side dish

Crayon Rolls (and Sautéed Spinach)

Do you know any kids? You probably do, because you are, presumably, a human person. If you are not a human person, I’m impressed.
Anyway, kids like crayons and stuff. And you know what crayons do? Get everywhere. And break. And get everywhere. There is a solution! A crayon roll!

I’ve made a few of these so far, and they are surprisingly easy and fun to make. They don’t take too much fabric, and the only extra things you need are a hair tie and a button. The roll holds 16 crayons. I put in a few shades of red, orange, yellow, etc., in ROYGBIV order (because, why not), and added black, gray, and pink. You can’t draw a bunny without pink.
These make great gifts. Throw it in a coordinating pocket tote with a coloring book, and there you go.

If I was slightly more awake, I’d put a segue here.

Spinach! It’s delicious when prepared correctly, by which I mean, with lots of garlic.

Sautéed Spinach

  • bag of spinach (or if you get the huge bag from Costco, a few giant handfuls)
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium low heat in a big saucepan. Press the garlic into the oil and stir, cooking until the garlic just begins to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Stuff the spinach into the pan. It will look like you are making way too much spinach, but it’s fine. Trust me. Stuff that in there. Don’t worry about stirring just yet. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low. In about 5 minutes, uncover and start slowly turning the bottom spinach to the top. It will seem slightly impossible for a few seconds. Once it’s kind of moved around, cover again and cook 2-3 more minutes, until the spinach is mostly wilted and coated with oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Never-ending House Stuff (and Sriracha Mac and Cheese)

When you buy your first house, people constantly tell you, “It never ends!” and “It’s a lot of work!” and, in a slightly sarcastic tone, “Good luck!” You brush it off at first, thinking, “Well, these people don’t know this house, or my capabilities, or how hard I can work. I’ll show them!”

You are an optimistic little bastard, aren’t you? Because owning a house, especially owning a house that wasn’t taken care of very well, is a definite challenge. There’s painting, and window repair, and “what’s that smell,” and squeaky hinges, and leaking showers, and rude neighbors who say things like, “I would have offered them a dollar for that house.”

Sigh. The only thing you can do is work on it little by little. Paint a wall one day, paint another the next. Then things happen, and you just want to scream. Mr. Something went out to mow yesterday, but soon realized that the shed, which he had locked, couldn’t be opened with any of our keys. One of them fits, but doesn’t turn the knob. So our mower is trapped for the time being. I suggested he watch a few YouTube videos on lockpicking, but apparently that didn’t work so well. Now we’re debating between hiring a locksmith and smashing the knob with a hammer, depending on cost.

BUT ENOUGH OF THAT FOR NOW.

For our neighborhood’s July 4th barbecue, we were to bring a dish to share. I brought my very favorite spicy sriracha mac and cheese, knowing that many people there wouldn’t be able to handle the heat. More for me! (And shush, there was plenty of food for everyone, and one of our neighbors brought a Tupperware home for herself.)

Sriracha Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Parsley, Sage & Sweet

  • 1/2 lb rotini or other squiggly pasta
  • 2T unsalted butter
  • 2T flour
  • 3/4 C milk
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 2/3 C chicken broth
  • 1T honey mustard
  • 1/4 C sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce, aka my favorite thing)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar, shredded. (You could also use a blend of cheeses like monterey jack, cheddar, and pepper jack.)

Prepare pasta according to package directions like every other recipe that uses pasta. Don’t let it get too mushy. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk the flour into the butter, and cook, while whisking, until it’s golden brown and no longer smells like raw flour (about a minute or two).

Mix the milk, cream, and chicken broth, and slowly pour into the flour mixture while whisking. Stir until bubbles start to appear. It’ll start thickening. It took mine about 15 minutes to get to a nice thickness (sort of like thin glue; imagine a thin Alfredo). Yours might only take five or ten minutes; remember, I’m at almost 6,000 feet!

Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the honey mustard (I use 1.5t of honey and 1.5t of mustard) and sriracha. Do not breathe in the warm sriracha fumes; you will have a coughing attack. Remove from heat and stir in the shredded cheese. Stir, stir, stir. This part is very satisfying. When it looks like cheese sauce, taste it and add more salt, pepper, or sriracha, if needed.

Put the drained pasta back in the cooking pot, and pour the sauce over it. Stir, then sit the lid back on the pot for a minute or two to get it super melty. It’s ready to eat RIGHT NOW if you want, but sometimes I like to throw it in a buttered casserole dish, cover it with some buttered breadcrumbs, and bake for ten minutes or so, just to get a nice crust on top.

You can add cooked, shredded chicken to this, too, if you want to make it an entree instead of a side dish. This recipe is easily doubled!