Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eureka! I Found It!!!

Am I the only one who has been on an ongoing quest, to find the cheesiest, creamiest mac&cheese recipe that would put Kraft to shame and elevate me to most high culinary queen of the household?... Come on! There HAS to be others out there! Well, to all you closeted comfort food lovers out there (I know you are out there, hating the bran and mung bean pie diet you've been forcing yourself to claim you love in Facebook status updates!), I found it! After much experimentation, that hasn't been bad, but just not quite making the mark, I stumbled upon it. I am going to share it, rather than market it for a gazillion bucks, because I am just that kind of selfless fool (haha). So, enjoy, and be prepared to have your children gazing at you with awe and your husband nuzzling your shoulder with adoration all through dinner.

Cheesiest, Creamiest Mac&Cheese

Sauce Base:
  • 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 12 oz. cheese (1/2 Velveeta, 1/2 mild cheddar)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. macaroni or similar shaped pasta

Boil up at least two quarts of water in a big pot. While the water is heating up, mix the sauce base ingredients in a bowl, and set aside. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until tender, drain, reduce heat on burner to low, and return pasta to pot. Add butter and toss until melted.

Add two thirds of the cheese and sauce base, and stir until the cheese is almost melted. Gradually add the remaining cheese and sauce base until all of it is melted, about 5 minutes. Top with toasted breadcrumbs or crumbled crackers (we like crumbling cheesy goldfish crackers on top), and serve.

-Half the cheese needs a good creamy easy melting cheese. Like Velveeta or Gueryer.
-Make sure the pasta is fully cooked. Normally al dente is a good thing, but not with mac and cheese.
-The recipe is very, very open to interpretation and playing around. Throw some meat in, do different seasonings, try different cheeses from around the world, have fun with it!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Unforgiveness for the Unforgiven

I lost some friends the other day. It didn't feel very good. I was plagued all night about how I handled things. I am starting to realize the curse of social networking. You think you are staying in contact with friends, but really, everyone is held at arms length.

After debating very hard on an issue that is contentious, but in my opinion, very cut and dry, I couldn't handle the cold, calloused and ugly responses I was getting. So, I couldn't continue a friendship as it was. I made sure though, to tell her I thought it was for the best for the time being, that space would be healing and hoped in time we could start over. She was unhappy, and mean spirited about it all.

The other friend, was someone I admired for her amazing mothering abilities. We didn't have a close relationship as we aren't close geographically, but whenever possible, when I was in her town I tried to get together with her. We had great conversations and our kids got along. I was eager to hear about how she kept things running so well, and she has this great sense of humor. It wasn't always that way, which made it even more important to me. I wish I had been the friend she expected. I'm aware I've always had a tough time with friendships. Especially with women. I moved around so much as a kid, I never was anywhere long enough to make deep connections. So, the friendships that seemed to work and last, were the ones where we could pick up where we left off, though considerable time without contact had occurred. I was never aware that this wasn't desirable. Oh, but there was much more wrong with me than I realized.

I was blindsided when responding to another friend's discussion. Kind of a cool thing was happening in a town I used to live in. A reality show! I am skeptical of those, because it seems the goal of most, is to get as much drama going as possible. That's where the ratings are. So, I warned, tongue in cheek, that they didn't want friends, but drama and that it would be interesting to see the outcome. The response from this mommy friend of mine took me aback. She proudly said that my opinion was why she deleted me a long time ago on a whim. All this time, I had just thought, as was her way, she had deleted her account (which she had done before) or was just not on because she was busy. It became even more upsetting with a message that detailed how she decided: "I asked myself if I would invite this person into my home. The answer was no." I had just been in her home not long ago.

I had tried to be a good house guest helping clear the table, helping get some breakfast for her littlest, never having an inkling I was no longer welcome after that. She accused me of using her, but at the time, I didn't have anywhere to go, needed formula for my baby and my other child was sick. I would have gone to a hotel, but was told at the counter, to wait two hours for the next flight and that there was nothing more they could do for me. She said she had heard otherwise, but I don't know what she meant by that, but it was as I said it happened. I asked for help, and thought it was given freely. I was wrong. I was just relieved for a friend after a scary flight that ended in an emergency landing full of smoke. I guess I was shook up, tired, and ill prepared to not be going home. I handled it poorly, and didn't express myself well. I kind of have trouble with that, when I am stressed out. But I was no less grateful. Still, my presence was not wanted and it was distressing to find out.

She didn't like how negative I was about her hometown. To be fair, a town that never really accepted me. I had tried for years to feel part of the tight nit community. I had some really bad experiences that tainted how I felt about it, and I guess she was right, I was bitter, but hadn't meant to be insulting. I had a couple friends that I cherished for their openness and acceptance, but not many in the 13 years I had lived there. She said, I had also said something inappropriate, that I admit was wrong of me to say. I guess I am kind of a social idiot in that regard. I want to be accepted, to make people laugh. I wish I had my dad's wit and sense of humor, but I really don't. So, sometimes I say something I think others will find funny, and it isn't. I wish I could take it back. I asked for forgiveness.... the answer was, "It's not my way." I was then made aware, that I had a warped impression of friendships, most likely due to wounds inflicted socially. So, I am damaged. Beyond salvage. I couldn't sleep last night. I questioned my ability to be a good friend.

I've been working slowly towards being a better person for a couple weeks. Trying to get to church more often, reading the bible. I recognized I had drawn inward and became pretty snarky about a lot of things. It wasn't always that way. When my family moved to the small island town, I was outgoing, bubbly and happy. I guess I didn't handle the stress of rejection, and humiliation too well. I was a cop's kid. So automatically, many didn't like me without giving me a chance. My outgoing nature was met with snide indifference by a few. I made a few friends outside my class, but after being pushed around for my dad busting a party, and having my locker, and belongings trashed, it was hard to feel accepted. I offered what I could to be part of the gang, but it wasn't meant to be. When I met my husband, I had ended an abusive relationship, and while skiddish, he was different. He made me feel pretty. He looked at me, and not through me. Some of his family didn't like me, still don't, but even though that hurt, he made me feel like no one else mattered.

Searching for my Purpose
I struggled to do everything right, for the approval of a few, and failed. Over and over. As a mother I felt like a failure when breast feeding didn't come easily, and wasn't supported. When another of my children came down with type I diabetes, I felt like I was responsible. A doctor there assured me I was. I grieved. When we moved, it was with the hope that I could start over and make friends without the stigma of my past tainting their view of me. But moving to a new place as an adult is hard. It's hard to put yourself out there and make friends. Everyone is busy, everyone so far apart in their own lives. I tried to stay connected in small ways. I'll give of myself as much as I can. Can I get you a coffee? Cut your hair so you can save money? Sure, drop off your kids so you can shop! It's just not enough I guess. The mistakes of our past are never really forgiven. People smile to your face, and hate you in secret, or hushed huddles. I am flawed. I can be obnoxious, usually when I am nervous, or feel inadequate when in the presence of people who seems so much better than me. I don't really like me. Never really have. I try too hard to be what I think others want me to be, but fall short. Paranoia sets in after a while and I wonder how many more don't really like me, but are too polite to say.

I've been working at it though. I now have goals for each day up on a board. Things that I hope will help me be a better person. I pray for guidance more now. There was a while where I actually didn't trust God. I am trying to again. I guess the conclusion I have drawn, is for those out there, who struggle to make friends and feel alone, before it's too late, make friends with Jesus. He'll make you into the a person who attracts others. That's the only way to  be successful. When you try to conform to what you think others want, or follow the leading of others, you will fail. Be slow to speak. Sometimes, the emptiness of silence can be uncomfortable. Or even the loud boisterous chatter of others. It can lead you to say things you will later regret. I regret much. I am sorry for so many things. I try to never repeat my mistakes and hope that I haven't fallen too far for

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finally Something Healthy!

 I've been getting good-natured ribbing from friends on my choice of decadent and rich foods and desserts to share on my blog. Well, of course the goodies and rich comforting savory dishes are meant as an occasional thing, though I must admit that it is more frequent than it should be, especially since tax season is nearing at a rapid pace.

So, I decided that I needed to post a healthier dish that is easy to prepare and better for you. I try to eat high protein, low carb meals whenever possible. As a diabetic, this type of meal can take you a long way into the day before you feel like you need to eat again, because it is so filling. If you like hummus, then this will be a little familier to you.  Falafel!

I told my kids, on the way home from church that I would be making falafel.
They squinched up their faces:
"Well, that's how I feel when I eat too much sugar." I said.
"Huh?" said Connor.
"You know, I Falafel!" I said, giggling.
It took a little explaining...
"Say, 'I feel awful' really fast, now say 'I falafel' fast."

Pretty soon they were repeating it over and over. Hmmm... maybe it wasn't such a good idea to share my corny humor with them. Oh well. So, here it is folks, falafel done simply. Oh, and my kids liked it, until I added a ton of garlic to it (how I like it) then they told me it tasted good at first, then "tasted stinky". My kids are so funny.

Feast Ala Mid-East
  • 1 15oz can garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 C. shredded carrot
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F. Rinse and drain garbanzos, and mash together with remaining ingredients. It's fine if there are some big pieces of bean.

Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil and shape mixture into 16 patties the size of a half dollar. Place on cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil. Bake for 10 min or until crispy, turning once. I found that they didn't turn golden or crispy on me (unsure if that is because I use a gas oven or not), but firmed up at least, so I lightly oiled a skillet with olive oil and browned the patties I would eat right away, while anything left over, could be refrigerated for the next day.

Creamy Sauce For the Falafel
  • 1/3 C plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Mix together well. If too thick, add warm water by the tablespoon until desired consistency is achieved. Stuff falafel, tomato, and lettuce and onion into mini pita pockets. Serve with sauce on the side and maybe fresh cucumber.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cheesecake Cravings

I don't care who you are, there are moments when you just HAVE to have something creamy and rich, but with a little crispness. There are various pies that can fill that order, but I stand by a classic no-bake cheesecake. I've searched far and wide, and made many and settled on one that is absolutely perfect. The little zing of the lemon that cuts through the richness is so nice and then it is a perfect platform for any sort of topping from chocolate to berries (nagoon or cloud berries being top of my list!). So, here it is. Take note that I list both the sugared version and low sugar (that can be fully sugar free with a little tweaking).

Luscious Cheesecake

Ingredients For Original:

  • oz cream cheese
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • C sour cream
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps lemon juice
  • 8 oz Cool Whip
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust

Ingredients For Low Sugar:

  • oz cream cheese
  •  3/4 C Splenda
  • C sour cream
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps lemon juice
  • 8 oz Sugar Free Cool Whip (or make your own w/whipping cream, Splenda and vanilla)
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker crust (can be made, but this is a tough one to get to set up w/out sugar, though only 3Tbsps)


  1. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until smooth.
  2. Add sour cream and vanilla.
  3. CAREFULLY beat in cool whip (if you aren't careful, you may end up decorating your kitchen with the filling!).
  4. Pour into crust and invert top plastic cover of crust.
  5. Chill 3-4 hours OR freeze 15-30 minutes depending on your freezer.
Finally, toppings. You can top with fruit, or drizzle with chocolate (or coat it). It is an empty canvas for you to paint on w/sweet things to please your palate. Enjoy!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Chapter for Connor

Connor w/his new pump!
On Thursday (1/06) I took my six year old son Connor to Anchorage to get his new insulin pump set up and started. It was a big day, and while excited, both of us were nervous. He was worried it would hurt and I was nervous about a change to the carefully managed way we had been doing things since he was three. We had his Hemoglobin A1C perfect and were doing really well with the daily injections. Still, going from sometimes ten shots a day, down to one every three days is a huge improvement.

When the nurse finally got to the part where we insert the infusion set, Connor got a little pale and I was shaking a little. If this part hurt, then he could just refuse the whole thing, then we go back and I knew we would be better off pressing forward with this. The tighter control of blood sugars with the wonderful bonus of more freedom with his diet. How could we turn back? Imagine my relief when he giggled and said it tickled, when the needle went in, and came out, leaving the soft cannula behind. Whew!

So, we had the weekend to get used to it and do our first site change on Sunday and that went well too. I am so excited for him. He says he loves it and has named it Pumpy. Monday is his first day back at school and I am going in with him so I can prep the nurse and his teacher. I hope this is easier for everyone and not going to scare them. I have my fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Joy and the Struggle

I am up too late, after packing for a short trip I am about to take my son on. My six year old, redheaded, type I diabetic son. His life is about to get easier, thanks to qualifying for Denali Kidcare, and his doctors approving his request for an insulin pump. Specifically, an amazing one from Animas. It's bittersweet, because I had a pump at one time, but due to lack of support in the small town where I was at, I had a malfunction with the pump that nearly killed me. I kept the darn thing... I'm not sure why, until this summer. I looked at my husband and said, "Just throw it away I guess." Then I found out I could have turned it in for a new one. My heart broke. An insulin pump would give me so much better control, and to go through it with Connor would have been so great. Guess you can't cry over what has been done.

Insulin pumps are crazy expensive. Even when I looked at refurbished ones, the cheapest still came to over $900. Maybe, if we aren't in dire straights again when the next PFD comes around, I could get one. But then, I always find that the kids need something, or bills need to be paid. I wish medical care wasn't so expensive. I wish insurance companies were more affordable and didn't shut out those of us with pre-existing conditions.

So, later today, my son will hopefully start a new chapter, that will give him near perfect control that will add years to his life and prevent any complications. My hope for him, is that his life will draw a little closer to normal and he won't feel so left out when there are special foods during celebrations, or have to compromise and decide whether or not a treat is worth getting a shot. I hope even more, that we will be able to prevent the low blood sugars that robbed me of much of my sight. This is huge and I wish everyone with type I diabetes, all kids and mothers who have this unfair disease could have a pump. It should be standard after proving ability to properly utilize it.

So, wish us luck. This is a huge step. I am a little scared, but so much more excited... and envious. Maybe someday, a pump of my own will be within my grasp.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Two Recipes for the Price of One!

I have been Ms. Betty Crocker lately. I don't know if it's something in the air or water, but I have had this urge to bake. My husband says to just go with it, of course he reaps the benefit... or rather, his waste line suffers? At any rate, I have been using my Kitchen Aide mixer a lot more these days and having fun. Also, since the in-laws are in town, we've had more mouths to feed and of course, I have to bring my "A Game".

The boys wanted pizza, and as much as the ease of going to Papa Murphy's and bringing one home was a real draw, how can you pass up homemade pizza? I found a great recipe for the dough and set it up so every one could make their own. Then, dessert had to be delicious, but easy. So I made Pudding Napoleon Cake. So, if you need easy and crowd pleasing, here are two recipes sure to save your bacon (unless you are using that as a pizza topping...)

My "kitchen sink" Pizza
Best Pizza Dough
4 1/2 cups unbleached flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting
1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6.re-flour your hands, then continue shaping it. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower rack before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.
Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.

now for dessert!

My Low-Sugar Version
Pudding Napoleon Cake  

  • 2 boxes (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding and pie filling (go w/sugar free if watching carbs!)
  • 2 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream,  (sugar free whipped cream is an option!)
  • 1 box honey graham crackers
  • 3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, 2/3 c. honey

First spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. Then, in a medium bowl with the milk, pour the pudding packets into the milk. Whisk them together until they are blended.

Next, in stand mixer, pour in the whipping cream and whisk until it is thick and stiff peaks form. This may take about 5 minutes. Now, fold the stiff whipped cream into pudding mixture

Now it's time to make the layers. Arrange the graham crackers in one layer at the bottom of the pan. Then top the crackers with half of the pudding mixture. Spread it evenly over the whole pan. The layers is what makes this a Napoleon Cake.

Continue to layer with the crackers and the remaining pudding. Then top with a third layer of crackers.

To top off the cake, we melt the chocolate and honey in microwave for 30 seconds. When it comes out, stir it until it is smooth and melted. Finally, pour the chocolate glaze over top layer of graham cracker layer. Gently spread it with a spatula.

Now, place the cake in the refrigerator, uncovered, to allow the pudding to fully chill and let the cake set for at least an hour. This is a great cake because you can make it 1 or 2 days in advance and it still tastes great. Serve cold and enjoy.

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