Mac & Cheese

I haven’t posted a recipe in awhile, so I thought I would post our new favorite accomplishment. I’ve actually been making homemade macaroni and cheese for quite awhile now. But, it’s just been since getting back to Peru this term that I feel like I’ve really mastered it. As usual with my recipes, I have no real measurements and I will insert all my comments and suggestions, regardless of whether you want them or not. So, bon apetit!

Ingredients

  • Pasta (elbow macaroni or the spirals are our favorites)
  • Butter – couple tablespoons
  • Onion – 1/4 (red) onion
  • Garlic – couple cloves
  • Flour – just a hair more flour than butter
  • Milk – we use evaporated (canned) milk, makes it creamier
  • Salt, Pepper – to taste
  • Chili Powder – teaspoon or so, depends on personal taste
  • Oregano – teaspoon or so
  • Nutmeg – 1/4tsp or less
  • Cheese – the sharper, with the most robust flavor, the better. Something that melts well and has a lot of flavor.

And then you…

Boil your water with some salt (to flavor your pasta – little hint from Rachael Ray – your only time to actually flavor the pasta. *Sidenote: I don’t think I ever add enough salt. I think I add plenty and then I watch Rachael Ray and notice how MUCH she throws in and all I can think is, “There is no way I’m putting that much salt in my water.” Therefore, I am pretty sure I have never truly seasoned my pasta sufficiently.*). Drop your pasta and cook til al dente.
Once the pasta is done, use the same pot to make your sauce. Melt a few tablespoons of butter then sauté your onion and garlic in the butter. Once the onion is nice and transparent, add a few tablespoons of flour – at least equal to the amount of butter if not a little more. Whisk together the flour and butter for at least a minute. The flour needs to cook without over-cooking. This is a delicate balance. If you cook too long, the flour doesn’t thicken the sauce properly, same with if you don’t cook it long enough. Here is what I do: I pour the flour into the center of the pot until I have a nice, little pile. I whisk it into the butter/onion/garlic mixture until it’s well-combined. Keep whisking for at least another 30 seconds. The flour/butter will clump together and turn a different shade of yellow. It’s fast, though – don’t cook it too long! Have I scared you enough yet?? Stop! Stop whisking NOW! Okay. I’m done.
Pour in your milk slowly. Whisk out the clumps out of the butter/flour. I use a whole can of evaporated milk because we like the creaminess of the canned milk. You can, by all means, use regular milk, part evaporated/part regular, or even part regular and part pasta water (the water you boiled the pasta in). We just like the creaminess of the canned milk. 
Add your seasonings to the milk while it is warming up. Be generous with salt and pepper. Nutmeg is literally just a p*i*n*c*h. It adds a little something to the background of the dish without being over-powering. 
Once your milk is steaming, but not boiling (never let it boil!), and has begun to thicken, start adding your cheese. You want enough cheese to make the sauce thick and cheesy. I get all my cheese here pre-sliced and I would say I use a good 6 slices of cheese – probably a cup or so of shredded. Whisk in a circle 8 motion until melted. 
Turn the heat off and add the drained pasta. Mix to combine. Serve hot.

You could also…

  • Add fresh broccoli chunks to the boiling pasta and cook together
  • Sauté 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 red onion with chili powder and garlic cloves until very soft and carmelized. Sauté a few pieces of sausage (bratwurst). Add a few teaspoons of yellow mustard in the cheese sauce and turn it into a little more spicy-mac.
  • Brown hamburger meat with chili powder and cumin, onion and garlic, and have a chili-mac. 
  • Make bread crumbs, toss with some butter; pour the cooked mac and cheese into a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and bake until the top is crispy for baked macaroni and cheese (make more of your sauce and make it a little creamier because it will dry out in the oven).
  • Mix kinds of cheese – why use just one type of cheese? Why use the same cheese you always use? Mix and match; try something new. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. 
Next time I make this, I’ll try to remember to get pictures. This is a pretty straight-forward recipe and it’s probably old news to most of you, but hey, we love it, I love making it, and it’s basically full-proof. 
But hey, what is not better with cheese?

Bump!

Thursday evening, I came home from school, walked in the door, and heard these words from my well-meaning husband:

“Elena fell today.”

My heart sank.

We have pieced the story together and as best we know, here is what happened.

Elena is with her sitter, Eva, every afternoon from 2:30-5. Eva is an 18 year old girl from the jungle city of Iquitos, Peru. She’s a real sweetheart. She began cleaning my home last year and now she cleans when she has a chance and watches the baby the rest of the time. She’s wonderful. We trust her completely. She does what we ask and takes care of Elena how we have asked her to, which I greatly appreciate. [Just, FYI, all the students have work hours every afternoon and each of us missionary women pay half the monthly tuition of one student to clean our homes/watch our kids.] Here she is with baby Elena at my baby shower last October:

Every afternoon, Eva puts Elena down for her nap. They go upstairs and Eva rocks Elena in my rocking chair until Elena falls asleep and then she puts her in her crib. Here is said rocking chair:

Okay, so the focus in this picture is obviously her crib, but you can see the chair in the corner there. It was one of the big things I wanted before Elena was born. Every year, there is a big yard sale at a local Christian school for MK’s and last year, we bought pretty much all our baby supplies there, including this chair. It’s surprisingly comfortable and exactly what I wanted.

I have to admit, it has one flaw: the right arm lifts up a bit and you have to like hit it back down. No big deal, though.

heh.

Okay, so, Brian just *happened* to be home when he heard a HUGE *C*R*A*S*H*/BANG/THUD/C-R-A-C-K….. and then a SCREAM from my baby girl. He RAN upstairs and found Eva smooshed in the corner with her head against that wall, Elena being held up in the air, and the rocking chair on top of her.

Apparently–

Eva was rocking Elena and Elena fell asleep on Eva’s chest [we’re pretty sure Eva fell asleep, too, whether she knew it or not]. Eva said Elena jumped in her sleep and it startled Eva. She moved and thought she heard a crack. Thinking the back of the chair had broke, she shifted to her right, only to find that it was the side that was broken and of course, it just gave. The chair flipped to the right and since it was close to the wall, Eva got stuck against the wall. Somehow when she fell, the entire chair just crumbled. She fell hard, too, because pieces of the chair were everywhere and her glasses were across the room — crazy hard. Brian’s pretty sure Eva got knocked out, too, by how she was acting and how she couldn’t remember it all. Brian got Elena calmed down, but naturally, she just clung to him and wouldn’t go back to Eva. I checked on Eva that evening and she was okay. She was pretty shaken up and worried that I wouldn’t trust her with Elena ever again and her head hurt horribly bad. I’m pretty sure she has a concussion. I need to check on her again tomorrow (she was gone on ministry all weekend) and make sure she’s resting if she got a concussion. Poor thing.

Once I heard the story and saw the chair…

…I was just thankful they weren’t hurt worse. I’m not 100% sure how it happened, like why the chair just fell apart and how they fell so hard, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter. It could’ve happened to any of us; definitely not Eva’s fault. Just glad they’re both okay! She had to get her first bump somehow! At least the story’s interesting and not, “Mom let me fall off the changing table.” ya know?

Here’s her big, beautiful battle scar [which has since disappeared, although she has a little cut still]:

As you can tell, she’s fine. 🙂

Do Over? No?

Today has been a relatively quiet sick day. Yup, I’m sick. The cold that was being passed around my classroom finally landed in my system by the end of the week. Yesterday, it hit me full-on and today I woke up just plain miserable. My baby has a touch of it, but that hasn’t seemed to stop her from acting normal. I, however, have spent the day in bed, enjoying our much speedier internet, and catching up on reading and research online.

The one thing I really spent time researching was baby food. I found a great site on whole baby foods and making it yourself. Now, please trust me, I am by no means a “Susie Homemaker” (which is a phrase I think is utterly ridiculous, but everybody knows what I’m talking about so I use it.). I must make Elena’s baby food because here, I have no choice. They sell a few different cans of food, but it’s all filled with sugar and there is only apples, pears, and like chicken. That’s basically it. We don’t have the organic, sugarless, full-meal variety of baby food available in the States. Therefore, I must dig into my inner Susie and make all of Elena’s food.

It’s really not that hard. Steam the vegetables, puree, and freeze. Easy, right?

I thought so, too.

And then I researched today and found out what a horrible mother I really am.

I gave Elena raw apples and instant oatmeal, sips of Tampico (Peruvian version of Sunny D), and I never strain her food after I puree it. I’m not giving her a big variety of food yet and she’s almost 8mos old. She hasn’t tried a huge variety of fruit and I haven’t given her any seasonings whatsoever. I let her drink homemade apple juice and regular, watered down apple juice from a sippy cup.

I thought I was doing well, but apparently I’m doing it all wrong. Can I have a do over? Please?

At times like this, I have to remind myself that yes, she will live. She won’t remember these months. She will grow up normal. I definitely could have done worse.

It’s also times like this that I struggle with being here, so far from what I deem “normal” – a “normal” doctor I can call whenever I have a random question who gives me “normal” advice like, “One new food at a time, not everything all at once.” A “normal” grocery store where I can just buy canned baby food, baby juice, and a variety of baby cereals. A “normal” bookstore and library where I can buy or check out books on baby food and baby growing up. Being able to live a “normal” distance from my mother so I can ask her my questions and get her advice without having to plan phonecalls around the weather.

Sigh. Not in this life, I guess.

We have traded “normal” for a new kind of “normal.” I have therefore decided that my baby will be abnormal, through no fault of her own. [I just had to pause writing this to get slobbery fart-kisses from my baby… you know, where they put their mouth on your cheek and then blow to make fart noises. L.o.v.e. it.]

So, as much as I would love a do-over where I could “do it all right” with Elena, I can’t. As much as I’d like a different kind of “normal“, that won’t be happening anytime soon. I just gotta keep doing what I’m doing and let God handle the outcome. So far, my baby is a champ of an eater who has 2 very healthy teeth, sleeps through the night, is rarely sick, can sit on her own and pull herself to standing (with help), and who can almost crawl. I think we’re doing okay, even if it’s not perfect or… normal.

My Rant on A.I.

I can’t remember the last time I was honestly into the show “American Idol.” This year – different story! I was originally intrigued by the new judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. I actually really like J. Lo; I’m a sucker for her movies. “Enough” is one of my favorite movies. I think she’s very talented and, like apparently the rest of the world, she’s of course very beautiful. Steven Tyler… well…. at least he’s unpredictable (though not always understandable) and funny.

As I was saying, I originally tuned in to see how the new judges would be and if the show would be any good without Simon’s horrendously rude, tactless comments and Paula’s flaky, drugged out remarks. Brian and I went back and forth on how it was going. He insisted it was more of a soap opera and that the judges were doing a horrible job. I was really curious as to how Hollywood week would go because inevitably, they choose some odd character who can’t really sing, just because it makes good TV. Personally, I find that obnoxious. Why give air time to people with little or no talent (can we all say Sanjaya?) when there are people out there with real talent whose lives really could be changed by this show?

I was pleasantly surprised by Hollywood week this year. They really did narrow it down to people with legitimate talent and got rid of those who were, shall we say, a little more flamboyant and a little less talented. I was definitely impressed with who they ended up with for the actual competition. From the get go, I’ve been a fan of James and Lauren. James has incredible control of his voice and Lauren has incredible range and an amazing voice. However, that being said, the other nine are just as good and so incredibly varied! This really has been a season that has “something for everyone.”

I thought I would miss the critique that Simon used to give. I knew I wouldn’t miss his ridiculously rude insults to the poor kids, but you have to admit, he does know music and he was honest when kids were off. So, I wondered if the judges would be as honest this year. Even though the judges have been a lot nicer this year, I feel like they still have good critique and are honest without being mean [learn a lesson there, Simon!]. At the same time, because they chose kids who could actually SING and take direction, there is a lot less need for critique! And Steven has a done a pretty good job replacing Paula. Some of his comments are just… odd. Totally insensible. And utterly hilarious. And then when he comes out with a statement that makes sense, is musically right on, and is helpful or sweet towards the kids, you realize what an asset he’s become to the show. Randy is… still Randy. “What’s up dog? Yo yo yo – this guy is in it to win it![Pick a new catch phrase, Randy. These are getting as old as your buttoned up sweaters and funky glasses.]

Here in Peru, we’re about two (maybe three) weeks behind the States, the actual competition. I’m trying so hard to avoid looking at comments online or statuses from friends on Facebook! I want to be surprised and I definitely don’t want to know the outcome before it plays here. At this point, I have no idea who will win. I thought Pia had a good shot (like most everyone! Not sure what happened there. If this had been a Presidential election, they’d still be re-counting Florida’s votes.). And then I thought Casey would win just because he’s SO incredibly talented (though HORRIBLY obnoxious) and so diverse. I have thought since the beginning that James was a contender (still do – he’s still on here in Peru! Don’t tell me if he gets voted off in the next few weeks!) and I would love for him to win the whole thing. Out of everybody, the one I am least a fan of is Jacob. Not my style. Not into the high-pitched Gospel type singing. Haley is good, but I don’t think I would buy her CD. My husband is a HUGE Scotty fan. That is right up his alley. If I go country, I prefer Lauren, though.

I guess we’ll see! It’s truly anybody’s game and they are doing a great job playing it this year. 

My First Mommy’s Day.

My mom and my baby

Tomorrow is my first Mother’s Day. Or, second if you count last year when my baby was busy growing. I certainly count last year, so yes – tomorrow is my second Mother’s Day. 

I have the best Mom. She’s been such a great example to me about what it means to be a mother. I was flipping through all the pictures I took while in the States and I realized (a bit too late) that I took hardly any pictures of my mother with Elena while we were there. What a stupid mistake. I think I just kept thinking, “I’ll get them later.” Or, “I don’t want to bother her with lots of pictures.” And now… too few too late. 

I can’t change the past, though, so… moving on. 

I still can’t believe God chose to bless me with a baby. Even tonight, I yelled at Brian for something stupid and I realized, yet again, what a horrible sinner I am. How could God deem me worthy to raise a child? I certainly have a long ways to go. 

Elena has taught me a lot, though. She’s taught me

  • a lot more about patience (I’d say “all about patience” but that would be a lie….). 
  • that it’s okay to have spit-up on your shirt. 
  • that a clean house is secondary to cuddle time with a baby. 
  • that I really can wait to satisfy my wants or needs – she come first. 
  • that I need to cherish the time with my husband because “alone moments” are sometimes few and far in between. 
  • that as much as I want or need sleep, I can live without it. At least for a few days. 
  • that sometimes, it’s okay to just cry. 
  • that sometimes, it’s okay to just want to be held. 
  • what the term “belly laughs” really means.
  • and most importantly — so much about the love of God and how He loves us unconditionally. We have done nothing to deserve His love and yet just look at how much He loves us! When Elena was first born, she didn’t have to do a thing but spit up on me, poop all over her clothes, and cry all night for me to love her unconditionally. What I’ve done is far worse, and yet God still loves me. Amazing. 
Every night, I thank God for my precious gift as I lay her down to sleep. He has been so good to us. 
If you’re a Mom out there – I hope you enjoy your day, too. Take some time off, put your feet up, and hug your babies. They’re precious, irreplaceable gifts from God that we are honored to have received. 

My love and I, 2 days before Mother’s Day

Oof.

We have been back in Peru two months now. Feels like an eternity! We have both felt numerous time that Satan does not want us here. He has been working his hardest against us and we’re feeling it. This week was just another one of those weeks.

Brian went to a friend’s house on Monday to help out and something he ate there made him horribly ill. WOW. He was sick for four days with a flu just a few weeks ago and so I think his immune system is down somewhat, which is probably why he got so sick this time around. By 9pm, he was sicker than a dog. I was up until 2am with him, researching online on what to do and keeping him company. We came horribly close to loading up Elena and going to a clinic, but shortly after we decided to go, his stomach cramps began to ease and we decided to wait it out. He was awfully sick Tuesday and even Wednesday, he still had stomach cramps. Then, Thursday morning, I woke up sick. ugh. Totally different symptoms, but still sick. And Brian managed to get a taste of THAT, too! Good grief! Today, I’m feeling miles better, but I think I got slightly dehydrated (I’m still nursing and I’m positive I didn’t watch my fluid intake well enough yesterday) and I haven’t eaten well since Wednesday, so I’m taking it easy today. Brian is finally feeling more like himself and so is getting slowly back to work.

That was just part of this week.

The other half has to do with one of my students. I have been a little concerned about one of my students for awhile now, but never really thought anything more of it than just that maybe she needed to study a little harder. But, just this week, some key things really fell into place. My husband had suggested that maybe she had a learning disability about a month ago, but I shrugged it off. A few other people told me they think she’s “slow.” I hated that label. HATED it. And totally did not believe it. I still don’t. But, this week, I was about at the end of my rope. I happened to be chatting with a friend online, back in the States, who is a teacher. I explained some of the situation to her and immediately she said, “She’s dyslexic.” At first, I didn’t believe her. It didn’t seem to fit. But, she encouraged me to do more research, so I did and…. yeah. She fits the profile.

So now I’m sitting here going, “Now what?”

I have promised her that I will be learning more on how to help her. I have promised her parents that we will work through this and figure it out.

I just have no idea how.

I’m researching, drawing advice from friends, and seeing if any of you out there in cyberworld have any ideas. Keep in mind, she is not bilingual, but is doing school in English. She is not yet speaking in English very much. It’s a totally new situation. I am just completely baffled.

Stuff like this, though, makes me think that THIS is why I’m here. The odds of her finding out she has dyslexia while in a public school are very slim. Her parents had never even heard of it. She has already been labeled as “dumb”, “lazy”, “slow”… and she’s none of that. She has horrible self-esteem and has been having a rough time making friends. If I can help her… change her future… give her confidence for now… that’d be… wonderful.

On another note – I’ve been teaching through the miracles of Jesus to my older kids. I think it’s having more of an impact on me than on them. I taught the miracle of the woman who had the issue of blood for 12 years and then just touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was healed. She was in a crowd of people and yet was the only one who had the faith to believe that she merely had to touch Him and be healed. I acted out how she would’ve had to have been walking in order to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe while walking through a crowd. I tried to help them realize that she would’ve been an outcast – someone who wouldn’t have even been allowed to enter the temple these last 12 years because the bleeding would have made her unclean. She had spent her life’s savings on doctors and yet, had nothing to show for it. This was her last hope. She just wanted to touch Him. That’s it. And He healed her. Just one touch. Nicole C Mullen does a song called “One Touch” based on this miracle. Here’s the youtube video of her singing it at the Crystal Cathedral. I’m not promoting the Crystal Cathedral, but I am promoting this song!

And with that I leave you for now. Be blessed.

Quote.

Borrowed this quote today from a friend and just had to share it somewhere public:

“If sinners will be damned at least let them leap to hell over

our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our

arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must

be filled at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions

and let not one go there unwarned or unprayed for.”

-Charles Spurgeon

I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to pray harder for those I know who do not know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. 

Let NO ONE go there unwarned or unprayed for!

Who are you warning and praying for this week? 

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