Following the Ingredients to… Macaroni and Cheese

I am not a recipe writer; I’ve been learning a bit about food blogging lately and that seems to be the most daunting of the aspects of it: what if my recipe works for me but fails because I forgot some detail I needed to tell the readers? Perhaps this is why I like trying other people’s recipes and tweaking them, because it is easier than writing my own.

Lately though, since I started daily posts, I’ve found that I don’t get around to enough new recipes a week to keep the blog full up on only completely new recipes. For instance, we were quite tired the other night, so I did something I call “following the ingredients” – I start with one thing I know I want to eat, then add things that I think will be good until a food emerges.

For me, it started with some pasta shells. They looked like they were aching for some cheese, so while they boiled, I scrounged in the fridge. I found a smoked gouda spread that we were given a long time ago; since we don’t sit down with fancy crackers and cheese spread very often, it really hadn’t found a home, but I had a hunch it would make a good cheese sauce, if I added (consults fridge) the last of this block of cream cheese!

When the shells were finished, I put some leftover cream from when I made liquid truffle, and began dissolving the two kinds of cheese into it. In went my go-to spices for italian food: oregano, garlic, sea salt, cracked pepper. The bowl of recently-picked cherry tomatoes stared up at me accusingly, reminding me that there was no vegetable matter in this dish. I sliced them all up in halves and threw them in with the pasta on the side. The cheese sauce smoothed out, and a few leaves of basil later… something was born.

Husband loves cooking this way, just throwing in what we have, not worrying too much about recipes or whether the flavor mixes are perfect, but personally? It feels like a one-off – when I’m a little lazy, it’s great, and I’ll tell you – smoked gouda cheese spread doubles as a killer mac and cheese sauce. Recipes still are my favorite though: getting to be a part of that difficult, long-term creation process starting with originator of the idea and coming all the way through a bunch of grandmothers and mothers and food bloggers and pinterest-pinners all the way down to you. It’s pretty special.

36. L and G’s Ham and Cheese Sliders

One of the most peaceful things I’ve been doing lately is spending time with friends’ children. Granted, there are bouts of intense wailing and raw need, but when these babies are asleep (which they are, frequently, if not for long enough for their parents to sleep) they really are incredibly calming, all folds and softness and vulnerability. In many social situations, I usually bring crocheting to work on as my friends and I talk for hours, but holding a sleepy little one has become my default as I sit on a comfy couch and unconsciously sway back and forth.

L and G are family friends of Husbands’ (they have a lot of them!) who live on a lake and own a boat. Some of my favorite memories from the summer of 2014 are swimming in the lake, sunning on the boat, and playing darts in their garage. That memory of ease and summer relaxation seems connected to this simple but flavorful tiny-sandwiches recipe.

I had been saving the recipe for these sliders for an outdoor picnic or some other context that needed many tiny sandwiches, but quick hot sandwiches turned out to be perfect while everyone passed the sleepy baby around – I used turkey rather than ham and cut out the mustard, but they turned out browned, savory, and perfect. More an assembly than a real, scary-consequences cooking job, this kind of recipe is perfect for someone who wants to up their sandwich game but isn’t quite trying chicken cordon bleu any time soon. Also, anything I can eat one handed while my other arm falls asleep under a cute baby’s soft head is a winner in my book.IMG_3981

Ham and Cheese Sliders

24 mini sandwich Hawaiian rolls

1 lb ham sliced

1 lb swiss cheese sliced

¾ c melted butter

1 ½ tbsp. dijon mustard

1 ½ tsp worchestershire sauce

1 ½ tbsp poppyseeds

1 tbsp dried minced onion

Mix and pour over sandwiches. Build sandwiches first, and then bake uncovered for 20-25 min.

15. C’s Jalapeño Cheese Dip

jalapenodipOne of the dinner party recipes, which appeals to me in my current state because I’m hungry and I miss spicy cheese. It’s a pretty constant state of missing spicy cheese – I first discovered queso at a great burrito joint in my college town, and had a standing weekly date with an old friend to complain about life while dunking chips there… mmm. C’s recipe took me back.

C, like Jalapeño Popper Dip, is more than meets the eye. She’s quiet, a studious member of the classes I’ve taken with her, and thus the more clueless members of the class don’t get to see her sense of humor, her wide ranging knowledge of topics of all kinds, or her intense observation of human nature. She once told me that in a class she would watch my facial expressions change and laugh at me; this is a person who knows what’s going on.

Jalapeno Popper Dip looks like a vat of cheese – nothing wrong with that. However, inside, it’s got corn and spicy pepper bites, turkey bacon and a creamy blend of cheeses that make it perfect for right-before-dinner noshing. We dug in almost immediately, a crowd of hungry guests who wanted to wait for everyone to arrive before beginning the plate-filling in earnest. As a person who regularly longs for queso because of a few summers spent working in Texas, I crunched my way through a slew of tortilla chips covered in this stuff. It was nicely serendipitous: one moment, I’d get only creaminess, the next, a fiery bit of pepper. C also keeps me guessing: I like hearing her take on things because I cannot predict it. I hope to share spicy cheese with her many times in the future.