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Mikey gives props to…..

Cooking Light Magazine–I’ve mentioned on here before that I am on Weight Watchers. Yes, it sometimes affects and stifles my creativity as a home cook, but it also opens up possibilities and challenges me. Well, I recently started subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. And of all of the food magazine recipes I’ve made lately, almost everything we’ve tried the past two weeks from their 25th anniversary edition have been phenomenal. Here are a few you can try that we did:

Chef JimCreamy Four-cheese Macaroni & Cheese–You will not believe how few calories this is per serving. I defy anyone to find me a full-fat recipe that is as good as this one.

Chef JimCheesy Meat Loaf Minis–Some of the best meat loaf we have ever had. It helps that you can use full-fat cheddar, and being in Wisconsin, we have some good cheddar.

Chef JimTop Chef: Seattle–I need to be honest. I am a fan of the Top Chef brand, but have found Curtis Stone hosting Top Chef Masters to be grating. And their new Life After Top Chef is kind of so-so. But the original, which now is in Season 10 for Top Chef Seattle, remains one of the best shows on television, cooking show or otherwise. Bravo to Bravo and to Magical Elves production. I mean, I’d rather look at and listen to Padma Lakshmi than Curtis, and Tom Colicchio is like the Godfather of the show, but every season they do not disappoint with the collection of chefs, and with the episodes and challenges. It’s just a fun show to watch and guaranteed to make home chefs inspired.

Chef JimHome Run Inn Frozen Pizza–This is hands down the best frozen pizza on the planet. It comes from Chicago, so I’m not sure if they ship beyond the proximity of the Midwest, but my goodness. The crust is ridiculous–it tastes like fresh bakery bread. The sauce is perfectly simple with no garlic whatsoever, unlike many sauces on other frozen brands that ruin the pizza that way. The cheese is just mozzarella. And now they have thin crust varieties that are Weight Watchers friendly–for real.

Cooler weather=warmer food

I have to admit, by the time September hits, and there is a chill in the air, I’m ready to stop grilling and making salads and gazpacho and ready to start cooking stick-to-you-ribs meals like chili and stew and roasts. One of the reasons I was excited about moving to Wisconsin last year was for the earlier changing of the season from that of Nashville. Of course, there is the down side to that–i.e. early and lots-of-it snow. But we have some time before that happens (well, hopefully we do). And the warmer fall has been a mild bummer in a cooking sense, because who wants to make stew when it’s 80 degrees outside, as it was the first week to 10 days of the month here in Madison. Something is wrong with that picture, but I’m no climate scientist.

As I write this, however, it’s a brisk 60-ish with temps dropping into the low 40′s tonight. It’s stew time, and I’ve got a beef stew on the stove. I’m not making the one I posted here last year, but a new recipe I found in a magazine. But I have to tell you guys, I re-visited my chili recipe last week during a football Sunday (the beef one), and it came out way better than it ever has before. I think the key was just to let it thicken naturally, but either way I felt pretty good about that recipe, admittedly better than the first time I made it and created the recipe.

I’m also looking forward to re-visiting casseroles and mac & cheese like this one. I also want to give another go-round with this Buffalo chicken mac I saw in the Food Network magazine recently. Man, was that amazing. Oh, and don’t forget about soup. Maybe I need to make new soups a priority this year–dude soup. Yeah, that’s it.

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