Carnie Wilson: Cooking With 'Love'

Nov. 1, 2005 — -- Besides her hit song "Hold On" as a member of the group Wilson Phillips, her rock 'n' roll roots (she is the daughter of Beach Boy Brian Wilson), and her own talk show, Carnie Wilson is also well known for her relationship with food. Her gastric bypass surgery was broadcast live on the Internet in 1999.

Wilson's latest project is a cookbook called "To Serve with Love." It contains recipes so good that she claims they "made me fat." But Wilson writes about enjoying food -- "just have the real thing and eat less," she says of her "Fall to Your Knees Mac and Cheese."

Wilson, who just had her first baby, Lola, demonstrated how to prepare her beloved mac and cheese on "Good Morning America." The recipe for that as well as "Lasagna with Mini Me Balls" and "Beware of the Brownies" can be found be found below.

Fall to Your Knees Mac and Cheese

And now for my favorite thing on Planet Earth: that would be mac and cheese. There is nothing I love more, and honestly, I could eat this all day long. (It's partially what made me fat.) It's what I always wish I could have more of now. And speaking of wanting more, this version of mac and cheese has more cheese than noodles. What could be better? It's what I dream about at night. Call me crazy Carnie.

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food and the best crowd-pleaser I know. It takes you backward, forward, sideways, and up and down, and makes you do that little "happy dance" you do inside when something really hits the spot . . . until you step on the scale, that is.

For a split second, I thought about offering you a skinnier version of the mac, but let's get real. Just have the real thing and eat less. You could also do an extra 45 minutes on the treadmill. It's sooo worth it.

Stuff You Need:

3-1/2 cups large elbow macaroni

10 oz. Velveeta cheese, cut into 1" squares

10 oz. white Vermont cheddar cheese, cut into 1" squares

15 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded

1-2 cups of jack and cheddar cheese (combined), shredded

4 oz. cream cheese (at room temp.)

2/3 cup sour cream

1-1/3 cups heavy cream

1-1/3 cups half-and-half

1 egg

2-2/3 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dry mustard powder

1/8?1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. nutmeg (fresh if you have it)

1 tsp. kosher salt

A pinch of paprika

1 Tbsp. fresh chives (for garnish)

Serves 10.

Hit It:

Smile. Know that you're about to prepare the best mac and cheese ever!

1. Grease a 13" x 9" nonstick metal baking pan with 1 Tbsp butter. Preheat oven to 350. Prepare macaroni according to the package directions, but make sure it's al dente. (Huh? It should still be a little firm.) Be sure to add a pinch of salt and a dash of olive oil to the boiling water while cooking. Drain pasta well and pour into the baking pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the heavy cream, half-and-half, and sour cream; break the cream cheese into little bits with your (clean!) fingers as you add it to the bowl. Add the egg, flour, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and onion powders, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg; combine very well with a wire whisk to break up that cream cheese. It will look lumpy, but that's okay.

3. Starting at the corners of the pasta dish, place and push down the Velveeta and white Vermont cheddar cubes. Work your way around and toward the middle (they won't push down completely, but just smoosh them down a bit). Now sprinkle the fabulous Gruyère cheese evenly over the top -- gently and evenly pour that artery-clogging mixture on it, covering all areas. Gently shake the pan afterwards for a sec to make sure the liquid is even. I know it sounds gross, but push down and make little holes into areas of the mixture with your fingers. (You're just getting some of that Gruyère down deeper below the surface.) Wash your hands!

4. Sprinkle the jack-and-cheddar combo over the mixture and sprinkle the paprika on top. Put this baby in the oven (make sure your oven rack is right in the middle) and bake until brown and bubbly -- we're talking approximately 30 minutes. It will be creamy in the center and more crusty on the top and edges. Chop some fresh chives and get those taste buds ready. When it's done, garnish with the chives (but try not to eat part of the crusty top before you serve it. I'm watching you!).

5. Get out of town! This is actually a one-way ticket to paradise.

Carnie Aside-a:

For a super delish variation, omit the nutmeg and scatter 1/2 cup finely chopped onions and celery (that have been sautéed in 1 Tbsp. butter until clear) plus a 9-oz. packet of flaked white albacore tuna over the noodles before adding the cream mixture. Never mind what I said before -- this is the best ever!

Lasagna with Mini-Me Balls

It's Saturday night and my friends Tiffany and Cindy are over. We're sitting around watching "Entertainment Tonight" and getting the latest juice on our favorite celebs. We figure that maybe we'll be starving soon -- after all, all that celeb news would make anyone hungry. It's definitely time for some delish lasagna.

A quick trip to the store later and we're regrouping in the kitchen. Everybody has a job: I mix the meat, Tiff blanches the veggies, Cindy beats the eggs. It's not like we don't trust her with bigger jobs, but . . . oh, in between we read aloud the six magazines we bought at the store. In other words, it's the perfect Saturday night with nothing much to do.

When Rob comes out of the studio, he says the magic words: "What smells so good?"

I look at him and say, "You're good-lookin'."

He hugs me and says, "You're good-lookin' and good-cookin'."

No wonder why I slave over a hot stove for my guy.

Stuff You Need:

1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (Tip: Fresh slices of white bread in a mini food processor make perfect bread crumbs. Try it -- it will add lovely flavor and moisture to your foods.)

1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 pkg. lasagna noodles (about 3/4 lb.); you can also use the oven-ready kind -- Barilla makes some great ones

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

4 cups prepared meat sauce (I like Ragú. Call me "low maintenance" . . . just don't tell anybody.)

1/2 lb. Italian sweet sausage, casing removed (sauté the meat until brown and crumbly)

2 hard-boiled eggs, thinly sliced

3/4 lb. (or 12 oz.) mozzarella cheese, freshly grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly shredded or grated

For the Ricotta Filling:

1 lb. whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

2 Tbsp. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. salt

Serves 10.

Hit It:

1. Mix together the ground beef and bread crumbs in a medium-size bowl with 1 beaten egg, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Make meatballs the size of a large pearl onion (we're talking approximately 1-1/2" in diameter). Fry in 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil until browned; drain and set aside.

2. Blanch the noodles. (Huh? Blanching means that you make the noodle water boil and then put each strip of lasagna in it for about a minute. The noodles will become a little bit tender on each side, but won't even come close to cooking through.) Take them out of the water with tongs so that you don't burn yourself, then lay the noodles out on a paper towel to absorb the extra water. While baking, the noodles will also absorb water from the other ingredients and become the perfect, not-at-all-mushy, no-way-gushy, noodles. It's gene. (Or you can save yourself all this trouble and use already-baked noodles. That's what I do.) Now the noodles are ready for the lasagna pan.

3. Prepare the ricotta filling (while doing so, imagine that you're Carmela Soprano). In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, nutmeg, and parsley with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and the other beaten egg; mix with a wooden spoon. Take a breath -- you've done a lot so far.

4. And don't eat the raw-ricotta mix out of the bowl. (That would be gross, although it smells so great.) Preheat the oven to 375. Rub a 13" x 9" baking pan with the remaining olive oil and use a ladle to spoon some meat sauce on top. Place a layer of cooked lasagna noodles over this, overlapping slightly to cover the bottom of the pan. Drop the ricotta filling by the spoonful on top of the noodles; smooth with the back of the spoon or spread it out with your freshly washed fingers. Scatter a layer of meatballs over the ricotta, followed by half of the sausage, and then sprinkle half of the sliced boiled eggs on top of that delicious deal. Top with half of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat layers, ending with a layer of noodles, top with the remaining sauce, and finish with the remaining cheese.

5. Bake covered for 45 minutes until golden brown; uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. (Tip: Try to clean up the kitchen now -- believe me, you'll hug yourself later.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Add fresh chopped parsley on top for garnish. Yes, it does look pretty! Gaze at the pan in awe as you marvel, I actually made this thing!

Now Serving:

This is a very filling meal (in fact, don't wear your new Levi's with this one). I tend to fill up on the meatballs and eat my way around the noodles, which is also good if you're into skipping carbs. By the way, I like to serve this dish with a simple green salad filled with cucumbers, carrots, fresh mushrooms, and tomatoes, with a little light vinaigrette splashed over it.

If you feel adventurous when it comes to calories, add some doughy Italian bread. And if you want to throw all caution to the wind, spread some butter, dried herbs (like basil and oregano), fresh minced garlic, and kosher salt on it to make garlic bread. Prepare to spend the rest of the night sacked out on the couch after this meal. It might be an effort to even reach for the remote.

Carnie Aside-a:

If I don't have time to make a lasagna, I might just make the meatballs, which is also what turns this dish into The Skinny. If you're on a low-carb diet, then just eat meatballs for dinner covered with some delicious sauce (either homemade or in a jar). But if you're feeling a little carb hungry, then boil up some of your favorite pasta to serve on the side or under those meatballs.

Beware of the Brownies

(Fudgy, Make-Your-Belly-Pudgy Brownies)

These four-layer brownies are totally decadent. They remind me of a chewy, frosted cake, and the peanut butter makes them off the hook! To send someone you love to places they've never been, serve these warm with some vanilla ice cream. Oh, Mama. . . .

Stuff You Need for the First Layer:

1 cup butter

1/3 cup Hershey's (or your favorite brand) cocoa

2 cups sugar (Lord help us!)

4 eggs

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

For the Second Layer:

1-1/4 cups chunky peanut butter (I use Skippy)

For the Third Layer (the Gene Frosting):

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup Hershey's cocoa

1/3 cup whole milk

8 large marshmallows (this is the gene part)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 16-oz. box powdered sugar, sifted (Huh? Put through a small-mesh sieve and "tap through" until there are no lumps.)

For the Fourth Layer:

Caramel sauce, melted

Chopped pecans and almonds

Makes 12 large brownies or 16 medium ones.

Hit It:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 13" x 9" x 2" pan with butter. (Now's the time to turn back if you're too afraid of the calories!) For the first layer, melt the cup of butter and cocoa in a double boiler. (Tip: You can also use a heatproof bowl or a saucepan sitting over another that contains simmering water, or use a microwave.) Remove from the heat and cool. Blend in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla; combine with the flour and salt and add to the chocolate mixture. Mix to combine until there are no big lumps; pour into the greased pan and bake for 20?30 minutes. It will rise a little, and when you poke the center with a toothpick, it should come out just about clean. But do not overbake: You want these puppies moist!

2. Now, for the second layer: Spoon the peanut butter over the hot cake and spread it evenly while it's melting. (For-Your-Hips Tip: Don't eat any yet. Let it cool -- I mean it!)

3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa, milk, and marshmallows; add the salt and vanilla. Beat in the powdered sugar until it's totally combined with no lumps. (This is where I start to drool, but not in the pan!) Spread this third layer over the cooled peanut butter and check your pulse.

4. Finally, drizzle the heated caramel sauce over the frosting and sprinkle with nuts if desired. Cut into squares the size of your choice and quickly shove into your mouth.