Midweek Inspiration No. 14: The Sweetest Advice
“ ‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh when we were underneath it?’
‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
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At the beginning of April, I started a new job.
While it's one of the best turns of events that ever could have happened, the first few weeks were really hard. Admittedly, I was a huge bundle of nerves and felt more anxious than I had in a very long time.
There was the worry of understanding everything, learning the group's social norms, remembering people's names, voices, and nuances. Not to mention the backdrop of a pandemic, which will make even the calmest person's heart pound.
Before long, I found myself tongue-tied, fretting about saying something wrong or weird, and seeming to forget everything I knew(!) It was terrible.
That is, until one night over dinner, my husband suggested a trick that turned everything around
“Have you ever noticed that when you talk to your friend, your entire demeanor changes? Within minutes, you're confident, peaceful, and calm.”
“Why don't you put her picture on your desk? When you're feeling off or nervous, just pretend you're talking to her”
It's funny how such a small thing can make such a huge difference. At the start of my days, I'll settle into my cozy office chair and start telling her things. Whatever the worries of the day are – the presentation I'm working on, the pets, my family, my friends, my husband, random passersby on the street, what's for lunch
And within minutes, I feel more present and ready for whatever the day holds.
And for fellow worriers out there, I'm sending you a big hug! Being a human is really hard, but somehow we'll muddle through together .. xx
Today, stovetop macaroni and cheese
One of the first things people ask is, “What have you been cooking during these challenging times?” My answer? “We've been keeping things as simple as possible.”
A few weeks ago, at my second home (the grocery), I was passing through the macaroni and cheese section and thought, “Man, does that ever sound good!” So I bought a box, made it for dinner with the requisite roasted veggies/salad on the side
It was amazing and hit the spot in the way only something warm and nostalgic can. A meal from childhood that lived up to every hope I'd had and more.
What's a soul to do when a craving for stovetop pasta with a sauce of melty cheese is so intense that nothing else will satisfy? You can't begin a long slide into the habit of the boxed stuff, nor live a life devoid of the meal it creates.
If you're in the market for a decadent, show-stopping, mac and cheese with buttery baked crumbs on top, Bittman's is pretty great, and I made it for years when the kids were still at home. Another flagged as a favorite comes from the New York Times and includes a miraculous hack (you don’t even pre-boil the pasta), but spends a significant amount of time in the oven.
This isn’t for any of those times.
This is for twenty minutes from now, all in one pot, with ingredients you already have in the pantry. Its true beauty lies in the fact that it offers whatever the day requires. When the craving has passed, you can return to a life of leafy greens, or, you know, do it again tomorrow.
A few notes about cheese
I've always thought of mac and cheese as the savory equivalent to chocolate chip cookies – everybody has very strong opinions about their cheese (or blend of cheeses). If strong preferences abound, by all means, use whatever you like
As for us? I'm firmly in the sharp cheddar camp, with a handful of parmesan for good measure. Sharp, because the extra flavor is always a win. And cheddar, because it’s hard to beat a classic.
There's only one non-negotiable piece of cheese advice. Always, always, always use freshly-grated in your mac and cheese. The vast majority of pre-shredded offerings have a coating that prevents them from melting smoothly. While it’s a bit of extra work, you'll be so glad you did
~ Adapted from The Kitchn
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- 8 oz dried short pasta (gluten-free is great too)
- 1 ½ Tbsp butter
- 1 cup milk, divided (2% or whole)
- 1 ½ Tbsp flour (potato starch is a nice substitute if you're avoiding gluten)
- sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grated cheese, at room temp (see notes, above)
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Return pot to stove and melt butter, along with ½ cup milk, whisking frequently.
- Meanwhile, place the remaining ½ cup of milk and flour in a small bowl and whisk together until there aren't any lumps.
- When you just start to see wisps of steam rising from the warming milk, whisk in the milk-and-flour mixture. Continue whisking gently until the milk thickens slightly to the consistency of heavy cream (~ 3-4 minutes)
- Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Remove from heat and add grated cheese and pasta until combined. Stir until the pasta is evenly coated.