Bodacious Mac n Cheese

That’s right I said Bodacious.  This is how I make mac and cheese, and it is a labor of love.  You might not think that mustard, mushrooms and and ham have a place in this classic but I promise it’s worth a little stretch on the traditional. (sorry no picture, we ate it all)

I have more tips and ideas at the bottom of the post for now; When you pick the cheese think melty soft squishy cheese.  If you pick cheese that is to dry the cheese sauce will be tacky and not saucy.

Labor of love, step 1
Pre heat the oven to 350C, and open the wine to let it breath. 
I start by warming the milk and cream in a small sauce pot, being cautions not to scorch it, while infusing it with flavors.   At a minimum I add the bay leaves, garlic and mustard as it is warming, but infusing the milk with the mushroom flavor is very subtle yet over the top.  This takes a while so I like to start it first.  If you don’t like the texture of mushrooms, no worry they don’t actually make it into the mac and cheese. 
Labor of love, step 2
Salt the pasta water and cook the noodles al dente.  When draining the pasta shake off as much water as possible and add it back to the still hot pot to help drive off as much of the water as possible.  This will keep the final product from getting to watery.  Add the diced ham and stir. 
Labor of love, step 3
You can make the bread crumb mixture now or in the end, doesn’t really matter.  Just toss the bread, Parmesan cheese and thyme in a blender or mini prep food processor, zip and done.  Mix with melted butter.  Too much fuss?  Store bought bread crumbs, work fine…just get some decent cheese none of that shakey mess.  Or skip it all together.
Labor of love, step 4+
Now it’s time for the foundation, the roux.  If you have never made a roux there are tons of articles out there, be patient you will get the hang of it.  It does need a lot of attention so I like to make it at the end when I can give it my full focus.  Melt the butter on low med until its foamy and add the flour, mixing to form a paste. Continue to cook the roux until it’s that toasty brown color and nutty fragrance.   Add the infused milk mixture, pouring through a strainer to remove the mushrooms and bay leaves.  Stir constantly, I like to use a whisk, heating it gently until it begins to thicken so about 2 min or so on med low.   Pull it off the heat and stir in the cheese.  
Pour all this mess into the pot with the noodles and ham, stir.  Then pour all of this glorious stuff into an oven safe dish, about 8 x 8 should do it, and top with bread crumbs.  Bake it at 350C until it is bubbly around the edge and the crumbs are lightly brown, about 20 min.
I know this is a lot of steps but like I said – a labor of love.  See below, after the ingredients, for a few extra tips and flavor ideas.  
Cheese Sauce (infused milk and roux)
1 cup of 2% milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1 -2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoons garlic powder
big handful of sliced mushrooms
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoons flour
1.5 cup of shredded cheese (truth I have used up to 2 cups)
Pasta
1/2 lb of dry pasta, pick something that will hold the cheese but not have to compete with the size of the ham, favorites are med shells and corks screws
8 oz of diced ham
salt for the water
Bread crumb top
2 slices of white bread, day old is best
1/3 cup of parm cheese
(thyme is really good too)
Those after the credits tid bits – 
– Something I found to be helpful when making a roux; a white enamel pot takes the guess work out of the color.  
– Stuff I have put into the milk and would recommend any combination of; mustard, thyme, bay leaves, mushrooms, dash of liquid smoke, crushed garlic cloves, onion slices – experiment. 
– Ever had mac and cheese that was lumpy, that’s because the fat to starch ratio was off.  We usually only have 2% milk in the house, which is why I use the heavy cream for the extra needed fat.   However you can mix 3/4 cup of milk with 1/3 a cup of melted butter for 1 cup if heavy cream.  

Cheesy Wafers

There is something enjoyable about a simple selection of raw veggies, fruit, cheese, warmed bread, and a good selection of sliced meats.  I like to put everything out on a big white platter then invite guests to fix little plates of melon and prosciutto, warmed naan bread, carrots, hummus, marinated mushrooms  – whatever finger foods I can pull together.

When I started gathering nibbles last week I wanted to try and make cheese straws, but I had no desire to fuss with pipping them into adorable little ‘straws’.  I adapted a few recipes taking the best from each into one sewn together Frankenstein version of the best cheese wafers ever!

The paprika and cheddar turn these wafers a gorgeous color when baked.

Pre heat the oven to 350.

Mix together the flour, garlic, chipotle, smoked paprika, dill and seasoning salt – set this aside.

I like to put the cheese into a food processor ( I love my mini prep) and give it a quick spin.  The resulting chunky sticky grated texture bakes so well.

Using a hand mixer on a low speed, gently mix together the butter and cheese.  Add half the dry mixture from above and mix until combined, continue with the rest of the flour mixture and a few dashes of Worcestershire.

Open the wine to let it breathe, cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for about 20 min.

Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on a heavy baking sheet lined with parchment paper.   Using the bottom of a floured drinking glass flatten the rounds to about ~1/4 of an inch.  At this point I chose to put them in the freezer for about 5-10 min, I wanted the cheese to bake not melt in the oven.

Bake 15 -18 min, they should be set completely around the edges, and bounce back in the middle when lightly pricked with a fork.  Oh and the aroma of garlic, cheese, herbs and a touch of smokey – ness will fill the kitchen.  Personally – I think they are best enjoyed with melon and fresh pineapple.

Yield 2 dozen.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 teaspoons seasoning salt – I like Lawry’s
2 teaspoons dry dill
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
pinch of chipotle powder

1 stick of soft butter
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
2 ‘dash’ of Worcestershire

Tips
– Mix everything in a heavy glass bowl, the glass will keep the dough chilled longer while you are rolling it into balls.
– I like to use the Pampered Chef all purpose dill seasoning.  It has a little dehydrated garlic and onion bits in it.  If you can’t find something of the like I recommend adding a little extra garlic powder and some minced dehydrated onion.

Must Have Monday – beat the winter blues

I have found a great way to beat the winter blues, and probably just blues in general.  Coloring books for adults, not sure why I didn’t find these until a few months ago but I love them.  One of my favorites is Lost Ocean from Johanna Basford, you can find it HERE.  Enjoy, but be careful googling adult coloring books.

 

This time??

Well rinse and repeat, I have been neglectful again.  I would say so much has changed this past year, truthful but the same song and dance I gave last year about this time.

So what have I been up to? Working lots, now not working so much.  Bought an old truck, ’72 F100, that needs work but more on that another time.  Family changes, some good some sad, nothing that I really want to air on my blog.  I learned to make a rocking mac and cheese that (duh) I will be sure to share later.  Discovered I now like avocados, which surprised me.  Made new friends, and I like all of them so that’s convenient.  Got a little better at decorating, at least in my opinion.

What haven’t I bean up to?  Never did learn to drive a stick, I know I know – shame on me.  Still haven’t mastered the creme brulee.  I have not given up my love affair with fabric and sewing, even through my machine hasn’t been out in a while.

What do I want to be up to?  Stuff that make me a bad ass at this adulting thing!
Learn to make crepes, apple fritters, and a reliably good stuffed pork loin ( I may have caught one on fire, which is not a reliable method).  Sew clothes for myself, noting crazy just something for around the house. Growing more orchids, fluke accident with the heater in the green house and I lost several. Paint something that I want to hang up, where other people will see and want to see it.  Work on Patches, he is my truck!  Thin out the clutter herd, closets beware.  Learn Gregorian short hand, everyone needs something random stashed in their head, and that’s way more useful than song lyrics. –  unless you’re playing trivia, then song lyrics are helpful (domo arigato Mr Roboto).  I’m sure my mind will wonder to other things as time goes by, lets see how much makes it to the blog!

I did it again.

I can’t believe I have neglected my blog, again!  So much has happened in the past several months.

I started a new job that I worked very hard to get.  I quit 6 months later for a job that worked hard to get me. 

I became a Doctor Who fan. 

We have had a multitude of personal life changing events.  Some expected, some a surprise, some devastating, some confusing and some very wonderful. 

I learned the value of being flexible in situations.

The dogs are still lazy.

I haven’t bought a purse in six months (whaaaat?)

We had what  my sister in law and I were calling the first annual WTFgiving in November.  

Discovered the basics to a really yummy kale smoothie.

Made new work and church friends.

 But what I haven’t done, is make a list of blog topics.  *sigh*

My goodness….

Geeze where did the time go.  I can’t believe its been since March that I shared my lovely thoughts.  So much has changed and happened, sadly my blog has suffered.  The good news is the Etsy shop is cranking up for the holidays and I look forward to selling out!  I know, shameless plug.

I did spend some time over the summer designing my tags, business cards and thank you notes for customers.  I have been a busy bee!

 

The All Consuming Time Suck

Sewing and peddling on Etsy; the all consuming time suck.  My mother always says it keeps her off the streets.  I guess she is right, I’m never bored when there is fabric around.  Speaking of around, where is spring?

 

The Short Stitch

I picked the name for my Etsy shop because I had to have one and the reusable paper towels were so popular on my blog I wanted a blog similar name.  That Short Girl was already in use so I chose This Short Girl.  Cute, doesn’t completely roll of the tongue but it doesn’t trip the speaker up either.  I never liked that it didn’t have anything to do with sewing.  A few years ago I did an open air market and a friend said I was the short stitch.  I decided I liked it and wanted to keep it.  Its not really a cross road as much as a yield sign, carry on.

Stop by The Short Stitch and check out the new banner.

 

Seriously Good Orange Sticky Bread – Recipe

Seriously Good Orange Sticky Bread – Recipe

This dessert is a little bit gooey, not overly sweet and flavored with orange.  It reminds me a little of the orange cinammon rolls my mom would make when we had sleepovers.

1 tube of jumbo buttermilk biscuits, 8 count
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
6 Tablespoons of butter (~3/4 a stick)
3/4 cup of powdered sugar

1. Cut each biscuit into fourths.

2. In a deep microwave safe bowl melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.

3. On a plate or shallow dish sprinkle the powdered sugar, zest the lemon and orange directly onto the sugar.  Mix gently with a fork to combine.

4. Dip the biscuit pieces into the melted butter and roll in the sugar zest mixture.

5. Place sugared biscuit pieces into a bunt pan, it should make a rough two layers of biscuit pieces.

6.  Once all of the sugared biscuit pieces have placed in the bunt pan sprinkle with remaining sugar, followed by 1 tablespoon of the remaining butter.

7.  Squeeze 1/2 of the lemon over the dough

7. Bake for 30 min at 350C or until the top of the bread turns a light golden brown.

Serve warm. Typically, unable to hold off our piggish tendencies, we have eaten it right out of the pan. However, if you are having company you may want to turn them out onto a plate after allowing to cool for five minutes. You probably wont have to worry about the next part; store left overs in an airtight container at room temp.

Wooty Whoo

I am an animal lover and enjoy having woods in the back yard.  We see all kinds of creatures; eastern king snakes, blue heron, ladder back woodpecker, and what appeared to be a whole tribe of racoons having a drum circle on the deck with the fish food container.  I was excited when one night we spotted a new visitor in the back yard.  Then he came back again the next morning and my husband took this awesome picture.   I read that the barred owl can and will actually eat fish, sometimes wading in shallow water in search of a meal.  Sure enough, I’m missing one Butterfly Koi.