I may have disappeared again. In my defence, I tried really hard to not only get this post out earlier but to visit as many of you as I could. I didn’t get to post this last week and I missed many of you. It was just a very hectic week.
My daughter graduated on Saturday and it was a lovely ceremony and a bit bittersweet and emotional. This was my first graduation as far as my children go. My eldest didn’t walk and so robbed me of my proud mommy moment.
In England, we don’t have all this graduation business. We sit our exams, we enjoy our summer as much as we can, and in August nervously await with baited breath for the postal flap in our door to fly open and letters to drop on the floor, hoping one of the envelopes is from the Examination Board. Then we squeal with excitement or moan with regret, either way, that’s it, that’s our graduation pomp and circumstance.
I may not have all the hullabaloo at my “graduation”, however, it was still very nice to be a part of daughter’s big day. I tried to hold back the tears when we walked down to greet her after the ceremony. A few photos and then our moment was done. She waved to us as she disappeared into the sea of blue clad graduates to enjoy the day and the many parties. I anxiously hoped she remembered that we also had a party going on later that day and she needed to make an appearance!
Saturday was also my son’s 10th birthday. He was such a great brother and made way for his sister to own the day. He graciously took a back seat so she could be the star.
We had a lovely BBQ with many of our good friends. It has been raining here for a good two weeks with really cold temperatures and Saturday was no different! It poured down! Thankfully, we have a huge front covered porch and we do most our cookouts under the porch. We had two grills going, a gas and a charcoal. We grilled burgers, chicken kebabs and vegetables. I made a quinoa salad with fruit, a Caprese pasta salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, grilled vegetables with a Herbes De Provence vinaigrette, and tangy, South Indian lemon rice.
Chips, salsa, Feta dip and a spicy black bean dip with assorted olives and vegetables rounded out the savouries. Dessert was a blueberry cobbler, grilled nectarines and pineapples with pound cake and ice cream, and assorted fruit. A wonderful friend made a beautiful cheesecake. We had plenty of sweets! Sweet ice tea, Southern style, and lemonade quenched our thirst. I think everyone enjoyed themselves!
One thing about cookouts is they don’t really allow you to sit for too long with your guests. I was running constantly from the grill to the food tables. Once the food was done though, I had a chance to sit and converse.
In the U.S. it was Memorial Day weekend so my husband and I were off from work on Saturday, but what did I end up doing on my day off from cooking at the store? Cooking for an even bigger crowd. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Were any of you aware that last week was National Vegetarian Week? I stumbled upon it while I was reading some article but then decided to run with it! It’s the excuse I used to cook vegetarian all week long. My eldest loved it because for once, she could eat everything and wasn’t relegated to the sides!
I loved it too. Dinner was uncomplicated and easy to throw together. It took me only an hour each day to get dinner on the table. No dealing with cleaning meat or chicken, waiting for it to defrost, soften, and so on.
This Mac and Cheese was dinner one day along with sautéed baby broccoli and baked kale chips. I jazzed it up a bit by using Pepper Jack since I love Pepper Jack cheese. It added a little kick without too much heat.
I also didn’t use macaroni but pasta shape known as pipe, Whole Foods has an excellent organic one I like to use. I just think they look cool and I’m like a little kid when it comes to pasta shapes.
Serves: 8-10 servings
- 1 pound/ 455g macaroni or any short tube pasta
- 9 ounces/255g Pepper Jack cheese or other spicy cheese, shredded
- 3 ounces/85g white Cheddar cheese,shredded
- 4 tablespoons/55g butter, unsalted
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3½ cups/830ml milk
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon turmeric, optional
- 2 slices bread ends
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- CHEESE SAUCE
- In a large saucepan melt the butter.
- Once the butter is melted add the flour and mix to make a roux.
- Cook a little to get the raw flour taste out.
- Add the nutmeg.
- Slowly add the milk and stir with a whisk to make sure it doesn't get lumpy.
- You can warm the milk so the sauce is lump free but I never do and I've never had a problem with a lumpy white sauce.
- Once the white sauce begins to bubble and thicken, pull off the heat and add your cheese.
- The heat from the white sauce should be enough to melt the cheese but you can put it back on the burner with the heat off.
- Mix the cheese until all is melted and homogenous.
- Add the honey Dijon mustard or your mustard of choice, and the turmeric if using.
- The cheese I buy is an organic, natural cheese from Whole Foods and it has no colouring.
- Pepper Jack by nature is a white cheese.
- So, to get the yellow colour of mac and cheese, I add a touch of turmeric.
- If you are using yellow cheddar, then you can omit the turmeric.
- Keep the sauce to the side as you boil the pasta.
- Follow the package directions to boil your pasta but boil it three minutes shy of the recommended time.
- You want a good bite when you pull it off the heat.
- The pasta will cook further in the sauce when it's baked so over cooking it now will give you a mushy mac and cheese.
- Keep a little of the pasta water to thin the cheese sauce if needed.
- Once the pasta is ¾ cooked, drain it and reserve some pasta water.
- Mix the pasta into the cheese sauce, coating evenly.
- Add a bit of pasta water if it seems too gloppy.
- Have a buttered baking dish ready and pour the mac and cheese into the prepared dish.
- If you'd like a crumb topping, take some bread ends or heels, I used the thick bread heels of a heavily seeded and grained bread, cut into small cubes and toss with olive oil.
- Scatter over the top.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C and place the mac and cheese on the centre rack.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the croutons are golden brown and crispy.
So, yeah, this isn’t a very original post because there are a million mac and cheese recipes out there! But hey, it’s a post and it really was quite tasty with the creamy, spicy cheese, the funky pasta and the crunchy croutons on top. But I am slowly getting there and back in the kitchen. The mind has been a bit slow churning and I finally figured out that it may have been the new meds I started. Well, my job revolves around cooking and so does this blog, if I can’t be creative and motivated then where will I be? So, I stopped taking the new meds. I hurt a bit more but my mind is my own now.
Did any of you cook vegetarian food last week? It’s been really fun to see all the fresh, spring flavours on the blogs and then the autumn flavours coming from the Southern Hemisphere. Y’all are definitely inspiring! Can’t wait to see more seasonal goodies!
Have a great week everyone!