We'll Eat You Up

food, adventure, stories, and coming back to the people we love

Mac n’ Cheese: the Naked Recipe

Macaroni and cheese is a great go-to food. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it tastes amazing! The problem? Our “Easy Mac” is usually made with “processed cheese food” – brand names like Velveeta and Kraft sell a product that resemble cheese, even taste a bit like cheese, but are actually über-processed and filled with chemical preservatives and cheap fillers. Yuck.

My husband is one of those staunch Kraft Mac n’ Cheese guys – which is why I took the challenge to find a recipe that he liked better than the famous blue box. But is it possible to mimic the delicious creamy taste with *ahem* real food??

I submit that it is!
Today I want to share my discovery with you.


Today is also the day 200 bloggers are participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger – raising awareness for different aspects of hunger and poverty in America. It’s in response to the recent documentary A Place At the Table, which delves into many of the problems surrounding the issue.

As I read up on these problems, the one that caught my attention the most was regarding government-subsidized crops.  Here’s the issue: the government is subsidizing crops like soy beans, wheat, and corn, which are used to make highly-processed, preservative-stuffed junk foods. (think: the high fructose corn syrup and soybean oil that shows up in all our salad dressings)  This means that the most affordable food is often the unhealthiest. Bad news for those with slim budgets!

I’ve just started looking into all the implications of this issue — I first heard about it last summer when I worked at Shared Legacy Farms, and it’s also something I’ve run into as a newlywed trying to manage a family budget and still eat healthy food. A lot of the pieces haven’t come together yet, and I still have  a lot to learn.

But what I DO know: (And why I’m participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger):

>Eating right makes a huge difference in your quality of life.
>Healthy food means real food.  The less processed, the better.
> I don’t believe the government can fix all of our problems, but I do believe they have a responsibility to use their power and influence with integrity.
>Each one of us also has a responsibility to use our knowledge and resources to the best of our ability.
>Sometimes it’s the small steps that can make the biggest difference: choosing to use the resources you have as wisely as you can.

So. For my contribution to Food Bloggers Against Hunger, I want to give you a simple resource. If you or someone you know is trying to take steps from packaged, processed foods to a healthier lifestyle, I present to you:

THE RECIPE: Mac n’ Cheese: the Naked Version
This recipe takes less time and less ingredients than a box of Kraft Mac N’ Cheese, but still has that irresistible oozy, gooey cheesy taste. The price is also comparable, as it makes more and is more filling than the Kraft box of limp noodles and blazing orange powder. This recipe is husband-bonafide: he admitted he liked it better than Kraft Mac n’ Cheese!

True story.


1 cup whole milk  + 1  cup water (~17 cents)
1 box of small shells or macaroni noodles (~$1)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (~$2.75)
salt (~.1)

Bring the milk/water combination to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot, stirring constantly. (the milk burns easily if you don’t watch it closely). When it boils, add enough pasta to be just covered by the milk.


Boil about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until noodles are soft and the milk is thickened and reduced to a creamy saucelike consistency.


Add 2 cups cheddar and stir till melted.


Salt to taste. Serve immediately.


Doesn’t it look delicious!? And while you’re at it, do some more research on your own if this piques your interest. As they say,

Be wise, be well!



blueberries and poetry

I just discovered a blog.
It’s called eat this poem. It’s about (can you guess?) food, and poetry.



Twist bread in a cast iron pot. Just because.

So, while I’m over here figuring out what to do with my life and with my blog (or lack thereof!), go eat some poetry for a while. That’s what I’ll be doing.

{such as this post about blueberry pancakes, two things very dear to my heart for so many reasons!}





Spending the weekend with my husband’s family. It’s been full of good things: tea and blueberry scones/stacks of maps/husband in camo/light earlier and later/secret plans

Be grateful for the home you have,
knowing that at this moment,
all you have is all you need.
~Sarah Ban Breathnach



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dinner with friends

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love,
are so mixed and mingled and entwined
that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”
~M.F.K. Fisher












artistic and delicious: a painting from Emme Art

My friend Emily (find her here) featured a painting of my Hobbit Dinner picture in her new series, On Living Vicariously Through Art. It’s quite wonderful, don’t you think?


The DIY guide to a Yule-tide Wedding Feast

My wedding was on Winter Solstice.

I didn’t plan it that way; it’s just what worked out. But I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to get married on Midsummer’s Eve, purely for the literary and poetic value of the day. Winter Solstice, half a year and one day later, (the shortest day of the year instead of the longest) not only provided a perfect opportunity to celebrate in Yule-tide style (you know…pine boughs, roaring fires, chestnuts, the whole deal) but also was a symbolic day, the beginning of longer, lighter days, and the hope of spring and Savior’s birth.

In short, it was the perfect day to be married.


It even snowed the day of the wedding.

I did a lot of the planning myself. And my wonderful friends and family all pitched in.

Well, you are asking, what kind of menu is appropriate for a Christmas feast? Look no further. Here it is, in all its winter wonderland glory.

~What every winter wedding feast needs:~

Three kinds. Chicken and Gnocci, chili, and sausage-cheese soup. Served hot, went down warm.
I made the chicken and gnocci the night before the wedding with the help of my bridesmaids. I’ve never made such a huge pot of soup!

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“There ain’t a body, be it mouse or man, who ain’t made better by a little soup.” ~The Tale of Despereaux

>heaps of bread.
My little sister brought three dozen corn muffins to the wedding, and my sister’s fiance brought baguettes and boules from the area’s best bakeries and heaped them up by the soup pots.

>ploughman’s platters.
This had to be amended just a bit – pickles and hard boiled eggs would have been perfect for Mole and Ratty’s picnic and even for the dwarf-feast during that infamous Unexpected Party…but we were going for a little more class and festivity, if you will. I chose pears to add to the cheese and cracker platters; a nod to French cuisine.

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I also wanted to have a bit of my own family tradition reflected in the menu; my mom always put on a Christmas Eve service and served her secret-recipe cheeseball, cheese, crackers, summer sausage, and Christmas cookies. (To this day, one of my all-time favorite spreads!)

>good coffee.
translation: Pirate Blend from The Blue Lion Mercantile.



>mulled cider.
hot and spiced. the good kind, from Bench Farms, where I worked last summer.


>Cake. The red velvet kind. Made by Emily.



…with a little forest on top, worthy of a wardrobe.

Put the whole feast on tables laden with pine boughs, winter berries, and flickering candles





Inside an Old Train Depot in Pierceton, IN…


Add feasting


and mistletoe

And dancing



…lots of dancing




…throw in handwritten vows, a Scottish handfast, the Danza Kuduro,



and friendsIMG_2964


…to equal a beautiful day, a happy bride

(the best of all)
him, of course.

Copy of IMG_3372yeah, him.

That’s how you do it, folks. The perfect Yuletide wedding feast.

*a note: If you have questions about how I did any of the above planning/executing, feel free to contact me. I can help…with everything except the guy. I’ve already married him ; )

**another note: the professional photography in this post was done by AmeliaLynn Photography.  The others (the unprofessional ones : ) were from my camera. Additional photography was done by Creationfoto Photography and can be found here.

An Unexpected Party

Did ya’ll see how the apple gruyere pie turned out? Our Pushing Daisies evening was glorious, and the pie was probably one of the best I’ve ever made. I think it’s partly because I paid special attention to the crust…I used a few new techniques and focused on getting the details right. That goes against my nature because I’m in the “cooking is art” camp, as opposed to “cooking is science” camp…although, honestly one can’t exist without the other anyway.  (To illustrate: I’m better at soups and pies than I am…bread, for instance. I’m awful at bread. So many temperatures and exact measurements and patience involved!)

Well, Emily is one of the “cooking is science” campers; but she wins in the art category too.  She bakes. She made my wedding cake. And she hosted the most inspiring Hobbit Party (to celebrate the new movie!) two days before my wedding.

Did I seriously drop my schedule-full of pre-wedding planning two days before my own wedding,  you might ask? Would I actually drive an hour and a half west, and spend a leisurely evening watching the (three-hour) movie, and feasting (or gorging?) on a feast worthy of a dozen dwarves??

See for yourself why I wouldn’t miss it for the world:

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“Gandalf Tea Wednesday. Or at least this is what Bilbo should have written down … Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes . . . A big jug of coffee had just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones . . . ‘And raspberry jam and apple-tart,’ said Bifur. ‘And mince-pies and cheese,’ said Bofur. ‘And pork-pie and salad,’ said Bombur. ‘And more cakes — and ale — and coffee, if you don’t mind,’ called the other dwarves through the door. ‘Put on a few eggs, there’s a good fellow!’ Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. ‘And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!’”  ~The Hobbit

That is what we ate.

Emily made this feast to be as exactly like the one the dwarves enjoyed straight out of Bilbo’s larder. So, not only did her masterpiece make use of science (she used precise methods and also minced an entire pork shoulder by hand) but also history and literature  (She meticulously researched what exact recipe Tolkien would have had in mind when he put them in his story and tracked down the recipe corresponding to the time period and the correct area of England, and of course studied the chapter of the Hobbit entitled “An Unexpected Party” for the exact menu.)

Basically, she’s a genius. And so was Tolkien. As Recipewise explains: “Tolkien’s obvious enjoyment of food and drink at communal meals with friends, family and colleagues at Oxford, is very much translated into his works. Many of the scenes featuring food are intended to lift the mood, and do so successfully; yet Tolkien also uses them to indicate many other things: the history of the place, the level of development reached, the status of a person (and the dwelling) and any relationship dynamics which are important to highlight.”

So, it wasn’t just cuz he was hungry!

Okay, your turn. Do you have a favorite childhood book?  Wind in the Willows? Peter Pan? Chronicles of Narnia?
Did something out of your stories tantalize your tastebuds and simultaneously fascinate your imagination? I would love to hear about it!

PS*I’m kicking myself for not having pictures of the contract she sent out as an invitation – the contract, of course, like the one Bilbo received from the dwarves in which he agreed to burgle for them. Once he finally signed it, that is. Perhaps I will post some in a few days. Bug me!


Pushing Daisies Pie Party!

For a long time, I’ve had a really difficult time sharing any part of my personal life in my blog. I guess it’s because I’m so competitive and perfectionist…I don’t want anyone (including myself) comparing my life to everyone else’s. But that’s not the point, is it…

So, for the benefit of you (dear seven readers), I’m going to change that. Stories are stories…and as the Henry Van Dyke saying goes, “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.”

So hello. This is me. MJ. The face behind all of the stoic and scholastic attempts at art and poetry (the food kind): 



Here is also a picture of me after a trail race at Cuyohoga Valley National Park. That’s kind of an important part of me, too – I really love food and books and poetry and things…but I also love adventure sports and being outside and winning races. 



This Friday I’m hosting a Pushing Daisies Pie Party at my house. I’m so excited! We’re going to watch a bunch of episodes of Pushing Daisies and eat Tart Apple Pie with Gruyere baked into the crust…Chuck’s specialty. (No antidepressants baked into the crust…we’ve got dark chocolate for that!) And head over to The Kitchen for another recipe for Pear with Gruyere Cup Pies (Another Chuck specialty) by Blondie and Brownie (who I’m really starting to like because of their shared affinity with both Pushing Daisies and Good Cheese)


Hopefully I will remember to pull my camera out during the festivities and report back to you all. Also, I really want to tell you about the Hobbit Party I attended 2 days before my wedding. 


Speaking of which! I want to tell you about my wedding too! Since the food wasn’t catered, I have some fun things to share about the adventure of catering your own wedding food. 

Exciting? Yes?

One more thing. I’ve decided to blog on Sundays. That way I don’t get overwhelmed yet I also stay consistent. Of course, I may have a few in between (like this one!) if I get the itch. 


That’s it! Go eat pie!

  He went in: found himself in some place of sweet smells and bright fires, with food and wine and a rich bed. -C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

Christmas 2012 120

Thankful-season is a beautiful one. Go in slowly, stay aware, taste the stories. Happy Thanksgiving week, friends!