Saturday, November 17, 2012

Brett's Macaroni and Cheese

Several people have asked for this, so here it is. My husband's yummy homemade mac-and-cheese recipe. This is the first thing he ever cooked for me after we'd been dating for a few months. Too bad only one of my three kids likes it (for now).


16OzUncooked Macaroni    1
Sweet Onion -- Chopped

Shells, Elbows, Or Whatever    2TbspFlour -- More Or Less
1/2LbVelveeta    1/4CMilk -- More Or Less
4-6OzCheddar Cheese Block -- More Or Less    

bread crumbs - optional


  1. Cook pasta and set aside.
  2. Cut the Velveeta and cheddar cheese into cubes. Place the cheeses in a saucepan. Slowly melt the cheeses over med heat, stirring frequently. (Can also be done in the microwave - just heat in small time increments to avoid burning and stir often.)
  3. In a skillet, melt the butter. Add onion and saute until golden brown. Remove from heat. Add flourand milk to onions and stir to make a goopy mess.
  4. Combine pasta, melted cheese, and onion mixture in a large bowl or pot. Stir well. Add more milk as needed to attain desired consistency.
  5. If desired, put macaroni and cheese in a greased, oven safe casserole and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 for 15-20 mins, or until a golden crust forms.


Can use any mix of cheeses desired. I know Velveeta is a no-no among foodies, but I can't find a good, easy substitute for getting the right creamy texture. Last time I made this, I used a cheddar with bacon that made it soooo good!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

10 Foods I Want My Kids To Cook

Today, the "On Parenting" blog in The Washington Post published a post about "10 foods a kid should learn how to cook". I commend the idea behind this - I've (kinda) written about it myself. And while I like the Washington Post list, I might alter it a bit if I were to publish in that large a blogspace. Here's my take on it. 

Quoted from the Washington Post article: 
"In his 2010 TED presentation, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver announced his hope that “every single American child leaves [high] school knowing how to cook 10 recipes that will save their lives.” Because many chronic diseases can be prevented by proper nutrition, I agree with Oliver; for our kids’ sake, we should teach them to cook. 
Have I taught my son how to cook? I hate to admit that the answer is no, I haven’t. I’ve taught him about healthful choices, and I’ve fed him well every day. At 9 years old, he is familiar with the kitchen, and he knows how to peel, chop and measure, but if he were at college right now, I doubt he would know how to make a real meal for himself. 
I imagine he will have limited cooking equipment those first years on his own, along with a limited budget, but fast food, takeout and prepared meals shouldn’t be his only options. I want him to know what to do with all of the healthful vegetables and foods we’ve eaten here at home so he can nourish his body and brain. So I am on a new mission to teach my kids to cook, starting with 10 recipes that will nourish them, inexpensively, and make them a big hit on Super Bowl day — or, dare I say, on a date?"
I'm already, with the help and support of my husband and the kids' grandparents, teaching my kids (ages 10, 7, and 3) their way around a kitchen. There are basic techniques and skills that are critical - reading a recipe, how to clean and chop fruits and veggies, slice meats, saute meats and veggies, etc. And I think we could do more to talk about seasonings and what tends to work together well (and what doesn't!). 

But I hadn't yet thought about basic recipes that they should leave the house being able to prepare. Actually, recipes they should be able to shop for and prepare. So here's my list. Some are the same, some are different.

  1. Pasta and tomato sauce. Yes, it's okay to use jarred sauce as a starting point. Especially when you're first out on your own. But I want my kids to know how easy it is to doctor up jarred sauce (add ground beef, frozen meatballs, or even chicken pieces; throw in just about any chopped veggie imaginable) to make it something special really easily and inexpensively. And if they're interested, I'll even teach them how easy it is to make tomato pasta sauce from scratch.
  2. Meatballs/meatloaf. Deceivingly easy. Can even add in shredded veggies. For use in more than just pasta sauce, too. Meatballs can work in soups, with creamy sauces, or just by themselves. Meatloaf is basically the same thing as meatballs, just without the work of making all the little balls.
  3. Stir fry. This is one of my go-to weeknight dinners. Use any vegetables (fresh or frozen) and meat (or no meat) you want, simple seasonings, serve over any variety of exotic or mundane rice or noodles. This is primarily a lesson in technique and knowing how long different veggies need to cook. And if you can create a stir fry, you can saute just about anything successfully.
  4. Roasted chicken. Totally agree with the "On Parenting" author about this one. So easy, so impressive, and creates tons of leftovers for a variety of uses.
  5. Scrambled eggs. Inexpensive source of protein for any meal. Easy to load with veggies for more nutritional impact.
  6. Muffins and "quick breads". A banana muffin or a slice of zucchini bread can be a wonderful snack. Made with whole grains, fruits, and/or nuts, they can be a healthier alternative to so many snack options. And what young adult isn't going to snack?
  7. Homemade soup. Start with sauteed onions and garlic. Add any combination of veggies, meat, and beans, and maybe a starch (mini pasta, rice, potato). Cover with broth and season. Voila!
  8. Grilled meats and veggies. Whether on an outside grill or an indoor grill pan, grilling meats and veggies is simple yet so delicious (if not overcooked). Just a simple marinade or dry rub will usually do the trick. Even just bottled BBQ sauce!
  9. Baked potatoes. Microwave or oven cooked, they make a great base for almost any meal. Can be used on their own as a side, or pour any sort of sauced main dish over the top.
  10. Homemade cake. Let's not pretend dessert doesn't exist. There will always be special occasions, and the ability to create a straightforward cake or cupcakes with frosting (and not use a boxed mix) adds something special. 
If my kids have the confidence to cook these simple, hearty dishes then I will have confidence that they can feed themselves as needed without undue reliance on packaged, processed food-stuffs. Seems like a reasonable goal. 

Now, I'm off to make a stir-fry for dinner!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I Want My Kids to Know

Mom and Son
Many years ago, I wrote about what I want to teach my children so that they can function as adults on their own. Just this week, I was reminded of a Huffington Post article in which the author (Lindsey Mead Russell) describes what she wants her daughter to know before her 10th birthday.

While I agree with every point that Russell makes, I found myself getting more and more upset at her implications that these points are salient just for girls. As the mother of a 10 year old son (plus a 7 year old son and a 3 year old daughter), I have pretty much the same goals for my children. They're really not dependent on gender.

I don't know who my children will marry, or even if they will marry. I don't know if they will ever have children. I don't know if they will live near or far or how they will support themselves. But in response to Russell's article, here are the foundations I want to give them, boys and girl alike, so that they will have the values and beliefs that, I think, will give them the best chance at satisfaction and happiness. Some are the same as the Russell article, and she deserves the credit for them, while some have my own spin on them.

1. It is not your job to keep the people you love happy. Not me, not Daddy, not your siblings, not your friends. Our happiness is not dependent on what you do or don't do. Just be yourself - no one can ask any more of you.

2. You should never be afraid to share your passions. There may come a time when you find yourself embarrassed that you still like to play video games or watch Curious George, for example, and you might worry that others may make fun of you. Anyone who teases you for activities you enjoy is not a true friend. This is hard to realize, but essential.

3. It is okay to disagree with your parents, and others. You are old enough to have a point of view, and I want to hear it. So do those who love you. Don't pick fights for the sake of it, of course, but when you really feel someone is wrong, say so politely. You have heard me say that you are right, and you've heard me apologize for my behavior or point of view when I realize they were wrong. Your perspective is both valid and valuable. Don't shy away from expressing it.

4. You are so very beautiful. Your face now has remnants of the baby you were and the young adult you are quickly becoming. You have pieces of me and of your Dad but you are also someone purely unique. As you grow older and become more aware of society's artificial ideals, please remember how special you are in your own right.

5. Reading is essential. Reading is one of the great joys of my life. I will read anything and everything I can and miss having hours upon hours to sit on the sofa with a book. I am immensely proud and pleased to see that you seem to share this joy. I see you disappear for hours in the morning into a book, and it warms my heart. I love reading books with you, or even just reading the same books you do, and the in depth conversations we have about characters, plots, predictions, surprises, and new knowledge. Welcome to this amazing world of the written word where you can learn anything and imagine even more.

6. Writing is essential, too. It doesn't matter who you are, or what you do with your life. If you can write - essays, emails, business proposals, technical documents, creative stories, anything and everything - you will go far. Writing is about respectful communication of your thoughts in a coherent and well-reasoned way, and making others understand your point of view and where you're coming from even if they don't agree. You may convince some to see things your way, but even if you don't you will be part of an intelligent discourse. Assuming others can write well, too.

7. You are not me or your Dad. In some ways, you can be very like us. Especially your Dad! But you are your own full and complete person. I know I sometimes forget this, but that doesn't make it any less true. Separation from your parents is the fundamental task of adolescence, I know, which I can see glinting over the horizon. I dread what's coming but I know how vital it is. The thing is, we're going to be here, me and your Dad, no matter what. Our relationship with you will stretch and mold and change, and it won't all be smooth sailing. And once the transition is accomplished there will be a new, more adult relationship. I know that too.

8. It is almost never about you. When people act in a way that hurts or makes you feel insecure, it is almost certainly about something happening inside of them, and not about you. Believe me, I know how feelings can slice your heart, even if your head knows otherwise. But maybe, just maybe, it will help to remember that almost always other people have their own struggles, even if they're unconsciously taking it out on you. You can't know the entire story to fully understand why someone is acting the way they do, so your best course of action is to treat them with respect and sympathy, remove yourself if necessary, and remember that there may be a back story and it's not about you.

9. You are worthy of respect, always, and so is everyone else. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with someone else, you and they are still always deserving of respect. Others should always be respectful of your ideas, thoughts, opinions, boundaries, and (specifically) your body. No one should pressure you to change your beliefs or values if you don't want to, or do anything you're not comfortable with. If they do, they're not worth having in your circle. You can still show them respect, but that doesn't mean you need to spend your time and energy with them.

10. There is no one person who can be your everything. Be very careful about bestowing this power on any one person. Trying to fill an unnamed hole or emptiness with other people (or with anything else, like food, alcohol, numbing behaviors of a zillion sorts you don't even know of yet) is a lost cause, and nobody can possibly live up to the task. There are no damsels in distress or knights in shining armor. Relationships (familial, platonic, and romantic) should enhance and support who you are and never make you feel dependent, unworthy, inadequate, or disrespected.

I may raise my voice at times when I probably shouldn't, and snap at you when you don't deserve it, but I love you and your brother and sister more than I could possibly put into words. I'll admit I don't always love your behavior, and I'll tell you when that happens. But I will never stop loving you.  No matter what.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Do More

New Year's resolutions are so often "do less" declarations (eat less, yell less, etc.). For 2012, I want to focus on the "do more" declarations.

What do I want to "do more" of in 2012?

  1. laugh
  2. play
  3. hug my children
  4. kiss my husband
  5. hike
  6. dance (even if there's no music)
  7. frolic
  8. bike
  9. make time for friends and family
  10. walk in the grass barefoot
  11. sing out loud
  12. stargaze
  13. make kitchen messes, and let the kids help
  14. be kind
  15. take walks with my children
  16. be kind
  17. smile
  18. trust myself
  19. take risks
  20. let go and have fun
  21. visit museums of all kinds
  22. reach out
  23. dig in the dirt
  24. splash in the water
  25. try new things
What will you do more of this year?