Tomato Soup Grilled Cheese Care Package

I show my love with food. If I love you, chances are I've cooked for you at some point. It's your birthday? Expect a cake. Going through a rough time? Cookies may show up on your doorstep. Celebrating happy news? Drinks and an over-the-top cheese plate it is. Just need a little extra love? Let's do pancakes. Food is my love language is what I'm saying.

I've been trying to think of the perfect care package and I think I've hit on the perfect combination. The tomato soup grilled cheese care package.

This Tomato Orange Soup was recommended in a Facebook Food Group I belong to and it's amazing. I double the recipe but keep the butter and salt at the single batch quantities and it's insanely delicious. It's also really easy to make (and it's even Grady-approved).

To make my tomato soup grilled cheese care package, I'd send the soup at the pre-cream stage with a carton of cream on the side (and a few quick notes on how to prepare). That way the soup can be thrown in the freezer if your care package recipient is overwhelmed with food. I'd include a loaf of nice bread, a block of butter, and some nice aged cheddar cheese. The beauty of this care package is it can easily be made into a complete meal or it can be broken down into staples if meals aren't required.

If you want to expand the package, why not send along some nice sausage or maybe some cut vegetables and fruit? Add a tray of brownies or a batch of chocolate chip cookies and you've got a nice, sweet finish.

The tomato soup grilled cheese care package is a lovely, easy way to show someone you're thinking of them and want them to feel loved and cared for. My favourite bread is sourdough just for reference ;)

Cauliflower Cheese Sauce

Listen. I'm firmly planted in the "foods are not other foods" camp. Avocado is not pudding. Bananas are not ice cream. Cauliflower is not rice / pizza / nachos (I needed a fainting couch after that last one).

Now, before you get all "some people have dietary restrictions!" on me, I know. I know that some people can't have regular pizza crust so cauliflower pizza crust is a great way for them to enjoy pizza. My problem is with the "eat cauliflower nachos Guilt! Free!" nonsense. Bitch, please. I eat all my nachos guilt-free. And if you watch the cauliflower nachos video (which I've done approximately 87 times because raaaaage) you'll see that the cauliflower nachos are topped with roughly thirteen pounds of cheese. Not so guilt-free if you think about it. Which I have. A lot.

Anyway. Not a fan.

Until last week. Last week I took the kids over to Vancouver Island to visit my aunt. Nothing makes you realize how little your kid will eat until you're in someone else's home, nixing every single food suggestion they have because you know your darling child will reject it. Ugh. My aunt had a secret weapon, though. She served Grady pasta with cheese sauce. He loved it. Cheesy pasta without the usual side of "crazy mom trying to push carrots and broccoli down my throat." This wasn't normal cheese sauce, though. It was cauliflower cheese sauce. Grady ate -and loved- a vegetable without arguing. Do I feel a little sneaky? Yes. Do I wish that my kid would just eat three square meals every day without fighting and negotiating? Absolutely. Will I let this stop me from sneaking vegetables into his food? NEWP.

So! If you have a vegetable-adverse eater (or if you want to eat cheese sauce Guilt! Free! *eyeroll*), this is the sauce for you.

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower
2 cups grated aged cheddar cheese (or regular, but the aged makes the sauce taste more cheesy)
1 cup of milk (give or take - depends on how thick you like your sauce and how big your cauliflower is)
1 heaped teaspoon mustard
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

In a large pot, cook cauliflower in boiling water until fork tender.

Drain cauliflower and buzz with immersion blender until smooth.

Add cheese while the cauliflower is still hot so it melts nicely. Buzz with immersion blender until well mixed.

Add milk a little at a time, buzzing well with immersion blender (this is key! you don't want lumps) until you reach the desired consistency.

Mix in mustard, Worcestershire Sauce, and salt.

Makes approximately 8 cups of sauce. Freezes well.

Serve over pasta or steamed veggies or thin with a bit of milk or cream to make soup.

Revel in your genius.

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How to Make the Best Macaroni and Cheese

My mom has made the same macaroni and cheese since my siblings and I were little kids. Macaroni and cheese night was the best night. Looking back on it now, macaroni and cheese night was probably a "stretch the pay cheque until grocery day" meal or a "I cannot give a single more eff" meal for my mom but to us kids it was a special treat. I will never forget the day my dad tried to make mom's macaroni and cheese. My mom was in the hospital giving birth to either my little sister or brother so my dad was taking care of me and my older sister. He made my mom's macaroni and cheese but decided to give it a little flair in the form of onions, green peppers, black pepper, and olives. Have mercy. I'm still not over it.

Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients

3 cups dry elbow macaroni pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 heaped tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk (I use whole milk because I am sinful but you can use 2% if you want a lighter sauce. If you use skim milk I will give you side eye so hard.)
1 teaspoon mustard (pro tip: don't use grainy mustard if you plan to serve this to a picky child or they will ask you why you put "nuts" in the cheesy pasta and you will die a little inside.)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional but it really enhances the cheesiness so I don't recommend skipping it unless you've got vegetarian concerns.)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I use old cheddar and it is decadent but regular cheddar is fine too.)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare macaroni per "al dente" instructions on the bag. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter over medium-high heat in medium-sized saucepan. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until butter and flour are combined well and the mixture has begun to smell a bit nutty, about 90 seconds - two minutes. If the roux starts to darken, turn down the heat.

Add the milk slowly, whisking vigorously. I usually add the milk cup by cup, taking time to whisk and thicken the sauce between cups. Cook until sauce is thickened to the consistency of runny yogurt. Remove from heat and whisk in mustard and Worcestershire sauce.

Now! This is important. If your sauce came anywhere close to a boil, it is too hot to stir in your cheese right now. Your cheese sauce will curdle. You will cry. Your macaroni and cheese will not be as good as my mom's macaroni and cheese. It is worth your time to sit and wait and be patient for five minutes. Go make a cup of tea. Take a few deep breaths. Come back in five minutes.

Right! We're back. Stir grated cheese into your sauce, reserving about 1/2 cup to sprinkle on top. Taste and season with salt and (white) pepper. Mix sauce into pasta, spread into a casserole dish, top with grated cheese, and bake for 15 - 25 minutes until bubbly. Enjoy!

If you're not serving a toddler and want to fancy things up a bit, skip the melted cheese on top and make a nice crunchy topping from a couple tablespoons of melted butter and about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs. If you want to get really decadent, you could also mix some crispy fried bacon bits and green onions into the panko mixture. Just don't bring that nonsense around me or my older sister.

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Instead of reheating the leftovers in the oven, I like to scoop the mac and cheese into a saucepan and reheat on the stove with a bit of extra milk to prevent the pasta from drying out.

The Almost Healthy Cheeseball

My friends JenTairalyn, and I love to cook and bake and we thought it'd be fun to see what happens when we take one recipe and approach it three different ways. I like to play with ingredients and try to find healthy(ish) alternatives to traditional ingredients (but you'll have to pry butter from my cold, dead hands.) Jen is a ninja when it comes to substituting healthy ingredients to truly healthify recipes. And Tairalyn is taking one for the team by making the recipes in their full sugary, buttery glory (she really is a saint.) This month we're tackling the cheese ball

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The original recipe sounded tasty but a little boring: cream cheese, bacon, mayo, green onion, pecans. I wanted to boost the flavour while cutting the fat as much as possible. 

Ingredients

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

2 Tbsp plain yogurt

1/3 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

4 green onions, diced

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1/4 tsp salt

grated zest from 1 orange

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Method

Mix together cream cheese, yogurt, dried cranberries, green onions, rosemary, salt, and orange zest. Form into a ball and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight.)

Place chopped walnuts on a sheet of plastic wrap. Put cheese ball on top of walnuts and bring the sides of the plastic wrap up and around the ball, pressing the walnuts into the cheese. 

Serve with crackers or bread. I made this bread with half whole wheat flour, orange zest, and fresh rosemary. The flavour combination was heavenly. 

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Check out Tairalyn's cheesy bacon-y goodness here and Jen's veggie-packed cheese ball here.