Big Guy’s Mac and Cheese

Big Guy’s Mac and Cheese

I told you about Project Summer, but I haven’t given you any updates. The boys just wrapped up a week of Vacation Bible School at our church and we have had a lot of friends visiting and several birthday parties to attend, I haven’t had much time to post. I don’t think the boys have slept at home more than a handful of times the entire summer because they have been too busy having sleepovers with their grandparents. I miss having them sleep at home, but I can’t exactly blame them. My parents let them sleep in however late they want and David’s parents get them donuts every time they sleep over so there is absolutely no incentive to sleep at home where we make them get up early and take out the trash (oh, and did I mention that both sets of grandparents have a pool? Why would they ever want to come home?). We have already made several new dishes with varying degrees of success and I have been stockpiling ideas for recipes to make with them (this is the excuse I gave David when I bought three new cookbooks last week – this is also why the lovely people who work at at Barnes and Noble love me). Finding recipes that the boys will actually want to make has become slightly more complicated since David and I both cut refined sugars completely out of our diet for the month and all the boys really want to make are cookies, cakes and hot fudge sundaes. I have a few tricks up my sleeve though and I think I have some recipes that will be a hit despite their lack of sugar. One of the first recipes the boys wanted to make this summer was Macaroni and Cheese. We ended up making it on a day that Little Man wasn’t feeling well and was refusing to eat anything other than pasta. That is when Big Guy had the idea to make “real” macaroni and cheese and not the boxed stuff. Since we had (almost) everything we needed without having to make a run to the store, we gave it a go. The results were fantastic but the best part of the experience was how proud Big Guy was of himself (and rightly so). He did everything by himself while I supervised. I was impressed by how well he followed direction and how careful he was in doing each step. He’s such a good little chef.

Little man was sound asleep on Nana's couch while Big Guy made his lunch.

Little man was sound asleep on Nana’s couch while Big Guy made his lunch.

Not only did Big Guy cook the food, he set the table and served everyone

Not only did Big Guy cook the food, he set the table and served everyone

Big Guy’s Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 12 ounce package gluten-free macaroni (We used the Barilla Gluten Free Elbows and they are awesome)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) butter
  • ¼ cup gluten-free flour (We used Cup 4 Cup)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup whipping cream**
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions until al dente.
  2. While the macaroni is cooking, beat the egg in a small bowl.
  3. In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
  4. Add the flour and whisk together with the butter, continuing to stir constantly for about three minutes.
  5. Slowly pour the milk into the flour and butter mixture, whisking continually for about five minute or until it has thickened, making sure that there are no clumps.
  6. Temper the beaten egg with a small amount of the sauce (slowly add about ¼ to ½ cup of the sauce to the beaten egg, mixing quickly to keep the egg from curdling) and add mix the egg mixture into the sauce and stir to combine.
  7. Add cheese, dry mustard and turmeric and whisk until smooth.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste (We didn’t add any because Big Guy felt that the sharp cheddar and spices gave it enough flavor).
  9. Drain the cooked macaroni and add to the sauce.
  10. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

**you can omit the whipping cream and use an additional ½ cup of milk (this is how it was in the original recipe), but we only had two cups of milk left in the refrigerator, so we had to sub the whipping cream and it turned out so incredibly creamy that we decided that we like making it that way.

Things I Love: June

Things I Love: June

 

June is nearing its end, but I wasn’t about to let an entire month fly by without sharing some of my current favorite things with you. I hope you enjoy some of this month’s picks. I know I am.

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  1. Dang Toasted Coconut Chips: I saw these at Target one day and bought a couple of bags. When I saw them at Whole Foods a few days later, I was already buying more. They are addictive and I have them at home, at work and in my car for anytime I need a quick pick me up. If stores in your area aren’t carrying them, you can buy them at Amazon here. Trust me, if you like coconut, you are going love these.
  2. Ballers: This new HBO series, starring Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), was created and executive produced by Steve Levinson; executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, Peter Berg, Dany Garcia, Julian Farino, Evan Reilly and Rob Weiss. It is like if Entourage took place in the world of professional football instead of Hollywood. Once episode in and I am already hooked.
  3. Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo: This dry shampoo by Amika is extremely light and smells absolutely divine. It can be hard to find a good dry shampoo that doesn’t make your hair look dull and grey right after using it, but this one gets the job done and hair looks and smells fresh and clean.
  4. Nothin’ But Granola Cookies – Chocolate Coconut Almond: These are AMAZING. I am so hooked that I have to ration them. I found them one day at the Coffee Bean and I have been addicted ever since. You can order them from the Nothin’ But website but I’m warning you, it takes major willpower not to eat the entire bag. They use real ingredients that you will actually actually be able to pronounce, these cookies are the perfect healthy indulgence.
  5. Windsor Smith Homefront: Design for Modern Living: I have always admired Windsor Smith’s aesthetic but I really fell in love a few years back when she headlined the House of Windsor Show House.  This book, with a forward by Gwyneth Paltrow (who is not only one of my favorites, but she also lives in the former House of Windsor Show House) and it is beautiful and informative. It is a great coffee table book and something that I never grow tired of flipping through.

 

Weekend Wisdom – Father’s Day

Weekend Wisdom – Father’s Day

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There are a lot of good dads out there, but I have been blessed with a truly great one. Happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful fathers in my life: my dad, my husband, my brother, my father-in-law, my grandfathers, uncles, cousins (the ones who have kids) and friends. The above picture, by the way, is of me and my dad celebrating his very first Father’s Day.

Friday Five – June 19

Friday Five – June 19

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  1. What I’m Reading: When I took the kids to see Tomorrowland earlier this month, there was a preview for Paper Towns, which is based on John Green’s book by the same name. I was intrigued and when the book was a $4 and under deal on my iBooks, I downloaded it and started reading immediately. Honestly, I love John Green’s writing and the only thing that gets me to put his books down is the fact that I don’t want them to be over too soon. I am loving this one.
  2. What I’m eating: Since making Cherry Clafouti earlier this week, I get multiple requests every day to make it again (and that is just from David). I guarantee that we will be having it at least once this weekend. Who knows, maybe we’ll get creative and experiment with the recipe. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
  3. What I’m watching: When I saw the previews for The Whispers I decided that I wouldn’t be watching because it looked way too creepy. Then when I was hanging out with my dad, he mentioned that he had recorded the show after my brother told him that it wasn’t creepy after all. We watched two episodes and you know what? It is TOTALLY CREEPY. Like, big time. When I asked my brother how he could have possibly not found the show creepy, he said, “No, I told dad it wasn’t satanic. I never said it wasn’t creepy because it is completely creepy.” Regardless of the creepiness, I’m hooked. It probably helps that the casts boasts Milo Ventimiglia and Barry Sloane (aka Aiden Mathis from Revenge – though, sadly, he is without his English accent) and that it is creepy in a science fiction way (kind of like X-Files or Doctor Who) as opposed to a creepy in stalker/ax murderer way. Science fiction creepy is something I can totally handle.
  4. What I’m Wearing: Bare Minerals Ready Blush in The Faux Pas. Seriously, when the guy at the Bare Minerals store suggested this shade, I told him, emphatically, no way. He insisted and somehow managed to convince me to try it on in the store. I was hooked. It gives you that perfect after the gym blush without making you look like a circus clown. You also need such a small amount that this stuff is seriously going to last forever.
  5. What I’m listening to in the car: I posted my June playlist yesterday and all of the songs on it are currently on heavy rotation in my car. I’m not even sure which one I would single out as my current favorite.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend ahead of you! It is going to be a scorcher here in Southern California so I see a swimming pool in my near future.

June Playlist

June Playlist

When I was growing up, it was right around the time I started school that I decided I should be in control of what we listened to on the radio. My kids are no different. They have rather eclectic tastes when it comes to musical choices and they have greatly influenced what we listen to in the car (and what gets downloaded onto my iPhone). Some are, no doubt, influenced by the films that we watch (Mas Que Nada, for example), others have been recommended by friends, and at least one is a classic (Beast of Burden) because the boys are just starting to discover that good music existed before they were born. The following is just a few of the songs that have been blasting in our car this month. Happy listening!
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Marvin Gaye (feat. Meghan Trainor) – Charlie Puth // Bright – Echosmith // Take Your Time – Sam Hunt // Mas Que Nada (feat. The Black Eyed Peas) – Sergio Mendes // Bonfire Heart – James Blunt // Let’s Not Be Alone Tonight – R5 // Infinity – AJR // Soul On Fire (feat. All Sons & Daughters) – Third Day // Kick the Dust Up – Luke Bryan // Fight Song – Rachel Platten // Whistle (While You Work It) – Katy Tiz // Beast of Burden – The Rolling Stones // Dear Future Husband – Meghan Trainor // Hold Back the River – James Bay // Life’s a Beach – Heymous Molly // Want to Want Me – Jason Derulo // See You Again (feat. Charlie Puth) – Wiz Khalifa // This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Mother – Maroon 5

Project Summer

Project Summer

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The kiddos have already officially been out of school for a couple of weeks this summer and we are embarking on what I loving refer to as Project Summer. Basically, Project Summer is ways to fill the long lazy days of summer that don’t involve computers or iPads. It was met with major resistance in the beginning (like when my oldest told me that I was totally unfair and ruining his life), but a couple days in and Project Summer was already gaining some approval.

So what exactly is Project Summer? It started as a pretty simple concept. Number one, they needed to do something physical for at least an hour every day, whether it was swimming or shooting baskets or riding their bikes around the neighborhood. This requirement is sort of inconsequential because the boys are both naturally pretty active and getting them to go outside and play has never been an issue. The second requirement, however, caused a bit of an uproar. Basically, the rule is that for every hour of educational activity that the boys complete, they can earn an hour of video games. Consequently it was this requirement that apparently made me the “worst mom ever” (yes, those exact words were uttered, or rather shouted). When I tried to explain that there were many activities that would constitute something educational, they were bullheaded and only heard my first example which was that if you were to read for an hour, you could then play video games for an hour. After I mentioned reading, they shut down and apparently didn’t hear any of my other suggestions. Words were exchanged, tears were shed and a door or two may have been slammed, but eventually everyone calmed down and the boys started to accept what they realized was the inevitable.

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Our first day was off to an extremely rocky start. First of all, I had some things I needed to do that required me to be at the workshop so the kids were at my parents’ house and were shocked when they weren’t able to convince Nana and Apa to let them out of their educational obligations for the day (David and I have been blessed with parents who, while prone to indulging our children, stick to our rules and don’t back down, even under pressure). The boys called me at work (on Facetime actually) and proceeded to tell me all of the reasons that I was ruining their summer by making them spend the entire time inside reading. Calmer heads prevailed and after a bit of negotiation, I told them that if they wrote me a story (and it had to be illustrated) that was ten pages long with at least two sentences per page, they could play video games for the rest of the day. Little Man opted to just read with his grandfather, but Big Guy grudgingly accepted my deal.

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By the time I arrived at my parents’ house later that afternoon, I discovered that Big Guy had spent nearly three hours working on his story, which had morphed into a book. Not only had he written and illustrated the required amount of pages, he also typed it on the computer, had Nana help him laminate the cover (he actually asked if they could use the “plasticifier” which I personally think is a better name for it) and spiral bind the edges. It turned out marvelously and now I have a super special keepsake. It turns out that he sort of liked writing his story and maybe (just maybe) wants to do a couple more before summer is over. I made this discovery later that day because his friend’s mom texted to let me know that he had told his friend about it and that his friend was now interested in writing his own story. One point for Project Summer!

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The boys still weren’t totally on board with the concept but because they now realized that reading isn’t their only option for earning screen time, they have been more open to hearing some of my other educational ideas. I listed several options such as solving math problems, spending time on specific learning websites (like khan academy or codecademy), performing science experiments, watching documentaries (and no, watching the Island – or any other reality TV for that matter- does not count), learning to cook, making crafts or practicing their Hungarian, just to name a few.

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So far the cooking option has been quite popular and we’ve already made macaroni and cheese from scratch and homemade pretzels with cheese dipping sauce. Both boys have started listing all of the dishes that they want to create and their ideas are actually quite a bit more gourmet than I was expecting (one asked to make steamed clams and the other suggested we try making apple strudel). The other activity that is quickly gaining in popularity is making Perler bead crafts. This is something that my brother and I loved to do when we were younger and I count it as an educational activity because the boys have to either follow a pattern which involves quite a bit of counting or they have to make up their own pattern, which involves a lot of creativity and reasoning (Big Guy quickly realized that the Perler patterns are basically just pixilated pictures and he was able to come up with his own pattern for making the bird from Flappy Bird).

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Project Summer isn’t just educational, we’re having fun with water balloons and pool toys as well, and I expect that there will be many trips to the beach.

Gluten-Free Cherry Clafouti

Gluten-Free Cherry Clafouti

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Cherries are in season and right now my family and I are obsessing over Cherry Clafouti (or Clafoutis if you are French). A clafouti is a flan-like dessert from the Limousin region of France that is traditionally made with black cherries, although any type of cherry can be used. The dessert can also be made with fruits other than cherries, but when using other fruits the dessert is then referred to as a flaugnarde. Anyway, we are positively obsessed and the dish is so incredibly simple to prepare that I’m sure we will be eating it all summer. It is a perfect dish to serve for breakfast or brunch, so it is definitely going into our holiday brunch rotation. I was inspired to make this particular dessert after reading My Domaine’s recent feature on Ali Larter’s cherry recipes. I absolutely love Ali Larter’s cookbook, Kitchen Revelry: A Year of Festive Menus from My Home to Yours, (you can read my post about the book here) so I thought that it would be worth trying any recipe that she put out and I am so glad that I did. Ali specializes in gourmet dishes that are both impressive and simple to prepare and this recipe is no exception. Cherry Clafouti is positively delicious and simple enough that the kid’s can help. I made some slight changes so that everyone in the family would be able to eat it (this meant going gluten-free) and it was a huge hit. It is one of those fantastic recipes that you can’t really mess up as it is very easily adaptable. Anyway I could go on and on but without further ado, here is the recipe:

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Gluten-Free Cherry Clafouti

Adapted from this recipe by Ali Larter

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon almond extract
  • 3 cups cherries, halved and pitted
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free flour (I used this one by Cup4Cup)
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Halve the cherries and remove the puts. Place in a medium sized bowl pour 1 Tablespoon of almond extract over the fruit and gently toss fruit until covered. Set aside and allow to macerate while you mix remaining ingredients.
  3. Place butter into a 10-inch cast iron pan and place in oven to melt
  4. In a large bowl, whip together buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, eggs, flour and salt until smooth (you can also do this in a blender).
  5. Remove the hot pan from the oven and add your macerated cherries, spreading them evenly over the pan.
  6. Pour better over the cherries and immediately return to oven.
  7. Bake for 35 minutes at 375°F.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.**
  9. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

**This dish is also good served straight out of the oven, topped with vanilla ice cream.

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Things I Love: Pannabag

Things I Love: Pannabag

Happy Monday! I hope that you all had a lovely weekend! I have a new obsession that I have to share with you. Have you heard of Pannabag? If not, then you are missing out. If anyone is ever at a loss for what to get me for Christmas or my birthday or just because, then look no further. David’s cousin, Panni, designs, handcrafts and sells these fabulous leather handbags (and she just made an awesome weekender bag for her sister to take to the Bahamas). Each bag is completely hand crafted by Panni herself and they are all stylish, functional and completely gorgeous. Plus, because they are handmade no two bags are ever going to be exactly the same. Panni likes to say that she makes all of the bags “with Big Hungarian Love with a speck of Californian spirit!” Her bags are becoming more and more popular, especially after a successful weekend at the recent Hungarian Heritage Festival in San Francisco where she had a beautiful booth displaying her bags (and several sales – Go Panni!). If you see something in her shop, be sure to snatch it up quickly because it probably won’t be there for long! Don’t worry though. She is always coming out with new designs. Here are some pictures of the bags (Panni is the beautiful brunette wearing the elephant shirt in the first picture):

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Weekend Wisdom – June 14

Weekend Wisdom – June 14

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I’ve lifted this week’s quote from one of this week’s weekend reads. In his last Instaram post, thebenevolentone3 uses the above quote (which is one of my favorites) to explain why he chose to post kind and inspiring captions about his classmates. There are so many things in my own life that I remember because of the way in which they made me feel from the bully on the bus in seventh grade who relentlessly ridiculed my outfits each day to the high school English teacher who went out of his way to make me (and the rest of the class) feel intelligent, witty and important. When a coach or teacher makes one of my children feel good about themselves, I can literally see the confidence swell in their chests but when someone says something hurtful you can almost see their hearts breaking.

In church this week, the sermon focused on Genesis 42 and how the unresolved sins of yesterday have lasting effects on our lives today. In the story, Joseph, who had been sold into slavery as a teenager by his older brothers, has risen to become the most powerful man in all of Egypt next to Pharaoh when encounters his brothers for the first time in two decades. Despite his power and his position, seeing his brothers drudges the pain they caused him all of those years ago. Joseph never forgot the way in which they made him feel.

Each day we make choices about how we are going to interact those around us. Are we going to be the bully on the bus that makes a little girl dread going to school each day, or are we going to be the teacher who uplifts their students instilling a love of art or music or literature or science? Will you be like my chemistry teacher who asked me, in front of a room full of my peers, if I was stupid, causing me to hate anything and everything related to the periodic table? Or will you be like my physics teacher who, when I was frustrated and about to give up, told me that if she could do it, then I most certainly could? Her words and confidence made me believe in myself and actually led to me to earning a small physics scholarship for college.

Just as the effects of terrible deeds and cruelty can have a lasting impact on our lives, so can the effects of beauty and kindness and love. How much better would the world be if each and every person took a moment to do something kind or uplifting for another person each day. When someone compliments me, it can brighten my whole day but one nasty comment can resonate for weeks. My hope is that I am remembered for making people feel good about themselves and I have actually found that the more kindness I show others, the better I feel about myself.

Weekend Reads – June 14

Weekend Reads – June 14

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  • An anonymous teen from Spokane, Washington was reposting selfies and yearbook photos of his high school classmates under the pseudonym thebenevolentone3  and writing inspiring and uplifting captions for each photo. When he finally came clean at his high school graduation (during his Valedictorian’s speech) he received a standing ovation (and rightfully so). Read more about it here and check out his Instagram account. This is seriously inspiring.
  • Golden Girl, Rue McClanahan died five years ago, so why is her death announcement going viral on Twitter? Even stranger is the fact that it went viral last year as well. Hmmm. . .
  • Speaking of Golden Girls, Betty White is on Instagram, y’all! I haven’t been this excited since David Beckham joined last month!
  • Is Netflix about to be ruined forever? Short answer: Maybe. This is why. Say it ain’t so Netflix. If this is true, I may have to start binge watching my DVDs again instead of using the streaming service.