Getting your kids to love you forever... or making Mac'n Cheese

It's really cliche, this Mac'n Cheese thing. I know that everybody has done it and I have a bit of an issue with that. As soon as 'everyone's done it' I don't want to do it... just for spite. When everyone raved that 'Forest Gump' was the best movie ever... I decided that I was going to hate it. As a kid, when everyone raved that 'Canada's Wonderland' was the best thing ever, I decided that I wasn't going to go (well... that one only lasted for a couple of years). These are the best examples I have at the moment but really... you need to trust me on this one. As soon as it's popular, I'm OUT.

Anyway, the food de-crapping thing continues and I've decided that there will be no more boxed mac'n cheese (not that there was much in the first place but... sometimes it's the only thing that I know for sure my 3 yr old connoisseur will put down his throat). So, back we go to my beloved Bechamel... ah what would I do without it.

When it comes right down to it, the homemade stuff is so much better than the box you think that it must be hard to do but it's not. I don't dress this gal up much... no fancy truffle oil drizzling, no crusty crap on the top (a little extra shredded cheese works well though), no multiple cheesing necessary - whatever is in the fridge will do (Just PLEASE no Cheez Whiz!). Sometimes simple is best.

Here's how it goes down:

Boil about 2 cups of dry pasta (rotini or penne work well but if you want to go 'old school' use good ole' macaroni) and drain, setting it aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Make Bechamel... I used...

1/2 cup butter melted in a large pot on the stove.
1/2 cup flour added to the pot once the butter is melted and bubbling. Mix together for a few minutes (until the goop is smooth).


5 cups of warmed milk. Slowly add and mix together, then add some more... little by little until it's all mixed in.

Allow it about 7 minutes to set, keeping the stove at med to low heat. Once it feels like it's getting a little thicker. . .


about 2 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar and some aged gouda that was needing to be used up)

2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 tbsp mustard powder

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Pepper sauce (maybe more depending on the heat of your pepper)

Mix it all together in a baking dish. You can also add in diced, cooked ham, sauteed or roasted vegetables... I don't know, get creative!

Bake for 25 - 30 min. or until bubbly and golden...

Kids love you and kiss you and tell you that you are the best Mom ever!!!

... and your 3 yr old has two helpings! ;-)

Beef Margarita's - whatever that means!

I just kind of threw this together today. Just hit me last night and all of a sudden here I was today making it happen. The recipe hasn't been pulled out in my kitchen for years but it's one of those weird, quasi-fifties thing that you could imagine seeing in an old 'Better Homes and Gardens'. Right next to the salmon mousse and jello salad... you get the idea. Still, there is something about this one AND I'm always on the lookout for something to do with ground beef that isn't involving a sauce (i.e. chili, spaghetti sauce, etc.).

The recipe is another from one of my university roomies - Pat - and as it is written it was pretty, well... simple. I got thinking about it and figured that I could do something new with the same idea. The recipe called for a can of Cream of Mushroom soup - GONE! Try some fresh mushrooms, sour cream, a little cottage cheese and some spices to jazz this baby up. This still comes out just like the quaint dish that I remember Pat making. It makes me feel nostalgic and 'down-homish' when I eat it. Needless to say, my daughter LOVED it. Couldn't get enough. The finicky 3 yr old barely eats plain rice at the moment so I'm not stressing about him in the least. This would go nicely with a salad (not jello thanks), something green and wilted or some nice steamed broccoli.

All in all, I have to say that it was kind of campy fun putting this one together... a beef jelly roll!! I was actually multi-tasking when I made this too b/c my Mom called. So, here she is on speaker-phone while I was getting my crap done! Readers... meet my Mom! Who says you can't successfully multi-task!

So from Pat to Me to You... a little fifties kitch nostalgia!

Beef Margaritas
serves 4 - 6
1 - 1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
3/4 cup green pepper, chopped fine
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 cups (or so) baby spinach
2 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger
1 tbsp parsley
1 tbsp oregano
2 tbsp beef bouillion
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tsp Pepper Sauce
1 cup Sour Cream
1/2 cup Cottage Cheese

2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup shortening
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a heated Dutch oven, saute all the vegetables - save the spinach - until wilted. Add ground beef and mix well. Allow beef to cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add in spices and seasonings. Mix well and allow the seasoning to cook into the veggies and meat for a few minutes. Turn down the heat and add the sour cream and cottage cheese. Check seasonings, adjust as necessary and set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, add the spices, flour and baking powder. Mix together and cut in the shortening. Continue cutting in the shortening until the mixture gets a bit crumbly. Slowly add in the milk and stir to form a dough ball. Knead on a lightly floured surface for just a few seconds (enough to see that everything is mixed well and it looks fairly smooth). Roll out the dough on the same floured surface into the shape of a rectangle.

Spoon the meat mixture over top of the rectangle, spreading evenly. Roll the long side of the rectangle until it's a long log. Seal the open side (if you can - I actually didn't bother). Slice into about 4 cm. (two fingers together) width slices and place each on a baking sheet with parchment on it (or a silicon baking mat). Bake for about 22 min. Just keep an eye on it, so it doesn't burn! Allow it to rest for about 10 minutes before breaking them apart. Otherwise, it could get very messy.

I served this with a little Passata (crushed tomato) mixed with a few spices, salt and little sugar, some pepper and Worcestershire. The actual recipe called for a can of heated Tomato. Honestly though, it wouldn't be tragic to have this straight up! Cheers to fifties kitch!

Excuses, Excuses

I am so excited, my friends. Well, let me be careful here. The joy is bitter-sweet. The end of March Break approaches and it's been a wonderful one. We've had the most fantastic weather, eerily warm and sunny (I washed my outside windows yesterday!) for the middle of March. We've gotten some necessities out of the way, those errands that keep nagging at your brain. I've gotten lots of trail running in - FINALLY! - and we got the bikes out and the bike trailer and all that stuff. Lots of fun. We've also gotten together with some friends. And, as the end of the Break approaches, we are off to see some friends in Hawkestone.

Sometimes, you meet people who amaze you, who go above and beyond and whose commitment is an inspiration. The Jacobsen-Broda's are just those kind of people. They used to live downtown and have now moved where they can have more land, live a different kind of life (where vegetables can be grown, where rescued animals can be better housed) with more space in your head to think. They are also actively involved in community sustainability and nation-wide ecologically responsible energy projects! I LOVE IT!!!

My friend Civi is also a great cook. She has been vegetarian for a long time and has learned how to make it appealing to anyone and everyone. I have learned a lot from her. Now that we get to go and see them in their 'new' place (ok, probably about 2 yrs new!), I want to take something special with me for them to enjoy. (You know that this is also an excuse for me to bake something else, right?! A totally valid excuse though!)

I've only made this cake once before and, my friends, I can't even tell you how long ago that was. It's a spice cake, you see. Not chocolate. Not light, fluffy and white - So, it tends to get forgotten for birthdays and anniversaries - ya' know? A spice cake... with sour cream... and lemon glaze! Why did I ever forget such a thing. Sometimes (I know that this borders on blasphemy), who cares about chocolate! This recipe is from an OLD Gourmet magazine
*sigh* RIP. I know that the magazine was sometimes stodgy and out of touch but you could still find a gem here and there... really! This lovely, light, fragrant offering is definitely a diamond. (I know this only because I have written 'Absolutely Fabulous' beside this recipe on the piece of paper I ripped out of the mag) Civi and Brian are going to enjoy this one... I hope!

Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze
(Gourmet Magazine)

2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 lg eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped fine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan.
In a bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and the salt.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks on at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Mix the flour in alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with flour and mixing well after each addition.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until they just begin to hold stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter (It will look like little clouds being mixed into the cake batter). Gently, but thoroughly, fold in the walnuts.
Spoon the cake batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.
Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean (seriously folks, I use a chop stick for this!). Let it cool in the pan for about 10 - 15 min. before removing to a rack to finish cooling.

Lemon Glaze:

4 cups icing sugar
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)

Whisk together in bowl until mixed. Heat slightly. Poke some very small holes in the cake top and pour glaze over the cake.

This cake is totally worth any extra effort - the sour cream, whipping the egg whites (hmmm - as I'm writing this I realise that I totally and completely forgot about the poor walnuts - they did not get toasted and I did not fold them gently into the cake - Oops - I didn't miss them though!). I can't say enough times that the cake was fantastic! As was our day with Brian and Civi (and Roman and Lyric!) we ate some great food.

Went for a great walk in their woods/wetlands,

Came home with some prize winning honey (6th place in the Royal Canadian Winter Fair)...

And some great seeds and specimens to look at under the microscope.
Thanks Broda-Jacobsens for a great day!!!

A little less crap

As you may have gathered from reading some of the stuff that I spew out here, I'm trying to 'de-crap' my eating as much as possible. Let me be clear. De-crap (another new word I think) means I still eat Fat, ok? That crap is not as bad for you as the pundits have been telling us... preaching to us over the years. So, Yes! I still enjoy full fat cheese, butter and eggs with the yolks still in them - Thank you very much. What is not so good for me though, and this is where I'm de-crapping, is all that #@*% that is in all the food that is 'ready to serve', 'just add water', 'simply heat in the microwave for 2 min', etc. You get the idea.

I've recently ended my year and a half long obsession with a certain fizzy drink - too much CRAP. I'm starting to think seriously about getting rid of all the chemical crap (well most of it anyway!) in my food. Check out my cupboard!

And I'm trying to buy as little with crap in it as possible, especially if I can just make it at home. Which brings me to my recent distraction. I've been baking like a fiend lately but it hasn't satisfied my little, nagging craving for something salty. I want chips. Ugh... dilemma. What about the crap in all that pre-packaged stuff? Well, I can make it right. It's can't honestly be that hard.

So, with an idea in my head of what it would probably entail, I scoured my favourite blog sites. It was really hard, my peeps! I thought that I would come across something immediately. But no! Finally I found this at Bread and Honey (also one of my faves!!! She is awesome!). Turns out that is isn't that hard - you just have to make sure that you slice the potato thin enough. That's truly the hardest part... I used the side thingy on my box grater that no one ever uses or knows even what to do with - Now it's got a purpose!!! Now what if I want to make Salt and vinegar??? I gotta try this. I'm going to try two batches. One plain and one where 3/4 of the way through the baking process I'll take the potato out and flavour it.

Potato Chips

5 potatoes sliced thinly and all sliced as evenly as possible
oil (I used canola and not olive b/c I didn't want any additional taste from the oil)
salt (I used coarse sea salt)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Slice potatoes and place in bowl. Drizzle with enough oil to make sure that when you swish them around the potato pieces get completely covered.
Place each slice on a baking sheet with Parchment (not Wax Paper!!! As I did here!) or a silicone baking mat (seriously what would I do without these things????). Sprinkle with salt and place in oven for about 7 min. but keep an eye on them. Remove from oven, turn pieces over and sprinkle new side with salt. Bake for another 7 min.

I was going to try a salt and vinegar flavour BUT as I said earlier I used Wax instead of Parchment paper. They are not the same thing apparently! The potatoes for my 'salt and vinegar' batch stuck to the wax paper! I could not get them off with out destroying them completely. It was more than a little disappointing BUT it made pretty cool potato wallpaper (see picture above - ugh!). So, my reader... please don't use Wax paper. If anyone has any other ideas send it off to me... I'd love to get them!

The silicone mat worked great and the potato chips turned out quite well. They are not as thin as the store bought ones but it would be cool to try sweet potato ones or something like that. Believe me, it's a nice alternative to popcorn once in a while. All in all, I would do it again. And next time... I'll try the salt and vinegar ;-)

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St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.

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  • Naparima Girls High School Cookbook
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  • More-with-Less Cookbook
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Wanda Thorne
St Michael's Choir School is celebrating it's 75th anniversary year of service to St Michael's Cathedral. Part of the school celebration is a trip to Italy where our boys from Grades 5 - 12 will be performing and celebrating Mass. This blog will be chronicling our adventures. Wanda Thorne is the Vocal Coach at St Michael's Choir School. Gerard Lewis is the Grade 7/8 Homeroom teacher at the Choir School.
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