Category Archives: guest posts

Mary Catherine’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Mary Catherine, though she doesn’t blog regularly, seems to be taking over my blog with all of her great articles. A few weeks ago she shared her do-it-yourself guide to Weight Watchers, and today I’m sharing her best macaroni and cheese recipe, according to her husband.

The original recipe for this was Alton Brown’s baked macaroni and cheese, but I changed it quite a bit because of our food preferences and what we had on hand.  I don’t like buying spices that I will only use in one recipe.

What you will need:

1 lb. box of rotini pasta (we just like rotini better, even though I know it’s not traditional macaroni)
6 slices of bacon
2 cups frozen peas (I usually just estimate by about half of small bag)
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups milk
1 tbsp. dried mustard powder (I did buy this specifically for this recipe, but it’s worth it)
hot sauce (I usually add just a little for some extra flavor)
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups shredded cheese + a little extra for the topping (we use mild cheddar)
1 cup breadcrumbs tossed with a little bit of melted butter (how much you need will depend on how thick you like your crust and the dimensions of your pan; we use the Pepperidge Farm herb flavored kind; I would highly recommend them)

What you will do:

Cut the bacon into small squares and cook over medium high heat until brown and crispy.
Remove bacon from the pan and drain the fat.  There is no need to wash this pan or use another one.  Fewer pans, fewer dishes.

Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat.

Once the butter is melted, slowly add the 3 tablespoons of flour.  You may not use all 3, or you may need more.  If you’ve never made a roux before, it can be frustrating the first time.  You’re basically cooking the flour.  Once you have the butter/flour combined, keep it moving until it’s cooked to a dark yellow/blond color.  It will start to smell a little nutty.

Now is probably a good time to start the water for your pasta and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the roux is at the right color, slowly add the 3 cups of milk.  Keep it moving.  Using a whisk here really helps to break up the roux and incorporate it into the milk.  Room temperature milk works best, because if you add milk that is too cold too fast the roux will seize up into one giant clump. Even if this happens, it’s OK.  Just strain it out, dump it, and continue to make the sauce.  The difference is just in the thickness of the finished product.

Keep stirring the milk/roux regularly and let it heat over medium low temperature.  Add salt, pepper, mustard powder and hot sauce at this point.

Once the milk has warmed and thickened (usually about 10-15 minutes), add the shredded cheese.  Stir it in until it’s mostly melted.

Now add the cheese sauce to the cooked, drained pasta and mix it all together.  Throw in the bacon and frozen peas (no need to thaw them out before this point; they will cook in the oven) and combine.

Pour the entire mixture into your casserole.  On top, add a small layer of shredded cheese.  Then sprinkle the butter-coated bread crumbs on top of the cheese.

Stick it in your oven and let it go.  Cook time will depend on the dimensions of your casserole.  Ours is really tall/narrow, so it takes a little bit longer to cook than if you were using a shallow dish.  I think I usually cook mine anywhere between 20 and 30 minutes.  I just check it after 20 minutes and pull it out when it’s golden brown and bubbly.

We just eat this by itself.  It also reheats really well for lunch the next day.

Thanks, Mary Catherine! Christian and I thought we had found the most delicious mac-and-cheese recipe, but we might have to try yours before we say that for sure.


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Filed under guest posts, in the kitchen

A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Weight Watchers

I met Mary Catherine through my boyfriend, Christian. She has been a faithful reader of my blog, and a couple weeks ago she left a comment about Weight Watchers and how she was doing it on her own. I was interested in what she had found, so she was kind enough to send me her thoughts, including all of the websites she found. I’ve turned her information into a question-and-answer post. I’ll include my thoughts at the bottom of this post.

What drew you to Weight Watchers?
The main reason I chose something like this was to help me better understand and control my portions.  Basically, I know how to eat healthy and lose weight (I’ve done it before), but I’ve just gotten lazy in the past few years (having a husband with a REALLY ridiculously high metabolic rate who can eat anything will do that) and gained much of the weight back.  I’m on the slow road to getting healthy again, primarily for the benefit of my husband and our future children.  I need something like this to help in the area of self-discipline.

I’ve found everything through online searches and have gotten a little bit of input from my mom and some friends who are in the program.

What is Weight Watchers?
The basic premise of WW is that each person is allotted a certain number of ‘points’ per day depending a variety of factors (age, weight, activity level, etc.)

How many points should I eat in a day?
Here is a link to a calculator that helps you determine how many points you will need in a day:

I would recommend trying out this number of points for a week to see how it goes and then adjust as necessary, but I wouldn’t go more than one or two points above or below that number.  You may find that you are not actually losing weight or are really unbearably hungry even while eating the right foods and drinking enough water.  In addition to these daily points, each person is allowed 35 flex points for the week.  On certain weeks, I save them up for the weekend when the husband and I are more likely to go out or eat junk food.  Some weeks I need all the points I can get during each day. You can use them (or not use them) anyway you want.

How do I know how many points a certain food is worth?
WW points are determined by 3 nutritional factors: calories, fat, and fiber.  Basically, every 50 calories is a point, every 12 grams of fat is a point, and every 5 grams of fiber takes away a point.  Fiber is good in WW.  For packaged foods I can use the nutritional labels to find this information; otherwise I use to calculate.  Just make sure that you take note of the portion amount that you consume.

Here is a nice online calculator for determining point value:

I don’t know how many calories, how much fiber or how much fat is in a certain food. How can I find out?
Here are a few other helpful links.  The first is a website with quite a few generic food items, along with portion and point value.  It’s usually fairly accurate, though I sometimes I double check with and the calculator just to make sure.  The second is a great resource for restaurant eating.  There’s really no way to know exactly how accurate this is, so I pretty much just go with what it says.

I exercise a lot. How do I factor that in?
Basically, you earn points for physical activity.  I’m not really sure how to measure intensity, but I am usually fairly conservative in my estimations. The online point value calculator I mentioned before also has an activity calculator.

How do I keep up with points?
Obviously, you can just keep a journal with a running tally down the side, but I found this blog with a great spreadsheet file that I’ve adapted for my own personal use. On the left side, I keep my prayer list and keep up with what I’ve read that week. Basically, this just helps me to keep my focus on God’s grace and His desires for me to care for my body, and less on my own will and vain desires.

I was going to wait until the beginning of November to start Mary Catherine’s on-your-own Weight Watchers plan, but I decided that was just an excuse to procrastinate about it. Each Friday, along with my fitness diary, I’ll post my Weight Watchers points for each day of the week. I’m hoping that will keep me accountable!

If you have any questions for Mary Catherine, you can leave a comment on this post or e-mail me and I can get you in touch with her.

Have you used Weight Watchers? Was it a success? How do you think it would work to do it on your own?


Filed under guest posts, weight watchers