{Recipe} The Ultimate Mac & Cheese

I love macaroni & cheese. I love it so much that I would request it as my final meal if I ever had the option of requesting a final meal. Other people discuss things like this, right?  I made this recipe last year for our first Friendsgiving & forgot to take pictures. What a surprise. I had multiple requests to make this dish again & who am I to deprive my friends? Selfishly, I was so thrilled at the chance to make it again so I could take pictures! 
In terms of macaroni recipes, this one is relatively easy.  The hardest & most annoying part is all the constant whisking, but that's really it! The original creator of this recipe (found here) recommends using only freshly grated cheese.  Now, I don't know about you, but grating 6 cups of cheese sounds miserable.  So I went with already grated, but bought a fancier shredded cheese...it's all about compromise people. You can mix & match what cheeses you use; this year we used sharp cheddar & white cheddar. I can't remember what I used last year (helpful, I know) but our grocery store doesn't have a ton of the nicer cheeses already grated. Perhaps I'll get off my lazy ass & make this dish some other time with freshly grated cheese.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many macaroni recipes can be prepped ahead of time, refrigerated & then heated up when it's time to eat.  The original chef STRONGLY recommends not prepping ahead of time. So this was the very last thing I made so we could eat it fresh!

Serves: 6-8 as main dish or 8-10 as a side
Cook time acc to That Which Nourishes: 35 mins
Cook time acc to me: 45 mins - 1 hour
How difficult was this for me? Not bad AT ALL!

1 lb pasta of your choice (I used large elbow)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups milk (I used whole since I had it on hand from another recipe)
6-7 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar or white cheddar  (I used both)
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp pepper (I used 1/4 since I'm not big on pepper)
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs


In a large stock pot, boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. 
Drain & set aside
While noodles are cooking, in a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt 1/2 cup butter
Sprinkle in flour & whisk while cooking for 2-3 mins.
Add in Salt & Pepper.
Slowly pour in the 4 cups of milk while continuously whisking until smooth
Bring mixture to a low boil until thickened. Do not stop whisking (this is the annoying part)
 It will take 6-8 mins to thicken up. Don't be surprised if nothing is happening & then all of a sudden it just thickens. This is normal!
Once sauce has thickened up, remove from heat.
Grease a 9x13 baking dish & add pasta
Over the top of the pasta, add the 7 cups of cheese.
Pour the hot sauce over the top of the cheese & let sit for a few minutes as the cheese melts.
At this point, pre-heat your oven to 325 F
While the cheese is melting, in a small sauce pan, melt  2 tbsp of butter over medium heat.
Add in bread crumbs & stir continuously until the bread crumbs turn golden brown. 
Be careful not to let the bread crumbs burn, they will cook quickly!
Once crumbs are golden, remove from heat.
Very carefully stir the pasta, sauce & cheese.  
Top with bread crumbs.
Bake for 12-15 minutes. Serve immediately!
BRB I'm going to go eat some right now.


Friendsgiving 2017 + Giving Tuesday!

Have you recovered from the weekend yet?? I know I haven't.  We hosted our 2nd Friendsgiving last Thursday & it was lovely...but damn, was it a lot of work!  J & I used to travel to one of our homes for Thanksgiving & then again at the holidays, but it just became too much.  So we've started a new tradition of taking in Thanksgiving orphans & creating our own family. Thanks to crazy high temps, we were able to enjoy the meal al fresco...something we'd never be able to do in the midwest!
Before I finalized the menu, I had to figure out our table. You know, the important things. Coming up with tablescapes has become a fun hobby of mine & since we were hosting a few new friends this year,  I didn't want to disappoint. Over the last two years I've been collecting vintage glassware & this was the perfect time to use them. Most of the glassware I have is quite colorful, so I took those jewel tones & ran with it.
To say I loved how our table looked would be an understatement. It was a lot of work & a lot of scavenging through multiple home goods stores (sounds rough, right?) but it came together perfectly.  The pumpkin gourds were a last minute addition after fearing that our table didn't feel "Fall" enough, & I'm so happy I decided to add them!   A full list of the products & sources I used can be found at the bottom of the post.  In an attempt to not go bankrupt, a lot of items did come from Homegoods which I can't link to.
Taking pictures was a bit of a struggle as I was trying to focus on the whole cooking thing & not screwing that up, plus the sun setting & when to light the candles...it was all a bit rushed & taken at various points in the afternoon/early evening.  But I did take a few pics before lighting the candles as well.
Obligatory food photo! The recipes I used will be coming a bit later this week!

Since this post is coming to you on Giving Tuesday, I also wanted to share some of my personal favorite smaller organizations (you'll quickly see a common theme) that are always desperately in need in funds in case you're looking to do a little good today. 

Detroit Dog Rescue is focused on raising awareness for the plight of the forgotten, homeless & stray dogs of Detroit. There are more than 50,000 homeless & stray dogs running loose on the streets of Detroit. With only twenty-three City of Detroit Animal Control Officers to perform rescue operations, nearly 90% of dogs picked up by the city are euthanized. With limited resources & funding allocations to humane animal rescue operations, Detroit Dog Rescue is a small group of highly committed individuals dedicated to help make a difference in the city, one dog at a time. Detroit Dog Rescue focuses on raising awareness of the mounting homeless and stray dog problem in Detroit, along with advocating for humane rescue alternatives such as no-kill sheltering, foster care & adoptions, pet identification & healthy pet population control through spay & neutering. They also respond to calls to assist the Detroit Police Department, Highland Park Police Department, Hamtramck Police Department, Fire Departments, the City Administration, as well as hundreds of residents who have asked for our help.
Leave No Paws Behind is an all breed, all foster based rescue, specializing in seniors, terminal & end of life animals, and pets with special needs. When possible we step up, most times in the “11th” hour when all hope is gone, to help save the lives of those that are in most danger of being left behind to die on a cold shelter floor. LNPB provides hospice care, comfort, love and a safe haven for the terminally ill and the hard core cases & LNPB will never board a rescued animal. 
100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida Rescue. Right now, hundreds of abandoned dogs are roaming the in the Everglades area of Florida (Florida City, Homestead and Redlands) & the surrounding areas of SE Florida. They are hungry, thirsty, injured, sick, pregnant & more. They have been dumped there by their previous owners, often after being neglected & abused for years. Their mission is to rescue them, bring them back to health, & show them that not all humans are bad, & that love and a warm bed are just around the corner. They work to raise awareness about this brutal reality happening right in our community, with the hope that our message will result in alternative solutions & more responsible and humane decisions by pet owners.
Soi Dog FoundationSoi Dog Foundation was established in Phuket, Thailand, to help the street dogs & cats who had no-one else to care for them. Over 50,000 strays roamed the island, with the numbers growing alarmingly due to a lack of sterilization (spay/neuter) programes to control the population. Soi Dog was created to provide a humane & sustainable solution to managing the stray population and to address their medical needs. Funding then, as it is now, came entirely from individuals who shared, & continue to share, the vision of our founders. Soi Dog Foundation is fighting the Asian dog meat trade & thanks to overwhelming support from people around the world, the trade has been almost completely wiped out in Thailand. They continue to campaign for an end to the trade in South Korean, Vietnam, & other south-east Asian countries where it is prevalent. Their work as a member of the Asia Canine Protection Alliance (ACPA) is designed to eliminate rabies from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand & Vietnam by 2020, through working with the governments of those countries to outlaw the sale and consumption of dog and cat meat, & to reduce demand for, & supply of, dog meat in South Korea. 
On a larger scale, these two organizations need to stay funded to continue the necessary work they do during these exhausting times.

Planned Parent Hood. I don't think they really need an explanation as to who they are.  

Human Rights Campaign. As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender & queer Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 3 million members & supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC's vision a reality. HRC envisions a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
Sources from Friendsgiving:
Table Runner (on sale!)
Table Cloth (similar)
Cloth Napkins
Glass Gold Chargers (on sale!)
Plates (mix & match from this selection)
Gold Flatware (on sale!)
Purple Tea Light Votives 
Metallic Pillar Candles
Mercury Votives
String Lights
Brass Lanters (all from Homegoods. Similar ones here)
Colorblock Candle Holders (Homegoods)
Glassware - all vintage finds (search eBay for LG Wright,  Colony, Imperial Cape Cod, Smith Glass)


So I Did Some Shopping...

Between Black Friday, Small Business Saturday & Cyber Monday, I should pretty much never be allowed to spend any money again.  While these special shopping days are often reserved for gifts for others, I got so many great deals on home goods & many household items we already have are on sale, so I wanted to share some of them with ya'll today!

I've had my eye on these nesting tables for FOREVER. But, with a 40% off sale, how could I say no?
Orig. $169.99, Now $101.99

Even though it's not that cold in LA, sometimes I just want to snuggle up! I love the wintery feel of these without being too much. 
Orig. $120, Now $71.99 plus buy one get a 2nd 1/2 off!
(I got the black, white & grey one!)
I also really liked this throw...may still have to get it!
Orig. $100, Now $39.99!

We desperately need a new living room rug & I have my eye on this one...
Orig. $299-$899, Now $149-$449

This one seems like a no brainer. Who doesn't need a mail organizer?
Orig $24.99, Now $14.99

One of my favorite photographers is having a 30% site wide sale & it's the largest sale he does all year. His team will also do framing if you want.. Below are a few of the prints we have/want. Check the rest out here.

I also REALLY love this storage cart, but we have NO place for it right now. 
Orig. $169.99, Now $101.99

Also pretty obsessed with these vases
Orig. $19-$49, Now $15-$39

I love Voluspa candles. They come in many sizes, but this one is my particular fav! They all smell so good & you can use the pretty canisters afterwards for storage! Plus, they make great gifts!
Orig. $28, now $22.40

Picture Frames! These can make beautiful holiday gifts!
Orig. $67, Now $25.99

This one I already have, but it's on sale!
Kate Spade New York Keaton Street Collection 8x10 (also comes in 5x7 & round)
Orig $85, Now $58.99 + free shipping! (5x7 - $41.99)
I love a good gallery wall, so it's no surprise I'd like these frames!
Orig. $29-$89, Now $16.99-$52.99

Ok so this guy wasn't on sale, but how could I not bring him home?
Price: $14.99 (If you spend $50, you'll get 15% off your order)

Obsessed with these holiday platters!
Orig. $17.95, now $14.95 (hey every dollar counts, right?)
Orig. 24.95, Now $17.47 (sale ended, but still worth the $25!)

Now these are just fun...
Orig. $29.95, Now $23.96

If you don't have a KitchenAid, now is the time to buy one!!! I have this one in black & it is THE BEST.
Orig. $259.99, Now: $199.99

This might be my favorite kitchen item, EVER. If you don't have a slow cooker, PLEASE do yourself a favor & buy one now! This is the upgraded version of the one I have. LOVE.
Orig. $59.99, now $47.57 (eligible for prime!)

I also REALLY love my hand blender! These work great when you don't want to deal with the mess of a large blender.
Orig. $59.99, Now $29.99

I love Le Creuset, but it can be a bit of a splurge...so now's the time to snatch up one of these great casserole dishes! Plus, I love this color!!
Orig.  $128.99, Now $94.99 (plus free shipping!)
These trays are super cool! This one also comes in a matte brass
Orig. $69, Now $34

Who says dish cloths have to be boring? Our kitchen is old & ugly, so at least these brighten it up a bit! (Look behind some of my food pictures, you'll see these!)
Orig. $24, Now $19

Ok also, seriously obsessed with these coasters! (These would make a great gift!)
1 coaster: Orig $14, Now $11

I bought this pitcher about a month ago, but so happy it's on sale for ya'll! I used this during our Friendsgiving & received SO many compliments on it!
Orig. $38, Now $30

Can we talk about the matching juice glasses? The last thing we need is more glasses, but I seriously love these so much!
1 Glass: Orig $10, Now $8

I'm also pretty obsessed with these glasses too...
1 Glass:: Orig $14, Now $11.20

How stunning are these cooking tools??? I really don't need them, but....
Orig $16 ea.  Now $12.80 ea.

Ok, I'm laughing at how much on sale this lamp is, but I got it a few weeks ago & just love the style!
Orig $79, Now $71

So I haven't bought either of these yet, but I love decor that doesn't take itself too seriously!
Orig. $39.99, Now $29.99

Orig. $39.99, Now $29.99

I've had my sights on these towels for quite some time. At 20% off, I might need to purchase!
Bath Towel Orig. $30, Now $24, Hand Towel Orig. $15, Now $12
Look at the blue!!!!

Ok, this is a bit of a splurge. But we've always wanted a Dyson & when you have 3 dogs, you need a vacuum meant for pets. Also, LOOK AT HOW MUCH IT IS DISCOUNTED. (Thanks for the awesome Hanukkah gift mom!)
Orig $859.99, Now $399.99!
Also a bit of a splurge, but I love this desk chair so much. Unfortunately, I don't have a desk, I just have a couch, so this chair is gonna have to wait to come home with me for a bit.
Orig. $599, Now $299

As the day goes on, I will keep looking/updating this post as I find more goodies.  Have you found any amazing deals??? Please share if you have!