Super Easy Macaroni and Cheese

14 Jan

I am a huge fan of macaroni and cheese. It was a childhood favorite that I never seem to stop enjoying as an adult. The difference is that as an adult, I tend a feel a tiny pang of guilt about how unhealthy it can be and how processed it is when you buy it from the store. I mean, cheese that’s been engineered to remain packaged on a shelf? Despite any marketing, that cannot be ‘natural cheese.’

My husband and I will make a baked version of macaroni and cheese from time to time, usually with some fancy combination of cheeses like Gruyere and Swiss and aged Cheddar. It’s delicious, but time-consuming. And it’s more crispy than creamy. So when I crave the creamy kind of macaroni and cheese I remember as a kid, it’s easy to rely on a box.

MandC

Now perhaps you can imagine how excited I was when I came across this recipe from Annie’s Eats that looked easy and seemed to turn out creamy based on her pictures. I’ve never eaten the mac and cheese from Panera, so I can’t attest to how similar it may be. But I can say that even with my rather limited cooking abilities, this dish satisfied a craving and was simple to prepare.

I made a small change and used two kinds of Cheddar (sharp and medium) instead of American cheese (which in my humble opinion, doesn’t pack a whole lot of flavor). So instead of 4 oz. of American cheese, I used 4 oz. of medium Cheddar and 8 oz. of sharp Cheddar. I also didn’t have any hot sauce on hand, so instead I added some cayenne pepper with a little bit of paprika.

It was warm, creamy, rich and absolutely perfect for a chilly Sunday dinner. With a salad of course, because you can’t forget your veggies. It’s still maybe not quite healthy, but I do like that I know exactly what’s in it – and that I can pronounce all of its ingredients.

It seems like a pretty flexible recipe, so I look forward to trying it perhaps with different combinations and ratios of cheese, in addition to varying degrees of spiciness. It was so easy and well-worth the effort, I honestly think I’ll have a hard time eating boxed macaroni and cheese again.

What childhood favorites have you re-created?

Play Time

11 Jan

Do you remember play time in preschool and kindergarten? That magical free-for-all time where the teachers let a bunch of kids loose to play however they please. Sure, there were rules (share toys, don’t bite) but for the most part it was anything goes.

While writing was always something I did in some professional capacity, I started writing a blog so that I could have a play time with writing. But then, just like play time wanes, I started looking at my new and fun project as something to improve, to polish, to become better at.

And then I started getting all over-achiever perfectionist on my poor little blog. If I couldn’t write a good post, then why write one? Could I post often enough and if not, then why at all? Was my writing interesting? Were my pictures boring?

That whole line of thinking is silly and for me at least, paralyzing. And led to almost a full year of not writing anything for fun. From a girl who claims she likes to write.

So from now on, anything that inspires, excites, intrigues or simply causes a little light bulb to go off is fair game. Because play time isn’t supposed to have rules, despite what my adult self has tried to impose.

The last year has been a little messy. Which coincidentally, is about the last time I dusted off my blog to write. So perhaps it’s time to embrace the messiness of a play time here to bring focus and structure to other areas of my life. It certainly can’t hurt to try.

So for today’s play time, here’s a picture of my pretty little dog. I promise not to go crazy dog lady and post about her every day. But don’t her big brown eyes and little pink nose just make you smile?

Swooning over Wu

21 Jan

I am seriously lusting. Full disclosure, I’ll be gushing over the next few paragraphs. Because I am swooning over the Jason Wu for Target collection.

If you know me, you probably know how much I love Target. And some of my favorite clothes have been from both their standard and designer collections. But something about this collection really makes me want to go Black Friday, Totally Crazy, Wake Up at 5:00 a.m. to Get in Line, I WILL Fight You for that Navy Dress and Max Out My Credit Card Buying EVERYTHING (shhh, don’t tell Mint.com) Completely Obsessed.

Via New York Magazine: http://bit.ly/ydygJx

Mr. Wu is the latest of a number of designers who have created a line in the cheap-chic realm. Sometimes my take is these collections can feel a bit forced and fussy, like it’s more important to have something that’s distinctively from a designer, rather than just wearing clothes that reflect what you like.

But his pieces are gorgeous and filled with bright colors, creative shapes and pretty embellishments. He famously dressed Michelle Obama for the president’s inauguration. Stunning, right?

I’ve enjoyed Target designer collections before (Issac Mizrahi, please come back!), and I have a hunch this will be among my favorites.

What I think I love its balanced approach to femininity and maturity. The pieces have just lovely details – stripes! floral! pleats! Yet remain polished and put-together.

This Skirt! This Shirt! This Bag! I Love! Via New York Magazine http://bit.ly/x46LSn

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Reward

19 Jan

I would return my new notebook if this were the reward. Would you? ; )

Short and Sweet

16 Jan

I hope everyone had a good weekend! Time’s a bit short this evening, but coming up this week, I’ll be sharing red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Hope your week is off to a great start!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

12 Jan

So here’s a confession: I had what felt like a large number of kitchen fails for about a two-month stretch during October and November of last year. We’re talking mis-measuring ingredients, baking too long, not baking long enough, not accounting for size very well…..things I felt were pretty basic just weren’t coming together. Kind of a bummer. Not devastating – I mean, it’s just baking – but it started to make me cry a lot wear me down just a teeny tiny bit.

But then you get over these things. Because you need a creative outlet. And you want some cake. Also because you’ve committed to make dessert for some dinner or another.

And honestly, with holiday baking on the horizon, I knew the best thing to would be stick with it and practice. So I stuck with tried and true recipes for the holidays (because honestly, who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie at the end of the day?) and started to build my confidence again.

I feel like this frosting was the culmination of me getting back into the swing of baking, especially now that I’m much more adjusted to my new kitchen layout, plus getting back to more of a fearless nature in the kitchen. We’re talking burn sugar three times, clean the burnt sugar off the saucepan like crazy and still stick with it kind of fearless.

The recipe isn’t perfected yet, but still worth sharing as I experiment. Also, it was still very good, so it might just be your thing if you like a light caramel flavor.

I also tried a new chocolate cupcake recipe. They’re the fabulous cupcake base of these super fabulous cupcakes from the marvelous Joy the Baker. Sidenote: Read her blog. It’s really really good and she takes fantastic photos. Anyway, so the cupcake recipe was new and kind of tried and true, because my friend Jackie had made them. And if it passes her chocolate cake test, then it’s a sure thing. Side-Sidenote: Read her blog too!

The real fun here was the frosting.

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Sparkly and Detailed

11 Jan

Yesterday’s purple-ish, sparkle-y necklace with some interesting little details on each bead. I wore it with a pink top and grey skirt – a pretty color scheme I like.

Wearing a necklace every day may be the first New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever kept this long : )

Hope you enjoy your day! Can you believe it’s only Wednesday? I cannot.

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