Friday, October 19, 2012

Healthier No-Bake Macaroni and Cheese

I have a confession that I am hesitant to reveal.

I don't like mac n' cheese.

That's not 100% accurate--I love mac n' cheese, but only the real from scratch kind.  So I didn't used to eat it a lot.  I didn't like having to use my oven to bake it--it takes forever, and it heats up my house in the summer.

My kids and husband, however, seem to have a penchant for cardboard noodles and plastic cheese (a.k.a. Kraft).  Whenever I would try to make homemade macaroni and cheese, I would get a lot of negative feedback.  "These noodles taste too delicious."  "This cheese doesn't make me feel sick to my stomach." "My dinner doesn't glow neon orange the way I like it too."

When I found this recipe, it was no exception.  But I liked it because it cooks in a skillet.  It's almost as fast as pulling out the blue box!  And it's YUMMY!  So I ignored my kids' whining and kept making it.  But one day, I thought of a way to add some extra orange color in addition to some extra deliciousness: I added some canned yams.  It was good, but a little too sweet.  I tried pumpkin.  Also yummy.  My favorite secret ingredient turned out to be carrots!  They are bright orange, and the flavor blends pretty well.  Baby carrots are so easy to throw into the steamer and have cooked in no time.  Full sized carrots have more nutrition, brighter color, and a stronger flavor (and are cheaper...), so experiment. With a little extra enthusiasm from their parents, my kids were more than willing to pronounce the meal "SUPER DELICIOUS!"

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese
1 3/4 c. uncooked macaroni noodles
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/8 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2 1/4 c. water
1 T. flour
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2 c. cheese
Up to 1 cup of orange vegetables, cooked and pureed

In a large skillet, combine noodles, spices, and water.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes (Gluten free noodles take about 10, and I don't know about regular wheat ones) until macaroni is tender.  Sprinkle flour over mixture (I use rice flour to keep it GF); blend well.  Stir in evaporated milk and cheese. Simmer until mixture thickens and cheese melts; stir constantly. Mix in cooked & mashed veggies.  Serves 6.

It's a little heavy on sauce, and we like it that way.  But you can try some extra noodles and water and experiment with the noodles to sauce ratio. Either way, it's mmmmmm yummy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Microfiber Care

I had heard about how fabulous microfiber is for cleaning.  The tiny fibers (thinner than a human hair--sometimes by 1/200) clean anything with just water, so you can ditch harsh cleaners and stop using paper towels--saving money, time, and the planet! They are also great for dusting when they are dry, and for cleaning cars, glasses, and screens (TV, computer monitor, etc) because they don't scratch.

So when I saw a pack of microfiber cloths at the grocery store a couple of years ago, I snagged them.

They cleaned well-I especially liked the way they removed waxy buildup from my kitchen table: magically.

I did NOT like the way they held onto stains!  I could not get them too look or feel clean!

So I pulled out the big guns and bleached those suckers.

Are you cringing?  I know.  Me too.  I didn't realize that bleach will destroy those tiny little microfibers.  As a side note, fabric softener, instead of softening these cloths, will clog the fibers and make it so they can't pick up dirt or dust anymore.

My poor, pretty, microfiber cloths.  They just got more stained, less soft, and worse at cleaning.

My mother-in-law heard that boiling the microfiber cloths would restore them.  I tried it out, and it helped--though I think that my cloths are probably past saving, the poor dears.

I may try again, and not with grocery store cloths.  Real Simple Magazine says that the best microfiber cloths are from e-cloth.*  But at $30 for a pack of 5 cloths, I had better figure out how to take care of them!


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