Fall 2015

'70s Suburban Mac 'n Cheese

pocketknife_suburbanmacncheese

I imagine this mac 'n cheese - with a crunchy topping of wheatgerm - was born somewhere in the wilds of the suburban New Jersey in the 1970s. I can only tell you that we found it instantly addicting in the early '80s and it became the standard mac 'n cheese in our house.

 

  • 16 oz. ziti or penne
  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar
  • 12 oz. Heinz chili sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheatgerm

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a small jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Cook pasta until al denté (do not overcook!). Drain the pasta, and return it to the warm pan. Toss the pasta with chili sauce,  sharp cheddar, and unsalted butter until cheese and butter are melted. 

You can bake the pasta in a 9x12 glass or ceramic baking pan or, if you prefer it crunchy, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup milk. Top with wheatgerm.

Bake at 350F for twenty minutes (or until desired crunchiness is attained).

Best Molasses Roll Cookies

pocketknife_molassescookies

Molasses roll cookies in the shapes of leaves, acorns, and squirrels are a sweet Thanksgiving tradition  dating back a good forty years when I was first trusted with a rolling pin and a one foot square of the kitchen counter.

Over the years I've looked for the perfect recipe to make spicy, gingery cookies that are moist, not crunchy. This recipe - published by Food & Wine circa 1996 is by far the best. It's easy to assemble and perfect for rolling, You can even make and freeze the dough in advance. (I flew New York to Atlanta with frozen dough in my suitcase and it arrived at perfect temperature!)

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa
  • 5 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup unsulphured molasses

Sift together all dry ingredients onto a piece of parchment paper. Cream the softened butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg, then gradually beat in the molasses. Slowly pour and beat in the sifted dry ingredients. Chill dough for at least an hour. Roll the dough out 1/4 in think and cut. Bake at 350F on parchment lined tray for 8 minutes.

 

Arugula Pesto

 

The classic Italian basil pesto with extra-virgin olive oil,  garlic, toasted pine nuts and mediterranean sea salt is incomparable.  But what do you do when summer basil disappears from the farmer's market before you've stashed some in the freezer?

Substitute greens!

Basic pesto ratios are easy to remember:

  • two cups greens  
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp toasted nuts
  • 1 tsp salt

You can add the juice of a lime to add some zest, substitute pine nuts with garbanzo beans for a nut-free meal, or throw in some fresh mint when it has overtaken your garden.

When basil is scarce,  substitute another leafy green like kale or arugula (which won't turn dark green like Basil). Try doubling the garlic to compliment the kale or adding a knob of ginger to draw out the peppery flavor of the arugula. 

Always make your pesto the day you acquire your herbs or you will be disappointed by its bruised appearance.

And never make just one batch. Simply withhold the cheese and freeze it in ice-cube trays for future use. It defrosts quickly to be spread on toast or added to eggs. Toss four frozen cubes into a ½ pound of warm pasta along with ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan and some freshly toasted pine nuts for a taste of summer in the dead of winter.

 
 
 
 

Zero Waste Home

 
beajohnsonzerowastehome

Bea Johnson's "Zero Waste Home" is a great resource for simplifying your day to day life - by taking a close look at your consumption.

You may not be ready for the extremes Bea went through to reduce a year of her family's household waste to one ball jar. Or the lengths she went to to downsize her carbon footprint - moving into a smaller house, selling her car, dumpster diving (for research) or collecting 150 Le Parfait jars.

The most novel thing about her approach is adding 'refuse' in front of the three Rs  to create her mantra - refuse, reuse, recycle, rot.

And the most radical result of letting go of her things is finding more quality time with her kids. There is much to be inspired by in her book  and occasional blog which I began following in 2010 (before Bea knew she could compost those pesky wax-paper butter wrappers!).   Below is a link to purchase her book and some of the products she inspired me to use in my home in order to waste less. 

Find more green cleaning products here.