Friday = Macaroni & Cheese!

Given that we still observe the meatless Fridays, this recipe is a go-to one especially when the day is going faster than I can catch up with it and dinner time appears out of no where! I never cared for Macaroni and Cheese when I was growing up until I discovered the major difference in using ‘real’ cheddar cheese and not the processed stuff! If you want to sneak in some vegetables, steam and puree a cup or so of cauliflower and mix it in the cheese sauce! A small can of diced chilis (mild or hot) makes an interesting change of pace. In fact, you can substitute the bread/panko topping with crushed tortilla or corn chips.

Macaroni & Cheese

2 cups grated, sharp cheddar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound macaroni, just cooked. It should be a tiny bit underdone as it will finish in the oven.
1 cup milk. You might need a bit more
1/4 cup butter
Panko or bread crumbs

Toss the cheese with the dry ingredients.

Gently heat the milk and butter until very warm. Add the cheese mixture and keep stirring until it is melted and well combined. If the sauce seems too thick, add spoonfuls of milk until it reaches the consistency you want.

Pour the sauce into the prepared macaroni and mix well. Top with either the Panko crumbs or bread crumbs. Instead of drizzling melted butter or margarine on the topping, I just spray it with vegetable spray. It cuts the calories and helps it brown.

Put into a preheated 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until bubbly and hot through.

For variety, I like to mix in a can of drained, diced tomatoes into the dish.

A Few of My Favorite Things . . .

Providing a gluten-free diet for my husband keeps me busying trying to find really good substitutes for basic things . . . like pasta. For soups, I make my own egg noodles and use either Better Batter ‘flour’ blend or Authentic Foods Steve’s Bread Flour to make them. There are those moments, however, when I long for the times that using packaged pasta required only as much extra effort as it took to walk to the pantry.

Two of our favorite comfort foods around here are Pad Thai and spaghetti with extra meaty sauce. We’ve tried a variety of gluten-free options for the spaghetti and the results were just okay. Recently, however, I noticed that my favorite pasta brand from the pre-gluten-free days also had a gluten-free pasta. I was game for another go in my explorations into the gluten-free world and finally discovered one that is pretty good. It tastes like regular pasta, had a nice ‘chew’ and doesn’t get soggy if you save a serving for the next day. My current gluten-free option of choice is Barilla!

We also love homemade Pad Thai which uses Asian Rice noodles. There is a world of difference between the various brands so we have been trying and hoping to find the perfect one for us. The one we are using now is a product of Thailand, labeled ‘Rice Stick’, made by Sun Voi and comes in three or four different widths for whatever recipes you might want them. Our market of choice for purchasing these for a very reasonable price is the 99 Ranch Market which is a huge Asian market with just about every obscure ingredient you might want or need for a recipe. They also have a great bakery, too, as well as a large fresh produce section.

Another of My Favorite Things

It has come to my attention that even when you do not purchase sugar-free gum or mints, they still include aspartame and such in order to enhance the flavor. I know several people who cannot ingest the questionable artificial sweeteners. I also have found that many of the health store brands of gum usually lose their mint flavor within two chews.

I recently, however, came across XyloBurst which is sugar free AND Aspartame Free. The sweetener is Xylitol which doesn’t have the problems other artificial sweeteners. And, for some wonderful reason, the company has managed to produce a softer gum which retains the flavor for a lot longer. A few other pluses are that it is non-GMO and gluten-free. Some studies have indicated that Xylitol may even reduce the risk of tooth decay and improve oral help.

I found this product on https://www.swansonvitamins.com/. At the time of purchase, the price was under $8 for 100 pieces. Swansons does have sales so it may be more or less when you check it out. It comes in a nice plastic container which makes it convenient for stowing in the glove compartment or a handy nook in your kitchen.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things – Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap

These are a few of my favorite things . . .

I’m always doing a lot of research before buying most anything. I usually read the one-star reviews, first, to see how serious the complaints actually are before reading the five-star rave reviews. One can usually ascertain between one and five the real value/use/benefit of any said product. There are also the times when someone will had me something with a, “Here, try this. You’ll love it!” Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t but I’m always up for the adventure.

Thought I’d share some of my current favorite things. Although since discontinued, Costco was selling Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap. I’m a huge fan of anything peppermint so it got my attention immediately. A quick search revealed that, as usual, Costco had the best price by far so I treated myself to a bottle of the liquid soap and wasn’t disappointed. Especially on those mornings where the California summer heat is already making itself known, it is a great shower scrub leaving your skin feeling cool for a while after the shower and smelling delicately nice. As I said, I like peppermint. In addition, Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap has a multitude of other uses. Such as:

1. I use this as a body and face wash. It only takes a small amount to get through a shower. It doesn’t dry out your skin and won’t interfere in any cologne you might add on later.

2. When you feel the hair spray and other hair products are weighing down your hair, this stuff is a great scalp shampoo and rinses clean. Followed up with your favorite cream rinse and you have manageable hair for the rest of the day. (Yes, Dr. Bronner sells a great stay-in cream for after your shampoo!)

3. It works well as a shaving cream without any burns or scrapes.

4. Combining ½ cup of the soap with a cup of baking soda really cleans and deodorizes your laundry.

5. Using ½ cup of soap in about three gallons of hot water makes a good floor mop. Also noticed that ants do not like this stuff so it seems to have kept any thirsty pests out of my kitchen this year.

6. It makes a good scrub for fruits and vegetables. Just a dash in a bowl of warm water and scrub with your hands to get off any dirt or residue. Rinse in cold water.

7. It is a good wash for your dog. Wet down the dog and use what you need (depends on size of dog) to wash down you dog, rinse.

8. A mixture of one tablespoon of peppermint soap in a quart of water makes a good anti-bug spray for your plants. Really have a problem, add a bit of cayenne pepper and/or cinnamon into the mix. Put in a spray bottle and rescue your plants, chase away the bugs, and make your house smell great in one process.

Since Costco no longer offers this product, the next best price I found was on Jet.com. Health stores sell it but it is usually a lot more expensive.