Mac ‘N Cheese

Mac ‘N Cheese

If you mention you had Mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner amongst my work colleagues there would be gasps of horror! “oh my goodness, so much cheese”,” so many carbs”….”I just could not indulge like that”.  Any of those comments sound familiar?

So if you want to avoid those types of comments, just don’t mention it, or call it something else!

It was my birthday last month, and as we were not able to eat out, I figured I could treat myself to this family favourite – and somewhat classic dish!

Ingredients:

  • 250grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cups Tasty or Colby cheese, grated
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, Japanese breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot to the boil with a dash of salt, and add dry pasta. Cook until al dente – or cooked ‘firm to the bite’. Drain and add a little olive oil to the cooked pasta to ensure it does not stick to each other.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth – I use a whisk for this. Add two cups of grated cheese, and your seasoning. Remove from the heat, and set to the side.

Add a little cooking oil and over a medium heat sauté the bacon and onions for 10 minutes or until they’re starting to colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two more minutes.

At this stage, I combine the bacon and onion mix with the cheese sauce in the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix it well.

Transfer to an oven-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes – or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

Serves 4

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You can whip up a big dish of Mac ‘N Cheese very economically, which is also a great benefit for those of you with a tribe of teenagers to feed. A packet of dry pasta is less than $2, and this will go a long distance. Leave out the bacon, and add extra vegetables – you can chop up a broccoli, or grate a carrot and zucchini into this, and get away with it!

Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself and the family to a delicious Mac ‘N Cheese dinner; add it to a family menu for a quick and easy week night meal the teenagers will devour in a flash. One word of warning however; make plenty as they will be back for seconds!

Happy teen – happy mum xx

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Stop – and Recalibrate Yourself

Stop and Recalibrate Yourself, August 2016
We live in such a fast-paced world where technology allows us to work day and night – my boss told me off gently earlier this week for sending him an email at 8.30pm. To which I replied equally as nicely – “and you answered it at 10.30pm!”
In my defence I was sitting on the sofa in my pyjama’s with my iPad – was I really working?  I certainly didn’t think of it as working.
Either way, pushing myself will not increase my life-span but may just decrease it?  A wise man said the other week to myself and others “You need to stop and recalibrate you!” He could not have spoken a truer word. It made me stop and think about what I could do differently with my 7-days.
Do you remember when the shopping malls were only open late one night a week, and closed all weekend? When you managed to get your shopping done after work, and your bills paid by posting a cheque? There was no fibre broadband, smart phones or iPads.
In our home Saturday’s were often filled with household chores; clean sheets on beds, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, mowing lawns and cleaning cars and those activities after an early morning football game with the our eldest son.
Sunday was reserved for ‘family time’ – perhaps a trip to the beach, or lunch with extended family. It was a day where no chores were done, where teenagers were encouraged to hang out with the whole family, and where busy working Mum’s and Dad’s could do something for themselves without feeling guilty for ‘doing nothing’.
I have fond memories of ‘topping and tailing’ with my oldest son, on his bed, in the sun, both of us with our noses in a book!
Back in 1840 Samuel Duncan Parnell, a carpenter in NZ, refused to work for more than eight hours a day when building a shop for a merchant. He was successful in negotiating this working condition – and New Zealand now has the reputation of being the first country in the world to have adopted the eight-hour working day.
It was reported that Parnell said “There are twenty-four hours per day given to us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which men to do what little things they want for themselves”.
Granted this is a little sexist but you get the point!
We travel 1-2 hours to work (if you live in Auckland that is ‘normal’) work 8-10 hour days, and then drive home the 1-2 hours travel time – for most working parents; there is dinner to cook, sports practice to get kids too, homework to check, washing to do and bills to pay!
When do we stop and recalibrate – or breathe in?
I love the idea of working 6-days and taking the 7th day as a day of rest – or recalibration. Whatever days of the week you work, you can fit in a day for you.
Call it what you like, it is so important to stop and breathe in so you can go again. We won’t survive this life if we don’t.
Here are my Four Fundamentals to help you ‘breathe in’.
1. Design personal replenishment
I had a wonderful opportunity some years ago to have some Life Coaching. I hunted out the material this weekend and read through what I had committed too. It made interesting reading for me and I realised how far I have strayed from that ‘Extreme Self-Care’ that is necessary to keep myself alive;  in body, mind and spirit.
Part of the exercise was to draw a circle and section out your life into the important areas for you – The balanced Whole Life. Here is a pic of that piece of paper and my thoughts at the time.
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The writing is small so this is what it says:
Relationships – children, friends, parents, lover, work colleagues, spouse
Spiritual well-being – inner security, sense of peace & centeredness
Emotional & Physical Health – exercise, eating regular meals, quiet time, solitude
Contributions to others – being of service & support to those in need, be that with knowledge or time
Work – my life is not my work?
Fun & Leisure – interestingly I had not made any comments on this section.

I wrote down the key things for me and what I was going to commit to doing or I had already working for me:

Relationships – I spend time with people who make me laugh, and I have relationships with people who stimulate me intellectually
Environment – I listen to my favourite music, and my home neat, & well-organised
Body, Mind & Spirit – I exercise regularly, and eat healthier. I set aside regular time for solitude & silence and find a safe & healthy outlet for my emotional wellbeing

Work – I have a mentor who guide and encourages me, I always take a lunch break, and I have colleagues who inspire and respect me. My ideas and talents are welcome at work.
Some of these things have changed for me, but many are the same.
Listening to my favourite music still feels me with joy, singing out loud makes me feel happy. I have new hobbies now; photography, baking, and cooking…and of course my blog – these things ‘replenish’ me.

Get a piece of paper out and write down what makes you feel good – it is a good exercise.

What the recharges you? Part of your life begins to die if you don’t look after it. Some of us feel guilty if we don’t stop and do something that replenish our soul. We all need to discover what replenishes us and then just do it.

2. Designate a day – pre-plan the day by setting it aside to do what you want for you.
prioritise the day  – the key is to empower the important over the urgent. I work Monday to Friday currently and have resorted back to the familiar – housework on a Saturday and my day on a Sunday!
Choose to spend the day on things that bring you joy – and make decisions for this day on what you want instead of what others want from you.
3. Disengage from work
It was not that long ago that there was no mobile phones, or email…and work survived! Turn that phone off !
4. Develop healthy relationships
Build friendships – talk to people, have conversations. It is imperative to have depth of relationship for you to make it all the way through life.
I hope that you get something out of reading this today – when I heard the words myself a few weeks ago, they really spoke to me. I felt compelled to share what really is a number of life lessons that I had learnt and forgotten.
I took my own advice this afternoon and went for a brisk walk – the dogs were delighted, and I was rewarded with a  beautiful sunset captured through my phone lens above!
Happy recalibrating xx

I have discovered the joy of a hot bowl of fruit crumble with a dollop of yoghurt for breakfast! To my tastebuds so much yummier than weetbix and cold milk – and even though I am starting to enjoy a bowl of porridge, fruit crumble is still my favourite!

With hubby and I living ‘childless’, (5 children living independently is quite nice by the way!) a hot pudding seemed extravagant to put together for just the two of us.

I used to make a fruit dessert often for the teenage boy who was rather averse to fruit with the exception of apples! Not only did it get some fruit into him, but let’s face it teenage boys have hollow legs don’t they? and a dessert would help fill him up more.

This recipe is very easy and delicious – pantry ingredients so you don’t have to shop especially for this. I always have a couple bags of frozen berries in the freezer, not just for desserts but for muffins too. They are quick to defrost, although with this recipe I don’t bother to defrost the blueberries – just let them cook through in the oven.

Give this recipe a go, and if you can…save some for breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla paste)
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled & chopped
  • 500g blueberries

Place all of the above ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine. Spoon this mixture into a baking dish.

Coconut Crumble

  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup shredded  coconutBlueberry crumble
  • 120g melted butter
  • 1 cup plain sifted flour

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Put the above 4 ingredients in a bowl and rub with your fingertips until them is like coarse breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle over the fruit mix and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Serves 6

Serve with custard or cream and/or ice-cream depending on your level of decadence!

Happy cooking xx

 

 

Blueberry, Apple & Coconut Crumble!


Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

Creamy Bacon & Kumara Pasta Bake

An early lesson in my life as a young married mum with 3 children and a mortgage was learning to cook a nutritious meal on a budget.

This is a recipe I have used and adapted over the years – especially great after football practice in the winter months when the teenage boy came home wet, dirty and very hungry! I either had this prepared to heat up and eat straight away – or could have it ready to tuck into as quick as a teenage boy can shower after practice! Well okay maybe that’s an exaggeration. Dinner is usually ready before the teenager is out of the bathroom 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 500g pasta shells
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 rashers rindless bacon, finely sliced
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 600g kumara, peel and cubed
  • 150g baby spinach (or a handful)
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 c tasty cheese, grated

Sauce

Pasta Bake

Quick to prepare, and easy on the budget.

  • 60g butter
  • 1/4 cup plain flour
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup tasty cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to a hot 200°c.

In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta until soft. Rinse under cold water and drain well.

In a large frying pan, heat oil and cook bacon for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the leek and pumara and cook for abut 3-4 minutes

In a saucepan, melt the butter and add flour & thyme and cook, stirring for around 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Gradually whisk in the  milk until smooth. Pop back onto the heat and cook, stirring constantly until them mixture thickens.  Simmer for 1-2 minutes and then stir in the cheese and mustard. Season with salt & pepper. (You just made a white sauce!)

At this point I usually put all of the ingredients into a large bowl to mix together well. So pasta first, then vegetables and sauce. Add the spinach in last – (this does not need to be pre-cooked). Mix all the ingredients well.

Tip the lot into a large baking dish and sprinkle with combined breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top turns golden and crunchy!

Freezing this pasta dish is another great option for the busy mum – cool it down and then wrap well in glad wrap and foil. It can be in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Now you can make this dish with store bought fresh pasta which is very good, and a jar of ready made pasta sauce. Both of these items are handy and whilst they may save you a few minutes, the cost is not worth it.

I have used pumpkin instead of the kumara (and at the moment that’s a great option – I bought a whole pumpkin for $2.00 last week), and instead of bacon, a couple of pork sausages cooked up and sliced. The younger kids liked this option 🙂

So if you are watching your budget, and have a family to feed, give this recipe a go. Either way it’s a good dish to have up your sleeve with most of the ingredients ‘pantry staples’ making it easy to put together for those last minute dinner guests.

Happy cooking xx

 


Churro’s & Chocolate Sauce…

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Sure to be a winner with the kids – crunch churro’s & chocolate sauc

Churro’s were first introduced to our household by a popular pizza chain in New Zealand. My teenage son just loved them and a pizza order was not complete without a side of Churro’s with the chocolate dipping sauce.

I hunted high and low for a recipe that would be similar so that we could make these at home. (Isn’t that we do as Mum’s? – my kids used to have McMum’s when they were little. I always thought my burgers were healthier than those bought from that other famous fast food chain!)

I came across this Churro’s recipe which I think is pretty good and after a few attempts, not only will they taste the same but they will look similar to those you get with your pizza order!


Churro Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour, sifted
  • ¼ tsp baking powder, sifted
  • ⅔ cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • vegetable oil, for deep frying
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Chocolate Sauce

  • 200g dark chocolate, finely chopped and 1 cup single cream
  1. Place flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar into a bowl.
  2. Bring water to the boil and add olive oil. Pour liquid over dry ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a large star nozzle attached.
  4. Heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches 170°C on a sugar thermometer.
  5. Using a sharp knife cut off 6cm lengths of dough from the piping bag and fry in batches for 3-4 minutes, turning halfway until they are golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.
  6. Combine remaining caster sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and roll the churros in the cinnamon sugar.
  7. Meanwhile, combine chocolate and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.
  8. Serve churros with chocolate sauce.

Trust me, you will be a popular mum with this recipe in your tool box for a Saturday night treat for the kids. Give it a whirl – they will love you even more!

Happy cooking & kids xx