Super simple mac and cheese: a recipe for the ultimate comfort food

When my kids were little, it was all about the dark blue box of macaroni and cheese. Yup, they would beg me for it and I would indulge them (every now and then.) Oh, how they loved the powdery orange stuff and the miniature noodles! Now that they've grown up (and so have I,) we still love our mac and cheese, but on our own terms: homemade with real ingredients. Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. If you choose to make it this winter, pass by the box and try this super simple version. Your inner child will be more than pleased with the result! It's tastier and MUCH more satisfying than any store-bought brand! You'll see....

grated cheese

noodles in dish

cheese pour

milk poured

(Side note: sometimes I add an egg or two to hold everything together a little bit better. Just beat them a bit and fold them into the milk/cheese/noodle mix before popping the dish into the oven.)

ready for oven

finished product

Beautiful, no? Trust me, the end result is as delectable as it looks. And it's just as easy as it seems. Win/win.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes! May the little blue box with the orange powder remain a distant and not-so-fond memory!


Homemade granola from soaked oats, like nothing you've ever had before

The cinnamon smell wafts through my home and wraps around my heart. It's cold outside, but I have this warm, heavenly scent filling up every nook and cranny of my place. And all is right with the world. I'm making granola. But it's not the crunchy kind they sell in boxes and bags at the store. It's soft and melts in your mouth like a fresh-from-the-oven oatmeal cookie. There's nothing like it! photo-92

I laugh when I realize I'm raving about something that once held little allure for me. I never touched the stuff till I started including yogurt in my diet. I wanted to help make the yogurt more palatable and granola gave it just the right crunch. At first, I bought any old granola from a box at the grocery store. Then I got hooked on Michele's brand from Whole Foods. It was yummy and it was a bonus that it was made locally with organic ingredients. Winning…except for the big price per tiny bag: $5.99.

Then my voice teacher told me that she made granola from scratch. Time for me to "upgrade" yet again. She gave me her recipe and I decided to give it a try. Wow! I loved it. It was tasty, crunchy, and much more fresh and satisfying than the Michele's brand. I became a fan.

But my latest granola iteration (and the one I want to introduce today) is one that my daughter recommended. (Yes, this is what happens when your kids get older---they start leading you!) It's a recipe that calls for soaking the oats beforehand.

Soaking?! What!? Why? It turns out that that many grains have phytic acids that can make them difficult to digest. Once inside us, phytic acid can bind with minerals in our body and block their absorption. Eating oats or grains that haven't been soaked can strain our whole digestive system leading to allergic reactions, indigestion, and various illnesses.

To be honest, at first, soaking the oats seemed like one more step that I didn't want to add to my granola-making process. But my daughter did it the first time around, and that's when I realized 1) that delegating is fun and 2) that soaking isn't as onerous as I thought.

Below is the recipe that results in amazing (and soft) granola, which is also guaranteed to be easier on your insides, making it a joyful indulgence.

photo 2

Ingredients for soaking (easy as 1, 2, 3): 1 can organic coconut milk 1 cup coconut oil 2 cups filtered water 4 Tablespoons organic raw apple cider vinegar 5-7 cups rolled organic oats

1. Mix the coconut milk, oil, water and apple cider vinegar over medium heat. photo 1

2. Pour over the rolled oats. photo 3

3. Cover and let soak 12-24 hours.

photo 3 That's it for the soaking! In the morning, add:photo 2 1 cup organic honey or maple syrup 1 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon

photo 2Then, lightly butter 2 cookie sheets (or use parchment paper instead). Spread the oats over the 2 pans. Bake at 170° for 4-6 hours, turning the granola every 2 hours. (Don’t raise the temperature in an attempt to speed up the process. It’s important to keep the heat low.) Let cool for one hour. This makes the granola a little more “clumpy.”

Once the process is done, make this granola your own by adding nuts and raisins, unsweetened coconut flakes, etc. To reiterate, this recipe will result in a softer granola, compared to what you'd find in a  supermarket. But, hey, if you wanted that, you wouldn’t have read this far, right? photo 3 Happy baking…and eating!