MacNCheese Veggie Casserole

July 31, 2012 § 4 Comments

Wow, it’s been six months since I posted my last recipe.

Truth be told, I’m not doing a whole lot of cooking these days especially in the last couple of months. We’re experiencing oppressive humidity added with a record breaking dry spell, so far the hottest and driest July ever recorded for our area. Lawns are brown and crunch beneath your feet, flower beds and gardens need watering twice a day; still limp more often than not and fire bans are in place for miles and miles around. *UPDATE: No kidding, while I was writing this post it started to rain and even better, it still is and might be for some time. Yay!

Needless to say, inside a house without air conditioning, the last thing I want to do is stand over a hot stove or oven. Not only is it not fun, it is not practical because the heat of the oven or stove just increases the temperature inside the house. We’ve actually busted our budget at restaurants the last month just to be somewhere we can eat that has air conditioning.

Anywho, today Hubby sent me a text that he had a craving for pasta and even though we’re kinda sorta Paleoish (I can see you rolling your eyes Shady, stop it.), this recipe immediately came to mind. It’s always been a big hit and makes a great main or side dish. You can dress it up anyway you like or use any kind of pasta, veggies and cheese you have on hand.

I’ve been making this for years and it is no more time consuming or hassle than opening a box of mac and cheese. But the taste is miles apart and don’t get me started on how much better for you it is than all those chemicals.

MacNCheese Veggie Casserole

I cooked about 1 and 3/4 cup of macaroni until just before not quite done (it will cook in the sauce while in the oven later and I prefer my pasta firmer). Then it was rinsed and set aside. We’re only a family of three so use more if there are more mouths to feed.

The rest of the casserole is…

The Cheese Sauce

3 tblsp of butter
3 tblsp of flour
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk (depending on your desired consistency)
1 cup grated medium cheddar (old or sharp is really good too)
1/3 cup of grated  Parmesan cheese (I know, I’m using processed, sue me.)
Salt and pepper to taste.

In the same pot that I cooked the macaroni, obvious by the hangers on in the pot, I melted the butter on medium low and whisked in the flour until I got a consistent rue, I then poured in some of the milk and continued to whisk until I got a nice paste.

I know it doesn’t look very appetizing but that’s the beginnings of a really nice basic sauce, assuming you ignore the floating macaroni. Whatever, this isn’t Hell’s Kitchen, it’s mine.  😛

Next, you add your grated cheddar and stir, being sure to add milk as it thickens. It will thicken nicely so don’t be tempted to add too much milk.

Turn the heat down to low and continue whisking, add the Parmesan and keep stirring until well incorporated. Turn heat off and add salt and pepper. Add rinsed and drained pasta and stir until well mixed.

Now, taste it!  Go on, you know you wanna…hehe.  Seriously, this stuff is amazing by itself but it’s even better when covered in a bed of fresh seasonal veggies which is then covered in a layer of bread crumbs (I said stop it Shady!) and even more cheese.

The Veggie Crumb Layer

1 sliced medium zucchini (even better if you can walk outside and grab it from your own garden)
Fresh blanched green beans
2/3 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

I layered a glass baking pan with the mac and cheese, added the green beans then laid out the zucchini slices on top. In a small bowl I mixed together the breadcrumbs, cheese, salt and pepper and sprinkled it on top. I threw it in a 300 F oven for about 20 minutes until the cheese bubbled, the breadcrumbs browned and the veggies softened.


I Live For Moments Like This

July 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

People ask me, “So what do you do?”

I mostly feel awkward, unsure and lesser than, when answering, “I’m a stay at home Mom.”

My kids are almost 24 and just turned 17.

No, neither are scholars or have any academic accolades. Neither have been champions or even competitors sports wise. Both are products of their environment and are skeptics of standardized anything. They both are avid gamers and spend much of their time in the pursuit of happiness.

And yes, we have encouraged this. We allowed them to shun traditional schooling to try out life instead. We gave them permission and fought with school administrations and boards so they could live freer, less conditional lives.  Over the last 6 years our kids have been and are still encouraged and supported in taking classes that interest them while not being forced to sit through ones they aren’t.  Both of them have successfully completed a college course while neither has a high school diploma.

When questioned about unschooling, 6 years later, I still occasionally get my hackles my up. But more often than not, these days, I feel sorry for the person who still believes that a traditional, brick and mortar, 30 hours a week of inside a classroom, education is the only way to raise happy, healthy, intelligent kids.

Because it’s just not true.

And I live for moments like this. When I see my kids together, happy, interacting, discussing their latest WoW adventures and just in general, smiling.  Or making goofy faces for the camera.

Project 52 – Week 30.5ish

July 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Facing My Fears

It’s a wonder I made it to forty
For all the things I’m scared of

Recently, I tried, going up really high
Something that births terror in my belly

It’s a wonder I didn’t scream
Oh wait, I did, a little

We went up and around 170ft
Again, and again, again and again

Something outside creaked loudly
Hubby laughed wickedly

At the expression on my face

Finally, it ended, I bolted
And almost kissed the ground

It’s a wonder I made it to forty years

When I’m scared of heights, loud noises, spiders, the dark, traffic,
clowns, balloons, aliens, doors left unlocked, bunnies (you’ve obviously
never had one jump across your path at night) and a host of other things.

Impossible To Take a Bad Picture

July 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

I’ve finally gone through and edited some of our vacation pics.  With over 200 pics to sort through and edit, it’s quite the job and will likely take me weeks to get through them all.  Still, here are some of the best from the day we visited the falls while in Niagara.

That last one is of a very pooped, end of the week, we’ve walked for days, Daughter. As tired as she was, and blisters notwithstanding, she was a real trooper and had an absolute blast.  It was the first vacation ever where she didn’t want to rush home at the end of it.

It really is impossible to take a bad picture of the falls and all these photos were taken by me (except the one with me and Hubby- Daughter took that one) with my iPhone.  Surprised how well they turned out?  I was.

My Baby is 17

July 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

On Thursday, my youngest turned 17.  We were so busy with renovating the fireplace room and preparing for our trip to Niagara Falls that I didn’t get much chance to ponder the whole thing.  Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the fact that almost two decades have passed since I gave birth to her, I’m finding that I’m handling it quite uncharacteristically.

When she turned 16 last year I was all wrapped up in the Sweet Sixteen concept and lamenting the loss of my “little girl”.  I was happy for her; her expanding horizons, her more adult experiences, her new relationships but still, I was also a little sad for me. Of course I didn’t tell her that but nonetheless the feeling was there and it lingered for a week or so.

This year however, I can truly say that I am happy for both of us and maybe even more so for me. Our dynamic has changed, yes her independence frightens me a little (what, she can drive now?) and I’ve been demoted from primary influence to a mere casual advisor. These things were also all true last year but they felt much different…scarier almost.

This year though, instead of lamenting these changes, I find myself actually relieved by them. I’m not quite at Hubby’s “let us rejoice” level of appreciation but I’m also not stuck in the trenches of “where did my babies go?” wallowing either. I know exactly where they went, I was there. And if my memory ever fails me, I have upteen photo albums to help jog it.

Nope, I’m not the least bit sad this time around. I’m grateful that she’s a happy, healthy teenager. I’m pleased that she still occasionally confides in me and we have a decent relationship. Mostly, mostly though, I am excited to explore the freedom that her independence affords me.

Me time has taken on a whole new meaning and I’m pretty pleased about it.  Perspective, it’s a funny thing.  😀

Project 52 – Week 29

July 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

The Falls

Majestic, loud in their thundering
Throwing water and air

Over the chasm
Without remorse

Nature’s intentions witnessed
Lost I am in awe

Niagara Falls

* Note: I know I’ve said I’m not photographer but I think I did pretty good with that one. Can you see the double rainbow?

Fireplace Room to Library – An Update w Pics

July 14, 2012 § 5 Comments

Wow, what a week!  Last Saturday the new hardwood floor went in. Sunday we went and visited an old friend who just got out of hospital. Monday we left for Daughter’s birthday week vacation (details in an upcoming post) and we returned yesterday early evening.

I’ve got a week’s worth of laundry to do, including what I didn’t get done before we left, mail to open and sort, groceries to clean out of the fridge and then replace and a whole lot of tidying and sorting to do.  We left the house in a rather state of disaster because we didn’t have time to do it all before we headed out.

Did I mention the heat wave bordering on drought conditions? It’s so bad here that brush fires are breaking out in the nearby green spaces and we went to bed last night with the smell of burning woods wafting through the windows. It was disconcerting to say the least. And, yeah, no air conditioning.  Thank goodness for the pool.

All that aside, the new floor is absolutely stunning. The difference is remarkable and makes me regret not having done it sooner. Of course, if we had we would have had to pay for the materials and labour.  Our new floor cost us exactly 1 large pizza and a dozen bottles of beer. That’s it.

The jist of it is, Buddy A came across some free hardwood flooring and offered it to us. Buddy B (Mike) is a construction contractor. Get Buddies A and B together with Hubby, add beer and voila, new floor. Yay for me and my new library. Double yay for the increase in the value of the house. Yes, I do know how very lucky I am.

Here are some pics…

Yes, it’s the same room!  😀

That’s it for the before and after but here’s a few more of the room now.

As you can see, it’s not quite a library yet what with no shelves. That may take some time as I’m having the shelves custom built but honestly, I’m in no hurry and am completely happy keeping things as they are for now.  Besides, I still have a bunch of tidying up to do in there.

As I mentioned previously, my next post will be about our vacation to Niagara Falls with plenty of awesome pics.

Fireplace Room To Library – Part Five – Phew!

July 6, 2012 § 2 Comments

Sorry folks, another pictureless post.  It’s not that I’m not taking pictures, I am, it’s just that they’re all of the same thing and frankly, they’re really boring.

The room is painted, second coat notwithstanding, and everything is good to go for the floor to be put in, removing carpet also notwithstanding.  Both notwithstandings easily remedied by a few minutes and an extra pair of big strong man hands.  😛

Honestly, with this heat, I’m surprised I managed to get as much done this week as I have. Having the kitchen reno – done in November – as a comparison, I’ve completely resolved to NEVER again undertake a major renovation project in the summer.

The difference between the two experiences is totally palpable and I have to wonder what I was thinking. With the kitchen renovation, the painting was easy and neither made me sweat nor made me feel like I was going to pass out after 20 minutes. In November we could open the window and let in the cool autumn breeze to help air out the room and dry the paint more quickly.

Did you know that extreme humidity is not conducive to paint drying? I didn’t. Of course, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense but I honestly didn’t even give it a thought. The things we learn by doing.

In any case, the new hardwood floor goes in tomorrow and I most excited by the fact that I’m not required to assist. With three capable men on the job, I get to leave when they get started and come back when they are finishing. Gotta love it.

Next post on the subject will have some more before and after pictures, promise.

I hope everyone has a great weekend.  😀


Fireplace Room To Library – Part Four – Pictureless Post

July 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

I got ONE wall painted so far today and I’m disappointed.  I found out yesterday that we’ll actually be able to get the new floor in on Saturday.  We leave for a week away on Monday morning. Crap!  It’s not like I can reschedule because we are relying on the kindness of our handy friends to help out so when they can come by, we take it.  It does mean however that we have that much more on our plates and frankly, I was stressed out plenty already.

Add to that the ridiculous heat, with added humidity, that already exacerbates my sloth like tendencies. It’s 32 C with a humidex of 39 C (that’s 89.6 F that feels like 102.2 F) and it’s only going to get hotter over the next couple of days.

Did I mention we have a family dinner for Daughter’s birthday the same day the floor is going in? I don’t even have time to think about my baby turning 17 in a week. What a crazy couple of weeks it’s going to be.

Oh well, once all is said and done, I’ll have a library where once existed a mostly wasted space in my house, my oldest will be on the verge of his 24th birthday, my youngest will have just turned 17 and I’ll be sitting around wondering where the time went.

Honestly, I think I’m looking forward to that bit. Well, I say that now.  😀


Fireplace Room to Library – Part Three – Room as Blank Canvas

July 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

The undone and bare bones part of the room reno are done.  It’s very strange to have a virtually naked room smack dab in the middle of the house. Every time I walk through it my mind races with all the possibilities.

We still have to paint, put in the new floor, put up the shelves, change out the light fixtures, add the furniture and of course, what every library has to have…add the books.

We leave for our annual Daughter’s Birthday Trip a week from today so it’s not likely to get done before then.

In the meantime, I get to look at…



And imagine what it will look like when it all comes together.  How exciting!  😀

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