of NOVEMBER people!!! Where did the end of October go? This whole time change thing over the weekend has got me all sorts of confused. Sure it’s just one hour of a difference, but still, my mind is taking a bit longer to adjust. I don’t know what is what anymore. The only thing I am sure of is the fact that it’s finally getting chilly here in Los Angeles and all that means is that I get to eat more comfort foods that warm me up inside. Pasta is my favorite comfort food of all. Especially hot pasta baked with lots of cheese. Yes, I’m referring to mac and cheese. Why didn’t you just say that Jonathan?!!? What can I say, I like to be cryptic sometimes. 

Okay so this paella pasta salad isn’t served hot and yes I know there’s no cheese involved, so what’s so comforting about it? It’s no mac and cheese, that’s for sure. Well, it is a pasta dish loaded with all of the meats and all of the seafoods. What’s not comforting about that?!?! You tell me! What isn’t comforting about that, huh? Huh? Well? What have you got to say for yourself? This recipe is comforting because it’s pasta mixed with sausage, ham, chicken, shrimp, mussels and clams! It’s so filling that it should be illegal, but not really because I’d really like to eat this until the end of time, and I think you should too. 

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Orecchiette with Asparagus and Sausage

A little over a month ago it was Valentine’s Day, and on this specific day I had dinner with the love of my life. We ordered a pasta dish—along with a lot of other dishes to share because I was super mega hungry that day. I can’t really remember those dishes right now. I guess they’re unimportant since they didn’t stay in my head. This pasta, however, was the best dish I’ve had in a restaurant in a really long time. Probably in forever, but don’t quote me on that because I don’t want to make that kind of commitment to one dish so early on in my life. The pasta in question was something out of this world. Perhaps it was all just a dream. I’m convinced it was voodoo magic brought to me on a white plate, and that if I return to that restaurant now it wouldn’t be the same. That’s how it always is. I’m okay with that though, because I decided to recreate it at home. I decided to challenge myself, to see if I could actually make it without having much to go on except for the memory of a delicious night. As it turns out, I must have some of that voodoo magic myself, because not only was my pasta better than the one from the restaurant, it also happens to be ridiculously easy to make. Not to mention the fact that for the same price of the restaurant dish, you get an entire potful instead of just one small plate’s worth. It’s a win win situation. The ol’ ball and chain even said it was the best thing I’ve ever made. I don’t know if I should be flattered or offended. I’ll go with flattered.

It’s made with orecchiette noodles, in case you didn’t already guess that part, hence the name. Orecchiette actually comes from two Italian words that mean “ear” and “small,” which gives you the word for “small ears” because the pasta looks like little ears. Aaah. There’s a little trivia for you to throw out at your next cocktail party. You can thank me later. Both versions of the dish, the fancy restaurant and my own, have crispy ground sausage and are loaded with peas. Lots of peas. (Have I told you that I’m a sucker for peas?) The one at the restaurant had broccoli rabe and I’m a total fan of broccoli rabe but when I first tried to recreate it, I couldn’t find any at the grocery store. I almost cried right there in the produce section by the bagged salad mixes. It was a sad sight to see. There was, however, an abundance of asparagus staring at me because it happens to be spring here, and I’m all for seasonal fresh produce. So I stopped crying and decided to give it a go with asparagus and as it turns out, I preferred it much better. Life is funny sometimes the way it points you in the right direction without you really knowing what in the world is going on. Now, I’m only making it with asparagus and I’m topping it off with a heaping amount of lemon infused ricotta cheese because, um hello RICOTTA CHEESE, people!

Have you ever fallen in love with a dish you’ve tried at a restaurant or in someone else’s house? So much so that you go home and try to recreate it for yourself, determined to make it just as good, if not better? If you have, share some of your experiences down in the comments section below, I’d love to hear about them. Mostly because I want to know I’m not the only crazy one out there, but also because I’m curious to hear what dishes make you happy. In the meantime, let’s make this pasta dish and become addicted together because that’s what friends do. They become addicted to food with you.

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Lasagna Soup

Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like pretending to be king of the world while standing on the edge of a giant ship yelling out at the top of my lungs, “I’m king of the world,” while sailing the Atlantic en route to hit an iceberg…wait…that’s not my life. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like boarding a space shuttle with only one destination in mind, an asteroid. Navigating the depths of outer space, my crew and I having to drill through a massive lethal rock with hopes of saving the world…actually that’s not my life either. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like combining two of my favorite dishes. A pasta classic and a warming soup. A comfort food meets comfort food sort of situation, can you blame me? There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to make the difficult decision of choosing one or the other, but you know what I say to that? I say, why choose, when you can have both mashed together into one delicious, mouth watering meal? I say, why burden yourself with such a task impossible of accomplishing? The thought of having to choose only one makes me sad beyond words. We shouldn’t have to settle. We should be given the opportunity to have both, soup and lasagna. But not in the form of two separate dishes in one sitting because that sort of seems gluttonous to me. I mean come on, I’m not that crazy.

I’ll let you in on a little secret—because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, but also because I feel like we’re at that point in our relationship where I can be completely honest. Truth is, I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for hours. Just staring at the screen without knowing what else to write. What else to share with you this time around. My mind keeps drawing a blank and I can’t understand why. Sure music is playing and I continue to get distracted, singing out loud the songs with a microphone. I’m only kidding, it’s not really a microphone but a pen I found on my desk. I won’t, however, admit to you that I’m constantly spinning around in my chair like if I’m on a ride at an amusement park, as I yell out “Whooooo whooooo!” That totally never happened. I have the excitement of a teenager, bubbling inside my stomach, about to go on a promising first date, but I think that’s solely because of how much I’ve fallen in love with this post. Not only the recipe itself but also the images. These images I’ll classify, and will go down in my head, as my best work to date, and I’m proud of that. I can’t help but look back to where I was when I first started this blog to where I am now. A few years have passed and I’m more and more excited with each passing post. Not to mention I’m a little wiser and a little older. Let’s not talk about it.

With each new recipe I share with you, I get the sensation that we’re growing together. We’re getting to know each other (really, you’re getting to know me more than I’m getting to know you). And do you want to know something? I rather enjoy it. Sometimes I can’t contain myself and all I want to do is share my work with you just as soon as I can, much like with this recipe. This post is the first one in a really long time where I’ve wished I could work faster so that I can put it up as quickly as possible so you can enjoy it right away. I hope you do enjoy it and not only because I enjoy it but because it’s a good one. Too good, I find. But if there is one thing my mamma taught me—she actually taught me a lot of things but this one thing fits perfectly in such a scenario—it’s that you can never have too much of a good thing. Just like you can never have too much of lasagna in soup form, and that’s a fact.

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