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Escape a cooking rut with bold flavors the whole family will enjoy

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Posted: Thursday, June 12, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:37 am, Thu Sep 25, 2014.

(BPT) - Between busy schedules and family member’s picky eating habits, it’s easy to fall into a cooking rut where you’re preparing the same five recipes every week. Break out of this cycle with a few easy tips that will have you exploring new flavors in no time.

“A well-stocked pantry is the foundation to creating vibrant meals for your family,” says Chef Charlie Baggs, chief executive chef of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations. “Having a few staple ingredients like chicken broth, cooking wine, olive oil and soy sauce on hand will make it easier to embrace new and different recipes.”

Follow these simple tips to begin creating unique meals the whole family can enjoy.

* Create a recipe queue. Sites like Allrecipes and Pinterest make it easier than ever to search, categorize and save recipes. Building a recipe collection as you go will make it easier at the beginning of each week to decide what you want to make.

* Use recipes to build your shopping list. Sure you will still need to get staples like milk and eggs, but make sure most of the items on your shopping list are ingredients needed for the recipes you want to make. Putting just a little extra time into planning meals at the beginning of the week will prevent you from reaching for tried and true favorites when you get to the store.

* Stock up on versatile ingredients. Cooking wine is a simple yet versatile ingredient that transforms even the most basic dish into something amazing. Stir into sauces to enhance the color and flavor, add to a saute with vegetables, simmer in a slow cooker or use it as a marinade for a deliciously savory flavor. Sherry cooking wine improves stir-fry sauces, while Marsala cooking wine swirled in creamy soups or gravy adds a subtle nutty flavor. Holland House has a wide variety of cooking wines available at most grocery retailers.

* Put one new item in your grocery cart each week. The produce section is a great place to find seasonal fruits and vegetables that you might never have tried before. Make an effort to step out of your food comfort zone and try one new thing each week.

Looking for a meal that will wow the family tonight? This recipe for Smokey Bacon Mac and Cheese is indulgent yet adaptable for the whole family. The creamy, cheesy gratin is balanced by sherry cooking wine and utilizes all your favorite pantry items.

Smokey Bacon Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 pound bacon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces

3/8 cup reserved bacon fat

2 cups large onion, diced

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cajun seasoning

5 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine     

3 quarts milk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

3 cups, divided shredded Swiss cheese

1 - 1 pound box Cavatappi pasta

Directions

In a large pot bring salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook the pasta until just tender, cool pasta under cold water and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat and caramelize the onions with the oil until very brown and soft. Reserve.

Dice the bacon and cook in a large pot until crispy, remove bacon from pot and add butter to the hot bacon fat in the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and once the butter is melted, add the flour and mix until the mixture begins to brown, 3-5 minutes.

Add the Cajun seasoning, Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine, garlic and mustard to the pot and stir until combined. With a whisk slowly add the milk to the pot until it is fully incorporated. Turn heat to medium low and continue to stir until the milk mixture becomes thick like an Alfredo sauce, making sure not to scorch the bottom of the pan.

Add the cheddar cheese and 2 cups of the Swiss cheese while whisking until fully incorporated and then finish with the caramelized onions, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper for seasoning. Puree sauce with stick blender or transfer to blender and blend until smooth.

Turn on broiler to high. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix and place in a casserole dish and top with remaining Swiss cheese and broil until golden brown. Top with crispy bacon bits.

For additional recipes and tips on how to use cooking wine, visit www.HollandHouseFlavors.com.

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