Fall is creeping it way closer and I cannot complain. Yesterday was the first evening where it was cool! It was that moment of glory when you know you can whip out your leggings, boots and scarves. I am ready for this moment. Today, instead of hearing the clanking of the old AC in our apartment, I got to open all the windows and just bask in the beautiful weather. Someone told me when I was preparing to move to Texas that the weather was a bit funky but that Fall and Spring were gorgeous -- the most accurate information I got when coming to Texas. Though I have fallen in love with some other things about Tejas (other than calling it that) -- rodeos, cowboys, belt buckles, southern accents, Louisiana cuisine, and a laid back lifestyle (Los Angeles being just the opposite).
So, I did not mention yesterday, but this week I will be flying off to Chicago. My third time in that wonderful city, but this time an extremely quick trip. I will be presenting a poster (which does not make me nervous as I have done that before) but I will also be presenting my first oral presentation. I am excited to present preliminary findings from my dissertation study. But I am nervous. Presenting in front of other academics leaves a lot of what ifs for me -- mostly in the realm of I have no clue what questions they will have. I hope they enjoy my talk and see me as a competent and capable graduate student. And I hope I do well. Keep your fingers crossed for me. Because right now I feel as nervous as when they are about to draw blood or give you a shot -- and they are just about to stick you. Ahhhh.....I need to breathe....I'll let you know how it goes.
Mac n' cheese has got to be one of my favorite dishes. A dish just intertwined with childhood nostalgia. One of the few dishes, that when you take a bite, makes you so content in that moment and at the same time, takes you to a flashback of that happy moment in second grade when it was mac n' cheese side day in the cafeteria. Remember? Oh I do. See, being Sri Lankan and growing up in a Sri Lankan household, my mom always made Sri Lankan food, like curry, rice, dosa, etc. And whenever I would go to school or eat out on those rare occasions, there was always some American food that just "tickled my fancy" -- mac n' cheese being one of them. That American classic, so simple that is just awesome. If you do not feel the same way -- I am not sure where you fit into my life ;) Anywhoo, there is something that boxed mac n' cheeses just lack. Their watery cheese sauce just does not cut it! I found this recipe for mac n' cheese tacos (to be posted) and thought, hmmm....why don't I just make a classic- homemade- go-to recipe for my blog. And this is what you have! Simple and delicious. The best combination there is!
2 c. of medium shell macaroni
1/4 c. olive oil
3 tbsp. flour + 1 tsp. flour
1 3/4 heavy cream
2 1/3. shredded yellow cheese
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper for garnish (optional)
In a large pot of salted boiling water -- cook pasta according to package directions. Drain excess water and run cold water through pasta to prevent sticking. Keep pasta in colander. Do not return to pot.
After pasta is cooked, use the large pot to heat olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in heavy cream, stirring constantly until mixture is thickened. This can take some time, approximately 10-15 minutes -- but it will thicken (be patient, as making this "roux" is key). Remove from heat. Stir in shredded cheese until melted and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently fold in macaroni until completely covered in cheese sauce. Allow pasta to sit for a few minutes so macaroni shells slightly absorb the cheese. Serve while warm and cheesy! Garnish with red pepper flakes if desired.