Friday, October 28, 2011

Fancy Restaurant Mac and Cheese

When this weather starts cooling off, my body demands comfort food.  That includes most of my favorite foods, but nothing tops it for me quite like mac and cheese.  Made from scratch, of course!

Here's my super easy way to make mac and cheese like it's from a fancy restaurant (a spin off of carbonara).  Once you get your sauce base, you can pretty much vary it any way you like, but I made this batch with bacon, cheddar and green chilies.

All you need is:
-pasta (I like orechiette or penne)
-whatever cheese you like (cheddar is my fave)
-half and half (or cream for the fearless)
-green chilies

1.  Make your pasta.  Strain.  You know the drill.

2. While pasta is cooking, cook half a package of bacon.  I prefer dicing it up first so it cooks faster.  When it is 75% close to finished, add a clove or two of sliced garlic.  It will cook fast!  If the bacon is very fatty, drain off excess, but most bacon should be just fine.

3.  Pour 1 1/2 cups of half and half over the hot pan.  The heat from the bacon makes this sauce very quick.  Start adding in half of the cheese, stirring constantly.  I start with a cup of shredded cheese per pound of pasta, but you can always use more.  Just don't use less or it will insult the dish.

4.  Add your pasta, the rest of the cheese, and any extra little bits you might like.  In this case, I added a can of roasted green chilies, but if you use raw veggies, add them in with the garlic while you cook the bacon.  Turn off heat and mix well, so each bite of pasta is coated in saucy goodness.

5.  Top with crumbled crackers or toasted breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper.

Other winning combinations:
-chevre and roasted red pepper
-mushrooms, caramelized onions and Fontina
-smoked gouda and Italian sausage (add a little mild cheese to help the gouda melt)
-parmesan, tomato and basil
-ham and swiss

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shooter and Bubba

At the old farmhouse where I live with three other women, 12 chickens, 3 female cats and a dog, there are a couple new guys who have moved in.

My roommate has taken in a couple billies who ran out of food to graze at their old place.  Meet Bubblegum and Shotgun, better known as Bubba and Shooter.

They are excellent walkers.
And runners.

They're extremely affectionate and charming. (That's Bubba with the short ears.)

They seem to enjoy being surrounded by women.

And they're willing to work for food!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Blind Scream

It doesn't take much for me to get into the Halloween spirit.  Candy, dressing up, getting spooked ... what's not to love?

My roommate got tickets for a haunted house and creepy maze.  But before we went into the dark lair with ghouls jumping out at every corner, we warmed up with testing out a coffin at the entrance.  Peggy was bold enough to get in.

Apparently it was very comfortable.

I tested the electric chair.

Happy halloween!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Dozen Little Chickens

One of my favorite things about my house is the great chicken coop my roommate built for the 12 little gals we have.  When I first moved in, I secretly wanted to move into the chicken coop- it's that nice!

I still have a ton to learn about chickens, including what kind we have.  All I can tell you is there are 4 each of black and white, yellow, and red.  It has taken months for me to even get to a point where I can pick them up.  They are quick on their feet and not scared to peck at you.

They also seem to sense I'm uneasy around them.  They are darling girls, it's just all that pecking I'm not a fan of.

Lucky for me, we have a trap door next to their nesting boxes for grabbing eggs.  I still have to be quick, since a couple of the gals are onto me.

So grateful to my roommate, who is the real chicken mama and brains behind the operation.  And she shares all the beautiful eggs with us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Handcar Regatta

Living in the North Bay means I get lots of exposure to cool steam-punky stuff, including the Handcar Regatta in Santa Rosa.  For train lovers and do-it-yourselfers, this is the coolest festival and race- all of hand built cars!

I worked the Make booth for most of the event, but got to take in a few trains zipping around the grounds.

And I also got inspired by this lady and her homemade hat made out of a paper cup.  Another project to add to the list!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

How to Catch a Scorpion

Look what I found in my kitchen!  Seriously, scorpions are no joke and can be difficult to catch.  And unlike spiders, it's recommended that they are killed instantly and not released in the wild or they will just find their way back into your house.  (And even when they are flattened to the size of a credit card, they can still sting you.)

I learned all this on the internet once I had my little critter trapped in a mason jar and wanted to figure out what to do with him.  I had a choice- squish him or preserve his carcass for posterity.

I went the posterity route and used some rubbing alcohol to send him to a better place.  You never know when you may need a preserved scorpion.

Sorry, fella.  If you weren't so poisonous and agro with those claws, things would be different.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Make Your Own Burger Tuesday

Life can throw you a few curveballs, but if you're lucky you can knock 'em out of the park.  When I ran out of food, the best was meeting up with friends at Stumptown Brewery.  The kitchen is closed on Tuesdays.  No!  You can grill your own burger instead.  Yes!

So that's what we did.  We also met some terrific people visiting from San Francisco.  Meeting energetic people at a bar is also nice because they usually have the most enthusiasm to do things.  We teamed up on the burgers and got our new friends to cook them all for us (actually, our new friend's boyfriend did most of the work).

Not bad for 2 bucks.

Has anyone come up with a restaurant concept to have customers do all the cooking?  Brilliant!  I think it could work.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Project: Dead Bug Shadowbox

Since I've submitted some blog posts for Craftzine, I've been feeling crafty these days.  My love for scraps has made me start to look at materials in a different way.  My grandmother taught me that what could be trash can easily be transformed into art or something with an upcycled function.

So when I found dead bumblebees in my windowsill, I knew they could be good for something.

A shadowbox!  I love geeky, old-fashioned crafts and this makes the perfect gift for my friend B, who not only loves bees, but is from Utah, where the beehive is the state symbol.  (Interesting factoid, it's the symbol of Mormonism because of the colony of workers that make up the community, and the beehive is on road signs throughout the state.)

Here's what you need:
-a shadowbox
-fabric or paper for backdrop
-dead bugs for centerpiece
-extra embellishments: trim, stickers, ribbon, paper for collage, etc.
Open shadowbox.
Tuck in fabric, line the back with paper or paint.  Make sure to leave room for your three dimensional object for display.  Decorate with trim.

If using bugs, glue to stiff paper or cardstock.  The bees had long legs, so I trimmed them with a scissors and placed using tweezers.

Add any extra accents, like glitter, pictures, or decoupage.  I added a beehive charm.
Place in the box.
I sprayed the whole thing lightly with glue spray.  It leaves a bit of a coating, but keeps everything reinforced so it doesn't start to droop in the box once it's hung up.
Place the glass and frame over the top and glue to the edges of the box.  Hang and enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Thing About Oak Trees

The thing about oak trees is their fruit produces large husks that frankly, didn't make me think of a oak tree.

What an easy way for me to look at a tree as if I'm seeing it for the first time.  In a way, I am.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Flash of Red

It must be fall.  There is just something so comforting and cheerful about seeing a red tractor on an old ranch.  I would take this over a mustang convertible any day.