That’s Hot.

#4: What are you eating?

Me: Mac & cheese. Spicy mac and cheese!

#5: Why do you make everything spicy?

Me: Because it’s good.

I pointed to #4: You’re going to like this someday.

#4: Why do you say that?

Me: Because you already crossed the line. You like crushed red pepper on your pizza.

#4: But that’s GOOD.

Me: That’s my point. Crushed red pepper on pizza is the gateway spice.

#4: Gateway spice?

Me: Yeah. You start with a little red pepper on your pizza and pretty soon you’re guzzling bottles of Sriracha and snorting chili powder down in back alleys.

Blank stares from both of them.

Me: This is probably not an age-appropriate conversation, is it?

#5: What is wrong with you?

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Here is quite possibly the best thing to ever come out of the midwest: My stepmom’s recipe for Ro-tel Mac & Cheese.

WARNING: Do not attempt to make a “healthy” version of this. It’s pointless and will only piss you off. No soy cheese, no fat-free milk, no gluten-free pasta. Just don’t. If those are your dietary restrictions, just eat the Ro-tel out of the can because it will make you happier.

Before attempting this recipe, keep in mind two things:

  • If you send someone under the age of 24 out for a box of elbow macaroni, they will likely return to you with a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese (that’s Kraft Dinner to my Canadian friends).
  • Ro-tel is arbitrarily placed in grocery stores. One of my grocery stores puts it in with the tomatoes, one stocks it with the taco stuff. In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s tomatoes with chilis. Mmm. Spicy.

RO-TEL MAC & CHEESE

1- 1lb box elbow macaroni

3 c milk

1/4 lb butter

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

4 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 c milk

12 oz shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided usage

2 cans Original Ro-tel diced tomatoes with chilis

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350

2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the 3 cups of milk, butter, salt and pepper until hot but not boiling.

4. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of milk with the cornstarch and stir until dissolved.

5. Slowly add this to the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly with a which.

6. When mixture has thickened, remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of cheese until melted.

7. Pour pasta into a large mixing bowl and add the cheese mixture and Rotel.

8. Mix well until macaroni is coated.

9. Pour into a greased 9×13 baking dish or 3-quart casserole and top with remining cheese.

10. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown on top.

It’s better the second day and perfect as a midnight snack.  You’re gonna thank me for this.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

 

 

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The Truth About Lemon Drops

There’s a recipe I tore out of a magazine over a year ago and haven’t made yet. It’s for a lemon ice box pie that looks divine. The picture just screams summer, and every time I run across it in my recipes I think, I really want to make this pie!

It includes three of my favorite things on the planet: shortbread cookies, a certain type of greek yogurt that’s more fattening than ice cream, and lemon drops (candy in pies is kind of a midwest thing, much like tiny marshmallows in sweet potatoes).

I finally decided to make the pie. My first trip out for ingredients, I had a hard time finding the shortbread cookies. I had to search the whole cookie aisle like three times and by the time I found them, a bunch of other cookies had climbed into my basket as decoy cookies. They said it was so I didn’t eat the ones intended for the recipe. I’m not one to argue with a cookie.

In the aftermath of the cookie aisle fiasco, I forgot the yogurt. I also forgot the lemon drops. That night, I cracked open the shortbread.

The next day I went back to the store. By this time, I’d eaten half the shortbread, but figured there was still enough to make the recipe. I grabbed the yogurt, then was confronted with a horror in the candy aisle:

NO LEMON DROPS!

In fact, there was a total absence of any old-lady candy. No peppermints. No Brach’s sour balls. No Red Hots.

The next day I went to a different store for lemon drops (and shortbread, because we were out. Also decoy cookies). There were butterscotch balls and those gross neapolitan coconut squares, but no lemon drops. I replenished the cookies.

Next day, next store: There were root beer barrels, cinnamon balls, and those little bright blue mint balls, but no lemon drops. I bought a pint of Häagen-Dazs so I wouldn’t eat the yogurt.

Finally, as a last resort before mail-order, I made my way to the drug store in town with the largest candy section, and there they were: lemon drops. Finally. Thank god this place carries shortbread too.

I have always believed lemon drops to be the most innocent of all candy. I remember being able to choose them as my treat when we went to the movies when I was a little kid. They were great because they were sour enough that you didn’t need a lot. Your parents could shut you up for fifteen minutes with two of them.

The truth is that lemon drops have proven to be sort of a reverse gateway drug purely by their elusiveness. Tallying up all the extra shortbread, decoy cookies and ice cream I’ve had while searching for them, each serving of this pie is equal to approximately a month’s worth of calories. The pie that I still haven’t made. I can’t believe lemon drops turned on me. Did you ever have a candy turn on you? It feels like when my best friend in elementary school pretended to be mad at me. Not cool, lemon drops. Not cool.

At this point, maybe I should just dip a shortbread cookie in the yogurt, top it with a lemon drop, and call it good.

 

 

One Leo Sunday

We experienced a great loss at work last month: Leonardo died.

I’ve been asked to say a few words about him.

Despite his fierce reputation, he never got into any fights at work.

He brought the office together in much-loved games such as Fish Taco* and Where’s Leo**?

While he enjoyed the occasional treat and a bit of travel while his home was being cleaned, he really preferred the simpler things in life. You could pretty much always find him relaxing on the water.

I mean in the water.

Leo, you are missed. The picture we have in place of your mini-aquarium is a poor substitute for your former glistening presence. I will always fondly remember you crossing your fins as you lounged in your leaf, mere days before your untimely demise.

leonardo
Leonardo, pre-death. Note the leaf. Photo: Davis Duffield.

Just keep swimming, Leo. Just keep swimming.

* “Fish Taco” was a game in which, when one observed Leo reclining in his leaf (mounted sideways in his bowl and curved in such a way that if one really used one’s imagination one could see how it might be said to resemble a taco shell) one would then scream, “FISH TACO!” and then punch (pseudo-good-naturedly, as in a game of Punch Buggy) whomsoever happened to be within arm’s reach.

** “Where’s Leo?” is rather self-explanatory game, although one might wonder where exactly a beta fish could hide in an approximately one-quart-sized aquarium. The answer, of course, is anywhere he can.

Here are your links:

I thought this one was particularly cool: What a week’s worth of groceries looks like in 15 different countries, and what it costs.   We spend $340, much like the family from the US, though what we buy looks very different. The lack of fast food makes our dollars go further, but it does cram our fridge full and lead to many refrains of “There’s nothing to eat!” (Technically we have more children than that family, but theirs are teenage boys, so I don’t think you can truly draw that comparison…I think it’s a safe bet that the parents don’t get any of the pizza the kids are holding.)

A photographic series showing what 200 calories looks like in different foods: Artfido.

This is a beautiful photo series: fstoppers- Portraits of the elderly as they once were.

Which is a nice tie-in to Long-Life Advice From 7 Centenarians. Real Simple.

A badass tutorial: How to Photoshop Your Gremlin Kids Into a Star Wars Poster on the Dimwit Diary.

Happy Sunday.