Mama's Macaroni and Cheese

Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Truth: My kids will choke each other for the bigger bowl of Annie’s Mac and Cheese.
Truth: My Macaroni and Many Cheeses recipe is one of the top Food and Wine results for Mac and Cheese.
Truth: I founded a now-defunct cheese club and have deep, intimate knowledge of these here caverns.
Truth: I’m now mostly dairy-intolerant, this means if I’m going to suffer the digestive indignities, this mac and cheese better be good.
Truth: Despite the choking, the intolerance and the other fancy mac and cheese recipe, this is our family’s favorite.

 

Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients
16 ounces pasta shells (I like shells, some like the elbows, you do you!)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I like 2 cups sharp cheddar mixed with 2 cups medium cheddar)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup reserved pasta water

Topping
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheese (I like just the sharp cheddar for this part)

Directions
Boil water for the pasta.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Shred the 5 (total [4+1]) cups of cheese, set the one cup of shredded cheese aside.
Make or find bread crumbs.

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter, add the flour.
Stir with a whisk.

The mixture will be a strange lumpy wad of a thing.
This is the base for the roux.
Keep stirring it for 3 minutes.

In a thin stream, add the two and three quarter cups whole milk and the red pepper flakes, whisking all the while until the mix makes a thinnish sauce. Cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the 1 teaspoon mustard, 4 cups shredded cheese and 3/4 cup heavy cream. Turn off the heat.

If the water’s boiling, cook the pasta according to package directions.
(I cook it for 1 minute under the recommended range.)

Save 1 cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the cheese sauce — stir through until all of the cheese sauce is mixed through. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water and stir through again— the whole thing should be a little loose. Add more water if the mixture seems too firm.

In a small bowl, put bread crumbs, melted butter, and stir through the final cup of cheese.

Add the cheesy pasta to the baking dish. Sprinkle the buttery, cheesy breadcrumbs atop the macaroni and cheese.

Throw the whole dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning the dish around front to back (side to side?) at least once to ensure even baking.

Mama's Macaroni and Cheese
I like to make double and freeze it for James to toss in the oven when I’m working late in the oven. The kids go nuts for it and he gets super-supper bragging rights.

Now go grab YOUR super supper bragging rights!

Once a year, our family trip

This year we went to Wisconsin and Michigan for a family reunion and to make sure all the Grandparents are now healthy.

The air is still humid and
the food is hearty as heck.

It was a good trip, a memory dislodging trip, a trip that reminds me that we are made of our home town, no matter how hard we might pretend not to be.

We went to Bay Beach.

James and Dottie on the Scrambler at Bay Beach

The girls and I rode the ferris wheel

We met a toad named Todd!

Dottie met a toad named Todd!

We drove to Upper Michigan.

Charlie built a sauna

We met cousins we didn’t know we had. They are all very smart and bedoctorated.

Yeager Family Reunion

There was a family reunion!

2018 Yeager Family Reunion

We drove to Milwaukee and met up with old, olde friends.

The Caryseses and the Hearnseses

We returned home and collapsed in the way that’s good.
Sweet nights of sleep and lots of veggies.
Quiet and committed.

 

 

 

How to Plan Your Meals for the Week

This is my thing over on Instagram, but wanted to share some thoughts behind my meal planning goodness.

Meal planning saves us time, money and worry.
Let’s get to it.

Meal plan 12/17/2017

Food-we-have
Usually early Saturday morning, I creep downstairs and make a really messy list of all the ingredients that we need to use up. It’s a real ugly, back of the envelope kind of list.

On this list, I take note of rotisserie chicken carcasses, wilty green onions and potatoes that might just be starting to sprout. (Those foods you really don’t want to toss quite yet.)

Then, I quickly review the pantry. Sometimes, I have a random half cup of corn meal that’s just bugging me. Sometimes, I need to use up one of the 6 giant cans of crushed tomatoes that are taking up too much room. Sometimes, I become obsessed with using up a can of evaporated milk and I take it from there.

This food-we-have list is not the meal plan, it’s the map to the meal plan. I scratch things off, circling and drawing connecting lines. I look at what leftovers we have and what leftovers we will have so that we can minimize food waste and maximize our prep time.

The calendar
Once I know what we have, I evaluate my calendar. Just like you, between social events, kid activities and a busy work schedule, we’re pretty booked. Thinking about our week ahead of time, helps prepare us for the events ahead — and more importantly, sets up a sense of happy anticipation.

(When I look at my schedule as it relates to food I look forward to my week, How refreshing.)

Lately, I’ve had more work travel than usual. This means that dinner for James and the girls needs to be ready to go without me.Prepared food is my love language. I plan meals that can either be made in the slow cooker or meals that are ready to go.

Knowing this helps me work with our calendar with a combination of convenience, pre-prep and the freezer.

60% follow rate

Our meal plans are, on average, followed 60% of the time. Some weeks (especially the broke weeks), it’s 100%. Some weeks (the busy ones) it’s 25%. All averaged out, 60% followability.

And like I says, 60% is better than 0%.
I’ll take it.

This year so far

Scrambler time at Bay Beach, Green Bay, WI

I’m trying a September experiment, where I write every day this month.
Why did I take the last year off?
Grief. Life. Rebuilding.

The first thing
Due to air quality, our family evacuated for a few weeks during the Northern California wildfires that took some of my friends’ homes.
We had the best of all situations, we had flexible jobs, we had family we could stay with and our home was safe.
It was still nearly impossible.

Fire season is now fully something we’re prepared for, with go bags, full gas tanks, air quality apps, fire control maps and a hard to ignore worry that it could all go at any minute.

Early 2017 Napa Fire

The second thing
In November, my brother Joe died, unexpectedly, on his way to visit my brother John for Thanksgiving.
Uncle Joe was a beloved character, and we feel his loss every day. Working through this particular grief with my girls has stretched my heart to breaking (then we do it all again).
Uncle Joe, Nora Lea and Dottie Uncle Joe on the couch with Dottie

The third thing
Just when I felt like my feet were getting under me, in March, one of my close friends was held hostage and murdered.

It was clear I needed time to go underground and rebuild.

Fundamentally, I am a different person than I was last year. Not only am I well padded from all the grief-eating, I’m quieter, I need more alone time, I’m more sensitive to your energy.

That said, I’m not depressed. I know what that feels like, and this isn’t that

When you’re known for showing up with big energy, there’s a lot of shame when it’s not there anymore.

All that to say, I’m working it out this month. I think I might be ready to talk.

Let’s see where it takes me.

"There'll be sad songs, to make you cry," said Billy Ocean

BLBO: There’ll be sad songs

"There'll be sad songs, to make you cry," said Billy Ocean
JEALOUSY
There’ll be sad songs to make you cry

One of the feelings that squash collaboration is Jealousy. And there’s no better place to see jealousy run rampant than in personal publishing.

I talk about the crippling effects of online jealousy a lot because I think it’s something we all wrestle with.

I think the problem is far more insidious than any of us let on.

Like I said, we work in isolation on our egos — it’s nigh impossible to follow the trite advice to ‘keep your eyes on your own work.” It’s in our faces, under the guise of community and “just keeping up.”

It comes in sneaky ways that don’t immediately read as jealousy, and instead bubble up as irritation, hate reading, asking questions in your head like
Why wasn’t I invited?
Why do they hate me?
Who does she think she is?

It’s jumping to conclusions like
She/He thinks he’s too good for this.
They didn’t have it as hard as I did, that’s why they’re successful.
Hey! That was MY idea! He stole it!

It’s even worse when money and fame get into it. What else is the current monetized internet other than traffic numbers and competition for limited opportunities?
(Not much).

I’ve talked about this before, but I have been helped immensely by not assuming my jealousy as the end game. I use it as a tool – when I’m jealous of someone (and quite honestly, I’ve been jealous of most of the people in this room) I’ll make a jealousy map, where I write out Who, Why and Now What. It sounds too easy to work, but it quickly quells that downward spiral. I learned this from the great book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – a creativity course I do once a year to help me identify blocks and ruts in my creative processes.

This is embarrassing but I’m going to share 3 of the people I’m jealous of in the room and my jealousy map about them:

Did you know that Billy Ocean was never jealous? Never once. We have no recorded content of Billy Ocean being jealous of another artist. Do you care if that’s a lie? Does it matter?

Who? Why? Now What?
Joy the Baker She works with Michael Find my own supportive collaborators
Oh Sweet Basil Younger, cuter Work with younger and cuter people more – to discover why I’m thrilled to be as experienced in this medium as I am.
Two Peas and their Pod Bigger Audience Either grow my audience, or focus on a message I’m proud of. There’s a sweet spot there I can find for myself.
"You'll never be a stranger out there on your own in the love zone," said Billy Ocean

BLBO: In the love zone

"You'll never be a stranger out there on your own in the love zone," said Billy Ocean

COLLABORATION
You’ll never be a stranger out there on your own in the Love Zone

Speaking of it being all about us… It’s not.

This kind of work is so strange. We consume this media in isolation, so it seems like it’s about us. We think people’s choices were somehow affected by us or a result from us.

We THINK we’re social but we work alone.
And very few people get what we do.

Events like these [Speaking at the Big Traveling Potluck] are where we get with people who understand and honor our creativity. We have to.

Being here is much different than the internet that lives in my head – where everyone is competition and sponsor dollars are rare treats to be wrestled over and I’m going to be famous forever.

Yes, you have friends who RT you or that otherwise stroke your ego — but that’s not collaborating.

This internet can facilitate collaboration. We can work with each other instead of against each other. Sandy from the Reluctant Entertainer is great with this – she works hard to build a community of creative collaborators, sharing her opportunities to make them even stronger.

As we forge this medium’s future together for the first time, we HAVE to be in it together. Out of all the other content verticals, parenting, lifestyle, tech — food bloggers understand this inherently. It might be about the communal nature of a meal, I don’t know.

What I do know, is that you won’t succeed alone.

Even Billy Ocean wrote songs for LaToya Jackson.

BLBO: When the going gets tough

CREATIVITY
When the Going gets Tough, the tough get ready.

Here’s the deal, this version of our visual, personal narrative-based storytelling is less than [five] years old. And somehow, we bloggers are trapped in the belief that everything, every thing we write or share has to be either a certain way or grounded in real life.

 

There’s a theory from the great Paul Ford at ftrain.com and @ftrain on Twitter. He talks about what makes the internet different from all other media. His theory is that the internet is actually the perfect Customer Service media – whereas radio can be enjoyed while washing dishes, or you kick back to watch tv at the night – the internet brings about the new mindset — WWIC — which stands for why wasn’t I consulted.

“Why wasn’t I consulted,” which I abbreviate as WWIC, is the fundamental question of the web. It is the rule from which other rules are derived. Humans have a fundamental need to be consulted, engaged, to exercise their knowledge (and thus power), and no other medium that came before has been able to tap into that as effectively.

Brace yourself for the initial angry wave of criticism: How dare you, I hate it, it’s ugly, you’re stupid. The Internet runs on knee-jerk reactions. People will test your work against their pet theories: It is not free, and thus has no value; it lacks community features; I can’t believe you don’t use dotcaps, lampsheets, or pixel scrims; it is not written in Rusp or Erskell; my cat is displeased. The ultimate question lurks beneath these curses: why wasn’t I consulted?

WWIC is the thing people talk about when they talk about nicer-sounding things like “the wisdom of crowds” or “cognitive surplus.”
“How do we deal with the WWIC problem?” Everything else comes after.

It’s what we get by opening up comments. Those rare and beautiful gems that say, “Why isn’t this gluten free?” or “That’s an AWFUL lot of nutmeg.”

Taken in the wrong context, those are creativity killers. Anticipating WWIC ahead of time will save you from a bunch of heartache.

You know this.

I assume you’re all highly creative. And creativity is the juice that runs this business of digital publishing. The creative stuff is what has that amplification – that social juice.

And brain science to help with creativity.

In studying the brains of highly creative people like you all, they’ve found that there are 7 different brain activation processes based on the different phase of creativity you’re in. By identifying these processes, and maximizing your environment for each of them, you can blow up your creativity at each level (for more on this, find the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck)

We can do this. We can amp up our own creativity.

We’re going to talk about 2 of these right now.

The first, is the Absorb brainset. And it’s much more successful than what passes for inspiration these days – the cursory pinterest romp.

When we open our minds to new experiences and uncritically take in ideas, we can take in more knowledge that we can combine in different ways thereby increasing our creativity.

We’re going to get in the absorb mindset right now.
Take in a deep breath.
Close your eyes (it’s cool, I promise).
Let go some of that unconscious tension and start to recognize what’s going on through all your senses.

Feel your feet touching the floor – your shoes. Feel how your body is touching the furniture, how your clothing feels in a nonjudgmental way. What are you smelling? What’s the temperature like? Move through each of your senses.

Now you’re quieting your sensors – open your eyes and continue this feeling of absorption. See how colors have become brighter, notice angles and shadows and all of a sudden you’re aware of more stimuli coming in from your senses.

Basically, you’re priming your brain to accept better and more information. As soon as you’re not filtering out this information, you have more available to you to recombine in creative and original ways.

Another brainset to maximize your creativity is the Envision brainset.

You’re thinking visually rather than verbally. You can see and manipulate objects in your minds’ eye. You’ll see comparisons between 2 things that seem far removed from them originally.

Play WHAT IF.

Look around you in your environment. And think about the consequences if something were changed. What if – avocados grew hair. What if you had six arms instead of 2.

How would the world change?

Once you see these consequences, you’re actually forging pathways in the brain that allow you to activate this Envision brainset in the future.
These are things that children do all day long.

Kids aren’t filtering out what we adults need to filter out — our prefrontal cortex helps us plan for the future and it does this by judging the rest of what’s coming in.

This helps us increase the signal to noise ration. We grown ups have goals, and our goals keep our brains on track.

Therefore we only notice what’s in line with our goals or what we need to survive.

Kids don’t have this level of prefrontal cortex development — they’re still getting this information and they wonder about it – they have the freedom to play WHAT IF all day long, because their brains are built for it.

But to be creative — we need to turn down that prefrontal activator so we can have better ideas, combinations, new creative thoughts. Right now, things are changing so rapidly, we need to be able to adapt and take the next step rather than following an already delimited pathway.

Absorb and envision.

No more love on the run, said Billy Ocean

BLBO: No more love on the run

No more love on the run, said Billy Ocean
THE LONG GAME
No more love on the run

There’s a strange misperception of success in this digital medium — somehow, we’re supposed to start out and grow and grow and grow our sites until we have a powerhouse audience in the millions every month. And then we have book deals and magazines and we’re all Rachael Ray and we just get bigger and bigger and bigger.

But if we look at the jobs in other creative industries like musicians or actors, we’ll find that the successes are more cyclical maybe even hit or miss over time. That perception of fame is separate from creating your best work.

People fall in and out of favor with a fickle public.
That’s okay. We’re fickle too.

Fame is separate from getting paid,
Fame is separate from personal satisfaction in the work.

A lifetime of creative success, where you invest time in learning more about your craft as well as sharing what you’ve learned, is the path for a great majority of us.

And that’s okay!

Since we’re exploring a new medium for the first time, it’s easy to feel confused and unsure.
That’s normal.

Strangely enough, in digital media, we assume that popularity should grow steadily over time, but we have no evidence in any kind of related arts business that would prove this — it’s cyclical, it’s random.

Music, movies, they have hits, they have misses, but best of all, their creators have artistic growth over time. They’re stretching and growing their work.

This digital culture is mad wonky. We accidentally believe that creating is about ego when in fact the opposite is true.

It’s not about ego and fame.
It’s about the opposite. It’s about humility and sacrifice.
It’s about appetite.
It’s about your audience.

It’s about doing work that challenges us each and every day.
It’s about taking the time to check in with ourselves to remember the big message we’re trying to get across.

It feels even more ego driven as we work in isolation behind our lighted boxes. IT FEELS LIKE IT IS ALL ON US TO BE ALL ABOUT US.

And you all know, the best way to get out of our heads is to help other people. And your experience is such that there is someone you can help, generously.

Did you know that Billy Ocean teaches at the Tech Music Schools in London regularly holding seminars and clinics? How are you teaching the skills you’ve developed, working on this new medium forward?

Having another job helps too.
As Billy Ocean said, “I’m a qualified tailor, and the reason for that is my mother. She knew I loved music – I’d sing with her when she was ironing in the evening – and academically I wasn’t very bright. So when I left school with no qualifications, she said I must take a course in something to fall back on.”

No really.
There are a lot of bloggers in the world.
And a day job can help take the pressure off of you having to sell your story.

Billy Ocean’s 1989 Greatest Hits collection sold steadily over the past 34 years. His Greatest Hits was his biggest commercial success so far.

He’s still creating work, he even went on tour with his daughter Cherie as a backup singer last week.

What does your greatest hits look like? Do you want to sell it now? Or in 34 years? How can you continue to add to your greatest hits? How can you make sure your greatest hits really IS your greatest hits?

 

 

Why Billy Ocean is your creative role model

Back in 2013, I spoke at the Big Traveling Potluck, an intimate, warm conference for food bloggers. At the time, I was working for Federated Media, helping bloggers make money with their blogs. Since then the landscape’s changed. Instagram and YouTube hold today’s influencer dollars and blogs have either been so advertised or absorbed into social media, the opportunity we were all looking for changed dramatically.

In the slow replacement of all my blog content, I found the text from the talk. It’s still relevant, if less for the serial web log medium and more for your creative dreams. I’ll post a section of the talk every day for the next few – see you tomorrow!

Billy Ocean is Goals

Get out of my dreams and into my car.
And by car, I mean, into your best creative work.

And here, by your best creative work, I mean, consistently creating images, moving pictures and words in combination to publish on the internet.

It’s no small responsibility to have the chance for the world to bear witness to your work.

It’s no small disappointment when no one seems to take notice.

It’s strange too, in all of human history; we didn’t have this kind of work. We worked in small groups satisfying our basic needs. And now we’re alone, bearing witness to all perceived competition.

Based on human history, this is a strange activity we signed up for.
We need some guidance.

And who can guide us into a long creative life?
Billy Ocean.

That’s right. Billy Ocean.

The eighties singer with a few top 40 hits under his belt.
Singer of the pop hit, Get out of my dreams and into my car, Loverboy, Suddenly and There’ll be sad songs (to make you cry).

Or better yet, Leslie Sebastian Charles.

Born in Fyzabad, Trinidad.
1985 Grammy award winner for Caribbean Queen.
Current Rastafarian.
Billy Ocean.

Now where the heck has Billy Ocean been all these years? What in the heck does he have to do with blogging? What does this have to do with me making more money from my internet website?

I’ve got six ways that Billy Ocean can help you move toward your internet dreams.

Power Name
The Long Game
Collaboration
Jealousy
Creativity Tricks
Self-Talk

POWERNAME

So like I said, Billy Ocean wasn’t always Billy Ocean. That’s his POWER NAME. You have a Power Name too. You might be The Pioneer Woman. You might be Shutterbean.

Leslie Sebastian Charles took the name Billy Ocean from a football team he had followed in Trinidad called Oceans Eleven. Then he added Billy. Or maybe he took the name from the apartments he lived in, the Oceans Estates. He was born in the ocean, he emerged from the ocean. He is not Frank Ocean’s uncle, or he may be. Wikipedia is unclear.

That’s okay, it’s part of his mythology.
Are you a digital publisher? You have a different name too. It’s your Billy Ocean. Your superhero name.

All too often I meet publishers at blogging conferences who hide behind the perceived lameness of their names. Hi I’m internetfoodie69.com and yeah, apologies, I thought it’d be funny in college, but it’s my name and I couldn’t get it on Twitter and well, I’m internetfoodie 420 there, and …

Hold that train.
Your online name is your POWER NAME.

It’s your Billy Ocean, and you’re not going to win a 1985 Grammy for that kind of thinking.

Make a list of all the ways your Billy Ocean is better than the real you. How is that name more likable, smarter, more creative? How does your power name help more people? Your Billy Ocean has powers you don’t have. And it’s best you lean into it and squeeze all the juice (or delicious Trinidadian Rum) you can from it.

Stop apologizing for your name.

 

(Come back tomorrow for more Billy Ocean goodness)

No Frodo!

Frodo Risotto Recipe for a Hobbit [Solstice] Dinner

I published this recipe in 2014.

Since then, my family started celebrating the Solstice.
It’s tomorrow, Thursday, December 21.
We celebrate the sun’s return with a little fire-lighting ritual.
We say a few poems to welcome the sun.
We light lots of candles.
And we serve Frodo Risotto.
(Baked butternut squash and sage risotto risotto recipe.)

No Frodo!

We made a hobbit dinner the other night.
James and I love Frodo. Bilbo too. We are Hobbits at heart.

Secure in our snuggly Shire home, we welcome any old man with fireworks to entertain the children.
The barefoot, mildly wild children.

And they all eat Frodo Risotto.

This is Frodo Risotto. It's a baked risotto.

We served Frodo Risotto with local Shire greens.
And some roast game (chicken).

This risotto bakes in the oven while you catch up with cousin Frieda Baggins about what’s causing the rabbit shortage.

Recipe: Frodo Risotto

Ingredients
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced about 1/2″ (Probably about 2 cups diced squash)
3 cups arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup white wine (For cooking, I still like Sutter Home Sauvignon Blanc)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Additional Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional:
Oil for frying the sage
10 sage leaves

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cate Blanchette, Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien, will try to scarysexy you into giving her your ring but don’t you let her. To avoid all risk, you probably should skin her and chop half of her into tiny bits.

Peeled Elvin (Elvish?) Butternut Squash.

You can mince Samwise Gamgee into tiny bits while you’re at it too.

Nooooooo Frodoooooo

Mix the first seven ingredients in a 9″ x 12″ baking dish.
Combine, being careful not to slosh.

Something lives beneath the surface of that salty lake.\

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and put in oven for 1 hour.

30 minutes into the baking time, take off the foil and stir it. You will be disappointed by the lack of progress. But hold tight, little hobbit, your dinner is right on plan.

Now fry up the sage.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, frizzle the sage in there until crispy, only a minute or two. Remove and drain on paper towels

After an hour, remove the baking dish from the oven.
Stir through the two tablespoons of butter and the cup of Parmesan cheese.
Stir through 7 leaves worth of crumbled fried sage.

Garnish with the remaining 3 leaves.

Serve.
And watch out for fireworks.

Welcome all old men carrying fireworks