Friday, November 12, 2010

Simple Frugal Macaroni & Cheese & it's glorious variations

Last night a friend called and asked for my Mac n Cheese recipe. When I sat down and e-mailed it to her, and then made a variation of it for dinner for my family I got to thinking about all the cool things you can do with this recipe....So here's the recipe and a bunch of cool variation:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Spray a cassarole with non-stick spray (the size depends on how much you want to make)

Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings)

1 TBS Butter, Margerine, olive oil or vegitable oil
1 TBS Flour (use white...whole wheat doesn't work as well)
1 cup Milk (fresh or reconstituted powdered is fine)
1-1 1/2 cup dry Macaroni
1- 1 1/2 cup shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 tsp salt

Start your macaroni boiling. Grate the cheese and set aside. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on med (watch to make sure it doesn't brown or burn). Once melted add the flour and stir. This should make a paste. Cook the paste for about 1 minute. Then add the milk. Whisk the milk mixture continuously until it comes to a light boil and thickens. Turn off the burner and remove from heat. Add the shedded cheese and salt. Whisk until the cheese is melted.

By now your macaroni should be done. Strain it. Dump the macaroni and sauce into the pre-sprayed casserole and bake for 20-30 min. I usually top this with some parmesean cheese and paprika before it put it into the over (bread crumbs would also work).

To scale the recipe up for a larger crowd, the sauce ratio of ingredients is 1TBS:1TBS:1 CUP - so 3Tbs butter:3 Tbs Flour:2 Cups Milk Etc.

So that's the basic Mac n Cheese.....Now for the fun variations:

Add cooked ham cubes, browned hamburger, or cooked chicken cubes.

Add steamed brocolli or peas.

Sub. Penne for Macaroni and Fontina cheese for Cheddar, add crumbled bacon, slivers of sundried tomato and slivers of red pepper. Sautee 1/4 of a diced onion and 1 tsp minced garlic with the butter before adding the flour.

Sub. Fettucini for Macaroni and parmesean for cheddar for a great Alfredo sauce (omit the salt).

Don't make any pasta and use the sauce as a cheese sauce on Broccoli and Cauliflower, or nachos, or a baked potato.

Make up the sauce as written above except double it, Slice up 3 baking potatoes into rounds, dice an onion. Layer sauce, potatoes and onions into a 9 x 13" baking pan, making sure that the last layer is sauce. Sprinkle with parmesean and paprika and bake at 350 degrees for 30 min or so. This make great scalloped potatoes (also known as potatoes au gratin or funeral potatoes).

You can add 1/4 cup wine to the sauce and use it as a wine/cheese sauce.

Make up the sauce recipe, but don't add any cheese, Add 1 can of minced clams (drained), Saute 1/2 rib of celery (diced) 1/4 diced onion, 1 clove or tsp minced garlic and add it to the already made up sauce. Add 1 cooked, cubed potato. Cook over low heat for 15 -20 min on the stove (stirring frequently)'ve got a decent New England could even add some bacon crumbles if you wanted. Leave out the clams and you've got a cream of potato soup.

Trade out potatoes for corn above and you've got corn chowder.

Really you could make cream of anything soup with this base. If you wanted to make it more soupy and less saucy, replace 1/2 of the milk with chicken stock.

So, there you have very versitile, very frugal and very delicious mac n cheese and a bunch of cool variations.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Looking for June Cleaver

I'm a bit of a pioneer in my family.

I'm a stay at home mom. I'm a stay at home starting to homeschool mom.

My mom worked full-time, as did my Grandmothers on both sides and my maternal Great Grandmother.

I totally respect all that they did. My circumstances are different and thus so are my choices. I worked for many years before having my children.

I've never had a role model to show me what a Stay at Home Mom looks like up close and personal. Where's my mentor? My trainer? When I worked I had those. If I'd been a SAHM in the 1950's I'd have had them.

In the 1950's women's magazines, neighbors, relatives and friends could help the new bride learn to manage a household and raise productive members of society. Then feminism happened......WAIT!!!!! before you flame me in comments, I consider myself a feminist. And while that movement certainly helped me out when I was working......Not so much now.

Now feminism tends to devalue what I have chosed to make my life's work. That really bums me out.

How can I be a feminist and a traditional Stay at home wife and mom you ask? Easy, my definition of feminism means that everybody gets the opportunity to pursue what they want in their life and career, without regard to gender (or frankly race, religion, etc.). This is my choice. I want to be here and do this.

I'm just not sure exactally how.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Financial goal setting

We're pretty good about our finances. We set a goal to be out of debt and we got there including our mortgage. That's a story that I'll share over the next couple of months. It didn't last long. Don't misunderstand, we didn't go an a credit card shopping spree....we moved across country and bought another house. We didn't sell the last one, it's rented. But now we have a mortgage again and our emergency savings are not where they should be.

A mortgage and no other debt you say? What's the problem? I really really really hate owing money. I LOVE the freedom of owing nothing I know that having no mortgage is possible, I've already gotten there once. I want it again.

I love the idea of frugality, I really do. I LOVE living debt free. But honestly, we've gotten sloppy about it. We've let things slide.

In a word....we need a goal.

A compelling, exciting, action galvanizing goal.

So here is phase one of that goal....

Pay off the mortgage

Save 6 months of living expenses

Build up our stock piles of food and household items so that we have as close as we can to a year's supply

Okay maybe this is more than phase one. I tend to bite off more than I can chew and get overwhelmed. I know what I need! I need a plan! Not a goal a plan! No wait, maybe both..........

More on this later........................

Monday, July 26, 2010

Daily progress

Our 1st week in Phoenix was a challenge. We bought a forclosure, with a lot of potential. We thought it needed paint, carpet and 2 light fixtures. A surprise 2nd story water leak taught us otherwise. So, the leak is fixed, the painting is done (thank you Frank Lang) and the floors are done (thanks to Greg Tidwell). Now we can finally get unpacked.

Last night we slept in our own beds for the 1st time since we arrived. Today I am unpacking box after box trying to figure out how we got all this stuff and why we need it.

But the big news is that today is my oldest son's 4th birthday! I feel a bit like the worst mom ever. I can't find the cake pans to make him a homemade birthday cake. I can't put much of a party together today so we're delaying it a week or two.

One thing I can do is tell you all the top 10 things about my oldest:

1. He is super funny
2. He is a great big brother to my youngest
3. He is very well spoken
4. He is no longer afraid to put his face in the water
5. He announced this morning that he ready to get married, and has picked the girl
6. He loves to climb in bed with us at night and cuddle
7. He is learning to read
8. He is a great train track builder
9. He is quite possibly the smartest 4 year old I've ever met
10. He's mine.

Life inside my oven

Based on the title of this blog, I'll bet you are expecting recipes. Perhaps down the line there will be some. For now, this blog is the story of my family and our move from a lifetime in the rainy Pacific Northwest to Phoenix Arizona in the middle of the summer.

You see, stepping outside is a bit like stepping into my oven. So this is the story of our life inside my oven.