Ok. Confession: I’m really...just not into the playground. It’s boring. I don’t like standing around. Not really into the slide. The chest pains and full body sweats in anticipation of a black top tumble? No thanks. I find it lame and quite literally unbelievable that the moment your child popped out (or was carved out in my cases) all of one’s previous interests immediately change. Browsing Loehmann’s and day drinking has all of a sudden been replaced by pushing a swing till your arm goes dead and mediating squabbles over sidewalk chalk? Really? Fine. If that’s your bag, more power to you. I prefer to tell the truth: The playground sucks. But...to Nora, my two year old, the playground craps gold. It’s her Utopia. Her eyes begin to twinkle and she cracks her little crooked smile every time we roll through those iron gates. And I love that. So I go. And I cheer her on, beaming, as she exclaims, “I did it!” and “Watch me!” and “I try?” It’s freaking adorable. And it’s the right thing to do. Which leads me to my rant-
If you’re gonna be there, BE THERE. GET OFF YOUR MOTHERHUMPIN’ BLACKBERRY AT THE PLAYGROUND! I’m so sick of feeling responsible for your kid who’s about to take a header off the pirate ship because you’re flipping through your Groupons. What are you doing? Seriously. Tweeting about how he’s throwing sand in my daughter’s face or almost got a Stride Rite to the teeth running in front of the swings? No, you’re not, cause you’re not even watching. What’s a toddler’s attention span for the playground on a good day? An hour? TOPS? If you can’t be off your phone for ONE HOUR during the whole day...it’s just...you’re just...well your WAY more important than me and most likely so super busy you’d never be reading my silly little blog. Look, treat your child as you please. You’re being rude to ME. And to the other parents who are trying with all our might to fake enthusiasm for a “so cool” pebble our kid just found when we’d really rather be at brunch. You’re being an asshole. And that’s why your child throws sand, and cuts in line for the slide, and pushes little girls, and is...an asshole. And you would know this if you looked up every once in a while. Take the smart phone out to snap a super cute shot of your munchkin every now and then. And post it on Facebook. LATER. At least have the respect to wait till she’s in her stroller, facing away from you to ignore her completely. Asshole.
OK...fine. Maaaaaaybe I’ve checked my news feed once or twice. Maaaaaybe I’ve played a round or two of Angry Birds. Maybe I’ve been an asshole, too. There. I admit it. This is to keep myself in check as well. Pobody’s nerfect. So now, it’s time to redeem ourselves! Instead of cracking open a box of powdered mac and cheese for lunch (I know, you get the one at Whole Foods with the bunnies so it’s not as bad. I get it) try this homemade recipe. I PROMISE you: once you do this a few times and get the prep down it will barely take any more time than the box, you’ll have leftovers for the entire week, and there are ENDLESS variations which makes it like a million recipes in one. It also makes me feel good that I put forth a little extra effort to do something for my girls. And now I’m turning it around and making it about me. Shocker.
BASIC POST-PLAYGROUND MAC & CHEESE
1 lb box of any short pasta (elbows, penne, shells, rotini, whatever. I like to use a whole grain one, but use whatever you like. )
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 c milk (whole, 2%, skim, I’ve tried them all and they all work fine)
2 cups cheese, shredded (Whatever you like. For the basic I usually use a mild cheddar or colby-jack or mozzarella.You’ll see later how to switch it up with different fancier cheeses)
1 1/2 tsp salt (for this basic recipe I don’t add black pepper. I like the color to be neutral)
1/2 tsp onion powder
While the pasta boils in salted water, (usually 8-10 minutes) start the sauce.
Melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk flour into the butter and let cook for a minute or so. You’re making a roux, a thickener. You’re just cooking out the raw flour taste. Add the milk and bring to a bubble. When the milk starts to thicken. add the cheese. Stir until melted. Stir in salt and onion powder until combined. Drain pasta. Pour pasta into the cheese sauce, stir until completely coated.
Topping: (a couple different options)
2-3 tbsp of melted butter mixed with maybe 1/2 c bread crumbs or crushed up crackers (any kind you have on hand) Pour pasta and cheese mixture into a baking dish and pat crumbs on top. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes. Watch it! It WILL burn. And you WILL scream “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” at the top of your lungs in the middle of your baby shower. Classy.
Get that yummy crunchy top without turning on your oven, avoiding profanity.
(My fave): sprinkle crushed up seasoned croutons on top. This way the mac stays super creamy and you still get that homestyle crunch. I sprinkle them on each individual serving, that way it doesn’t get soggy for leftovers.
Keep it all creamy and don’t do a crunchy top at all.
SWITCH IT UP:
Ladies who lunch: sub. fontina and goat cheese, add sautéed mushrooms and herbs
Game Day: sub. monterrey jack and blue cheese, add crumbled bacon
Couples night: sub. extra sharp white cheddar, add [fully cooked] chopped up chicken-apple sausage
Infinite possibilities Get creative!
Add a little salad or veg on the side and...Ta Da! Done. You survived an afternoon of playground politics and made lunch from scratch. On top of that, you’re set for a few more days if not a week. Now go grab yourself half a glass of pinot, girl. So it’s noon. Elmo will never know.