Easy-peasy Mac & Cheese-y

Macaroni and Cheese

This is my favourite macaroni and cheese recipe.  It’s a combination of various other mac and cheese recipes – taking (what I think is) the best parts, without making it overly complicated.  This recipe can likely be adjusted to your liking (different cheese, different spices), but this is a good starting point. Best enjoyed by a lake after a day of swimming and sunbathing, but almost equally as good when eaten while watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Real Time with Bill Maher.  Whatever floats your boat.  Pairs well with Merlot.  I should mention that Jackson Triggs Merlot is my go-to wine, so I’m probably going to tell you that it pairs well with everything.  Everything.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups (dried) pasta
1/4 small onion, chopped/minced
3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
1-2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp nutmeg
2 -2 1/2cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
a few handfuls of breadcrumbs

1. Cook pasta.

2. Cook onion with butter over medium heat.

3. Add flour to the butter and onion mixture .  Using a whisk, stir and cook the roux for 1-2 minutes.

4. Add the milk and whisk well.  Add mustard, nutmeg, and garlic powder.  Bring to a simmer until it thickens.

5. Remove from heat and whisk in cheese, setting a bit aside for the top of the dish.  Stir until completely melted.

6. Combine with cooked pasta.  Put in 9 X 13 glass dish, add parmesan, add extra cheese (optional), and breadcrumbs.  Bake 20 minutes @ 350.

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Tiny Travelogue: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Location: Niagara Falls, Ontario

Length of Trip: Two half days and one night (October 2013)

Purpose of Trip:  To see the falls, of course

Method of Transportation:  Henry the Honda

Food: I didn’t do any advanced planning, so we just walked around and randomly ended up eating dinner at Romano’s Macaroni Grill.  It was fine, although I was puzzled that there wasn’t actually any macaroni on the menu (how misleading!).  For breakfast, we ended up at Starbucks, which is somewhere I rarely go.  And twelve dollars later for one latte and one piece of pumpkin bread, I was reminded why I don’t go there very often. (Twelve dollars, really?!  Oh my thrifty heart…)

Accommodations: We stayed at the Double Tree Fallsview by Hilton.  Parking and taxes all in, it came to $175.  I decided to really go all out and paid the extra $9 for a room with a view of the falls.  I was impressed – it really did have a view of the falls.  Well, it would have had a view of the falls if it wasn’t so foggy that we couldn’t see anything, but that wasn’t the hotel’s fault.  There were even fireworks that we could have seen from our window, again, if it hadn’t been so darn foggy.

Highlights: The stereotypical “tourist” activities don’t usually appeal to me, but I really wanted to get up close to the falls and the Maid of the Mist seemed to be the best way.  There’s not much going on in Niagara Falls other than the falls (to be honest, the place is kind of a dump), so if you’re going to bother to go, you might as well go all the way and take the boat that goes up close to the falls. And for-the-love-of-god put your camera away for a minute or two during the boat ride and just enjoy the power of the falls. Do it.

Recipe Roundup: Peach-a-palooza

peaches

With the end of summer comes the end of peach season.  In honour of the end of a delicious season, here’s a roundup of some of my favourite peach recipes.


Balsamic Glazed Peaches (from Budget Bytes):  This is really good, really easy, and a great way to use up peaches if you have peaches that are about to go bad.  You basically cook up some peaches in butter, and then add balsamic vinegar.  The outcome is slightly odd, but really tasty.  I used some of them to make a sundae and this salad.  I also used the peaches in the Grilled Peach, Brie & Basil Sandwich below.  I highly recommend you give this recipe a try.

Substitutions/Additions: Nothing!


Grilled Peach, Brie & Basil Sandwich: This tastes a little fancy, even though it’s really just a pretty simple sandwich.  I made it on homemade whole wheat bread, but I think it’d be really good on a sourdough bread.

Substitutions/Additions:  I used the Balsamic Glazed Peaches above rather than just regular peach slices.  I also think this is one of those situations where you absolutely need to use fresh basil, rather than dried.


Peach Salsa: It’s got peaches, it’s got tomatoes, it’s got lime juice and it’s got deliciousness.

Substitutions/Additions: It’s my own recipe so, no substitutions or additions for this one.


Peach Carrot Bread (from Delightfully tacky):  This bread is more like a cake, but that didn’t stop me from eating it for breakfast.  It was also great with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Another good way to use up peaches that might be close to going bad.

Substitutions/Additions: I mostly stuck to the recipe, although I think I added a bit of vanilla and some ground flaxseed (which I add to a lot of baked goods)


Peach Salsa

Peach Salsa

I’ve been buying a lot of peaches lately. A lot.  Although peaches are delicious just own their own, I wanted to try something a little different.  Enter peach salsa (inspired by Chipotle Peach Salsa from Budget Bytes).

Ingredients:

3 peaches, chopped
2 small tomatoes -or- a large handful of grape/cherry tomatoes
2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1/2 of a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped, plus some of the sauce (adjust to taste, chipotle peppers are hot)
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
cilantro (to taste)

1. Mix it all together in a bowl

2. Serve with tortilla chips or your salsa-vehicle of choice

Keeps well in the fridge for several days

Recipe Roundup: Favourite recipes from around the internet

Recipe Roundup

Here’s where I share with you my favourite recipes from, well, “the internet”.  About 90% of the recipes I use these days are found online, so this is basically the equivalent of me putting sticky notes in a couple of my favourite cookbooks and lending them to you to flip through at your leisure.


Yellow Jasmine Rice (from Budget Bytes):  Beth from Budget Bytes claims that this is the best rice she’s ever had.  That’s a bold assertion, but holy-yum this rice is that good.  It’s also easy and goes with so many different dishes.

Substitutions/Additions:  You can make this with water if you don’t have broth on hand (or just don’t want to use broth).  It will still be delicious.


Curried Tofu Salad (from The Kitchn):  This tofu “egg” salad is kind of weird but really tasty.  Good in a wrap or on a ciabatta bun, especially with a nice layer of fresh spinach or other greens.

Substitutions/Additions:  I don’t usually (ie. ever) have yellow mustard seeds, so I’ve only ever made this without them.  I’ve made this with and without the raisins and both options are fine.  Also, I don’t make this recipe with a whole pound of tofu, I usually just make it with whatever tofu ‘leftovers’ I have after making something else, and adjust the quantities accordingly.  Honestly, I don’t really even follow the directions, I just kind of eyeball the ingredients and stir it all together in a bowl.  This is more of a situation of being inspired by the recipe, than actually following the recipe.


Baked Fried Brown Rice (from Oh My Veggies):  What the title of this recipe fails to mention is it is pineapple ‘fried’ brown rice.  The pineapple is one of the most important parts.

Substitutions/Additions:  I like to scramble/fry up an egg and then mix it into the rice once it’s done.  It makes the dish a bit heartier, especially if you’re going to eat it as a meal, rather than a side dish.


Pear, Goat Cheese, and Pistachio Pizza (from Savour the Senses):  Make this.  Right now.  This is really, really good and I’ve made it at least ten times in the last year.

Substitutions/Additions: I use ‘regular’ (white) onions and caramelize them first.  Also, the recipe calls for way too much oregano and garlic – I just use a generous sprinkle of each.  You should also probably just go ahead and double the recipe and make two pizzas.  You will thank me.


Our Perfect Veggie Burger (from Oh She Glows):  These really are perfect.  Nutty, crispy on the outside, a bit moist on the inside, and full of healthy goodness.  They also freeze pretty well, which is important because this recipe makes a fairly large batch.  This recipe seems a bit complicated, and it kind of is (lots of ingredients and several steps), but it’s worth it.

Substitutions/Additions: I use 2-3 eggs in place of the ‘flax eggs’ called for in the recipe.


Iron Woman Gingerbread Smoothie  (from Oh She Glows):  I don’t typically use recipes for smoothies  – I’m more of a dump whatever you want into blender type of smoothie maker – but this recipe is quite tasty and is worth the extra time it takes to actually follow a recipe.  It’s also a good way to get some blackstrap molasses  into your diet, which contains vitamin B6, and minerals such as magnesium and iron.  Word on the street is that it’s good for you.

Substitutions/Additions: It’s not exactly a substitution, but I don’t usually use a frozen banana.  A non-frozen banana will do.

Tiny Travelogue: Mont Tremblant National Park

Mont-Tremblant National Park

Location: Mont-Tremblant National Park, Quebec

Length of Trip: Three days, two nights (July 2013)

Purpose of Trip:  Fun, swimming, campfires, and general outdoorsy-ness

Method of Transportation:  Henry the Honda

Food: chili, grilled cheese, chips, wine, hot dogs, grilled veggies, corn on the cob, peanut butter cookies and other delicious food

Accommodations: Instead of camping, we opted for more of a ‘glamping’ trip.  We stayed in an adorable little cabin called “La Mesange”, which was on Lac Provost in the La Pimbina section of the park.  The cabin had a nice loft you could sleep in, as well as a separate bedroom.  Oh, and it had its own bathroom with a shower and everything!  It was well stocked with pretty much everything you need for cooking (small fridge, stove-top, microwave, toaster oven, coffeemaker, pots, pans, utensils, plates, cups, mugs etc.)  And the best part was it was located right next to a really nice beach.  Overall, it was pretty amazing.

Highlights:  The best part of this trip was definitely the swimming in Lac Provost and the relaxing on the beach.  The cabin itself was also pretty great. 

In addition to swimming, we also did some “hiking”.  I feel the need to use quotation marks because to me, “real hiking” is more grueling and involves mountains.  Real mountains, like in the Rockies.  None of this “big hill that we call a mountain” business.  The first trail we did was L’ Envol, which took us about 1 hour.  It had nice views and was definitely worth doing.  We also did the Chutes-Aux-Rats hike.  It took us 2 hours, and didn’t really have much to see along the way.  Basically just some walking in the woods.  There was a really nice waterfall at the end but, it was a bit disappointing (after walking for two hours in the heat) to find out that you could easily just drive there.  I mean, I’m not one to advocate driving places but… it would have just been a short drive up the road.  Maybe use your hiking energies for something else.

Tiny Travelogue: Fitzroy Provincial Park

Fitzroy Provincial Park

Location: Fitzroy Provincial Park, Ontario

Length of Trip: two days, one night (July 2013)

Purpose of Trip:  Super-fun-camping

Method of Transportation:  Automobile

Food: Chili, salad, chips, red wine, banana bread, chocolate croissants

Accommodations: A tent, of course, in the Two Rivers Campground of Fitzroy Park

Highlights:  This was mostly a last minute oh-my-god-get-me-out-of-the-city kind of camping trip.  The park is only an hour away from Ottawa, which was the main reason for choosing it.  There wasn’t really any hiking and the swimming was just okay, but it did the trick on short notice.   

Tiny Travelogue: Quebec City

Quebec City

Location: Quebec City, Quebec

Length of Trip: Two days, one night (May 2013)

Purpose of Trip:  Official Librarian Business (ie. travel for work)

Method of Transportation:  Airplane

Food: When traveling, I usually try to scout for restaurants in advance.  Being a non-meat eater does prove to be a bit restrictive at times, so I like to find a few options in advance.  I also really hate walking around trying to find somewhere to eat, especially when I’m hungry.  Unfortunately, the restaurant I had pre-selected in Quebec decided to close the day before I arrived, unbeknownst to me.  So I ended up wandering around and just picked the first place that was 1) not too expensive 2) had a veggie option 3) wasn’t just a sandwich place.  I ended up eating at La Piazetta.  It was just okay.  Nothing spectacular, but no complaints either.  I also obtained a snack from a little grocery store called La Carotte Joyeuse.  I highly recommend getting food at a grocery store when traveling – you can usually find something cheap and healthy, especially if you just want a snack like fruit or a cookie (my snack exactly, actually).

Accomodations:  I stayed at Le Grande-Allee Hotel and Suites.  It had the feel of a B & B, but with all the privacy and amenities of a regular hotel.  My room was really cute.  It had a little fireplace and a huge spa bathtub.  The tub was in the main part of the room, rather than the bathroom, so as you can imagine, I ate my dinner in the tub while watching TV.  I really had no choice.

Highlights:  This trip was quite short and mostly spent doing work-related things (it was a business trip after all), so I didn’t really get to do anything fun.  I’d say the highlight of the trip was the hotel!  I’d also recommend walking around the old part of the city. 

International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time by Bob Harris

Bank of Bob

One sentence summary: The book is a memoir of sorts, following Bob Harris as he travels around the world, following up on micro-finance loans he has made through Kiva.

The good: This book has got it all – international travel, issues of poverty and social justice, micro-finance, and features one of my favourite non-profit organizations (Kiva.org).  It’s an easy read and gives a good overview of how micro-finance works.

The bad: I found his attempts to draw comparisons between the poverty and people he meets to his own family a bit cringe-worthy, but these moments were few and far between.  For a book that could have easily turned into an over the top story of a Westerner ‘saving’ poor people in developing countries, Harris manages to stay fairly down to earth.

Should you read it? I’d say, probably.

Related Reading: Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus

(Want to try Kiva?  Click here and you’ll get to make your first $25 loan for free!  Geez this sounds like a paid ad, but I swear it’s not.)

Basic Banana Bread

Banana bread

This is my “go-to” banana bread.  It doesn’t have any oil or butter in it, and the sweetness all comes from the bananas, applesauce, and honey – no need for added sugar.  It’s more of a breakfast banana bread, rather than a desert banana bread, which is just the way I like it.

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oatmeal (optional)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup applesauce (or pumpkin puree)
3/4 cup honey (or maple syrup)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
3 mashed, overripe bananas
walnuts (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce, honey, and vanilla.  Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended.  Stir banana mixture into flour mixture (and add walnuts if using).  Pour into loaf pan.

3.  Bake for 60-65 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack.