Spicy chicken mac ‘n’ cheese

2 chicken thighs
most of a box of macaroni*
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup flour
1 to 1.5 c milk
1 c sharp cheddar cheese
a good bit of Cayenne pepper (maybe 1.5 teaspoons? I didn’t measure.)
a serious bit of paprika (maybe a tablespoon)
salt and pepper
1/2 c panko bread crumbs
a few tablespoons sharp cheddar

Boil the chicken thighs. I might use more chicken next time, but it was clean-out-the-freezer day, and I had two thighs left. Once they’re cooked through and soft, drain and shred them. Boil the macaroni until almost cooked. Drain well. While the pasta’s doing its thing, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour and make a quick roux, just until the mix smells like cooked pie dough. Add the milk, stir well, and let it thicken up a little. Taste it and make sure it’s good n spicy. Turn off the heat and add the cheese, Cayenne, and paprika. Mix it with the drained pasta and shredded chicken and add that glorious slop to a well-oiled baking dish. Toast the panko with a little butter and salt, then sprinkle it on top of the casserole. Add the extra cheese, too. Bake it at 350 for, like, 15 minutes, until the cheese is alllllllll gooey, just how we like it.

I seriously felt like Paula Deen the entire time I was making this. Comfort food to the EXTREEEEEEEME!

*It’s midterms, so you’ll be craving mac n cheese this weekend. Save some for yourself.

Corned-style beef and Colcannon

BEEF:

1 lb beef (get whatever mid-range cut you like; you’ll be marinating this for a while)
5 cups water
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp pickling or corned beef spices*

Mix the marinade together, then add the beef. If you’re doing slices or cubes, marinate it for a few hours. (I think I did 4.) If it’s a big ol’ steak, do it longer, like even overnight. When you’re ready to cook, rinse the beef lightly and sear that puppy over high heat. If it’s a bigger and/or tougher piece of meat, add some beef stock and braise it for a bit. Don’t do this with the marinade because it is too salty, and you’re supposed to be cutting back on your sodium, young lady. At any rate, if you don’t want to serve this just plain seared, this is a recipe where it’s totally okay to cook this for a while, assuming you don’t let it get dry. Serve it with . . .

COLCANNON**:

3 large potatoes
2 cups kale
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup butter, split in two
some milk, if you need it
salt and pepper (unless your pepper shaker breaks in a freak accident, then no black pepper)

Peel and cut up the potatoes. Boil them in salted water until fork tender. While that’s going on, cut the big stalks out of the kale, chop up the green onions and garlic, and process them with half of the SOFT butter in whatever electric chopping implement you have. When your potatoes are done, drain them and return them to the pot. Add the greens and mash them suckers with the rest of the butter. Add salt and pepper, and if you like a more mashed-potato-ey texture, add a little milk or heavy cream. (I’m big into really creamy mashed potatoes, so I did that.) Enjoy all those greens you just hid in potatoes!

So, this is some kind of Irish something or other, maybe. I mainly just wanted meat and potatoes for midterms week. Apparently, real corned beef takes, like, 3 weeks to make, because you’re curing it, and I do not have that kind of time, nor do I trust anything to stay in my fridge for that long. Also, the “corned” part of corned beef refers not to actual corn but to salt kernels. Huh! Chef John, mentioned below, does a better job talking about colcannon, so if you’re curious, check out his website, foodwishes.com.

*I didn’t get real pickling spices because even though I work at a posh spice shop, they don’t make a pickling blend, so I made up my own blend of mustard seeds, allspice, juniper berries, quatre épice, herbes de Provence, pink pepper, and Cayenne. I don’t know the exact ratio, but there was a lot of mustard and quatre épice.\

**It should be noted that the only reason I even know what colcannon is is because of Chef John, who is a culinary freaking genius. I love his show, and you all should watch him. Also, this is kind of mostly the same recipe from him, just sans leeks because my grocery store only sells leeks in big bunches. For real, who needs 5 large leeks at a time? Not me, that’s who.

NON-RECIPE: Hunger Games Nails!

So . . . I picked up “The Hunger Games” trilogy a couple of weeks ago, and I ended up blazing through the last two books in about 3 days. It would have been faster, but I had to do stupid things like prep for midterms and sleep. At any rate, I’m now super-pumped for the movie, so I thought I’d start working out a nail design for opening night. I’m not so good at nail art yet, but I’m getting there! I used a basecoat of Sally Hansen Insta-Dri in lightening, then drew flames in with Sinful Colors’ Black on Black,  Sally Hansen Diamond Strength in Red Velvet, and a gold glitter striper from Milani. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with the results, seeing as how I have never picked up a striper brush before. Here’s my right hand:

Hibiscus Ginger Tea

1 tbsp hibiscus petals (available at your local tea shop!)
1 tsp minced ginger
honey or agave to taste

Put the hibiscus and ginger in a tea infuser, disposable tea bag, cheesecloth, coffee filter, whatever you’ve got that can function as a tea bag. Add about 2c boiling water and let it steep for, like, 10 minutes. Add however much sweetener you like and serve over ice. It feels so good on your sore throat, and it settles your yucky tummy!