The only mac and cheese recipe you need

You can make this. But you don’t have to. You can crawl inside it and stay cozy forever instead.

I’m just going to leave this recipe here for myself so I remember how I made it.

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 
2 1/2 cups 1% milk
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • about 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • about 4 ounces grated alta badia cheese
  • 2 ounces grated Parm cheese
  • 16oz  trotolle pasta or elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 c breadcrumbs or crushed potato chips or a combo of both

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a casserole dish; set aside.
  2. Warm the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Melt butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. When the butter bubbles, add the flour. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  4. While whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk a little at a time to keep mixture smooth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick, 8 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in spices, cheese,Worcestershire; set sauce aside.
  6. Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta until the outside of pasta is cooked and the inside is underdone, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse with cold water, drain well.
  7. Stir the macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.
  8. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.
  9. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes until brown on top. Transfer the dish to a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve.
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Planning My Day at the Fair

Although I live minutes from Tampa, Florida, I have never been to the Florida State Fair. My kids have gone when invited by different friends over the years, and in fact DD2 went this year already, but I plan to go this Sunday for the first time. I’ve been looking at friends photos and social media posts, as well as the Florida State Fair website, and I’ve begun planning my day.

Photo by Rachel Barrett

What’s funny is I have a blogger friend who shared all there is to share about the food at the fair. Meanwhile my daughter has photos of animals, and my boss had photos of rides. My friend Carter said not to miss Cracker Country. I guess everyone has their reason for going and their favorite part of the day and Fairgrounds. Some moms of littles will probably wait in line for Peppa Pig or meeting the Shopkins! I’m curious to see what my favorite part will be. I think it will be taking photos of rides and lights at night.

Littles can get washable glitter tattoos at the Fair. (Really big kids can too!)

I already know one friend I am going with will totally be food-focused. While another said she can NOT miss the giraffes.

Giraffes??

Yep, every day at the fair you can join Twigs the Giraffe and other amazing exotic animals up close in the Giraffic Park Exotic Menagerie. (Ha!) Feed a giraffe and get a close-up look at a llama. When I think about animals at a fair, my mind goes to Charlotte’s Web – and the cows and pigs – and Templeton singing “A Fair is a Veritable Schmorgasboard-orgasboard-orgasboard.” Don’t worry, you can see those at the Fair too!

Friends of mine making furry friends at the Fair

DD2 tested her bravery at the Fair

You know what sounds cool to me? India Fest. I really enjoy music and dance with Indian influences, and I wonder if a couple of the kids I know from school will be performing. I haven’t heard about that from anyone yet.

The Florida State Fair is packed with rides — it’s the largest Midway in America and includes the famous Mighty Mouse. I guess it really does belong only an hour from Walt Disney World… If you love to spin around while being spun around, I hear the Zipper is the way to go.

Photo by Rachel Barrett

Because I’m a little tardy to the State Fair party, the people have already voted on the best food at the fair. The People’s Choice Award goes to The Best Around for their Fried Cheesy Enchilada Funnel Cake created by Kevin McGrath and team (not pictured here). It’s a corn meal funnel cake batter mixed with enchilada spices, poured through a funnel and deep fried. it’s then topped with queso and ground chorizo. I’m not sure I’ll be trying that. My daughter said the hamburger that has 2 heart-shaped donuts as the bun was tasty (shown). My boss tried – but later regretted – the fried Oreos.

Thanks to Outdoorsy Diva for her Fair tips and sharing some photos. Thanks to Tampa Bay Bloggers for helping me get tickets. I’m looking forward to my day at the Florida State Fair with Tia. I hope to see y’all a the fair!

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Earth Fare: Healthy Grocery & Giveaway!

earth fare florida grocery store

Last month, I hadn’t heard of Earth Fare grocery stores. I should have, because there is one about 5 minutes from daughter’s apartment in Gainesville. (Chomp, chomp.) When I heard they were opening a new store in Seminole full of healthy food, I was quite intrigued. And when I was offered a tour and preview two days before the grand opening with the Tampa Bay Bloggers, I was thrilled!

Here’s the thing about health food – I’m a skeptic. I’ve done a lot of research, and I don’t buy into fad diets or crazy eating habits. I do think much of the standard American diet is junk and not real food. If you are looking to avoid that junk, perhaps lose weight or just get healthier, Earth Fare can actually help. Here’s why:

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Some stores have many products that fit in this box, but at Earth Fare, every item on the shelves meets these standards. I can’t promise you sugar free or gluten free, but I can promise you food free of red dye #6 zillion.

I’m going to tell you a bit about Earth Fare. And then I’m going to tell you how you can try to win a $25 gift card to go try the brand new store out for yourself! #Giveaway!

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Earth Fare started in Asheville, NC in 1975 with the commitment to providing Healthy Food for Everyone, food safe for the community. They have 75% organic produce. The store uses a reverse osmosis to mist the organic produce, so it’s not great stuff doused in gross water.

trail mix at earth fare

Walking past the produce section around the perimeter of the store, next you’ll find bulk nuts, candy and granola in bins, along with bulk liquids such as vinegar, honey, maple, olive oil – which you can take home in a small container or bring our own container. You can also grind your own peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter or almond butter.

Next come the seafood and deli sections. The seafood is traceable and sustainably sourced. We tasted some smoked salmon that was full of flavor and super juicy.

Yum, I've never seen these before... Apple chardonnay! No casing!

Yum, I’ve never seen these before… Apple chardonnay! No casing!

I also learned some stores have animals raised on antibiotics.Then before animals go to  the market, there is a withdrawal period for antibiotics, meaning any food or milk from animals that have been treated with an antibiotic may not enter the food supply until a predetermined amount of time has passed since the animal’s last dosage. But the animals at Earth Fare have NEVER been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. They’ve also been a leader in supplying cage-free eggs for over ten years.

If there's a cheese you're not sure of, they'll let you try before you buy!

If there’s a cheese you’re not sure of, they’ll let you try before you buy!

You can get organic or biodynamic wine, pet products, cleaning products, build your own six pack of fun beer (some local) – and they also offer catering.

The Earth Fare bakery offers 7 varieties of breads baked fresh in house daily from organic flour. I also hear they have gluten free angel food cake and amazing vegan cookies!

chocolate at earth fare

I would like to try every fair trade dark chocolate bar please!

The Seminole store will help try out their new Heirloom juice bar. You can get fresh pressed juices, smoothies, coffee and tea – and there are a few small tables to stop and enjoy them at, or you can take them quickly to go.

The store has partnered with the Edible Peace Patch project, a local nonprofit, and they are helping to fund a $10k garden at a Seminole public elementary school.

The last area we visited were the sustainable and environmentally friendly wellness and beauty products. The products represented a great variety of brands, and the prices were great!

You can wait till some of the newness wears down if you want, or get right on over to Earth Fare for their Fall Festival on Saturday from 12-3pm with activities just for kids, such as face painting and pumpkin decorating. They are open every day from 7am – 10pm at 7774 113th Street N, Seminole , FL 33772. I drove around a little at the new shopping strip going up behind the store, and there will be a Bealls, Steinmart, Homegoods, Ulta, Five Below and more. It looks so pretty!

Giveaway

So here’s how you can join in the fun and try to win a gift card from Earth Fare and ME for $25. It starts with you heading over to my Instagram account, @rafdarrow. There I have a slideshow from my Earth Fare tour. Hit like and leave a comment letting me know what you are most looking forward to seeing at the store – and in your comment use the hashtag #earthfaresem (for Earth Fare’s Seminole store.)

If you have something really strongly against Instagram, you can Tweet to me instead. Tag me @rafdarrow and use the same hashtag #earthfaresem. In your tweet tell me which weekly deal you’ll probably take advantage of first at Earth Fare.

And, yes, you can do BOTH and get entered in my drawing TWICE. But only one tweet or Insta-comment per reader please. You can leave a comment here, but it will not enter you in the giveaway. It will just give me a smile 🙂

Good luck, enjoy the store, and I will be tallying answers on Tuesday, 10/4 after 6pm so you need to tweet or Insta before then!

If you don’t live near me, here’s where to check to see if there is an Earth Fare in your neck of the woods.

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Recipe Rehab: Healthier Baked Potato

IMG_8803A quick and easy dip that I really enjoy is yogurt mixed with peanut butter. You can use vanilla or plain yogurt – Greek style or regular, crunchy or creamy peanut butter. It’s up to you! I like equal parts plain Greek yogurt with natural creamy peanut butter. It’s great with baby carrots, celery or crackers. I usually add cinnamon too.

One day, my daughter had a group of friends over coloring posters for school. I made this dip with carrots for them to nosh on. One of the girls was a vegetarian and said she wanted to make it her new, go-to snack. She really loved it! I had to give her mom the recipe.

When we were out to dinner recently, my husband ordered a baked potato with sour cream. He’s probably eaten that at home 3 times in the 20 years we’ve shared a home. Mainly because I rarely buy large potatoes or sour cream, and it’s not something he really ever craves. My mom says I actually have a mild allergy to white potatoes, but I don’t know that I’ve seen a symptom of that. I just feel they are full of more starch than I need regularly.

However, I do enjoy a sweet potato! When I realized how easy they are to pop in the microwave, they became a quick work lunch.

So today – you can pool those 2 food together – the yummy dip and the sweet potato – and get a healthier alternative to a loaded baked potato. No added sugar or butter…

Ingredients:

  • 1 TB of your favorite yogurt
  • 1 TB of your favorite nut butter
  • Cinnamon
  • A seed or nut for added crunch if desired
  • 1 sweet potato

Directions

  1. Poke a sweet potato once with a fork or knife. Pop it in the microwave. If you have a potato function, just press that, otherwise 4-6 minutes is good depending on the size of your potato.
  2. Scoop 1 TB yogurt (I use plain Greek) and 1 TB peanut butter (I use natural creamy) into a small dish.
  3. Sprinkle on 2 shakes of cinnamon and about 1tsp of your favorite nut or seed if you like a little crunch. Today I used roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels.
  4. IMG_8805As soon as your sweet potato is done, slice it once down the long center – into about half of the potato. Scoop your nutty dip into the potato and let it set for a minute. The steam from the inside of the potato will begin to melt the dip slightly, making it creamier!
  5. Chow down and enjoy!

Served with the yogurt and peanut butter I chose, MyFitnessPal says this dish is about 220 calories.

 

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Liquid Apple Pie – a 4th of July Shot Recipe

applepie2

I’ve been playing with apple pie flavored “adult beverages” for a few weeks, trying to get just the right flavor. An apple martini was sweeter than the flavor I was looking for, and Fireball had more bite than I hoped.

I think I created the perfect recipe for an apple pie shot the other day – just in time for Fourth of July weekend celebrating!

Ingredients

Directions

Pour into a shot glass and knock it back! Enjoy!

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