Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese is hearty and delicious. You don’t need to make a cheese sauce, so it comes together easily. And the addition of dried thyme makes it smell amazing.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

It seems like everyone is on a special diet these days. Food allergies are practically an epidemic. Also, there’s the usual rash of restrictive fad diets. Veganism is spreading like wild fire. Of course, the irony is not lost on me that veganism might be a great way to decrease the chances of wild fires. But I’m not there yet.

Sadly, science still hasn’t come around to the diet of my dreams. If only we could all save the world and lose weight by being carbetarians. All carbs all the time. With a little cheese thrown in from time to time for good measure. I mean, you can eat other stuff, too. I’m not trying to deprive you. You just don’t ever have to feel guilty about about eating potatoes and pasta in the same dish. A girl can dream, right?

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese would loom large in the diet of a carbetarian. This hearty pasta dish features crispy pancetta, nutty gruyere, and a good hit of thyme to make the whole thing sing. You won’t want to stop eating this.

We’re keeping the clean up to a minimum by cooking the potatoes and the pasta in the same pot. Next, we’ll crisp up the pancetta in the same oven-proof skillet we’ll bake the whole dish in later. Finally, mix the cheese, cream, and other ingredients into your drained pasta, then put it back in the skillet to bake. Keep it simple. Keep it delicious.

Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

There’s no shortage of things to feel guilty about these days. May I suggest you make and eat this Potato & Pancetta Mac & Cheese with nothing but joy and pleasure. No guilt necessary.

Recipe adapted from Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson.

Finally, if you like this recipe, you might also love this Buffalo Chicken Mac & Cheese. It’s awesome!

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Basic Bloomer

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

This Basic Bloomer is easy enough for even a beginning bread baker. It’s got a great crust on top but stays soft inside. You’re gonna want to use it for everything.

I love taking on new challenges and new projects. If life is too easy, I get bored. Perhaps this is why I’ve moved around so much. I like telling myself that it’s because I’m so smart, and I just have to keep my brain active. More likely it’s just because I’m trying to avoid something I don’t want to deal with. Keeping my mind busy stops me from spiraling into depression, so I take on new challenges.

Last year, I decided I wanted to get better at bread baking. I still have a ton to learn, but I think I’ve made some slight growth. It’s not like I’ve been super dedicated to the endeavor. I know some people bake bread every week. I’ve made maybe eight to ten loaves this year of different varieties. Some have come out beautifully, like this Basic Bloomer, and others have been pretty awful.

Bread baking is not something you can really learn from a book or a video. Bread is alive, and it’s different every time you make it. There are half a dozen variables that can affect your dough on any given day, from the temperature and humidity of your kitchen on the day to the particular batch of flour you’re working with. There’s chemistry and biology going on in there. Fermentation, alchemy, and a bunch of other stuff I don’t really understand. Bread baking is all about how things feel, and for that, you probably really need a teacher. And tons of experience.

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Well, books and videos are all I have at the moment, unless someone wants to come to my house and be my bread guru. But just from reading a really helpful book, Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I was able to create a reliable result with this Basic Bloomer. If you’re interested in learning the art of bread baking, I’d highly recommend this book. There are lots of step by step pictures for things like kneading and shaping your loaf that you can only learn by lots and lots of practice.

This particular Basic Bloomer loaf came out a bit dark on top because I have the worst oven in the world. Yours will probably be a bit less brown. But even with this flaw, I couldn’t stop eating this bread. It didn’t last long enough to become sandwiches. It barely lasted long enough to be a soup dipper. The pillowy softness of this bread is unbelievable. I kept going back for slice after slice, eaten simply with salted butter. I may have had this bread with butter and honey for dessert one night.

Basic Bloomer | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

If, like me, you’re a bit intimidated by homemade bread, this Basic Bloomer will help you overcome your fears. I promise, you can do it. And even if it comes out looking a little wonky, it’s still going to be completely delicious. Let’s bake bread, friends. It’s gonna be awesome.

Recipe adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Bread.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are creamy, cheesy, and packed with veggies. This is an excellent meat-free meal, even for picky eaters who normally turn their nose up at vegetables. Yes, that’s me.

As a food blogger, the things I have always struggled most with is photography. We live in a visual world these days, and the pressure to make your life look perfect online has never been higher. It seems people will spend hours styling a shot that makes them seem effortlessly chic. The irony really smacks you in the face.

When I took these photos, I had a moment of real self-defeat. I made the wrong choice before this dish even went in the oven. That left it looking less than perfect by the time I got it in front of the camera. I was criticizing myself in a way I would never speak to another person.

What could I do? I could have started over. I could have bought all these ingredients again and taken more photos that may or may not have been better. What I’ve decided to do instead is share with you what this dish will really probably look like when it comes out of your oven. I’ve decided to remind you to be kind to yourself and allow yourself space to grow. This is the gift I’m going to try to give myself.

Guys, I also really want you to make this recipe. Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells are absolutely perfect for Autumn. It’s a great option for meatless Monday, but any day of the week will do. I love this dish, and I normally stay far away from vegetables. Chewy pasta, soft squash, creamy bechamel, and of course, plenty of mozzarella cheese and a sprinkling of sage make for the perfect dinner.

While nothing here is difficult to make, there are a few components to this dish. And your kitchen will not be clean by the end. I use frozen butternut squash chunks to save some time. And any time you make pasta, the first thing you should always do is put a pot of water on to boil. If you call in a little help to stuff your shells, you could easily get this on the table on a week night.

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells | How to Be Awesome on $20 a Day

We’re keeping it real here, friends. We’re always learning, we’re eating awesome food, and we’re doing it all with kindness.

Recipe adapted from How Sweet Eats.

White Risotto | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

White Risotto

White Risotto | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

We have been pretty much non-stop on the go in the beginning of August, including two late nights out in a row this past week. For an introvert who absolutely requires sleep and quiet time to feel normal, it’s been a blessing but also a struggle to socialise so much. Saturday was meant to be the first day I’d have to myself in a long time, and I was really looking forward to it.

Did you guess what happened yet? I woke up with a horrible cold that no amount of apple cider vinegar could abate. Sometimes I think my body manages to fight off illness as long as I keep moving, then when it senses I’m about to relax thinks, “Okay, you’ve got time for all these viruses now. Enjoy!” I assure you I have not. Or maybe this was the universe’s weird way of granting me my wish to stay in bed reading all day.

White Risotto | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I did manage to make you some White Risotto over the weekend. Don’t worry, I washed my hands a lot and didn’t sneeze on it. This is a pretty basic risotto recipe, no frills or fancy flavors. I kept it simple because we’re turning the other half of this risotto into something even better next week. But sometimes simple, starchy, and savoury is exactly what you need when you’re feeling under the weather.

Because this is a pretty basic recipe, you’ll want to use the best ingredients you can find, but you know me. If that means Parmesan from a green bottle, I’m still gonna love it. But if you do happen to have some quality Parmesan cheese at your disposal, and you’ve been saving it for something, I’d whip it out here.

White Risotto | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I hope you’re all happy and healthy, friends, and I hope you take some time to get into the kitchen and make this White Risotto for yourself because it’s completely awesome.

Recipe from Jamie Cooks Italy by Jamie Oliver.

Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings

Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

Um… hi. Remember me? Yeah, I’m still here. I know I disappeared for a while. It was unplanned but absolutely necessary as we’ve been crazy busy being alive. My baby was here and we ate and played and watched a lot of Parks and Recreation. It was awesome. I missed you, but not enough to look away.

We also spent a weekend in England catching up with an old friend to a fantastic Beatles soundtrack. Then we had different friends stay at our house for the weekend. In your reader’s world, this has already happened. In my writer’s world, I’m still anticipating. I predict it will be full of good food and tons of laughter. Life is good.

I’m sharing a recipe that I never dreamed I’d love as much as I do. This Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings is seriously awesome. Due to my vegetable aversion, I’d actually never eaten chicken and dumplings before, but now that I’ve tried this recipe, I want to eat it once a month. It’s the sage in the dumplings that really make this addictive.

Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings | How to be Awesome on $20 a Day

I’ve called this Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings because I took some shortcuts that made this simple enough to make any day of the week. I used store bought chicken stock and pre-cooked chicken, so all you really have to do is chop some vegetables and mix up a batter. Everything else happens in the pot while you check Instagram or something probably better. I hope you have leftovers because you’ll be sad if you only get to eat this for one day.

Life moves fast, but you still have to eat. You might as well make it awesome. Weeknight Chicken & Dumplings is a great place to start.

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