What a whirlwind 4 weeks. Phew. Regardless of the ups and downs, here we are!

  • Cook three new dishes: Done and done! Lasagna, pasta carbonara, mac & cheese. As well as some sweets: donuts and granola bars and cinnamon rolls.
  • Birthdays! Both of my roommates celebrated birthdays this month. I’m honored that I can call them dear friends, as well as roommates, and was privileged to celebrate with them both.
  • Travel! Winter Carnival was awesome. So awesome I don’t have any pictures to prove it. The trip to DC didn’t happen, but that’s OK. I ended up in Iowa. I recognize that this doesn’t sound like a worthy trade, but you’re going to have to take my word for it: it definitely was.
  • Beethoven: Poor, sad Beethoven. Still not memorized. I’m a bit closer than I was a month ago, though. We’re going to call this one a wash, as I’ve spent time this month establishing a routine in my piano studio. It’s going well!
  • Gratitude: I’m honestly not sure if I sent 4 thank you cards. Hm….I know I did at least a couple. What I did do is start my list of 1,000 thankfulnesses.

I wanna know: What was your favorite moment/accomplishment for the month of February?

Homemade Mac & Cheese

Let me preface this post by saying that this isn’t going to taste like the Kraft version. Somewhere deep inside, I had hopes that it would. I did. I’m not saying that this isn’t super tasty. Because it is. It’s just not mac and cheese from a box. Nothing will ever match mac and cheese from a box.

By way of a secondary preface, many thanks to Amanda for sharing this recipe with me 🙂 I hope that I did it justice!

Gather your supplies:

  • 1-16 oz box of macaroni
  • 2-8 oz blocks of cheese, one white, one yellow
  • 1 small onion (or the equivalent)
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bread crumbs (or a couple of slices of bread to turn into bread crumbs)

First things first, prepare your noodles. While that’s happening, shred your blocks of cheese and dice your onion.

When the noodles are done, transfer them to a greased, glass 9×13 pan, and mix in the onions and the cheese.

Thinly slice your stick of butter and distribute over the top.

Sprinkle on Parmesan and bread crumbs. We didn’t have as much in the way of bread crumbs as I thought that we did. So, I toasted a couple of slices of bread and diced and crumbled it up. It worked, sort of!

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When it’s done, mix it up and serve!

Side note #1: check out how green that broccoli is!

Side note #2: What do you all know about melting cheese? How do they make Velveeta? Is there a way to make it that doesn’t involve infusing cheese with 8 million chemicals?

I wanna know: What’s your favorite way to prepare pasta? Stuffed? With sauce? With cheese?

Wasn’t it spring?

A mere 3 days ago, I was outside running in a t-shirt. Today? Not so much. We got another storm last night that blanketed my cute, little town in a new layer of snow. Unfortunately, not enough snow for anything useful (snowshoeing), but still enough snow to be cold, get into my shoes, and necessitate0 shoveling the sidewalk.

Don’t get me wrong, I like winter and snow. I do. But I like it when it looks like this:

Now that’s the kind of winter I like. Walking through the woods. With Snowshoes on my feet. Quiet. Peaceful. There’s nothing like it.

And now spring can come… 🙂

1000 bites of happiness

One of my goals for 2011 is to be more grateful. I want to adopt a habit of gratitude in the way I think and process my world. I want to observe my surroundings– the people in my life, my possessions, and my experiences–and consciously label them as blessings, evidences of grace and happiness.

So, I’m going to join my dear friend Emily in her quest to list 1000 blessings (thankfulnesses, happinesses, graces, etc). Because, you know, this world is pretty great. And our lives are full of grace and beauty, if only we take the moment to look up and notice. So look up. And take notice.

I, for one, don’t want to turn 24, or 47, or 73, and look back on my life, wishing that I had lived in the moment more. Wondering why I didn’t appreciate what I had while I had it. Regretting that I didn’t invest in myself and the people around me.

I want to be grateful. I want to pay attention. I want to revel. And embrace. And celebrate. Because I firmly believe that is what we’re here on this earth to do.

Want to join me?

Pasta Carbonara

Be prepared to be amazed. This is the best, easiest, tastiest meal I’ve made in recent history. Many thanks to Eat, Live, Run for posting the recipe.

You’ll need angel hair pasta, an egg, EVOO, 1 clove of garlic, and 1 Tbs real bacon bits (because I didn’t have bacon. If I did, I would have followed the recipe and cooked one strip of bacon, diced it, and cooked the garlic in the bacon grease. Check out the recipe).

Alrighty, boil 1 serving of dry pasta. While that’s happening, cook the minced garlic and bacon bits in the olive oil. Drain the water, and return the pasta to it’s pan over low heat. Mix in the oil/garlic/bacon.

Now, crack the egg into the noodles, and start mixing. Because of the heat of the noodles, the egg cooks. I promise. You aren’t eating raw egg. Keep mixing for about 2 minutes. If you don’t, your egg will scramble, and that will be gross.

What you are eating will taste like a wonderful, creamy pasta–minus the cream part.

Top with parsley and Parmesan. Enjoy. Because this is winter, and winter is for enjoying. And for eating pasta.


Granola Bars

My life is so full. And I’m so happy.

I was reading an article in one of my roommate’s magazines tonight. The author pointed out that we often remember the happy times that we’ve had and we look forward to the happy times that are to come, but we forget to notice the happy times that are in this moment. And I don’t want them to go unnoticed. Because my life contains so much activity and so many people that bring me so much joy. Why shouldn’t I celebrate that?

I spent a solid 4 days last week surrounded by views like this:

and this:

Since New Years, I’ve been teaching piano lessons to 6 wonderful kids. And loving it. I even got some Valentine’s happiness from one of them today. Cute, isn’t it? I definitely needed sugar to adorn my desk and tempt me.

And tonight, I have the night off. And I’m home. It’s been awhile since those two phenomena have collided. So I’m unpacking and doing laundry. I did the dishes. I made dinner (leftover stirfry+chicken broth=great soup!) I made granola bars.

It’s all in the small things. I’m convinced.

These granola bars–so easy. I will never buy from the store again. I used this recipe as a starting point, and ended up with this!

You’ll need:

  • 2.5 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (or other)
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. all-spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In an 8×8 dish, mix together 2.5 cups of oats, 1/2 cup of wheat germ, and 1/2 cup of seeds (I used sunflower). Toast in the oven for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While that’s going, combine the remaining ingredients in a sauce pan and heat until butter is melted and brown sugar is dissolved.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Mix dry and liquid ingredients together in another bowl. Grease your 8×8 pan, and spread the granola mix into it, pressing down with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 23 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Store in an air-tight container.

I wanna know: What/who in your life has been bringing you happiness recently?