Homemade “Easy Mac” and Homemade Granola…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope everyone had a lovely day filled with yummy food, good family and friends, and plenty of reasons to feel grateful.  I decided to make a couple new dishes this week.  The first dish I made was homemade “Easy Mac.”  Victoria LOVES macaroni and cheese.  I don’t love the macaroni and cheese that comes in a box.  So when we have macaroni and cheese in our house, it is homemade.  That said, I refuse to make macaroni and cheese every week, which is about how often she requests it.  It would be nice to have a single serving of macaroni and cheese, but again I don’t like all the “added ingredients” in the boxed versions.  However, I do sometimes buy “Annie’s Homegrown White Cheddar Microwavable Macaroni and Cheese”, or the Trader Joe’s brand.  Both products use organic pasta, are free of dyes, have zero grams of trans fat, and are sugar-free.  Plus, they don’t contain ingredients that I can’t pronounce.  So even though I feel better about eating those brands, and feeding them to Victoria, I still wanted to try to make it myself.  So that’s exactly what I did.  I “Googled”  homemade easy mac, and found a bunch of recipes.  I cannot believe how easy it is to make, and I really cannot believe that it took me this long to attempt the recipe.  The recipe I selected only has 5 ingredients!!  AND I had all the ingredients on hand: elbow macaroni, water, milk, salt, and cheese…THAT’S IT!  It only took about 8 minutes to make, and it was ridiculously simple.  I am happy to report that in addition to being easy, it is also delicious.  Victoria and Dan loved it.  I had a bite and agree that it is really good.  It does not taste at all like the boxed version, it actually tastes like a homemade macaroni and cheese, but with a fraction of the work and cook time.  I will definitely make this again.  In fact, I cannot wait until after my stupid gallbladder comes out so I can eat a really gooey cheesy macaroni and cheese! YUM!  Here is the link to the recipe that I used:  http://www.thekitchn.com/dinner-quick-onebowl-microwave-94006   P.S. this recipe is really versatile as you can use whatever cheese you like.  Also, I always add black pepper to the mac and cheese I make. ☺

The second dish I tried was homemade granola.  I actually have wanted to make this for awhile, but never got around to it… until today. I mistakenly used to think that granola was pretty healthy.  In actuality, most of it isn’t.  In my experience, many brands of granola are loaded with sugar, fats, and salt.  For that reason, I skip buying it even though I really like it…especially in yogurt.  Today I made myself a yogurt parfait, by crushing up an oat and honey granola bar, and then sprinkling it in my yogurt.  The bars I buy have 12 grams of sugar for 2 bars, so one bar is only 6 grams of sugar.  That is significantly less than some of the other bars on the market, and less than most granolas that I’ve had.  Anyway, I decided whilst (one of my favorite British words☺) eating that yummy parfait to make my own granola.  I had saved a recipe for homemade granola that I’d seen on Paula Deen’s television show. Her recipe isn’t super healthy, so I decided to look for a new one. I searched the internet, and was disappointed to find that many of the recipes included a ton of sugar, oil, butter, or all 3! I finally selected a recipe that only had 2 tablespoons of oil, no butter, and was “tweekable” when it came to the sugar content.  Yes “tweekable” is a word…at least in my mind.☺

Anyway, I had all the ingredients so I decided to give it a shot.  Here is the link to the recipe that I used: http://www.curvygirlguide.com/nourish/recipes/simple-healthy-granola-at-home/  I did make some substitutions to the recipe.  First, I cut out most of the dried fruit, as it adds quite a bit of sugar to the recipe, and isn’t really necessary.  I’d prefer fresh fruit in a yogurt parfait anyway, so I omitted all but 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Next, I reduced the amount of brown sugar, and the honey.  In fact, I only used about 1/4 cup of the honey and then added a little bit of agave nectar as well. I substituted applesauce for the 2 TBS of oil. The recipe called for applesauce anyway, so I just used a little extra. Lastly, I omitted the walnuts and added extra almonds as we prefer almonds to walnuts in our house. I am happy to report that the granola is delicious!  Dan and the kids loved it.  Dan had some yogurt last night and topped it with this granola…YUM!  I would definitely make this again, and cannot wait to have a yogurt parfait later!

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been focusing on counting the blessings in my life.  Given the current state of affairs, it has been a little challenging.  I am having surgery on Tuesday, so, unfortunately, that has been the pervasive thought in my mind. Although I am sure I will be fine, I am a bit apprehensive.  I am thankful for general anesthesia, but I am frightened by it as well. I am thankful for all the advances in modern medicine that will hopefully allow me to have the surgery laparoscopically, and on an outpatient basis.  I am thankful that Dan is able to be off work, and come with me to the hospital. I am thankful for the offers of help and the well wishes, given by the people in my life who are concerned about me. I am thankful that the kids do not appear effected by this whole ordeal.  I am thankful that all my pre-op testing came back perfect, and assured my doctors and the surgeon, that I am indeed “surgery ready.”  Lastly, I am extremely grateful that in less than 72 hours, this whole mess will all be over.

In addition to all the above mentioned, I am grateful for lots of other things as well.  Here is the list of blessings that I have reflected on over the Thanksgiving holiday.

1. I am grateful for my family…both the family that I was born into, and the family that Dan and I have created.

2. I am grateful for our friends that I consider my family.

3. I am grateful that we are able to live “in the country,” a dream of mine since I was a child.

4. I am grateful that both Dan and I are employed, and are able to make money doing jobs we enjoy.

5. I am grateful that we always have enough money to feed, clothe, shelter, transport, and provide for the kids. We may not have the best of things, we may not travel, we may not have a lot of money in the bank, but we have enough of the really important things.  For that I am thankful.

6. I am grateful for our furry babies, Merlin and Abby, that Dan and I consider our first kids.  They are old now, but they still bring us and “the real kids” a ton of happiness and entertainment.

7. I am grateful that we are relatively healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a ton of health crap going on at any given moment in our house, but thankfully it is all manageable.  Yes we literally pay a ton of money in co-pays, prescriptions, and deductibles every year, but we are all still here.  I will never take for granted the fact that despite the chronic nature of most of our afflictions, we are all still here… together…and managing.  This is a tough one for me.  This is the blessing thus far that has been the most challenging for me to come to terms with.  It is a struggle almost every day, but the blessing is that I am still here…we are still here…and able to complain about the struggle. It is not lost on me that it could be far worse.  That said, it also be a TON better.  Therefore, I am grateful that we have options, medications, and health care providers that we are comfortable with, and that we trust.

8. I am grateful for the opportunities that we have as Americans.  I know that not that long ago, we were in the midst of a political battle regarding the election.  I know that many people are not pleased with outcome.  I know that many in our country are struggling.  Despite all of the yuck, this is still the greatest nation on the planet.  We are free.  We have the right to vote, and then the right to complain, to disagree with one another, and with our elected officials.  It can be ugly sometimes, but I am extremely grateful that we are raising our children in this country.  In this country where children are allowed to think freely, speak freely, dream freely, and pursue whatever future goals they desire.

9. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have to volunteer at the kids’ schools, and in their extracurricular activities.  It isn’t always easy, (or fun) but I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be so involved with the schools and the community that I love.

10. I am grateful that I have stumbled upon a new way of thinking.  In the last two years since my Mom died, I have really struggled with life.  I have been bitter, sad, angry…jaded.  I am thankful that (I think) I have found a new way of being.  It is a work in progress, and I am sure I will “jack it up,” but I am grateful for the opportunity to find some peace.

This list is not all-inclusive.  It wasn’t intended to be.  It focuses on what I have been reflecting on the last few days.  I hope that it inspires anyone who reads it (and I’m not convinced that many do) to reflect on their own blessings. It is easy to get bogged down in the details…ridiculously easy.  The real challenge, in my opinion, is to rise above the conflict and drama, and see…I mean really see… the proverbial forest through the trees.  Some days I can’t.  Some days, I run head first into one of those damn trees, and then get lost trying to find my way out of that frigging forest. I am not referring to those days.  I am referring to the times (or moments or minimally the seconds) in which we feel content. In that time interval (no matter how fleeting it is), I challenge you to count your blessings. Really count them.  In the end, my hope is that the good really does outweigh the bad, that challenges are outnumbered by blessings, and that gratitude wins over bitterness.  It is a challenge for sure, but one that I intend to rise to.  I hope everyone tries the recipes, they really were delicious. ♥♥

Thinking about what they are thankful for…

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About THE cookie mama

I am not professionally trained in any way shape or form, BUT I come from a long line of really great cooks. I learned mostly by watching my parents and grandparents, and then replicating what they did. I love love love to cook and bake, and I love to share what I make with "my people."
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2 Responses to Homemade “Easy Mac” and Homemade Granola…made with l♥ve by the Cookie Mama.

  1. Loved the blog, the list, and of course the food!!! xoxo

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