An Unexpected Wrench in the Gears

That title is a bit redundant, isn’t it?  I mean, most people don’t expect a wrench to get in the gears, do they?  Otherwise, they would take steps to avoid the wrench getting in there in the first place.

Anyway, what is this wrench and why are we spending so much time talking about it in the first place?  Well, if you’ve been over to my non-mac blog at all, you know I’m currently in the bout of another unplanned, unwilling Unemployment, this one related to chronic health problems.  To make a long story short, continued working with doctors and attempting various treatments have not led to any relief thus far.  At last my primary doctor, whom I’ve been seeing for many years and completely trust, thought we might be able to solve things with an elementary solution, one often overlooked in favor of pharmaceutical and other interventions: a major overhaul in diet.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m not the healthiest eater.  But I’m guessing y’all pretty well guessed that by now.  I am not as bad as some – I can, in fact, identify vegetables, where food comes from, and I consider myself to have fairly adventurous tastebuds.  But I am a sucker for cheese and/or carbs.  Still, I had spent the better part of a year in pain, not being able to live my life properly – and even when I wasn’t in pain, I was having to deal with the side effects of the medication meant to prevent the pain.  If I had to sacrifice a chicken over an alter to Ba’al in order to get back to normal, I would have done it.  New diet?  Bring it on.

My doctor recommended I read a book called The Anti-Inflammation Diet, and stick to it, since the issues I am dealing with largely relate to pain.  The theory is by cutting out foods that contribute to inflammation, you will reduce or eliminate pain.  You cut them all out for four weeks, then slowly, one by one, you can choose to reintroduce them back in to your diet to test if there were only certain foods that were triggering your inflammation/pain.

So why am I yammering on and on about all this to you folks?  You may have guessed it already.  Those of you who read my section on gluten-free pastas also know that when I first went gluten-free, I also had to go dairy-free for six months… Well, those dark days are back again, my friends.  Even once I hit the stage where I can reintroduce stuff back into my diet, my doctor has recommended no gluten, no dairy (a sparing amount of organic butter is OK), no white/artificial sugars – at the bare minimum (there are many more items the diet cuts out in the first four weeks, i.e., but if nothing else I need to keep those three categories out).

I have been doing this for a little over a week now.  There has been some adjustment, of course, as there must be with a major overhaul to what one  Something had to give, and  shoves in one’s face.  There probably still will be.  I don’t miss the cheese as much as I expected too, perhaps because I have gone without it once before and know I can do it again, instead missing other forbidden items that I must wait to reintroduce and see if I can put them back into my diet or not.  But like it or not, I will do it.  And find a way to like it.  Because I am sick of being sick.  It’s so trite, but it’s true!  Something had to give, and if this is what it is, well then, that’s what it is.  Only time will tell, really.

Where does that leave the future of this blog?  I really don’t know.  Oddly enough, I had found a few vegan recipes for mac and “cheese” which I had intended to do anyway, but more as little oddities here and there.  I do understand that because of a lower lactose content, I may be able to have the occasional non-cow cheese, which is a decent compromise as far as I am concerned: I love goat cheese, and I’m a fan of various sheep’s milk cheeses.  I suppose it just means that updates will be even more sporadic than they have already become, and when they do arrive, you should expect the cheese featured will be from a goat, sheep, or not really a cheese at all.

In the meantime, if you are desperate for my company, as I’m sure you all are, you can follow my non-mac blog, Domestic Dalliances, either here or on Facebook.  I intend to pick up the pace on posting there, but we’ll see how that goes.  You can also follow my little diva-dog, who I’ve mentioned on the blog a few times, on Facebook.  Yeah, I’m one of those people.

Keep macking on!


Recipe 43: South Indian Style Macaroni and Cheese

Hello, Weekly Mackers!  Happy belated Independence Day to my fellow Americans, happy even-more-belated Canada Day to my Canadian readers (according to the list of those following this blog, I know I have a few), and if you are from neither of these countries and you had a holiday recently, well, I hope it was fun as well.  If not, perhaps you can make up a holiday to celebrate around this time of year.  Then we can all have a sort of party together, like “OK, today we’re rocking it out in Canada for Canada Day, tomorrow we’re headed to Venezuela for Dia de los Amigos, then to Tibet for the Celebration of Great Happiness or Germany for the Black Forest Cake Fest (depending which you prefer), but be back in America for the fireworks!”  Late June/Early July could be one international party.  Totally plausible.

Anyway, speaking of crossing borders for good reasons, you may have noticed I have added the tag “faux ethnic” for this mac.  Obviously it’s not a traditional recipe (or if it is, please be kind to me in pointing out my mistake, but I don’t imagine asiago cheese or macaroni being terribly common ingredients in traditional Indian cooking – at least not the Indian food I have had), but it does have some hints of international flavors.  For this mac, it’s all about the spices.  I love Indian food, and the local Indian restaurant that Loverman and I have come to frequent have more than earned their respect from us not just because of their delicious food and good service, but their willingness to deliver food out to us when most restaurants in that suburb won’t come out to our village.  Win.

I made this particular mac yesterday because I was going to be playing hostess to two dear friends of mine I’ve known since high school.  One of them lives locally, but the other, Kristin, has since moved out to Philadelphia where she is a bit of what I consider a modern Indiana Jones.  Now, I have not known her to fight off Nazis (or Thuggees or Soviets), nor have I seen her look particularly dapper in a fedora (though I’d be glad to see her try the look), but she has been willing to uproot everything for a good archaeology position, and I’m not sure I know anyone more passionate about what they do professionally.  I really admire that about her, and I probably don’t tell her that enough.

One of her many adventures brought her to India – on a whim, really.  The story goes like this: While she was an undergraduate, she knew she wanted to study abroad.  She was considering Ireland and another country in Europe (I have forgotten which one).  At the very last minute she changed her mind from Ireland to India, and she spent a semester in the south of that country, and she has never been the same since.  In addition to the many things she could not help but learn there, she fell in love with the country, the customs, and of course, the food.  As I mentioned, I had no illusions that this would be anything like a real Indian recipe (while I have made recipes that profess to be Indian at home, I don’t think I’d have the nerve to make it for Kristin, who spent several months there!), but I figured something that said right in the title that it was in the style of a certain cuisine, that might give me more of a pass.

 

South Indian Style Macaroni and Cheese (from Better Homes and Gardens)

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces dried macaroni (mine were made of corn)
  • 2  cups frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (I used dried because that’s what I had; I don’t think it mattered)
  •  1/4  cup freshly grated Asiago cheese (1 oz.)  (I wish they sold Asiago in smaller chunks; not I have a bunch in the fridge to figure out what to do with)
  •  1/2  teaspoon paprika
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  •  1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  1/4  teaspoon ground turmeric
  •  3   tablespoons butter
  •   1   teaspoon garlic paste (find this in the ethnic aisle of your local grocery store, or check a local Indian market)
  •  1/2 teaspoon finely shredded fresh ginger (I used powdered since so little was going to be used; I used just a pinch)
  •  2  tablespoons all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free blend)
  •  3  cups milk (I used skim, use what you have)
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz.)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook macaroni according to package directions;. Place peas in colander. Drain pasta in colander with the peas. Set aside.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine bread crumbs, Asiago, and paprika; set aside. In another bowl stir together salt, garam masala, black pepper, cayenne, and turmeric; set aside.  In large saucepan melt butter. Add garlic paste and ginger; cook and stir 1 minute. Add salt-spice mixture and cook 2 minutes. Stir in flour until combined, about 1 minutes.(I totally added the flour right to the butter, then the garlic paste, ginger, and other spices.  That is how every other recipe has had me make a roux and I was on auto-pilot!)  Add milk all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. (Possibly because of my error mentioned above, mine never really got thickened or all that bubbly, and remained soupy before it went into the oven) Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Stir in cooked macaroni and peas. Transfer to 2-quart rectangular baking dish; sprinkle with bread crumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are golden. Makes 6 servings.

This was after it had cooled completely.

This was after it had cooled completely.

Verdict: 4/5

I was concerned that this might not turn out all right given the error I made as indicated in the recipe text.  As I poured it into the baking dish, it was so liquidy, I was grimacing, dreading having to serve it.  Still, the wonderful aroma of the spices filled the kitchen – and it was too late to make anything else anyway.  When my guests arrived, Kristin did comment, “That smells awesome!” and became even more interested when I told her what was baking in the oven.  When it was eventually finished and cool enough to eat, I found the peas offered a nice contrast in texture to the noodles, probably why they are such a popular addition in so many other mac and cheese recipes.  The flavor was not at all what I expected, but by no means in a bad way.  In fact, the recipe packed a bit more of a punch in terms of heat than I had expected, though it was not unpleasant; while I have often noted that I am a wuss with spicy foods, I am much more willing to partake of them when there is flavor behind them and not just heat for the sake of heat.  This mac has flavor.  And my trowel-blazing friend?  She delighted in it and demanded the recipe at once.  Well, my friend, here you go.