Normally on Saturdays, Jim and I go on a breakfast adventure. We either try a restaurant we’ve not been to or try something new in the places we have. Jim is always on the lookout for the perfect sausage gravy or creamed chipped beef over home fries. I look for fresh brewed iced tea, non-instant oatmeal, and homemade hash browns. And if the place uses fresh mushrooms in their omelets, five stars on Trip Advisor! Generally we stay within 45 minutes of home, but we’ve been known to wander a bit farther on a nice day.
There’s definitely not much normal about these days. Schedules have changed, activities are greatly limited or restricted (or greatly increased if you are an essential worker, and I can’t thank you enough for what you do). As a germaphobe with anxiety, everyone and every surface is suspect to me anyway, but that sense of germs, germs everywhere(!) is heightened right now. I needed a slice of normal this morning, so Jim and I went on a breakfast adventure, sans breakfast, since the drive is always half the fun.
We took a circuitous route on back roads, across swollen rivers and past a covered bridge. I saw Canada geese floating on ponds, turkeys walking across bare corn fields, chickens free ranging, doing their chicken thing. Daffodils dotted the banks of the hills and the ditches…a sure sign of spring. Listening to the radio, the song “Roll Me Away” by Bob Seger came on and we were acutely aware of that desire for freedom within uncertainty: “Roll, roll me away, Won’t you roll me away tonight. I, too, am lost, I feel double-crossed, And I’m sick of what’s wrong and what’s right.”
There’s a freedom in normal, and now that normal has been turned on its head, I realize how much I take my normal for granted. It’s the right thing to stay away from others as much as possible, especially in the upcoming week (although I confess I giggled when I heard a doctor say we need to take “prophylactic measures”), but my hope is that, despite it all, each of us can find a little freedom in our lives every day, either inside our homes or inside our heads or driving down the road listening to the radio.
Or…if you have some cheese and macaroni lying around… Comfort food is not always a bad thing, people 😉.
Macaroni and Cheese (Lynn’s adaptation from an Epicurious recipe)
6 T butter, divided
1 C Panko bread crumbs
8 C shredded cheese (I usually use 6 C extra sharp cheddar, 1 C mild cheddar or Monterey Jack, and 1 C smoked gouda – the secret ingredient 😊)
1 pound macaroni (it’s more fun with spiral pasta or medium shells)
3 ¼ C whole milk
3 T all-purpose flour
1 ½ t dry mustard
¼ to 1 t fine sea salt (I start with ¼ t and adjust later if needed)
½ t ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, although you can make this ahead of time and bake later. Store in the fridge sans the topping, which you make just before it goes in the oven.
Spray/grease a 9×13 baking dish, or use a 3-quart round casserole. I find that the round casserole keeps the mac and cheese more creamy.
Cook the macaroni according to the directions on the package. When done, drain without rinsing and return to the pot they were cooked in.
In a medium saucepan, melt 3 T of butter. Add the flour to make a smooth roux. Add a bit of milk and whisk until smooth. Add remaining milk and cook over medium high heat until the sauce thickens. Just be sure not to let the milk come to a boil. Turn the heat to low and add the mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the cheese and stir constantly until it is completely melted and smooth.
Pour the cheese over the macaroni and mix well. Taste and add more salt if you want. Place in casserole or baking dish.
For the topping, melt 3 T of butter and mix it with the Panko. Sprinkle on top. Bake for at least 30 minutes or until the topping is browned and crispy.