Cooking Kowalski


July 2015

King of Mac & Cheese!

This was a total hit with the family last weekend.  It’s ooey-gooey cheesy and a bit like a souffle.  It’s so indulgent, though, I can only make it when there’s plenty of people to share with!

Mac ‘N’ Cheese – serves 10-15

  • 3 c. uncooked cellentani pasta
  • 1.5 c. half-and-half
  • 6 oz. American cheese slices, chopped
  • 6 oz. smoked Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 6 oz. light cream cheese, cubed
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 c. light sour cream
  • 6 T. butter, melted
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 3-quart baking dish and set aside
  2. Cook pasta in salted water according to package.  Drain and return to saucepan.  Stir in half-and-half and all the cheese.  Cook on low heat until cheese is mostly melted.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sour cream until smooth.  Melt butter and let cool slightly, then add to eggs and sour cream mixture.  Add a pinch of S&P.
  4. Stir egg mixture into pasta and then spread in baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, 45 minutes.

The original recipe adds a panko topping, but I skipped this and it was still fabulous 🙂  If you want, though, while the mac is baking, mix 1 c. panko breadcrumbs with 1 T. melted butter and 1 T. chopped parsley.  Sprinkle on top of the mac at about 30 minutes and then put back in oven for 15 minutes.

*adapated from Hy-Vee Seasons, Fall 2014 edition

Photo courtesy of Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (Fall 2014)
Photo courtesy of Hy-Vee Seasons magazine (Fall 2014)

Super simple but scrumptious meals

These recipes are quick and easy for speedy weeknight meals and kid-friendly!

These are no ordinary loaves of bread
These are no ordinary loaves of bread

Bacon Cheeseburger Rollup – serves 6

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 c. chopped onions
  • 1/2 lb. Velveeta, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 pkg. (13.8 oz) refrigerated pizza crust
  1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook bacon and place on paper towels to drain, saving a small amount of grease in the pan.
  3. Cook onions in bacon drippings for 2-3 minutes, then add ground beef.  Cook till brown, then drain.
  4. Return bacon to meat mixture and add Velveeta.  Cook, stirring frequently, till cheese is mostly melted.  Remove from heat.
  5. Unroll pizza dough on greased cookie sheet and press out to approx. a 15×8-inch rectangle.  Top with meat mixture and roll up starting on long end.  Tuck the short ends under and bake seam side down for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.

*adapted from


Ravioli Casserole – 6-8 servings

Tastes like lasagna, but much so much easier to put together.

  • 28 oz. spaghetti sauce
  • 1 (25 oz.) pkg. frozen cheese ravioli (no need to cook beforehand)
  • 2 c. cottage cheese
  • 3 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef and onion in skillet.  Drain.  Stir in spaghetti sauce.
  3. Spread a small amount of beef mixture in bottom of a 13×9 baking dish to prevent sticking.  Layer half the ravioli, half meat mixture, 1 c. cottage cheese, and 1 1/2 c. mozzarella.  Repeat.
  4. Sprinkle with parmesan.
  5. Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes or until bubbly.

*adapted from

Even better than Chinese takeout!

Sweet and sour and so delicious

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Serves 4

For the Stir Fry:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 large white onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 bell peppers (different colors preferably)
  • 1-2 cups pineapple chunks (canned or fresh)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  • white or brown rice for serving

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha chile sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  1. Place cornstarch and eggs in separate bowls.  Season chicken with S&P and coat in cornstarch.  Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Next dip the chicken in eggs and add to skillet. Cook chicken until browned. Remove chicken and set aside.
  2. Add an additional 1 Tbsp. oil to the skillet, then add in the onion, peppers, carrots. Saute for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for another 3 minutes or until the vegetables are tender yet still a bit crisp. Remove vegetables and set aside.
  3. Add ketchup, sriracha, vinegar, brown sugar, and pepper to pan, and whisk to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk together the fruit juice and cornstarch until it has dissolved. Then add the mixture to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add back in the vegetables, chicken, and the pineapple, then stir until evenly coated.
  4. Remove from heat and serve over rice, garnished with sesame seeds if desired.

*adapted from

Beets, bEeTs, BEETS

Fresh beets from my garden
Fresh beets from my garden

I absolutely love pickled beets, but I might even love roasted beets in a salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese more!

Spiced Roasted Beets
2 bunches of medium beets
2 T. olive oil or sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
pinch of chile powder
pinch of cayenne

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and peel beets, then cut into one-inch pieces.  Toss beets with oil and spices.  Spread evenly on a sheet pan.

Roast for 20 minutes, turning once.

*adapted from

Lettuce or spinach, maple-candied walnuts, cranberries, goat cheese, raspberry vinagrette or honey-mustard dressing. Mmmm
Lettuce/spinach/beet greens with roasted beets, candied walnuts, cranberries, goat cheese, raspberry vinaigrette or honey-mustard dressing. Mmmm

Using up that summer squash and zucchini (3 delicious recipes)

Seriously, friends and fellow Iowegians (I am only now accepting this term after 30 years of living in Iowa,) this is my new go-to recipe!  Midwest’s favorite corn casserole meets squash!
Summer squash corn bake
Summer squash corn bake
Squash Corn Bake – serves 6-8
  • 8.5 oz box Jiffy cornbread mix
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups grated yellow squash
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tblsp. butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Generously grease a 9×9 square baking dish.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cornbread mix, yogurt, sour cream, and egg. Stir until just combined.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients except butter. Stir gently to combine.
  5. Pour into prepared dish. Dot the top with butter.
  6. Bake 1 hour or until golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

*adapted from


Beefy Zucchini Casserole – serves 6-8

  • 4 c. shredded zucchini or squash
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 c. onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 (15oz) can Italian tomato sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place shredded squash in a clean cloth and ring out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Combine squash, eggs, parmesan, breadcrumbs, and half the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses in a bowl, mix.
  4. Press mixture into a greased 13×9 baking dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cook beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat until no longer pink; drain.
  6. Add tomato sauce to meat and then spoon over baked squash mixture.
  7. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for 20 minutes longer until it begins to brown on top.

*adapted from


Last but not least, dessert.  You can’t beat eating your vegetables while indulging in these super moist chocolate cookies!


Chocolate Squash Cookies – makes approx. 3 dozen

  • 2 c. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 5 T. softened butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. shredded zuchinni or summer squash
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 c. walnuts and/or 1/2 c. chocolate chips (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa powder.  Set aside.
  3. In mixing bowl combine butter, vanilla, and sugars.  Cream together with a mixer.
  4. Add egg and squash and mix until combined.
  5. Pour flour mixture into batter slowly while mixing until fully incorporated.
  6. Add walnuts/chocolate chips, if using, and mix.
  7. Sprinkle powdered sugar on a plate and roll large tablespoon-sized balls of dough into sugar.  Place on greased cookie sheet, press down slightly with fork or spoon, and bake 13-15 minutes.

I chose to store these cookies in the refrigerator because they were SO moist and because it’s very humid and hot in the summer in Iowa!  Don’t want these babies spoiling.

*adapted from

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