Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Aphrodisiac Mac & Cheese"

I've been on the look out for the perfect mac & cheese recipe for quite awhile.  When I finally found this one and adapted it to fit our families likes, I was really excited to find out how everyone liked it!  My husband actually said the mac and cheese should be called aphrodisiac mac & cheese; he loved it!  Our 3-year-old loved it, too.

I found the original recipe from the book Kids in the Holiday Kitchen by Jessica Strand & Tammy Massman-Johnson and it is called Merry Macaroni (Strand and Massman- Johnson, p.22)

I changed a few things to adapt the recipe.  My changes included adding some olive oil to the butter, and I also used brown rice elbow macaroni.  I used Strauss organic whole milk and heavy cream, which adds a richness to the taste.  Also, I used high quality Gruyere cheese!

1 pound (16 oz.) of dried elbow macaroni
2 ounces of butter, 1/2 ounce of olive oil (Can also use all butter, experiment depending on taste)
3 cups of grated Gruyere cheese
2 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup of heavy cream  (Strauss or other organic preferred)
1 cup of whole milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (regular, whole wheat, or gluten free (try Mariposa Bakery if you are in the San Francisco Bay area.)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large pot, cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until al dente (tender but firm to the bite.)  Drain, and set aside.

Lightly grease a casserole pot or 8 (8-ounce) ramekins with 1 tablespoon of the butter or olive oil. (I used a casserole pot as I actually don't own ramekins, and I greased with olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the Gruyere, 2 cups of the Parmesan, the cream,  milk, dry mustard, and nutmeg.  Add the macaroni and toss until thoroughly coated with the cheese mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to the greased ramekins or casserole pot.

In a small bowl, toss together the bread crumbs and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.  Sprinkle the ramekins or casserole pot evenly with the cheese bread crumbs, and dot each ramekin or casserole pot with 1/2 Tablespoon (or less,  depending on taste)  of the remaining butter (or olive oil.)

Bake until the tops are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as our family does! 

Serves 8

--Bungalow Mama

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Three Cozy Oregon Retreats

Sisters, Oregon
FIVEPINE lodge, an oregon retreat

This lodge is in Sisters, Oregon.  Though the original log building was destroyed in a fire in 1964, this newer "largest log cabin" was built using the same scale as the original building.  Part of the lodge was built on family member Elda Teresa Willits property, and she called the lodge "a bridge between two worlds."  Her wish was that the guests would cross the bridge and leave their old thinking behind.  The three words that guided her life were love, acceptance, and forgiveness. This lodge also has a Shibui spa, an oasis for wellness and relaxation.
PO Box 578
Detroit, Oregon 97342

A friend of mine who lives in Portland, Oregon told me about these hot springs.  This hot springs retreat is about one hour and 40 minutes from the FIVEPINES lodge in Sisters, Oregon.  This retreat includes three meals a day.  One thing to keep in mind in the fall and winter is that some roads are closed during this time.  

Deer Haven Farms Bed and Breakfast
Newberg, Oregon

Guests of all ages at this B & B are encouraged if they want to pick vegetables or berries, collect eggs, or hang out with the farm animals (holstein cows, chickens, peking ducks).  

During Thanksgiving, there is a giant festival in the Williamette Valley with 150 wineries with games, food, music and wine.  There is a three-day barbeque at Erath Winery (November 25-27, $15.,  The ribs are supposed to go fabulously with pinot!  There is a wine trolley in Carlton ( for a hop-on, hop off tour of more than two dozen wineries.  The winemaker, Mark Vlossak, winemaker at St. Innocent Winery (Nov. 25-27, wine $12. food free,, cooks his special cassoulet to feed around 600 people!

--Bungalow Mama

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Our Old Bungalow

Dear Old Bungalow,

I know that I'm not always appreciative of you.  I know I need to work on taking better care of you too!

Yesterday, I called Fidelity Roofing to have them clean the gutters for you!  They were recommended by Custom Kitchens, so I hope they do a good job.   I'm worried when they come out that they'll say I need a new roof, but I took the chance anyways.  Plus, I was told that we have moss growing over our laundry room.  We'll see what they say.  

Anyways, I appreciate you for giving us a home these 8 years.  It is hard to believe it has been 8 years.  We were so bright eyed and bushy tailed when we first looked at you at your open house.  We imagined all the things we could do with you, changes we could make, parties and family dinners we could have...  

The reality of owning an old bungalow is a little different (OK, a lot) different than what we thought back then.  Each step of renovation takes time, planning, and money.  Yet, we love you!  We appreciate your keeping a roof over our head!  


Bungalow Mama

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

I went to the Smith Family Farm with my son around Halloween (wonderful place to go in October with a child!).  We went on a hay ride and got to pick out pumpkins.  As a recent foodie, I've been looking at what kind of pumpkins you can actually use to make good pumpkin pie.  I went to the connected outdoor market and picked up a few sugar pumpkins.  Then, I went home and scoured all my cookbooks for a recipe using a real pumpkin!  


I then went to Whole food and looked at all of their cookbooks.  This is what I found from America's Test Kitchen, "All Time Best Holiday Recipes,"  from the editors of Cook's Illustrated:  "In numerous tests, we've found that very few tasters can distinguish between a fresh or canned pumpkin once it's baked in a pie.  The real problem is that a pumpkin, fresh or canned, contains a lot of moisture, which dilutes the pie's flavor." (p.88)

The recipe I used for pumpkin pie can either use fresh or canned pumpkin.  This recipe was delicious!  My son and I had so much fun making it too!  For this recipe, I used store bought pie shells from Whole Foods, but next time I'd like to try my own shell.  I also included the brands I prefer.

Pumpkin Pie (adapted from recipe from "All Time Best Holiday Recipes," Holiday season 2011)

1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup of whole milk
3 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15-ounces) can pumpkin puree or 15 oz. fresh pumpkin puree
1 cup drained candied yams from 15 oz. can
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz.) sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 recipe of single crust pie dough, partially baked  or premade crust

1.  Adjust oven rack to the lowest position, placed rimmed baking sheet on rack, and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Whisk cream, milk, whole eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Set aside.  Combine pumpkin puree, yams, sugar, maple syrup, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in large saucepan; bring to sputtering simmer over medium heat, 5 to 7 minutes.  Continue to simmer, stirring constantly and mashing yams against side of pot, until thick and shiny, 10 to 15 minutes.

2.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in cream mixture until fully incorporated.  Strain mixture through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, using ladle or silicone spatula to press solids through strainer.  Rewhisk mixture and pour into warm freshly baked pie shell or premade shell.  Place pie on heated baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300 degrees and continue baking until edges of pie are set and center registers 175 degrees, 20 to 35 minutes longer (center should look firm but jiggle slightly).  Transfer pie to wire rack and let cool to room temperature, 2 to 3 hours.  Cut into wedges and serve.

--Bungalow Mama

Friday, November 11, 2011

Doors as Tools for Organizing

The doors in our hallway/"mud room" are useful tools for organizing things.  For example, here's a monkey hangar, useful for hanging clothes and bags:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crummy Contractors - Call for Stories

If you have a Crummy Contractor story that you would like to share, please email us at  Or else leave a story in the comments.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crummy Contractors #2

An electrician has been working down in the crawl-space underneath our dining room.  He is replacing an old fuse box, sending the lines out to the circuit breaker.  

The fuse box is replaced, with the electrical lines capped.  The electrician doesn't put a cover on the box containing the crimped wires.  But that's not the problem.

Fast forward to a week or two later.  We had been storing some stuff in boxes in the dining room.  The boxes are sitting on the hard-wood floor.  We move a few of the boxes around.  

There's a hand-sized hole under one of the boxes.  

How did it get there?  We ask the electrician when he comes by to do a bit of work getting electricity out to our back yard.  His response:

"Oh yeah.  I forgot to fix that."  

Why was he punching holes in the dining room floor?  That remains a mystery to this day.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Goodbye Halloween

Tough to believe that Halloween season is over.  Now we have to get ready for Thanksgiving.  But before I go, here's one last look:

Roasting time for pumpkin seeds at 325 degrees:  About 25 minutes.  If you don't like salt, you can try a huge variety of seasonings.  I even tried using cinnamon this year.  It was pretty good...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wood Chips

With the new sidewalk in place, I started thinking about whether I could do anything to make the area around our big tree a bit nicer.  One day, while wandering around the neighborhood, my son noticed a toy helicopter lying on the ground near a tree.  He started playing with it.  About 3 minutes later, the property owner came out and asked us to move because she was going to put wood chips down around the tree.  She wasn't rude about it, and even surprisingly offered to let my son keep the helicopter.  We didn't keep the helicopter.  But the wood chips seemed like a good way to solve my tree-related question.



  It took about five large bags of chips to surround the tree.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finished Sidewalk

Bringing my series of posts about our sidewalk to a close, here is the finished product.  Looks pretty good:

Unfortunately, the sidewalk ended up a lot closer to our hedge than I would have liked.  The front of the hedge is suffering and I'm going to have to trim it back.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crummy Contractors #1

A pipe on the side of our house is leaking.  But it only leaks occasionally, and it isn't quite clear why.

I was able to figure out Step #1 myself, without hiring a professional:  Wait and see if it will go away.  I managed to let this step go on for several months.

Step #2 - Ask a professional plumber to come take a look at it.

Step #3 - Try to assess the source of the leak with a simple visual inspection.  I had sort of done that before Step #1, but maybe the professional can figure it out.  This step takes an hour and fails.

Step #4 - Turn on different water sources, one at a time, and see what happens.  That seems like a pretty good idea.

But please note two points that you wouldn't think your professional plumber might forget:

(A)  Make sure the sink isn't stopped up BEFORE you turn on the water.

(B)  Remember to TURN OFF THE WATER when you are done.

Ours forgot.  Big mistake.  Big mess.