Friday, April 29, 2011

Macaroni and Cheese

If you are lucky enough to have an "Aunt Bee" in your family, she probably has tucked away for safe keeping a stash of "BEST" recipes... she might even share them with you if you ask nicely! But if you don't have a favorite Aunt or dear Grandma who has spent years perfecting her macaroni and cheese, then you are on the lookout. I have several that I fall back on, one from Tyler Florence on Food Network that he calls Ultimate... it's good!

Tyler Florence's Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese
From Tyler Florence's Ultimate Cookbook
1 lb elbow macaroni
4 cups milk
2 -3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves, smashed and divided
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 bunch fresh thyme
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente. Drain.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
In a small saucepan heat the milk with the thyme springs and 2 garlic cloves. Melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to keep lumps from forming. Strain the solids out of the milk and whisk it into the butter and flour mixture. Continue to whisk vigorously, and cook until the mixture is nice and smooth. Stir in the 4 cups of the cheese and continue to cook and stir to melt the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked macaroni and the parsley and fold that all in to coat the macaroni with the cheese mixture. Scrape into a 3 quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
While that bakes, heat a saute pan. Add the bacon, render the fat and cook until crispy. Add onion, garlic and thyme leaves and cook for about 5 minutes to soften the onion. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, scatter the bacon mixture over the mac and cheese.

Another from the Deen Brother's Cookbook that never fails to please..

Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese Casserole
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened,
plus additional for coating dish
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
8 ounces American cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
1 cup half-and-half
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9-inch baking dish; set aside.
In a large pot of water, cook the macaroni according to package directions; drain. Return the macaroni to the pot. Add the cheeses to the hot macaroni and stir well; spread in the prepared dish.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup butter, the half-and-half, eggs, sour cream, salt, cayenne pepper (if using), and black pepper. Pour over the macaroni. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Servings: 8

...and the tried and true recipe from the back of Velvetta, easy to make and CHEESY-GOOD!

Velvetta Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups (8 oz.) elbow macaroni, uncooked
3/4 lb. (12 oz.) Velveeta cheese product, cut up
1/3 cup milk
1/8 tsp. pepper
Cook macaroni as directed on package; drain well. Return to pan.
Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Cook on low heat until prepared cheese product is melted, stirring frequently.
Courtesy of Kraft Foods

Today I was listening to Martha Stewart on Sirius and they were interviewing Ann Hodgman who's written Beat This, a cookbook with recipes she guarantees to be better than anyone else's! ALRIGHT!!! So when I got home, you guessed it...I Googled Ann Hodgman mac and cheese and here it is!

The Best Macaroni and Cheese From Beat This by Ann Hodgman
What makes this recipe the best? Its creamy, creamy creaminess. To achieve maximum smoothitude, you really have to use evaporated milk and Velveeta.
10 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated
4 ounces Monterey Jack, grated
4 ounces Velveeta, cubed(or, if you must, 4 more ounces of Monterey Jack, grated)
4 ounces cream cheese
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 slices extra-thick bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
12 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
2 ounces parmesan, grated
Heat oven to 350. Put cheeses (except parmesan) in the top of a double boiler (if you don't have one, set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan with about 1 inch of water in it) and melt over simmering water, stirring frequently. Gradually add milk, whisking until completely smooth. Whisk in mustard, bacon, salt, and pepper. Pour into a 9-by-9-inch baking dish, add macaroni, and toss to coat (for 4-ounce bowls like the one at left, mix macaroni and sauce in a medium bowl, then spoon into dishes). In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and parmesan; sprinkle over the top. Bake until crumbs are browned and cheese is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes (15 to 20 minutes for individual portions).

I'm going to try it out this weekend on the toughest critic I know... my 11 year old grandson. Results, next week!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Feeling Lucky

This time of year, I begin to think of big projects to do in the yard. If your "Partner in Crime" is of the same mindset, you're in trouble! But we have to wait until the rain stops and the nights warm up. Have you ever noticed Spring Fever arrives way before Spring actually gets here? March was cold and dreary and that didn't help. The stores ran ads with patio sets and plants galore. Even if you can't safely plant it, the garden centers have it. I fall for it every year and buy flats of flowers that spend weeks in the warmth of the garage or covered up under blankets if I'm dumb enough to put them in the ground. So far the only thing planted is a patio tomato, cilantro, a single pepper plant and lettuce in a big washtub on the upper deck. I have covered it faithfully every night and I think they're gonna make it!

This year I have casually mentioned (several times) that I'd like a fish pond out by the patio where we set under the trees. I got the idea from our neighbors who put one in several summers ago. We babysit the fish for them when they go on vacation. It's so pretty with all the lush plants and amazing that their little goldfish have grown so much! I think I'm going to have to work on him some though. He doesn't think it's a good idea since he'd have to dig a big hole and our land is mostly rock with a teaspoon of dirt sprinkled around the rock. It's not near as much trouble as the patio fireplace plans I suggested last Spring!

This weekend is supposed to be nice, FINALLY... and I'm going to throw the dice and gamble that Winter is over. I'm going to take all of the sad plants out of the Garage Jail and set them free on the decks and patios! I may even plant the tray of flowers that I bought a month ago at the garden center, I'm feeling lucky!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

sTinkn gAboozies!

McGregor hEre, mE and the other gAboozies hed fun hidin eggs fur the Frst  Easter Scavengr Hnt sUnday. tHe gRendchillen hed to follow th cluz nd gather up th eggs wE hed mad. nOw us gAboozies dont knw mch abut Easter eggs so wE akz the Easter Bunny to help us mek som flat eggs soz wE culd hid thm bettr.

tH Lady of the Big Hse gav th gRendchillen th list of cluz and they wuz off lik rabbts!

iT wuz lik artprt control et frst with lots uf fingr pointn... 

Hr wuz the lst wE mede...

McGregor saz Heallo to th GRENDchillen nd wElcom to th First Annual Easter Scavenger Hunt. mE nd th other gAboozies hav hed fun hidin cluz. gAthr up all th eggs as U fnd thm nd whn U get don ther will B a bIg SurpriZ!
1. Go quicky, the Call of Nature  #1 Or #2...
2. Beauty is in a Drawer with lips and sticks…
3. What time is it? It’s bedtime!
4. Drippy feet go on this rug…
5. Time for Beddy Bye!
6. All dried up, now fold ’em and put away!
7. While ur there, iron ’em and hang ’em up!
8. White Wedding, a blast from the past…
9. Loo Library…
10. Bonz for dogs..
11. Ding Dong!
12. Brite idea…
13. Springtime fleurs…
14.  Fast Food…
15.  Down the Drain…
16.  All mixed up…
17. Swami
18. Snuggles
19. Toasty Good
20. Wake up and smell the coffee!
21. Rice is Nice!
22. Time for Tea!
23. Driving Miss Daisy
24. Recyle, it’s the right thing to do!
25. Cold Cash!

See th flat egg et #8 White Wedding?

jKson fnds #6... All dried up!

Geven lookz fur #2

tHe menfolk sitz whl th kiddez lookz fur eggs!

wE gAboozies ar sTinkrs, wE hidz thm gud... iT wuz ltz of fun so wE mey do it agin nxt yr!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

FREE Bacon!

This has been a long Spring, lots of rain and cool temps that have prevented me from doing much gardening. If you've been watching the news, you may have noticed that Arkansas has been stuck in rain mode for over a week with a front that has stalled and worn out it's welcome. But I have high hopes that the clouds will eventually clear and all of these plants can go outside for a little sunshine! We have beans and squash, corn and okra, tomatoes and peppers. I've been babysitting these plants for a while now and the TLC will be worth it all when I can make one of these...

All that talk about bacon being good for me yesterday made me hungry for a BLT! Nothing on God's green Earth smells better than bacon frying, and if you had a mother or grandmother who made bacon just the way you liked it you can count yourself lucky.

One thing for sure, you don't have to do much to the really great foods. This summer I'm looking forward to all the "greats"...grilled hot dogs and burgers with potato salad and baked beans, fried fish with cornbread and coleslaw... and bacon in all it's glory!

If you'd like some free bacon... duh, who wouldn't want free bacon???
See the schedule below … Wright Brand bacon will be coming to a city near you. For a chance to win FREE bacon, all you have to do is text the word "Wright" to 313131. Here's their schedule so "Look for de plane, de plane" in the following cities...

  • April 16 & 17: Birmingham, AL  Talladega Superspeedway
  • May 28 & 29: Concord, NC  Charlotte Motor Speedway
  • June 4: Joliet, IL  Chicagoland Speedway
  • June 10 – 12: Chicago, IL  Chicago Blues Festival & Ribfest
  • Mid-June: Omaha, NE  College World Series
  • July 2 & 3: New York, NY  Select Beaches
  • July 8 & 9: Sparta, KY  Kentucky Speedway
  • July 22 & 23: Nashville, TN  Nashville Superspeedway
  • July 30 & 31: Indianapolis, IN  Indianapolis Motor Speedway
  • August 26 & 27: Bristol, TN  Bristol Motor Speedway
  • September 3 & 4: Hampton, GA  Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • September: TBDOctober 8 & 9: Dallas, TX  Texas State Fair
  • November 12 & 13: Avondale, AZ  Phoenix International Speedway
*If you can't make it to any of these locations, just text them now at 313131 to win now!

Monday, April 25, 2011

There was good news on the ABC World News... you missed it??? It was stuck between fighting in Libya and $4 gasoline at the pump. Researchers have determined a diet of bacon and cream will control and eventually cure epileptic seizures in children and adolescents. They interviewed families who's lives were changed in just a few days of following the Ketogenic diet. High in fat with extreme restrictions of carbs, it sounds like the old Atkins diet I used to go on. Doctors say yes, it is nutritionally incomplete and supplements have to be added, but the benefits of reducing or eliminating seizures far outweigh the short term diet. They also said the diet was being studied for Alzheimer's and even cancer patients. Wouldn't that be wonderful if all of these things could be helped or cured with something as simple as bacon?

It goes against anything our Mothers ever told us to eat things that are bad. As much as we strive to eat our healthiest, to choose organic whenever possible, to limit processed and sugar from our diet there are those out there trying just as hard to tempt us.

Just go over to and you can buy anything from bacon flavored gum to bacon lip balm. Bacon lollipops, bacon toothpaste, bacon mints, bacon floss... I' m NOT making this up, go see for yourself!

I've blogged about Baconaisse before HERE and I have a jar in my fridge right now. It makes a killer BLT!

If you didn't get your favorite candy in your basket on Easter it's not too late to order a gourmet 'baconlicious' Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosage Chocolatiers. Don't worry... it's 62% dark chocolate and everyone knows how good that is for us!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Picnik Fun

I've been at Picnik this morning, playing, picking blackberries, chasing clouds, spreading my tablecloth...go there and the wait is pleasant. The seconds to download breeze by as they take you on an imaginary picnic complete with green grass and daisies!

You don't even have to register to use their photo shop, how nice is that? There are all kinds of goodies there... you can make your pictures in a Vignette effect...

This is pumped up with the Boost effect. It makes my picture look 100% better!

Neon night!

...wait a minute, I didn't do anything to this one!

Can you tell I like the Text mode the best???

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


 I think I'm being taught patience this spring. It takes so long to finally arrive, at least in Northwest Arkansas. The days are still overcast with nights in the 40's. I would have never made it if I'd been born up north! Don't get me wrong, I love a good cold winter day with a fire and something cooking on the stove but enough is enough, it's April and I am needing sunshine in my life! Today was another stormy day with dark skies and threatening clouds. Fayetteville got hail this afternoon, we somehow escaped the storm...we are only about 20 miles to the north.

The dogwoods are in full bloom now, they put on such a show that everything else on the mountain pales to their beauty.

These may be the only flowers in the yard that the deer leave completely alone. Once the annuals go in it's another story...

Jack in the Pulpit

One of each color of Hosta, I have trouble making decisions!

This clematis has only bloomed once, too shady here I think.

The pansies love the shady porch, safe from the hungry deer!

These pictures were taken last Saturday, much nicer day and it was sunny. It won't be long and we won't be able to see the lake anymore.

Saturday was a busy day. We worked in the yard, ran errands,  and when we got home I had a big box on the front porch from Fed Ex.
 Inside was this beautiful basket filled to the brim with gardening goodies. Gloves and seeds, a garden plaque, a lovely mug decorated with my favorite  pansies complete with exotic teas, butter cookies, Focaccia Crisps with a generous sampling of Spanish olive cheese. Lucky for me I have everything I need to have a gourmet repast in the basket I won from Michael Lee West's grand giveaway celebrating the release of her new book Gone With a Handsomer Man. The day she posted this wonderful basket, there were actually seven prizes PLUS a copy of Lori Wilde's new book The Welcome Home Garden Club.

When you visit Michael Lee West at  Designs by Gollum, you get it all. Great recipes, fabulous tablescapes and decorating ideas, a slice of Americana...she has goats and donkeys and ducks, and you get LOTS of giveaways! She is running Pioneer Woman a race on contests and by my calculations she's winning right now! 

Today's mail brought the real prize...a copy of the new book! Thanks Michael and Lori, I'm off to TeenyLand!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I've been planning my menu for Easter, so far I know I'm serving ham. The rest of the menu is up in the air. The hardest part are the sides and desserts. I have too many "favorites" and I just can't decide. Then there's the new recipes that are floating all over the Internet and Food Network, it's just too important to make a hurried decision!

Easter ham screams for some kind of rich potato dish, sweet or savory, yams or yukon golds you need some taters on the table! I know I'm serving potatoes so last night I found this video while searching for the perfect potato dish. Does the lady look's Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island! Dawn Wells has made it back to dry land in Idaho and she has the easiest way to prepare boiled  potatoes I have ever seen! This will change the way you peel potatoes f.o.r.e.v.e.r.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Last week a man was bitten by a poisonous copperhead in the garden center at a local Walmart in Springdale. Of course it was on the news and it got our attention and we discussed the possibility of that happening was probably remote at best. I spend a lot of time in the garden centers this time of year, mostly buying for the deer we "feed" every summer. They have a robust appetite, hostas and impatiens are on the menu and they also love roses and azaleas. Really anything that is beautiful and blooming is what they "order."

So this morning when I Googled the information, guess what came up? The same thing happened at a Goose Creek, South Carolina Walmart in September of '09. The article said only a couple snake bites are reported a year... does that make me feel any better, uh, NO!

I don't know about you, but I'm thinking we all need to keep our eyes peeled when we are in any outdoor center, especially when plants are grouped close together. Remote occurrence or not, I sure don't want to be on the news tonight laying on the floor of my favorite garden center with a snake bite.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yesterday was Prom for GRANDson Jackson and his beautiful date Amanda! I can't wait to see the pictures from the prom and hear all about it!

If that wasn't enough, I received my gardener's basket from Michael Lee West's give-a-way that I won. It was just stuffed with all kinds of gardening goodies!

And in an unassuming manila envelope... the secret serum that is going to make me young again!
Life is GOOD!

*Spring Chicken Serum and Beak Balm can be found at Jayme Goffin's Etsy site...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mahi-Mahi Tacos

I am a Lucky Duck, things sometimes just fall in my lap! Like yesterday I was shopping at Sam's Club and I was making the "rounds"... you know what I mean, scanning the aisles for samples when I saw they had a stack of cookbooks on one of kiosks. My heart beat a little faster, I have a weakness for cookbooks and I thought, "This must be a new one." The crowd was pretty thick and everyone was getting one, so it must be good! When I worked my way to the front the nice guy that was demo-ing the book said they were F.R.E.E. Oh yes, my lucky day!
When I got home I was thrilled to see so many great recipes inside with all of my favorite products featured! Tyson Chicken (duh!), Kraft Foods, KC Masterpiece. I perused and now I have to share...

Tangy Mahi-Mahi Tacos
Flavorful fish tacos with fresh fruit, spices and a touch of cool sour cream
Treasures from the Sea
Total time: 20 minutes  Makes 4 servings

4 Mahi-Mahi fillets, thawed
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 lime, juiced
1 mango peeled and cubed
1/2 red or sweet white onion, finely chopped
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
whole wheat flour tortillas
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
shredded lettuce chopped tomato

Brush both sides of thawed mahi-mahi fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill fillets over medium heat for 3-4 minutes per side or until they are no longer translucent in the center. Fish is done when it flakes when tested with a fork.

While the fish is grilling, combine the sour cream, chili powder, cumin and half the lime juice; set aside. In a separate bowl, gently toss the mango, avocado, onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro with remaining lime juice.

Place the mahi-mahi in a warm tortilla. Add mango salsa, lettuce and tomato. Drizzle with the sour cream mixture. Serve with Spanish rice and fresh grilled pineapple skewers.

Tip: Place aluminum foil on the the grill to prevent fish from sticking.

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