Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Faith Cooks: Macaroni and Cheese

I've been making macaroni and cheese for years. It's basically my signature dish. The original recipe came from Joy of Cooking: All About Pasta & Noodles, but I've futzed with it and really made it my own. This week, I kicked it up a notch and added roasted cauliflower. This. This is the way mac and cheese should be. It was delicious...if I may say so myself. 

A few friends have asked for the recipe, so here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!


for the filling
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of elbow macaroni
1/2 cup (roughly) of chopped prosciutto*
1 medium sized lemon
1 clove minced garlic
olive oil

for the cheese sauce
1 cup of shredded mild or sharp cheddar 
2 teaspoons of sage
2 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour

for the topping
1/2 cup of panko breadcrumbs
1-2 teaspoons olive oil

The Steps

  1. Preheat your oven to 400º F.
  2. Cut up your cauliflower. If you're not sure how, check out this video. Toss the cauliflower in a little olive oil (enough to lightly coat it), the minced garlic, and the juice from one lemon.
  3. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Take it out and pour it into a 9x9 baking dish.
  4. Add the prosciutto and mix together. 
  5. Put water on to boil for your pasta. 
  6. As soon as you add the pasta to boil, get a large saute pan and melt your butter. 
  7. Once your butter is nicely melted, turn the eye down to low and whisk in the flour. You should get a nice thick paste.
  8. You will slowly (about 1/2 cup at a time) add the milk to your butter/flour mixture. Pour in a little milk, whisk until smooth, and then add more milk. This is the best way to make a roux with no lumps.
  9. Add the sage and a little pepper, and let this simmer on low until the pasta is done.
  10. Preheat oven to 350º.
  11. In a small bowl mix 1-2 tsp of olive oil with your panko crumbs until all the crumbs are well coated.
  12. Drain pasta and add it to the cauliflower mixture.
  13. Take your roux off the heat and mix in the cheese. It will be thick!
  14. Pour the cheese mixture over your cauliflower, pasta, prosciutto mix and stir until everything is coated is awesome cheese sauce.
  15. Spread the breadcrumbs on top and pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You want it to bubble and get lightly brown on top.
  16. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and then serve.

Let me know what you think and any changes you've made. I don't normally write recipes, so if I left anything out, please let me know!!

*Bacon works in place of the prosciutto. If you cook it, you can use the bacon fat instead of butter in the roux.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Different Kind of Kindergarten Prep

Most of the late spring, Tim and I discussed whether Lillie and Dani should be together or separated for kindergarten. I did a lot of reading, as I do, and discovered two things: separation has benefits and hindrances depending on the children, and schools should not have a blanket policy either way. Thankfully, our school does not have a blanket policy, and Tim and I made an appointment with the principal to discuss Lillie and Dani being placed in the same classroom.

Of course, the principal wanted them to be separated. She even brought in another principal who happened to also have twin girls to help her case. The meeting was great; we learned a lot about the school and the staff and came out of it deciding that we still wanted the girls to be in the same class.

But we're not the ones going to school, right? So we asked Lillie and Dani.

Dani immediately said she wanted to be in a different class "so I can keep my friends secret." Ha. That's a discussion for another day.

Lillie was reluctant. She wanted to be with Dani. We talked to her about meeting new friends and seeing Dani before and after school. She said she was OK with it, but I still think she's a bit sad that her sister wants to be separated.

When they first began daycare, they talked about missing me all day. I started drawing hearts on their arms so they could look at the heart and remember me.  I wanted to do something similar so they could think about each other during the school day in kindergarten.

They both love jewelry, so I decided on charm bracelets. Off to the craft store!

Lillie picked purple beads (of course), and Dani picked these yellow-ish ones. They both agreed on the silver beads. The plan was to get L, D, and ampersand charms so they could each wear initials, but I couldn't find any Ls. (This is constantly a problem. Why are Ls so popular?) We settled on just using the ampersand charms.

Side note: I had at one point considered getting an ampersand tattoo in honor of them, so the charms seemed extra fitting in my eyes.

I considered making the bracelets for them and presenting them on the first day of school, but I quickly realized that presented two problems. One, what if they didn't like the design I chose? Two, a brand new piece of jewelry on the first day of kindergarten seems like an unnecessary annoyance. Letting them choose the beads and the design AND making them ahead of time seemed like the better way to go.

I was hoping they'd make each other's bracelet, but they preferred making their own. They definitely worked hard and concentrated on making them just right.

Here's the finished product. I think they really like them! (And if bracelets end up being too much of a hassle, my next project will be a necklace.)

Is there anything you do for your kids to remember each other or you while they're at school?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Commanding the Entry

Lillie and Dani start school in less than two months. That means backpacks, homework, coats, and shoes need a place to land.

Right now, all of those things drape across our love seat, stack up on the console, pile up on the shoe rack, and get strewn on the floor.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Not any more.

It's time to be able to find the mail, find the homework, find the permission slip when I need to.

It's time to take command of my makeshift entryway. It's time to make it the command center it is screaming out to be.

**cue awesome action music**

I need hooks. I need mail sorters. I need a place to scribble notes.

I need help.

I pretend to be an organized person, but that organized person ran away roughly five and a half years ago when I brought home infant twins.

I need to find my old organizational self and kick her into gear because once school starts, I doubt I'll make the time for it.

So let's start with the space. This is what it looks like now. In a brief moment of motivation, I took two of my mail folders off the wall, and now I have tears in the plaster. Yay me. :/

Those two dressers that act as a console are currently holding scarves, mittens, hats, batteries, and a slew of things that don't need to be in there. I'm thinking I can downsize to one dresser for winter accessories, grocery bags, and miscellaneous office items like pens and stamps. The other can go to the land of Craigslist.

I'm also thinking my little tiny corkboard needs some steroids. That's obviously not enough room for me to pin things...or maybe I should just stop pinning things.

The keys obviously have a nice home, but the mail doesn't. (What you can't see in this picture is the piles of mail on the bar table just to the left.)

The awkward placement of the doorbell and the thermostat do make for interesting obstacles, but I can work with that I'm sure.

Here are my inspirations:

This one is the closest to what I'm going for. I don't really like the cubbies or the lamp, but I do want a small bench, hooks and to keep one of my Rast dressers.

source: Better Homes & Garden

This one has a very cool coat hooks. I like the idea of mixing up the hooks so it's a little playful without being crazy colors right by the door. The small shelf above would be a great place for library books and small things like keys and sunglasses.

source: View From the Fridge

I like the cubbies, the small shelf, and the calendar happening here. Also I will need plenty of hooks for coats, backpacks, and my purse.

source: Get On With It Already

Even though this is far too low key for my entry, I really love the bench and the basket. Plus I could whip up that bench is a few hours. I'm cool like that.

source: DIY on the Cheap by Erin Spain

And finally this one, in all of its organized paper glory. I would like to believe that I could always keep every piece of mail and important papers this organized.

source: The Caldwell Project

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Big Girl Design: So Much Color

Lillie and Dani have begun voicing opinions about their room. Next year, I plan to bunk their beds, so I think that will be a good time to do some redesign. I want the decor to be something that can stay with them through the tween years. (I may like makeovers, but they are so much work, I don't want to do them all the time!)

The most surprising thing is that they have agreed on nearly everything for the room! Even today, Dani said that she wanted the bottom bunk so she could make a "Dani cave." (This may have been helped by the fact that I said I could add string lights so she could read at night.)

I have to relish in all the cooperation and agreement on design. I doubt it will last too long.

Can't you just picture this with glowing lights?
source: Annipalanni the blog

The first thing they decided was a need for some color on the doors. At first, we were just going to paint the closet door bright pink. But then Lillie didn't find this too fair since purple is her favorite color (even though their bathroom is purple), but Dani was cool with it. We'll be painting the closet and the main door each two colors--purple and blue and pink and yellow.

source: Honey We're Home

Then, to complement the pattern on the doors, we'll be doing a big pattern on the wall behind the beds in all four of the colors.

source: Habitually Chic
I figure this big bold design will be good for them as little girls and will hopefully still be cool as they get older. If not, posters and art can cover it, right?

We're still working out the curtains since green is now so taboo. ("Mommy, green is not our favorite color.") I'm leaning towards white with pom-pom edging. I may like color, but I don't need it to be overwhelming.

The plans are slowly coming together, and I hope to have everything planned out by December since I'd like to make the changes around their sixth birthday.

Wow. Sixth birthday. I think I need a moment.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Preschool Steam Room

Our holidays were filled with family, food, and gifts. It was also filled with ear infections, mucus, asthma attacks, and two trips to the ER. Lillie and Dani were on so much medicine over the holidays, we had to keep a chart on our kitchen board so I wouldn't forget who was taking what.

In an effort to help clear sinuses without medicine and without running up the water bill, I finally followed through with an idea I'd been throwing around for a good year. I was going to put together a mini steam room (or sweat lodge as I ended up calling it).

I wasn't sure if the girls would be all right stuck in a dark, warm space, but they didn't want to come out!

So if your kiddos are stuffed up, I'm going to show you how to do it so you can help them breathe better.

You'll need:
A kettle or pot in which to boil the water. 
Lavender essential oil (if you'd like. I did not use any.)
A large heat resistant bowl or pot, one large blanket (I used a full/queen.) and a throw blanket or big towel. 

A small tent. Ours is from Ikea, and it's perfectly sized for the girls.

A flashlight or lantern so they can see in the dark. Also, toys and/or books are helpful.

Now, for the instructions:
  • Put up the tent, and throw the large blanket over it. You want to make sure that you cover the entire tent. I definitely needed the blanket because this little tent has windows and a really horrible door. You may be using a tent without any openings that zips, but the blanket will keep all the steam inside better. Plus, your kids get to pretend they're in a cave!
  • Boil a full kettle of water.
  • Make a nest with your throw blanket and put the bowl in it. Leave enough blanket out so that you can cover the bowl.
  • Pour the boiling water into the bowl, add a drop or two of essential oil, and cover up the bowl.
  • Put the bowl in the tent and uncover it. Make sure all the sides stay covered by the blanket so no one gets burned!! 
  • Put your kids in the tent. Now, if you trust your kids not to touch the bowl, you can stay outside the tent. I sat on the couch and read while they hung out in the tent. But if you don't trust them, please get in the tent with your child! 
  • Give your kiddos the flashlight and toys and books. 
  • Lower the blanket and let them steam.

Notice that I left a little space at the bottom of the tent, but I ended up lowering the blanket to the floor because the girls wanted it to be completely dark while they "camped out." In the lower picture, you can see the blanket nest I made for the bowl of water. They did wonderfully and never touched it. They hung out in there for a good 30 minutes, and it stayed nice and warm and steamy. Both girls sinuses were cleared for the majority of the day. 

Lillie is an asthmatic, and I completely recommend this to help open up airways for easier breathing. You don't have to run the shower. You don't have to buy anything special (well, unless you don't have a tent already), and the kids still get to play!

If you do try it, please let me know how it goes!