Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Monday and I Made Food...

It's Monday, I made food...that just happened to be meatless.  I'm pretty sure that with this pregnancy Brent was certain my cooking days went out the window along with the mopping and vacuuming.  But, the boy was wrong (mostly).

Lately, I have wanted comfort food. But, when I think of comfort food, it usually means I'm heating up my house by turning on the oven.  Uh, no thank you.  This summer heat is oven enough for me thankyouverymuch.

Anyway, the other day in my attempt to satisfy my comfort food longings, I decided I'd give homemade mac n' cheese a try.  There is a restaurant in Iowa (Atlas in Iowa City) that has the best grown-up mac'n cheese e.v.e.r.  But, It's like over an hour away, so I decided to try to replicate it.  My favorite part about their mac is the roasted tomato compote they pile in the middle of the creamy pasta dish.  Oh my goodness, it's amazing and compliments the rich cheesy sauce perfectly!

While I'd go back to Atlas in a heartbeat, I think our attempt turned out pretty awesome!  It was so creamy and totally hit the spot!  I do have a few particulars when it comes to the cheese:

1.  It has to be freshly grated.  I don't like pre-packaged shredded cheese because of that powdery stuff they put in there to keep the cheese from sticking grosses me out.

2.  No stringy, oily mess.

3. Use at least two complimenting kinds of cheese for a richer flavor.

Other than that, I'm easy to please!  I should note, that though this dish is meatless, it is definitely NOT low-cal.  It's for sure a splurge.

Gourmet Mac 'n Cheese with Roasted Tomato Compote

Pasta and Sauce Ingredients:
12 oz. whole wheat elbow pasta (I used whole wheat penne because that's what I had)
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 C. flour
1/4 minced onion
1 1/2 C. milk (I used skim )
1 C. chicken broth (vegetable broth works great!)
8 oz. shredded cheese (I used mild cheddar and Monterrey jack.  Gruyere or Fontina would be awesome!)

Toasted Breadcrumb Topping:
1/4 breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat bread I had on hand that I buzzed in the food processor)
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. (or less) melted butter
dash of garlic powder

Roasted Tomato Compote:
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (I used Hunts brand)

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water until slightly tender.  Don't overcook or it will be soggy in the cheese sauce.  

While the pasta is cooking, pour the can of roasted tomatoes into a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, slightly mashing the tomatoes as it cooks and the liquid reduces (about 10-15 minutes).  You want the tomatoes to be cooked down and slightly thickened.

In a small skillet,  melt the butter for the breadcrumb topping.  Add the breadcrumbs and cook on low until slightly toasted.  Remove breadcrumbs to a dish to cool slightly before tossing with Parmesan and garlic powder.  Set aside.

In a large heavy skillet, melt the butters.  Saute the onion in the butter until softened.  Add flour and cook for about a minute until the flour is combined and golden.  Slowly add one cup of milk stirring until the sauce starts to thicken.  Next add the chicken broth, again, stirring and cooking until it becomes slightly thickened.  If the sauce mixture is getting too thick you can add the remaining 1/2 C. of milk, although I have not needed it in the past. You want the sauce to be creamy, but not too thick or too runny.  

Once the sauce has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses until completely melted.  Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the macaroni, and pour it into a baking dish.  Top macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs (at this point, you can broil it in the oven to make it even more browned if you wish).  

Top individual servings with roasted tomato compote.


Saturday, July 14, 2012


I guess now that I'm 22 weeks, I should post the bump in all its glory.

Ta. Da.
As Emeril would say, "BAM!"

The little miss rubs my belly all the time, then wrinkles up her nose, pokes my belly button and asks, "Why you belly so BIG?"  It's not the entire sleeve of peanut butter sandwich girl scout cookies I polished off over the last few days.  Well, that's probably not helping matters!  My husband just informed me that they contain 40% of my daily fat.  Awesome.  

Hey, I'm just thankful they sound good and taste good.  Just a few weeks ago the smell of them would have sent me running to the bathroom.  Now I seem to be closer to my normal for the protruding abdomen.

Oh, and today, a little boy at the park asked me why my belly was so big.  I told him it was because there was a baby in there. He so graciously replied, "Nah-uh!  You just have a fat belly!"  Thank you random park kid.  You're so sweet.

While I'm no longer sick (praise JESUS!) And my belly is bigger (as already mentioned) I certainly have a few needs this go around.  Okay, they're really wants, but when you're preggo it feels like a need.  I decided to make a list of all the things that seem to make me happy these days (because pregnancy makes me neurotic and list making...well, it's not something I normally do, so it's neurotic for me.  It's not like I'm ever going to look at this list again).

1.  I have to have a non-fat vanilla chai every morning (tazo mix at home...I'm too cheap to schlep down the street to Caribou and fork over four bucks).  This morning I ran out, so I wore my sad face around the house.  I may have whined a little too.  Then  B took me to breakfast at La Mie and I smiled again.

2.  Meat.  There I said it.  No meatless Mondays for the past few weeks, because sista hasn't been going meatless much these days.  I did, however, have a mexican black bean salad for lunch yesterday and it hit the, I might make a return to the land of no meat soon.

3.  Two words...SWEET. TEA.  

4.  One word...PIZZA...the homemade variety where my husband slaves over a hot grill in 100 degree heat. It's divine.  And so is he.

5.  TUMS.  It's like a bedtime snack these days.  Probably because of the meat and pizza.

6.  Water.  Lots and lots of super-cold water.  I just fill up my Camelback all day long.  I'm not typically a fan of drinking water, but lately I can't get enough.

I also have a list of non-food needs...I'm shaping up to be one needy pregnant lady!

1.  Bella band.  This stretchy guy has gotten me through two pregnancies now.  I don't know what I'd do without it!  I love that it allows me to wear my pre-pregnancy clothes a little bit longer.  I'm not really a fan of maternity clothes in general, so I try to get as much use out of my pre-pregnancy clothes by layering and using my Bella band.  I think there are cheaper versions out there now, but I haven't tried them.

2.  Dry shampoo.  I sort of hate washing my hair every. single. day. and then styling it.  But, without a little help, my pregnancy hair is just gross.  Dry shampoo has been my best friend.

3. Shorts.  A friend of mine claimed that she preferred being pregnant in summer to being pregnant in the winter.  Having never been noticeably pregnant in summer myself, I didn't believe her...I mean, the heat!!!  But, the girl has a point.  It's way easier to pull on a pair of shorts over a big belly than a pair of maternity pants!  She's made me a believer.

4.  Erbaviva belly oil.  Oh man.  I started using it when I was pregnant with the little Mr. and have used it with each pregnancy since.  This stuff is awesome, and no itchy belly!  I actually buy mine locally at a shop called Eden, but you can get it online at a variety of sources.

5.  Lemon verbena soy candles from Target.  I'm really sensitive to smells, and to finally find a scent that doesn't make me sick is awesome.  These candles have such a fresh, clean scent, so I burn them all the every time I swear something smells weird in the house (I'm usually the only one who smells these phantom odors).

So that's the list of my crazy preggo idiosyncrasies!  If I ever go back and read this list I will definitely come to the conclusion that I lost my marbles during pregnancy.

What about you?  Do you have anything you couldn't (seemingly) live without during pregnancy?