Yesterday I made spicy almonds and cashews, have changed it from the original Gourmet recipe from 1991 that they would not let me publish. You can still find it at Epicurious by the same title. I’ve added different chiles and smoked paprika.

I roasted a medium butternut squash and about ten heirloom carrots, first seeded and second trimmed, with a bit of olive oil, s&p for about an hour. I let them cool while I toasted garam masala in a dry pan and let that cool.

Food processor is the next step, with the squash de-skinned and both it and the carrots cubed, and add a bit of broth. I used the dog’s boxed chicken broth. She hates that I steal from her but she steals time and food from me every day for the past nearly 12 years so it is more than OK.

Then I’ve a pulp that needs seasoning and thinning to make a good soup. I alternated between chicken broth and heavy cream, added garam masala (curry) and ancho chili powder, a little more salt and pepper and it was good. Next time I think it’ll be spicier but may add apple for sweetness.

For dinner I made my basic mac & cheese. Usually I make enough to bake in an 8X8 Pyrex dish. I used shells this time to hold the sauce, made the bechamel and added local two-year aged cheddar, drained the shells and added them to the sauce. To the sauce I added wonderful sun-dried tomatoes from our Italian grocery and one chopped Kumato tomato for flavor and color and served it in ancient Pyrex colored bowls (the big green for hubby, smaller red for me). It was good.

My bechamel is normally 2 Tbsp flour, 2 Tbsp butter, (or 3/3) put in a pot and stir constantly for a minute or two. I usually add salt, pepper, cayenne and a pinch of nutmeg to this. Have two cups of milk ready. Medium heat, let it come to a boil, do not turn your back on this sauce! It will burn and ruin your meal. Keep whisking every minute or so. When it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (run your finger through it) take it off the heat, add your cheese of choice and stir until it melts.

Mix with cooked macaroni or shells or whatever pasta you like and bake it at 350 for 30-45 minutes. I like to top it with fresh bread crumbs and parmesan cheese until it browns and bubbles. Today I served it un-baked because it was late and we wanted dinner.

Rarely does my husband not get meat for dinner but he was OK with it. And we have leftovers of both! That and oatmeal, milk, vanilla yogurt and blackberries for breakfast and we’re eating the frig and pantry! I enjoy cleaning out sometimes. We’re loving our oatmeal these cold mornings.

We’ve been through challenges before and have always worked our way through, together. Tomorrow is his birthday. I love that his parents always kept birthday away from Christmas because they’re often lumped together and you get an extra sweater and feel left out as your siblings actually have birthdays. Yes, I’ve heard that from friends over the years.

We bought new cell phones that will cover both birthdays and the holidays. Now I have to figure out how to use my new phone as it will not set up. Old computer and old phone were compatible. Now my beloved laptop is showing its age. I wonder how old it is in “dog years?” It’s 56 years old. Oh, my.

Don’t worry, I’ll give my husband a birthday card. It’s the least I can do. Cheers, Dee


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