So the new semester’s three weeks old and I’m settling into the old rhythm of being a student again.
It’s work-and-doing-the-reading-at-lunch-and-back-home-and-homework-after-dinner. It’s a Saturday where after we come home after running around with errands, I’m doing problem sets. And then on Sunday morning it’s time to submit the problem sets and listen to the lecture for the next chapter.
Taking excellent notes, of course. I’m such a swot.
At the risk of sounding like an middle-aged(ish) lady, the last time I did this I was hauling my ass off to a precalculus class on Saturday morning for four hours with textbook, notebook and my TI-82 calculator. This time around I’m connected with the laptop, an e-book and my TI-BA II calculator. I’m yapping with my classmates via posts on the school’s website and getting my class materials from an online platform called WileyPlus, which I’ve developed a real love/hate relationship with.
It’s all very convenient and wonderful and totally accessible, which is the whole point of taking an online class, of course. And for me, who’s up at the quarter-to-dark in the morning (and in bed at quarter-past), this is a godsend. I start turning into a pumpkin around eight o’clock. I’m not sure if this is because I’m an middle-aged(ish) lady or if it’s the hours I keep, but I don’t know how I’d do if I were still in a lecture at eight with a twenty-five minute drive home from campus.
But like most things, I’ll figure it out. One thing I do know is that I’ll have to pick up the pace a bit, or I’ll be sitting here doing problem sets when I’m in my 60s.
And that can’t happen.
But one of the casualties of going back to school is that I’ve basically given up any kind of free time I might have had before doing this. I knew that was going to happen (really) and I knew that this first accounting class was going to be content-heavy (really), but what I didn’t exactly realize was that I’d have, like, no free time at all.
So I’m thrilled that fall’s here since with the cooler weather comes that time of year when it’s finally cool enough to break out the Dutch oven and baking dishes for soups and stews and casseroles. Big, hearty dishes that you can make in advance and then just heat up throughout the week. I’m pretty sure whoever baked the first dino-noodle casserole was a busy person.
I found this recipe for cauliflower macaroni and cheese on the BBC’s Good Food website ages and ages ago; I’ve been making it for at least ten years. I’m only giving you the link here since you can print it out from their website (not sure if you have to register or not), but I’ll give you a couple of tips.
First off, make sure your cheese is a good, tangy, sharp one. There isn’t a lot of cheese sauce in this (if you want more, you can always double up on the sauce), so make sure you choose one that won’t get lost. I made this last night and I used a “melange” of Gruyere and mild Cheddar that I got at Trader Joe’s. Good, but an extra-sharp cheese really is the way to go. And a good, gutsy, pasta is a must, too. Think imported rigatoni or mostaccioli. I bought armoniche and it was perfect.
The recipe also calls for creme fraiche for the cheese sauce. Yes, you can buy creme fraiche at some supermarkets, but you’re better off making your own. Why? Supermarket creme fraiche is, like, $5 for a dinky little container, and you’ll need two for the recipe. That’s 10 bucks, which is ridiculous. So, here you go:
Take 1 half pint container of heavy cream. Pour it into a clean, glass jar with a lid. Add about ⅓ of a cup of buttermilk. Put the lid on and give it a good shake. Leave it on the counter, lid on, for about 24 hours to thicken up. If you’re going to double the sauce in the recipe, use 1 pint of heavy cream and 2/3 cup of buttermilk. Whichever amount you decide to make, you’ll use all of it.
Done. And you’re welcome.
Bake it at 375° in a 9” x 13” pan for about 15 minutes. And don’t forget the sliced tomatoes on top. They’re the best part.
I made Giada’s Green Beans to go with it, but I sprinkle some Parm on top of the beans instead of faffing around with the crisps, as tasty as they are. These are seriously good; I make these for holidays when we have to bring a veggie along. I cook the green beans until they’re nice and soft, though. Hard, crunchy green beans are awful.