29 September 2009

Walkin, slingin, and experimentin.

When I lost my job, just about eight months ago now (yikes!!), I was certain I'd make good use of my time. No job = perfect opportunity to volunteer my butt off. While, let's just say that hasn't necessarily happened. I just haven't been able to get motivated to pick dog walking back up, tutoring for 826 just never felt like my thing.... so I try to take advantage of opportunities whenever they arise, like helping out at Planned Parenthood whenever they need me -- I can stuff envelopes with the best of them! And walking and raising money for other worthy causes, like this past Sunday with Sarah and Mike (and sicky Lisa Z. in spirit), when we walked in the Ann Arbor AIDS Walk. As Team Berkshares, we raised $405, making us the fourth top-earning team. Go team go!

My trusty teammates prepare for battle!

Pigtail power!

In other "last week volunteery" news, I also helped out at the 11th annual Planned Parenthood Beer Tasting (my third year slingin' beer for the cause). This is such a great event, and thanks to all my peeps who came and supported us! Stayed tuned this winter for details on the fourth annual Get Down for Choice event. :)

I always call seniority and snag the best beer.

My beer-pourin' partners.

Since I've been sooooo busy -- ha -- I haven't had time ("time") to cook much. But I was inspired by the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine and tried out two new recipes. First up, lightened up mac and cheese (can I ever pass up a new mac recipe?). I can't find the recipe online, and Brad is nagging at me to get off the computer, so I'll just give you the highlights (and if you want it, I can email the recipe directly to you or you can grab the issue yourself -- it's a really good one!). What is different about this mac is the use of evaporated milk instead of milk, butter, and flour. Also new is the inclusion of a cauliflower puree to thicken up the sauce.

I typically make stovetop mac and cheese and call it a day. Every time I've tried to make baked mac and cheese, it just ends up a big ole dried out mess. Well, this sauce was everything it advertised itself to be -- super creamy, super super creamy, and it held up its creaminess after baking, too. But first, everything was topped off with slices of muenster.

And how would it taste?!

Well, creamy, for sure. Which made me happy. Was it the best mac and cheese ever? No. But... I think I know how to fix that next time. It just wasn't strong -- it had a very mild cheese flavor. I blame the shredded cheese mix I used, which I didn't think about when I was making it. The recipe calls for sharp cheddar. Oops. So definitely sharp cheddar next time, and maybe more of it and less muenster. But I'm totally sold on the evap. milk method!

The second recipe was for cheesy stuffed shells, with tofu instead of meat -- my first tofu dish! Again, nothing too special, but a stuffing mixture of tofu, spinach, and cheese... Oh yeah, and some carrots and mushrooms in the sauce.

Put us in the oven!

Out of the oven and lookin good.

This recipe suffered similarly as the mac and cheese -- super super mild flavor. Again, partially my fault; I used fat-free cottage cheese without even thinking about it. And while there is plenty of mozz and parm on the inside, it probably could have used some ricotta, too. It wasn't bad; in fact, it was quite tasty. BUT it definitely could have been better. This just means I get to make it again, and make it even yummier. :)

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