Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everything is Better with Butter

For my mother, who always knew butter was better for you than margarine

Michael Pollan, dedication for Food Rules, An Eater’s Guide

When I was a newlywed, my husband made the request that I switch from margarine to butter. Like many people of my generation I was raised on margarine. We had a large family, my father was a school teacher, and things were tight. Besides being cheaper, margarine was supposed to be better for you.

My mother-in-law never bought into that lie and so my husband was spoiled with the real, delicious, natural thing-BUTTER.

I couldn’t believe the difference.

Butter is not only better for you, but it tastes so much better.

If you make cookies with margarine, I will try to be polite but I will inwardly ask why you even bothered.

No offense.

Shortening is an abomination.

When I come across a store bought cookie and for some inexplicable reason, actually put it in my mouth-I can taste the shortening and it is not at all pleasant.

My kids will sometimes want to make a recipe that calls for shortening. Good luck finding any Crisco at my house. I haven’t bought the stuff in years. Not even for sugar cookies or biscuits. Use butter. Pie crust?-try lard. Yes, lard. It is so much better for you as long as you get the real deal. Check the ingredients. Not up for lard? Ever heard of using butter or olive oil in your pie crust? It works.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. The makers of margarine and Crisco, whether they knew it or not, did a lot of damage to consumers in this country. It is called heart disease and cancer. Don’t eat it.

Yes, butter is more expensive. But you are making an investment in your health and the health of your loved ones. It is called preventative care and it is better than surgery and chemotherapy (which is also very expensive and not any fun at all).

Be moderate in your use of butter. Buy a freezer and stock up when it is a good price. It freezes well. You will hardly notice a dent in your food budget. But when you are older, you could see a significant difference in your health.

And guess what? Your food will taste a lot better.


  1. Rachel
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    I love butter. We switched to it years ago. Where can you find lard? The only thing I use Crisco for is pie crust, but I will happily switch. Did you know that maragarine is one molecule away from being plastic and that it takes 7 years to digest it. That’s gross. By the way, butter is on sale at Wal-Mart this week. You can get 4 sticks of butter for only $1.50. That’s better than the normally low price at Costco. A great time to stock up on butter is before holidays (i.e Easter). They always put all that baking type stuff on sale around the food holidays. Love the blog, Jen.

  2. Amy
    Posted March 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Yay butter. (Not that horrible song that that horrible girl sang at that horrible talent show when we were in college, but the food.) Also, I have found that a little goes a long way in terms of flavor. I lost over 100 pounds and never gave up butter. I just started using a tsp instead of a tablespoon. As in most things, moderation is the key.

  3. HK
    Posted March 31, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    As Gerard Depardieu said to Queen Latifa in LAST HOLIDAY, “We know the secret to life…butter.”

  4. Jessica
    Posted April 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    I guess our family switched to butter after you left home. I remember being kinda upset about the change, because, you know, I am picky. But once I had butter, I never looked back. Who would eat margarine after tasting the deliciousness that is butter? They’d have to be insane.

Curried Cauliflower

This is a post/recipe from my friend. I give you one of the Heather's:

I’ve been working with curry since my mother taught us my Guyanese step-father’s recipe for curried chicken. His recipe is pretty straight forward and benefits from generous additions of pickled mango. When I lived in Houston, my friend Mira, whose family had been missionaries in India for a generation or so, taught me how to make daal, which includes not curry, but the general attitude toward spice in South Indian cuisine—cook it first. and for a long time. and don’t be afraid of ketchup.

This recipe for curried cauliflower emerges from that history.

1 head of cauliflower, chopped in bite-size pieces
1 onion, diced
1 bag frozen peas

1 cup rice or couscous

1 TBS tumeric
1 TBS ground garlic
2 TBS paprika
1 TBS cumin
1 TBS coriander
1 TBS black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground anise or fennel seed

or 1/4 cup curry powder

1. Start rice, if you’re using it. If you’re using couscous, you can start that last as it only takes 5 minutes.

2. Heat 3 TBS olive oil in large frying pan over low heat. In a small bowl whisk your spice together with 1/4 cup water (or chicken broth) til smooth. Add spice to pan and simmer for as long as you can take it. This is the step that provides the flavor, so the longer you simmer down, add more water, simmer down again, the better everything will taste.

Usually I do this once because I don’t have the time, and it takes about 1o minutes.

3. Add your onion and cauliflower to the pan, and increase heat to medium. For more gravy add more broth or water. Cook until tender. Add peas, stir to combine, and then remove from heat.

If you’d like a sweeter taste, you can add up to 1/2 can of coconut milk at this point. That will add more complexity to the overall taste, and take some of the fire out of the spice.

4. Serve over rice or couscous.

Like most recipes from friends and family, these are all guestimates and depend totally on who you’re cooking for. Someone loves the heat? Add more cayenne. Someone loves the sweet and gravy? Add more coconut milk. Cooking for vegetarians? Leave out the broth. It’s the kind of recipe that can also be expanded as a main dish or be served as a side.

You can serve this with a simple lime and cucumber salad to contrast all that spice.

One Comment

  1. Posted March 31, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    My husband is not a picky eater but he hates cauliflower. I am betting anything he would love this however. It sounds like it is right up his alley. I am going to have to make it.

    I tried your mac and cheese last week and loved it!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Why I Do What I Do-Part Two

Every morning I drag myself out of bed.

I force myself to put on my running shoes.

I take a puff on my inhaler.

Then I get on the treadmill and start a slow jog.

Gradually, I increase the speed…

and I keep increasing it until I think my lungs might explode.

And the whole time I am running, I see my little boy’s face.

I have 8 kids. I love them all.

But this particular son has Autism.

People with Autism do not have shortened life spans.

He will probably outlive his parents.

But I want to live as long as I can for him. And for my other children too, because they are the ones that will care for their brother after my husband and I are gone.

But I do not want to merely stay alive. I want to be strong. I want to be able to pull him on my lap and comfort him, even as he gets bigger and stronger. I want to be able to keep up with him, play with him, chase him, or restrain him when I have to.

And so just as I keep pushing myself physically, running, lifting weights, and seeing his face….

Whenever I look at the ingredients on the back of a bag of chips or other foodlike substance, I see his face. I put the bag back on the shelf and I say to myself,

“It just isn’t worth it.”

Eat Food. These days this is easier said than done, especially when seventeen thousand new products show up in the supermarket each year, all vying for your food dollar. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food-I call them edible foodlike substances. They’re highly processed conncoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today, much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.-Food Rules: An Eater’s Guide, Michael Pollan


  1. Jessica
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 1:30 am

    I need to stop reading this blog.

    • Posted March 27, 2010 at 5:46 am

      Wahhhh! Stop it.

      I love you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

Populations that eat a so-called Western-diet-generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits, and whole grains-invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of the cardiovascular disease, and more than a third of all cancers can be linked to this diet. Four of the top ten killers in America are linked to this diet.-Food Rules: An Eater’s Manuel, Michael Pollan (one smart guy)

I held my 7th baby in my arms in the hospital’s lab as they squeezed drops of blood from her tiny foot so her bilrubin levels could be checked for what seemed like the hundredth time. She was just a few days old. Her feet were bruised and sore. Her weight had plummeted from an already pitiful 5 pounds 13 ounces to a terrifying 4 pounds 6 ounces.

I was an emotional wreck.

I looked away from my sweet baby. I couldn’t stand what they were doing to her. My gaze fell upon a man in a wheelchair in the waiting room. He was just about the sorriest sight I had ever seen. The nurses had tried countless times to get an I.V. into his puny arms. They finally wheeled him down to the lab. If I had to bet on it, I would say that the man was probably in his late fifties. But his countenance and his body seemed much older.This man was not in good shape. His body was failing him.

Maybe it was due to the fact that I had just given birth. Maybe it was because I had just undergone my 4th caesarean section. Maybe it was because I hate I.V.’s and no one can ever seem to get them in me until the 6th try. Maybe it was because I hate hospitals and just wanted to go home.

Whatever it was, a wave of grieve flooded over me.

How fragile we are….

That helpless, hopeless man was the very picture of what I did not want for myself or any of my loved ones or anyone at all actually.

Something like pure intelligence was poured into me in those brief minutes.

And I knew. I knew that I had to fight.

Life is full of illness, accident, and death. We will all die, there is no doubt about that.

In my family there is a very recent history of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Until that moment, seeing that man, I had just kind of chosen not to think about that too much. I had always reasoned that there was very little I could do about it anyway.

But in that moment, I knew that I had been wrong. I had a choice. And I knew that choice was intricately connected with food. I had the choice to do everything in my power to not end up like that man in the wheelchair-or my father, or my grandfathers…

Maybe I still will.

But I am going to go down swinging.

People who get off the Western diet see dramatic improvements in their health. We have good research to suggest that the effects of the Western diet can be rolled back, and relatively quickly. -same book, same smart guy

One Comment

  1. heathermommy
    Posted March 25, 2010 at 11:02 am

    This so hits on what I am thinking about lately. I know it is sooooo hard for us as humans to make big changes in our lifestyles. As my husband and I deal with the realities of colon cancer in his family and the very real possibility that he and his siblings might have a gene that predisposes them to it I just cannot handle the fact that certain members of his family refuse to see the need to make some changes in their lives.

    To wax religious for a bit – when I got my patriarchal blessing I was told several times what a blessing my healthy body was and that I was commanded to take care of it. Think about our wonderful bodies and what a blessing they are. How ungrateful is it, to not take care of it.

    I feel like I was spiritually led to give up meat as a family and to learn more about a raw food diet to give my husband the best chance to not face the same fate as his parents.

    Interestingly my in laws traditionally ate a Mediterranean type diet before they moved to the US but when they got here they adopted a lot of things from the western diet: more meat, sugar and processed foods, and they gave up olive oil because it was more expensive here. Now they are suffering for it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tilapia Cakes

This one is for all you fish haters out there.

I do not know what it is about this recipe but you just can’t get enough of it. Don’t believe me? Just try it. You may like it.

This recipe involves a lot of chopping. But I am telling you, it is worth it.

I love the frozen individually wrapped Tilapia fillets you can buy at Costco. They have a really mild flavor and are easy to work with. I like the fillets to still be slightly frozen when I make this recipe. It makes the fish a little easier to work with in the chopping process.

4 tilapia fillets, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

1/2 – 1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 Tbl fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

1 egg

3 Tbl cornmeal

4 tsp olive oil

Combine the fish, onion, jalepeno, cilantro, egg, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl and mix together until all the fish is well coated.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a non-stick cooking pan.

Form the fish into small flat cakes and cook about 6 or 7 at a time. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden and cooked through.

Repeat the process until all of the cakes are cooked. This makes about 18-24 small cakes.

Good luck not stuffing yourself. These are so good!

One Comment

  1. Posted March 25, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Not eating fish is a thing I am childlishly stubborn about. You’re not going to convince me to eat it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Did That on Purpose....Really

Here is a guest post from my friend Heather. Take it away...

One of the most important rules of entertaining is to only serve food you’re confident about preparing. This makes life easier on you as you’re experienced with the dishes and won’t be stressing over whether that roast pork tenderloin is supposed to look like that, or if the white sauce has the right consistency, what have you.

Sunday evening we had a few friends over for dinner, one of whom really likes cheesecake. This means Saturday afternoon I went shopping for ingredients and then set out to make a version of the Barefoot Contessa’s Rasperry Cheesecake. I have made this cheesecake probably 8-10 times in the last year. I feel pretty happy with it and like serving it.

But I do have this one problem with cheesecake, which is that the butter from the cookie crust inevitably melts and drips into the bottom of the oven and then smokes there while the cake is baking. And I know this is going to happen, and yet I never never do more than put a piece of tin foil under the cake.

And so on Sunday I served what I like to call Fire Roasted Cheesecake. Here’s what happened. I bet you can see it coming.

Black smoke was wafting gently from the oven vent when I went into the kitchen to check on the cake. I then opened the oven door to get a better look. The influx of oxygen fed the heat, and flames! flames erupted in the bottom of the oven.

I closed the oven door and thought, Gee, what do I do? Seriously, the first thing in my brain was, I spent $15 on ingredients. I had one hand on the unbleached flour, ready to dump into the oven, but I thought, what if I just wait a teensy weensy bit more?

The flames died. No flour spilt. Lots of air venting and open windowing. The cake finished its tenure in the oven.

Fast forward to Sunday when my guests noted a complex earthiness contrasting with the vanilla and lemon. Ahem.

So I’d love to hear your mixups and accidents and oh nos! in the kitchen, too. Just to make me feel better about mine.


  1. Rachel
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Mishaps in the kitchen? Like I ever mess up when I cook! J/K Recently I accidently put worcestire sauce in our chinese food instead of soy sauce. It was very gross. I do stuff like that. I feel like I am a pretty good cook, but my brain is also scattered a lot so I do screw up recipes at least every once and a while!

  2. Jessica
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    There was the time I accidentally set the paper towel roll on fire when I was making dinner for the missionaries. Also, every time I cook it takes at least twice as long as I think it’s going to. Uh . . . I am absolutely certain I have had a ton more food mishaps, but I can’t remember any of them right now.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Corn Bread

This is the bestest corn bread in the world. I know that “bestest” isn’t a word but if it was, it would totally describe this corn bread.

I don’t like dry corn bread. I like my corn bread like moist cake. If you do too, you will love this. I have been making this for years and my son with Autism calls it “cake”. We like to eat it at the end of dinner with a huge glass of cold milk because it is more like a dessert.

You can increase the honey in this if you don’t think it is sweet enough or drizzle honey butter on top.

This recipe was originally from my friend Michelle’s mom. But I have modified it to make it slightly more healthy.


1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup honey

add 2 eggs, slightly beaten

Next mix:

1 cup of buttermilk ( or sour milk or plain yogurt)

1/2 tsp baking soda

let sit for a minute and then add to honey mixture and stir

add in:

1 cup of wheat flour (or half wheat, half all-purpose white if you are still scared of wheat)

1 cup cornmeal

1 tsp salt

Stir with a spoon until there are no more lumps. Do not over stir.

Place in a greased 11 x 7 (2 quart or equivalent) pan and cook in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from center.


  1. Rachel
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    This sounds yummy. I will let you know when we try this.

  2. Jessica
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    I need to get Josh on here so he can make some of these recipes. Because he is the house chef.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Bad Magic Food

And now of course you want to know what happened to Edmund. He had eaten his share of the dinner, but he hadn’t really enjoyed it because he was thinking all the time about Turkish Delight-and there’s nothing that spoils the taste of good ordinary food half so much as the memory of bad magic food.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe-C.S. Lewis (genius)

When my sisters were visiting us last summer one of them (who shall remain nameless) left a huge jar of Skippy peanut butter in my pantry.

Now you have to understand that most of my children have never eaten this abomination. Is that too strong a word? Just wait.

When we only had our first two kids we decided to cut out sugar. That meant no more Skippy or Jiff or Peter Pan peanut butter or whatever. From that day on we only have had “natural” peanut butter-the kind that is just peanuts with maybe some added salt. The kind you have to stir because the oil separates. My kids have to work for their peanut butter pleasure and they were content in the wholesome stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth goodness.

Then the Skippy showed up. Son #3 was instantly in love. Our bodies crave sugar of course. He couldn’t help it. To me, processed food is pornographic. It appeals to our base natures. It is a falsehood. It warps that which is true and good. And it is addictive.

I did the only thing I could do of course. I instantly cast the stuff into the garbage- much to the dismay of my son.

It may shock some people to know that I would throw away perfectly good food like that. But to me it isn’t perfectly good food. It’s a foodlike substance and it’s crap.

No offence.

Did you know that I was that radical?

Well, now you do.


  1. Heathermommy
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Lately lots of people have been giving us candy. The girls and I just eat it but Rick says we should throw it out. That almost seems blasephemous. There is almost nothing I like better than free food.

    But it reality I know we should throw it out. It isn’t “real food” but man, it tastes good!!

  2. Rachel
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

    No comment.

  3. heathermommy
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Really natural peanut butter tastes delicious. Just make sure you get the salted kind. It tastes way better.

  4. Posted March 19, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I cannot bring myself to eat natural peanut butter. And yes, I have tried it. I simply don’t like it. I’d rather not eat peanut butter at all. Fortunately, Jen still likes me even though I eat bad magic peanut butter.

    Yesterday was our annual movie day here at work. There was a ton of free candy for us to take and eat during the movie. I have a lot of it leftover, just sitting in my desk in a white paper bag. So far, I have managed to convince myself that it’s not appropriate to eat Reese’s Pieces for breakfast and have refrained from gorging myself. But we all know it’s coming, right?

    Once again, I am saying, “I’ll do better tomorrow . . . “

  5. Amy
    Posted March 21, 2010 at 1:09 am

    I am so sorry to have caused you so much trauma by leaving my PPB at your house. I hope this SECOND blog posting about it will ease your pain and help you move on with your life, a life free of PPB. I, on the other hand, will continue to eat PPB in moderation, especially in the form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. For while I might live longer if I never eat PPB again, I am not convinced a life free of PPB is worth living. (Note: I am in no way addicted to PPB. I can quit anytime I want.)

Potato Soup

This is a post/recipe from my sister Heather:

I originally got this recipe from my sister-in-law but my kids wouldn’t eat it because of the chunks. They only do Purreed soups so they can’t see all the veggies they are eating. So I tweaked it to this. It was very yummy.

1/2 cup carrots sliced

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

salt and pepper

Saute veggies in pot with some butter or olive oil (not extra virgin - that doesn’t do well at high heat. Or try grapeseed oil or coconut oil.)

When veggies are soft add :

2 cups broth (Whatever kind you like)

1 cup water

Turn on high and when boiling add:

2 cups chopped potatoes – about 3

Turn down heat, cover and simmer till potatoes are soft.

Then puree soup in a blender.

Transfer back to the pot and add:

1 can of corn (drained)

1 cup cheese (the sharper the better!!)

1/2 cup to 1 1/2 cup milk (depending on the desired consistency)

Season with salt and pepper.

Heat on low heat till corn is warm and serve.

My kids ate it all up but my “picky” one left all the corn untouched at the bottom of her bowl!


  1. Posted March 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    This sounds delicious, but I like chunks. If I skip the pureeing step, will it come out okay?

  2. heathermommy
    Posted March 19, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    yes – just don’t puree it. You might want to do less on the milk so it won’t be too thin

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

We have eaten a lot of pancakes over the years at our house. It is a staple in our diet. Lately, my kids are kind of getting burned out on pancakes so I have been trying to change things up a bit.

I invented this recipe the other morning and the kids ate every pancake in sight!

And this recipe proves that whole wheat pancakes don’t have to be heavy. These things just melt in your mouth!


4 Cups white winter wheat-freshly ground if you can!

4 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

In a separate bowl, mix together:

4 eggs

8 Tbl canola oil

1 Tbl honey

5-6 Cups Buttermilk

Combine dry and wet ingredients

I add enough buttermilk until the pancakes are the desired consistency-not too thin, not too thick. The batter should easily flow when being scooped onto the skillet, but not like soup. I don’t really have an accurate measurement on the buttermilk. It could be more than 6 cups.

If you do not have buttermilk ( or not quite enough), you can use regular milk with lemon juice in it ( 1tsp of lemon for every 1 cup of milk). I have even used plain yogurt thinned with milk.

Serve these hot with pure maple syrup. Mmmmm….


  1. Posted March 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

    My kids love pancakes, so I will definitely have to try these.

  2. Ellen
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 11:23 am

    We had pancakes every morning when I was growing up, and that’s how my kids grew up, too. My dad was the master chef, and sometimes he used buttermilk. He always separated the egg and beat the white separately and folded it in to the batter last to make it especially light and fluffy. And of course they were whole wheat from freshly ground wheat. We never put syrup on ours. It was always either homemade jam (plum or else apricot-pineapple) or honey or bottled peaches or pears or applesauce. Mm-mm! To this day I have a hard time deciding what to put on my hotcakes, because I love them all!

    • Posted March 18, 2010 at 11:44 am

      That is a great suggestion about the eggs. I am going to try that next time.

      I love pancakes with just a little butter!

  3. Rachel
    Posted March 18, 2010 at 10:54 pm


  4. Jessica
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Just made these for breakfast. Yummy, yummy, yummy!

Baked Spaghetti

Here is a post/recipe from my sister Heather who is really the one who should have a food blog. Go Heather!

This is a standard at our house. Rick and I always eat too much because it tastes so yummy. This is supper fast and everyone I have made it for has loved it. I always make this to take to sick neighbors or new moms.

16oz package of whole wheat spaghetti (if you haven’t switched to whole wheat, now is the time. Just don’t tell the kids. I swear they won’t notice in this recipe. I think it also helps to use angel hair pasta when first getting used to wheat pasta)

2 eggs
4-5 tblsp of Parmesan cheese (the kind you shake out of a plastic jar)
about 8 oz of sour cream or plain yogurt (Sour cream is richer, yogurt is healthier and it still tastes yummy)
1 jar of spaghetti sauce ( you can make your own, we buy Ragu Light because there is no added sugar, just tomatoes, olive oil, basil, etc…)
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil the noodles, drain, put in a 9×13 pan.

Crack in 2 eggs and add Parmesan cheese – mix up with the noodles.

Spread layer of yogurt or sour cream on top of noodles (don’t mix in – just layer on top).

Pour on spaghetti sauce (again don’t mix in, just layer on top). Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 3o minutes.

Can serve this with garlic bread (best if it’s wheat!!) and a nice spinach or other green salad.

One Comment

  1. Tracey
    Posted March 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I add some sauteed veggies to the spaghetti before I bake it. The vegetbales I add vary on what I have in the refrigerator. Some that I’ve added are onions, carrots, zuchini, and spinach.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Affording Organics

Here's a post from my awesome sister Heather:

Here is an article I found on the most important produce to buy organic :

Whether you are on a budget and need to prioritize your organic purchases, or you would simply like to know which type of produce has the highest pesticide residues—and which do not—the following guide from the Environmental Working Group will help.

12 Most Contaminated

Sweet Bell Peppers
Grapes (Imported)

12 Least Contaminated

Sweet Corn (Frozen)
Sweet Peas (Frozen)
Kiwi Fruit

Here’s the link:



  1. Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    That is interesting. Thanks for the info! Josh and I were just talking about how we need to start going to the Farmer’s Market they have every Saturday over at the mall.

  2. Posted March 18, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Thanks for posting this Heather. I am going to print it out and keep it with me when I go to the grocery store. This also helps in planning what will be a priority for us to grow ourselves in the garden this year.

Macaroni and Cheese

Here is a post/recipe from my friend Heather. This is yummy!

I love macaroni and cheese. I love the crappy yellow crappity-crap in the blue box. I love my aunt’s homemade mac and cheese. I love the stuff you get at the school cafeteria that’s 1 part glue and 2 parts gum. I love the magnificent baked mac and cheese at Cleburne’s Cafeteria in Houston (mecca for the comfort food lover). But I have never really liked the stuff I make.

The challenge for me in the mac and cheese department is that the stuff may be creamy and fantastic, but it tastes very bland. I’d prefer to keep the salt low, but I don’t want to sacrifice flavor.

This recipe may have solved that problem.

1 lb macaroni (I use Barilla elbows or Mueller’s corkscrews. Both have ridges that seem to hold the sauce better.)

1/2 cup butter
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp paprika
4 cups milk
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put generously salted water on to boil for macaroni. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente.

2. Sautée onions in butter over medium heat until translucent. Add spices and continue to sautée for another minute or two.

3. Add flour and stir together until clumpy. I’m a firm believer in letting roux cook for at least a minute or so after it clumps so you can cook the wheat and get rid of the flour taste. Just keep stirring it around the pan and letting it golden.

4. Add milk gradually until all four cups is incorporated. This means adding probably 1/4 cup at a time and stirring until that bit is incorporated, then adding 1/4 cup more. Once all the milk has been added, keep stirring until the sauce begins to bubble.

5. Add grated cheese and stir until melted.

6. Mix pasta and sauce in large bowl. Pour into greased 9X13 pan. Sprinkle bread crumbs and Parmesan on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes until top is golden and contents are bubbly.

This was pretty great at dinner, all crusty and chewy and cheesy, but it was even better lukewarm 3 hours later.-Heather


  1. Heathermommy
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Maybe it goes along with our name but I love mac n cheese, too. I remember loving the mac n cheese they served at our cafeteria at Northern.

    Questions – can I use wheat flour? And ground mustard – what is that?

  2. Posted March 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I love mac and cheese and so do my kids, of course. We’ll have to try out this recipe.

  3. HK
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    Ground mustard is simple ground mustard seed. You can buy it ground or whole in the spice aisle. If you used wheat flour, either use less flour, or use the 1/2 cup and use more milk.

    I always find wheat flour needs more liquid than white in my recipes.

    And you can always add more cheese. The recipe I based this on originally called for an additional two cups of cheese on top.

  4. Posted March 18, 2010 at 7:05 am

    This sounds delicious-can’t wait to try it!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"March is Frozen Food Month!"

The announcement over the grocery store’s intercom rang in my ears at the exact moment that I passed by the frozen food section.


My eyes were inadvertently drawn in the general direction of the plethora of food like substances.

And I realized that Pavlov’s little experiment no longer worked on me.

For the first time in my life, I didn’t start salivating.

Could it be, I wondered, am I no longer an addict? a frozen food junkie?

You remember my father? The guy who I adored but who also was at least partially responsible for my journey down the junk food highway?

Not that I blame him.

Well, besides the trips to The Poppe Shoppe and Burger King, my Dad was known to frequent the frozen food aisle at the grocery store, provided there were coupons involved.

I remember how my heart would leap with joy whenever Dad would come home with Van de Kamps’ fish fillets and Crispers french fries.

What rapture!

I first learned to cook by opening colorful boxes and lovingly arranging the contents on the cookie sheet. And of course, I had to turn on the oven. And then stand there for those agonizing 12 minutes until it was done!

I don’t want to mislead you- Mom made most of our meals from scratch. She even made home made bread, used eggplant in several recipes, and tried to get us to drink aloe vera juice.

But Dad was all about special occasions and treats and bargains.

All that convenience food was special and therefore, much coveted by me.

We kids were elated whenever he’d whip out the frozen manna from the freezer.

And you know, they don’t call it convenience food for nothing. Swanson TV dinners on sale? The perfect dinner solution for a hectic day.

As a young Mom who was pregnant more than not, March was a blessed month for me. Combine all those great bargains with a deep freezer and it equalled I could lay on the couch in my morning sickness misery or bed rest banishment and my kids could still eat.

I am not sure when the tide started to turn. Several years ago, I began taking a hard look at all those ingredients listed on the back of those attractive packages.

By the time Morgan Spurlock made Super Size Me, I needed no convincing of the message. I was fully in his camp, a member of the “eat healthier choir”. But that movie did cause me to have one epiphany. Junk food is addicting and I was/am an addict.

I’d like to think of myself as cured. My experience in the grocery store gave me hope. But something tells me I could very easily fall again. I am still pretty fond of fried cheese sticks.

And therefore, I must be ever vigilant.

My name is Jen, and I am a recovering junk -foodoholic….


  1. Posted March 16, 2010 at 11:12 am

    You know, you can make your own fried cheese sticks.

    I still like frozen food. It works for me sometimes when my days are very busy. But we don’t eat much of it anymore. I’ve even given up eating frozen meals for lunch, instead opting for PB sandwiches or leftovers. So maybe this is an area where I am not doing so badly — an area I didn’t realize that I wasn’t doing so badly in. Thanks for the realization!

  2. HK
    Posted March 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

    My “Supersize Me” confession: I totally started eating fast food again after that movie. I couldn’t sit through an entire movie showing me commercial after commercial, close up after close up of quarter-pounders and not want one. I fell off the wagon, and I fell hard.

    It’s sort of embarrassing.

  3. Rachel
    Posted March 17, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I like Michael Pollan’s food rule, “You can eat as much junk food as you want, if you make it yourself.” Words to live by I say. I try not to buy those convenience foods so much. They are not nearly as good as I remember them from my childhood anyway. And I did make homemade bread again over the weekend.