Mac & Cheese for Friends-giving-mas-wanza-anukah

Friendsgiving 2014

To kick off the holiday season, I threw a party.  I called it Friends-giving-mas-wanza-anukah.  Just to cover all of my bases.

I made it a potluck and my contribution was mac & cheese and an apple pie.  I figured something not so easy, and something super easy since I know I was going to be super busy at this party.

The mac & cheese was the easy one.  It was a recipe from a Cook’s Illustrated magazine circa October 2009.  They called it the Foolproof Mac & Cheese.  I agree.

Mac and Cheese

Mac & Cheese (slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, October 19, 2009)

Gather:

4 slices white bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 pound of elbow macaroni

another 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons flour
3 (12 oz) cans of evaporated milk (full fat version)
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dry mustard

8 oz shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 oz shredded American cheese (deli counter will cut you a block so you don’t have to use singles)
2 oz shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

Steps:

First make the bread crumb topping by tearing the bread into chunks and throwing them into a food processor along with the 4 tablespoons melted butter and parmesan cheese.  Pulse till they resemble bread crumbs.

Cook the macaroni until al dente, about six minutes.  Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain and rinse in a little cold water.

In the same pot, melt the other 4 tablespoons of butter.  Once melted, add in the flour and stir and cook for a minute until slightly brown.  Add in the evaporated milk then the hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard and some salt.  Whisk/stir the mixture until thickened.  Take off the heat and mix in the cheese and reserved pasta water.  Mix in the pasta until coated, pour into a 9″x 13″ pan and top with the bread crumb topping.  Bake in a 350 degF oven for about 20 minutes till topping is golden brown and bubbling.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

The end product was delicious.  Not too greasy or heavy at all.  Still cheesy and gooey!  I made it twice and I learned a couple of things…

The bread crumb topping cannot be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for anything longer than 20 minutes.

The mac & cheese, however, can be made a couple of hours ahead of time.  I made a batch a couple of hours ahead of time (without the breadcrumb topping) and covered it in foil and kept it at the back of my oven near the vent while the oven was making my pie.  Once I was ready to make it, I topped it with some panko crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese and it came out just fine!

This mac & cheese reheats very well in the microwave.  Still cheesy and not greasy, which is the best.

I think this will be my go to mac & cheese recipe.  Very simple recipe, very simple ingredients.

The party was a success.  I was told I had 17 people packed in my apartment at one time.  I’m not the greatest hostess.  My style is kind of laid back.  I always believe things will come together themselves.  It’s tough being a hostess, orchestrating a pot luck while trying fight the urge to just run into a quiet room and just hide.  17 is a lot of people, and I was overwhelmed at times.  But I loved it.  I have amazing friends who helped tremendously, and the pot luck made feeding everyone a breeze!  I loved watching everything unfold from my little spot in the kitchen.  I need to work on incorporating mingling into my repertoire, which just means I need more practice.  But now…recovery time…

Happy Holiday season 2014 everyone!

 

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Weekend Adventure: Kykuit

Kykuit

One of the perks of having some time off during the weekday is the ability to partake in some local tourist attractions without the weekend crowd.

Kykuit

I have always meant to visit Kykuit, the home of the Rockefellers, hidden away in Pocantico Hills.  I went to the elementary school there, I spend many many hours walking and running the Rockefeller Preserve, but I have never had an opportunity to tour the house.  In fact, there is a spot on the trail, where after the leaves have fallen, you can see the house through the trees.

I took the classic tour, which gave a pretty good overview of the house and the grounds. My tour group consisted of a Women’s Club from Connecticut and me.  I felt so out of place in wrinkled clothes with dog hair, no makeup, hair still air drying and toting around my weekend bag with little whales on it.  I am most definitely not a lady of Connecticut.

Kykuit

My only gripe with the tour was the swiftness in which we moved from place to place.  I would have enjoyed the ability to wander the grounds a bit, and we were moving so fast, I felt like I just didn’t have the opportunity to take any pictures or really enjoy the various gardens we were whisked passed.

Kykuit

Otherwise, the tour was nice.  I don’t think it would be something I’d have my out of town guests consider during their stay here, but at least I had the opportunity to see what the view looked like from the top!

Kykuit

Kykuit

Kykuit

Kykuit

Kykuit

Kykuit

 

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ChezSylvia Travels: Ogunquit, ME

Marginal Way

I forced myself to take three days off of work this week and disappeared off into Maine.  Ogunquit, Maine to be more precise.

Perkins Cove Drawbridge

Gorgeous little coastal town that is full of character.  I can see why people who come here keep coming back, and people I talk to about Ogunquit have nothing but great things to say about it.  I am so glad Cape Cod didn’t want me this weekend, making me explore other options and discovering this little gem.

Quick trip notes:

I decided to try something new.  I brought along a new little travel picture buddy.  Think Amelie and the adventures of her father’s gnome.  His name is Oliver, and he is very photogenic.

Oliver on the Beach

Sometimes taking a wrong turn leads to amazing surprises.  I took a wrong turn while driving through Kennebunkport, and ended up finding the jaw dropping views of Ocean Drive.  I think President Bush has a house there.  I think I found it accidentally.

Kennebunkport_panoramic

Marginal Way is by far my favorite place to be.  I must have walked that path twice a day every day.  One day, I will get old and perch myself on this one bench I’ve decided had the best view and reflect on the awesome life I’ve lead so far.  One day…

Marginal Way

Sunrise is my favorite time of the day.  It was 40 degrees out the morning I ventured out to watch the sunrise over Maine.  Completely worth it.

Sunrise

For all of the photos that made the cut, go HERE.  I had a really hard time picking which ones to put on this blog.

Oliver on Marginal Way

Ogunquit Beach

Ogunquit 2014

Surfer

Oliver goes sailing

Oliver at Kennebunkport

Sailing

Sailboat deck

Perkins Cove Drawbridge

Norseman Resort at sunset

Ogunquit sunrise

Sunrise on the Beach

Perkins Cove Window

Rowboats

Sailing Ogunquit

Until next time…

Oliver_sunrise

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Weekend Adventures: Great New York State Fair 2014

Back to the Great New York State Fair I go!  Last year, when I went, it was on my own accord.  This year, I had to work.  Well, I had to man a booth for my work, then drive the plug in electric hybrid we had on display back to the office on the last day of the fair.  It wasn’t all work.  I had taken an early morning flight on Sunday, which got me there in time to start my wandering around in the rain.

The good thing about seeking shelter in the nearest building, was what I found that I normally would have missed otherwise.  Like the Cow contest.  I stumbled upon the judging of the Ayrshire cows of various age groups.  It was really interesting listening to the judging notes announced.

Otherwise, I saw the usual.  The carnival rides, the rows upon rows of food vendors hawking the deep fried goodies everyone was looking for and all the exhibits.

After a few hours of wandering, I took my place in the booth and proceeded to people watch for 6 hours.  I answered all sorts of questions, and even took in a Phillip Phillips concert which took place right outside our tent (I was pretty excited).  Rinse and repeat the next morning.

Now that I’m home, all I want is air conditioning and real food.

For all pictures, visit my Flikr!

NYSFair2014_Cowjudging

NYSFair2014_Cowjudging

NYSFair2014_Horse

NYSFair2014_coaster

NYSFair2014_rubberduckiegame

NYSFair2014_colorfulchicken

NYSFair2014_pigeons

NYSFair2014_train

NYSFair2014_sandsculpture

NYSFair2014_Bikes

 

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Berry Yogurt Popsicles

berrypop

Now that I’m on a period of forced resting, I have to start watching what I eat with a little more care.  For the past couple of weeks, I’ve definitely been eating much much worse.

So, it’s time to hop back on the wagon, so to speak.

On a recent shopping outing, I picked up a set of popsicle molds.  They were nice, and 50% off.  I’ve always wanted a set, and what better time than now?

For my first popsicle outing, I started looking up different recipes.  I wanted something simple, that didn’t use any pre-packaged juices or had too many ingredients I normally wouldn’t have on hand.

berrypopside

In my search I found this recipe for Yogurt Pops from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  I like Jamie Oliver and what he does (real food!), so this recipe fit the bill of what I was looking for.  His tip for tasting the mixture before adding additional honey as a sweetener was great advice.  The bananas I used were overripe ones I had frozen from a while back.  They provided more than enough sweet.

berry pop mix

Berry Yogurt Pops (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution)

Gather:

2 small ripe bananas (I used two overripe bananas I kept in the freezer and sliced them into chunks before putting them in the food processor)

2 oz of frozen berry mix (handful)

2 cups 2% Green Yogurt

Honey to sweeten, if needed

Everything into a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Spoon into popsicle molds.  Freeze for at least 3 hours.

The popsicle came out super.  The banana and yogurt lends a nice balance of creaminess to the slight tartness from the berries.  The berry mix I used had raspberries, so there were some seeds to contend with.  A great snack indeed!

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Kickball – Summer 2014

Last Thursday I found myself in an MRI machine getting a scan of my right knee.   25 minutes of staring at the ceiling makes you think about things…a lot.

The Thursday before, I found myself taking a hit from a base runner at a kickball game.  It wasn’t a hard hit, but a hit at just the right angle where something in my knee snapped.  As I was laying on the ground, I felt that pang of devastation as I was sure my running season was over.   Just as I was finally falling back in love with running again, this happens.  FML.  I was just four games away from retiring.

Out for the season, I now found myself captaining from the the sidelines full time.  At least now, I had time to bring my camera and give sports photography a try.

It was a late game, so I was fighting the diminishing sunlight, and with the fast action, there was a lot of motion blur happening.  But I think I got some pretty decent shots:

KB_Summer2014

KB_Summer2014

KB_Summer2014

KB_Summer2014

KB_Summer2014

KB_Summer2014

Side note: How awesome are those shirts?  They were all individually tie dyed by the team’s T-shirt decorating committee at the beginning of the season.  Pitches be Trippin!

I still have the playoffs to go, so more may be on the way.  For the time being, the whole set from this game can be found HERE

 

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Red Wine Ice Cream

Red Wine Ice Cream

Sometimes you want a glass of wine, sometimes you want ice cream and sometimes you want both…because it’s just one of those days.

Red Wine Ice Cream (from The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Ingredients:

6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon non-fat dry milk

3/4 cup red wine

In a bowl stir together the yolks, sugar and salt until well combined.

In a saucepan, combine the heavy cream and dry milk and scald.

Temper the yolk mix with the heavy cream and combine the yolk mixture in with the cream mixture and while stirring constantly, bring to just under a boil, about 170 degF.  It should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Once thickened, remove from heat and pass through a fine strainer into a bowl.  Cool the mixture at least 4 hours but overnight is preferred.

Once cooled, stir in the red wine and freeze in an ice cream maker.  Let it set up in the freezer overnight before tearing into it and enjoying.

Red Wine Ice Cream

 

 

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