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Life is all about challenges. Balancing your children's activities and your busy work schedule; challenging. Finding the best shirt for that power meeting; challenging.  Electing a sane and capable President of these United States; challenging. Making Thanksgiving Mac and Cheese when you usually bring the salad; CHALLENGING!  This year I, Eurila Cave, was challenged with forgoing what is assumed to be an easy dish; salad.  A sumptuous dark leafy green mix with nuts, cherry tomatoes, a cheese (feta, cheddar or swiss), a fruit (cranberry, blueberry, apple or grape) and light vinaigrette dressing.  In our family Facebook group there was a discussion around our thanksgiving menu.  When asked what we all plan to bring, I offered my signature salad.  My cousin replied, "Nooooooo! lmao" and had a co-signer!


In a contrived effort to passive aggressively maintain my salad post I said "If I can't bring salad, I'm bringing mac and cheese!".  Really expecting other, more seasoned mac and cheese makers to step up and claim the task. No one stepped up. Am I really left to make the mac and cheese? Me?  Madame Sa-lad? Duchess of Chlorophyll and all things lean?  The family ate raw collard greens last year because of me. What do I know about Mac and Cheese!? A LOT actually? I make bad ass batches of the golden goodness for my family of four every few months.  M&C is super fattening with a whopping 400+ calories a serving and really only should be eaten by anyone once a month or less. Still! Its the most coveted menu item and the most sacred to a successful Thanksgiving.   If you’re a human being with a pulse, you respect the mac and cheese.   Period.  

This would be a challenge for sure.  Not only am I cooking for 15 critics who won’t wait and will tell you to your face how they feel and then remind you every year after of your failure, I am cooking for 15 people! I've never made this much food at once. Ever!  BUT! I never back down from a challenge. I may stall. I may studder. Back down tho? Never.

To make sure not to fail I sought a little assistance. From the internet.  Choosing my own cheeses and not the kind in foil packets, I used pieces of recipes from Taye at StuffSheLikes.com and the back of the Ronzoni box :).  Basically for the preparation info and key ingredients.  Like eggs! Eggs aren’t an ingredient. I almost put eggs in my mac and cheese. Eggs were not called for in any recipe I read.  So, no eggs :)!!!  

I have my key ingredients and my instructions and my own twist.  Much like my approach to photography. There are fundamentals I have to abide by and the rest I get to incorporate and play with to make the magical images you all know and love.

Here is the recipe I created.  I call it "CALI’S*  STELLAR 5 Star MAC & CHEESE"!!

THE RECIPE
5 CUPS Grated Cheese
4 CUPS of Milk
4 CUPS Elbow Macaroni
1 CUP Ricotta Cheese
1/2 CUP Butter
1 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Minced Onion
2 tsp Pink Sea Salt  
1 tsp Coarse Black Pepper
1/3 cup Flour

STEP ONE
Cook macaroni per box instructions but under cook
them by 3 minutes so they are firm but cooked.  
Preheat your stove to 375 degrees.

STEP TWO

In a separate pot over medium heat melt your butter,
add your milk, seasonings and flour.  Add the flour
last and slowly. Let simmer and stir about 5 - 7 mins
until it begins to thicken.

STEP THREE

In a 13x9 baking dish layer up your dry ingredients:
Noodles, Cheese, Ricotta (in sporadic dollops)  
and repeat until you fill the pan.

STEP FOUR

Finally, slowly pour your milk over your layers, cover
tightly (aluminum foil ideally) and bake for 35mins.
Remove the cover and bake for another 15 mins.  
Let cool 10 Mins and serve.  Feeds 8-10.

seasonings.jpg

Macaroni. Check. Cheese. Check. No eggs. Check. Got all my stuff. Now I'm ready too kick this challenge in the face!! And shoot some food while I'm at it.  Photography can be challenging sometime to.  Shooting food isn’t as easy as it might look.  Many thanks to my good friend and wellness guru, Shelley Chapman for the practice. Check out Shelley’s sensual and smart video series, “Eat what you Love” filmed by yours truly, on Youtube.

So, what did we learn?  I have a friend who loves to remind me that life is a lesson and ask, "So? What did you learn?", whenever I overcome a fear or make a mistake and persevere. With this challenge I learned that its okay to be assisted.  Others helping me will not diminish my great dish. Another source was my Scottie Pipen and in that made me Michael Jordan.  I was reminded how the simplest of plans only serves to expedite your success.  Write things down.  Lastly, I learned that eggs do not go in macaroni and cheese. Due diligence + research = winning.  Watch the video for the families reaction and my process in action! 

What challenge will you kick in the face? Share a recent triumph of your own!

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