Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

I love bacon AND macaroni and cheese, but when pair of good friends suggested that I combine them I have to admit I was skeptical. Boy was I wrong–one bite of their delicious mac and cheese and I was hooked! They kindly shared the recipe with me, and today I am sharing it with you all. This recipe is seriously good, and I probably make it about once a month. I actually had to stop work on this post to have lunch because the picture of the finished dish was making me massively hungry. Enjoy!

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Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from: Food Network & Kayla and Alex

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Ingredients (* see note below):

Approximately 6 slices of bacon

*1 tablespoon Kosher salt (optional)

Vegetable oil

1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi

1 quart milk

*8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups Gruyere (or whatever cheese you desire), grated,

2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

*1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon from the skillet and let cool. Once bacon is cool enough to touch, crumble into pieces by hand.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it.

In a separate large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere (or desired cheese), Cheddar, bacon, salt (optional), pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Note: if you are using store-bought bread crumbs, skip this step. Otherwise, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the fresh bread crumbs.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

 Notes:

1) I’m lazy and don’t use fresh bread crumbs. I merely use enough of the store-bought kind to cover the top of the mac and cheese and call it good!

2) If you use store bought bread crumbs, you only need 6 tablespoons of butter.

3) I’ve never used the salt. It’s delicious without it!

 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 22.0

Happy Monday everyone! It’s been a long, long time since I participated in this meme…March to be exact. Yikes! Regardless, I’m back this week to share what I’ve been reading lately along with a mini-book review.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Mini Book Reviews:


 

PhD is not enough

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Despite your graduate education, brainpower, and technical prowess, your career in scientific research is far from assured. Permanent positions are scarce, science survival is rarely part of formal graduate training, and a good mentor is hard to find.

In A Ph.D. Is Not Enough!, physicist Peter J. Feibelman lays out a rational path to a fulfilling long-term research career. He offers sound advice on selecting a thesis or postdoctoral adviser; choosing among research jobs in academia, government laboratories, and industry; preparing for an employment interview; and defining a research program. The guidance offered in A Ph.D. Is Not Enough! will help you make your oral presentations more effective, your journal articles more compelling, and your grant proposals more successful.

A classic guide for recent and soon-to-be graduates, A Ph.D. Is Not Enough! remains required reading for anyone on the threshold of a career in science. This new edition includes two new chapters and is revised and updated throughout to reflect how the revolution in electronic communication has transformed the field.

A quick glance at this title could be enough to make a frustrated graduate student want to throw this slim volume in Peter Feibelman’s face. What do you MEAN a Ph.D. isn’t enough?!?!?! But I suggest you resist that impulse, and read on.

Once you get past the eye-catching title, you will quickly realize that Dr. Feibelman, a Senior Scientist at Sandia National Laboratory, has written a clear, concise guide to help you navigate the tricky and sometimes treacherous path from graduate school to the future beyond. He usually conveys his points with both good humor and real-life examples from his years of experience.  I found the “Giving Talks,” “Publishing without Perishing,” “Choosing a Career Path,” and “Job Interviews” chapters especially helpful. Some of the points I sort of already knew intuitively, but it was good to see these reinforced by an expert!

A couple of caveats: 1) This isn’t an exhaustive “how-to” manual. He doesn’t give step-by-step instructions on how to secure your dream job or write a winning grant proposal. The purpose of this book is to make you aware of many crucial steps in the scientific job hunting process, not necessarily to describe exactly how to get there. 2) Most of the advice in this book is geared toward those pursuing careers in academia and/or a National Laboratory in a STEM-related field. This didn’t really bother me, even though I am pursuing an industrial R&D career, but it is something worth pointing out.

Overall, this is a very quick and worthwhile read if you are currently in graduate school, or are considering pursuing a scientific career. 4/5 stars.

Books I recently read:

 my-life-in-middlemarch

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot s “Middlemarch,” regarded by many as the greatest English novel. After gaining admission to Oxford and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage, and family, Mead read and reread “Middlemarch.” The novel, which Virginia Woolf famously described as one of the few English novels written for grown-up people, offered Mead something that modern life and literature did not.

In this wise and revealing work of biography, reportage, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her, as well as the many lives the novel has led since it was written. Employing a structure that deftly mirrors that of the novel, “My Life in Middlemarch” takes the themes of Eliot s masterpiece the complexity of love, the meaning of marriage, the foundations of morality, and the drama of aspiration and failure and brings them into our world. Offering both a fascinating reading of Eliot’s biography and an exploration of the way aspects of Mead’s life uncannily echo that of the author herself, “My Life in Middlemarch” is for every ardent lover of literature who cares about why we read books, and how they read us.

the black prince

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Bradley Pearson, an unsuccessful novelist in his late fifties, has finally left his dull office job as an Inspector of Taxes. Bradley hopes to retire to the country, but predatory friends and relations dash his hopes of a peaceful retirement. He is tormented by his melancholic sister, who has decided to come live with him; his ex-wife, who has infuriating hopes of redeeming the past; her delinquent brother, who wants money and emotional confrontations; and Bradley’s friend and rival, Arnold Baffin, a younger, deplorably more successful author of commercial fiction. The ever-mounting action includes marital cross-purposes, seduction, suicide, abduction, romantic idylls, murder, and due process of law. Bradley tries to escape from it all but fails, leading to a violent climax and a coda that casts shifting perspectives on all that has preceded.

eleanor and park

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough… Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises… Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

This Week I am reading:

the-poisonwood-bible

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.

The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy. Against this backdrop, Orleanna Price reconstructs the story of her evangelist husband’s part in the Western assault on Africa, a tale indelibly darkened by her own losses and unanswerable questions about her own culpability. Also narrating the story, by turns, are her four daughters—the self-centered, teenaged Rachel; shrewd adolescent twins Leah and Adah; and Ruth May, a prescient five-year-old. These sharply observant girls, who arrive in the Congo with racial preconceptions forged in 1950s Georgia, will be marked in surprisingly different ways by their father’s intractable mission, and by Africa itself. Ultimately each must strike her own separate path to salvation. Their passionately intertwined stories become a compelling exploration of moral risk and personal responsibility.

This Week I am listening to:

the rules of civility

Synopsis adapted from Goodreads:

In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937,
watching a quartet because she couldn’t afford to see the whole ensemble,
there were certain things Katey Kontent knew:

the location of every old church in Manhattan
how to sneak into the cinema
how to type eighty words a minute, five thousand an hour, and nine million a year
and that if you can still lose yourself in a Dickens novel then everything is going to be fine.

By the end of the year she’d learned:
how to live like a redhead
and insist upon the very best;
that riches can turn to rags in the trip of a heartbeat,
chance encounters can be fated, and the word ‘yes’ can be a poison.

That’s how quickly New York City comes about, like a weathervane, or the head of a cobra. Time tells which.

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What are you reading this week?

It's Monday

Linking up with Book Journey!

Book Review: Sisterland

sisterland

“We all make mistakes, don’t we? But if you can’t forgive yourself, you’ll always be an exile in your own life.” –Curtis Sittenfeld, Sisterland

Title: Sisterland
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Format: Audiobook
Reader: Rebecca Lowman
Publisher: Books on Tape
Publication Date: June, 25, 2013
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

From an early age, Kate and her identical twin sister, Violet, knew that they were unlike everyone else. Kate and Vi were born with peculiar “senses”–innate psychic abilities concerning future events and other people’s secrets. Though Vi embraced her visions, Kate did her best to hide them.

Now, years later, their different paths have led them both back to their hometown of St. Louis. Vi has pursued an eccentric career as a psychic medium, while Kate, a devoted wife and mother, has settled down in the suburbs to raise her two young children. But when a minor earthquake hits in the middle of the night, the normal life Kate has always wished for begins to shift. After Vi goes on television to share a premonition that a devastating earthquake will soon hit the St. Louis area, Kate is mortified. More troubling, however, is her fear that Vi may be right. As the date of the predicted earthquake quickly approaches, Kate is forced to reconcile her fraught relationship with her sister, and truths about herself she’s long tried to deny.

–From Goodreads

My Thoughts:

In my 20+ years of reading, I have generally run across four types of books: 1) the kind that start out great and keep you hooked all throughout, 2) the slow-starters that make it worth your while in the end, 3) the slow-starters that never live up to their promise (and make you rue the day you ever saw that blasted book cover!), and last but not least 4) the kind that start out amazing (“Oh my goodness this is going to be a 5-star read!”) and let you down so much that you feel bitter every time you think about them. Sadly, Sisterland falls into the last category for me. It was all going so well until it wasn’t…

Initially, I picked up this book because it seemed like it would combine a story about a strong sisterly bond with some sort of mysterious event. I have a sister whom I’m very close to and I like to read books that examine the amazing and complicated web of relations that arise when you have a sister. But even I can admit that the sibling story can be a bit stale after awhile, so why not add in a little mystery? Sounds perfect, right? Right. Well the “mystery” quickly takes a backseat, and the book becomes a character study with little to no plot progression. This would probably turn some readers off, but I actually like a good character-driven story so I kept reading.

The story is told entirely through Kate’s perspective, both in the present and through flashbacks. In the present, Kate is a mother to two young children and wife to Jeremy. She describes (the story is told in first person) the struggles and rewards of motherhood and homemaking while also trying to rein in her less-conventional twin sister Violet (Vi). In the flashbacks, Kate describes her past and especially her relationship with Violet.  Although these flashbacks are a bit lengthy at times, they provide a lot of insight into the current state of Kate and Vi’s relationship. Kate is serious about her responsibilities and wants to “blend-in” while Vi loves to stand out and be spontaneous. These sisters clearly love each other and are always there for one another, but they rarely see eye-to-eye.

Some reviewers have commented that Kate is “boring,” but I disagree with this assessment. I found her to be interesting, sometimes humorous, compassionate, and honest. She felt real, almost as if she was someone I knew in real life. In my opinion, these character-driven sections are the best part of the book. Sittenfeld’s prose is sharp and spot on.

However, during the last 1/3 of the book the “action” begins and things just go from bad to worse. Many of the things that occur in this section of the book are not only implausible, but just completely unbelievable. It was incredibility disappointing to see this story veer from an interesting, character-driven drama to a blase melodrama. Not only is the plot direction Sittenfeld chose way overdone, but in this case it was not even done well. In recent memory, Sisterland is the most disappointing reading experience I can recall.

Admittedly this is probably the harshest review I’ve written yet, which is surprising considering how excited I was about it during the first 2/3 of the book. Seriously, it was a 4-5 star read until “the big event” and all the ridiculousness that followed. I’ve looked through reader comments and it seems nearly everyone agrees with me. I’m not sure I’d recommend this book to anyone. It has its bright moments, but these are overshadowed by a poorly thought-out ending.

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 2/5 stars
  2. What I liked: The strong character-driven sections (basically the first 2/3 of the novel)
  3. What I didn’t like: The ending (*shudders*)
  4. I would recommend this book for: People who enjoy family melodramas

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Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review. All opinions expressed are my own.