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JessNotJazz.com Is SO Live

I’m sorry, were you looking for my new entry about the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure, Winston-Salem’s largest single day racing event?

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Well, buddy, you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m a self-hoster now.

Good-bye, wordpress.com. It’s been so fun. But I’m a big girl blogger now- it’s time for me to become besties with wordpress.org.

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The Case of All Jessamyn’s Missing Stuff- The Unwritten Encyclopedia Brown Book

I wish I knew Encyclopedia Brown. Or Nancy Drew. Does anyone have Veronica Mars’ cell phone number?

Remember when last Friday was so awesome? Remember when I was like “THIS IS THE BEST DAY EVER I LOVE MY LIFE RAHRAHRAH”?

Well, the tide has finally turned.

But let’s get real. It could be a lot worse. This situation could be SO much worse.

However, that doesn’t make having your wallet, drivers license, social security card, student id, and debit credit card stolen any easier to swallow. Or any easier to replace.

Oh, but that’s not all.

Apparently they needed to steal MY CAMERA as well.

Ironically, my camera’s been stolen right after I blogged about my desire for a new camera. But that’s kind of not the point right now- don’t cha think?

Anyway, at least I photographed my new favorite thing of the week before the great theft of 2011.

Oh, wait, that’s right- I DIDN’T.

Oh well. I’m going to go bask in a glow of self-deprecation and self-loathing. If you need me, I’ll be at the DMV. Waiting in line. Forever.

This entry is such a downer. On the very bright side, I’m seeing Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zanes Dance tonight in Greensboro (!!!!!). AND I have my first race of the season tomorrow morning. So everything will start coming up roses in the near future. But in the short term, my cheery smile will be a little lopsided.

Oh, and Riverrun Film Festival starts today! If you’re in the area, go out and support the triad film community.

On an unrelated note, if you see anyone walking around the triad with a clutch handbag made of recycled cheetos bags, feel free to submit them in for interrogation in the case of ALL MY MISSING STUFF.

Have a great weekend, y’all. Smile

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A Day At The Grocery Store and Why I’m in Love With Trader Joe’s

Some people get excited because of mini-vacations. Some people get excited because of fancy dinners. Both of those things make me squeal with glee. But few things in this world make me quite as excited as inexpensive and organic grocery shopping. Therefore, a trip here…

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…is essentially the equivalent of a Jessamyn Religious odyssey. You guys know I love the grocery offerings here in the Dash (I’ve specifically talked about my love of Whole Foods and Washington Perk more than once), but Trader Joe’s might be my absolute favorite grocery store. First of all, here are the things they DON’T do (ever):

  • NO artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
  • NO genetically modified ingredients
  • NO MSG
  • NO added Trans Fats

You know what that means? You can always recognize every ingredient in EVERY product. Do you know how remarkable that is in an ENTIRE grocery store? Also, TJ has an incredible ethics policy, which filters from the corporate office into every single employee. I swear, I’ve never encountered a store with such consistently nice employees. They are always smiling, making conversation, and generally creating an unbelievably pleasant shopping environment. Oh, and did I mention that every thing is actually priced reasonably?

Of course, if you’re from North Carolina then you’re probably well aware of the fact that there is not a Trader Joe’s in the triad area.Sad smile I am intensely jealous of every blogger who shamelessly talks about their weekly Trader Joe’s grocery expedition at their neighborhood TJ. Unfortunately, triad residents who need a Trader Joe’s fix are forced to travel to either Charlotte or the Research Triangle Park (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Thrill)- this is a 1 1/2- 2 hour drive one way. Therefore, I can only afford to make the 3-4 hour round trip every once and awhile.

Today was one of those lucky days. Smile

Of course, I set out on my journey under the pretense of picking up a few specific items. Unfortunately, I had a very unlucky streak with a couple of my ‘definitely-need-to-get’ items:

Peanut Flour (DISCONTINUED- BOO HISS)

-Soba Noodles (Missing in action)

However, on the bright side, I did make some very exciting purchases- some typical purchases, and some new items. Since I went grocery shopping a couple of days ago, I didn’t need to get most staples. Also, because of a very exciting recent experiment in my fruits and veggies purchasing habits (which will be disclosed by the end of this coming week), I didn’t buy as much produce as I would usually. However, here’s a peek at what made the trip home from Charlotte:

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MorningStar Farms Vegan Burgers and Sausage Patties, EVOO, Corn Flakes, and (my first impulse buy) Chinese Pork Buns. When I was in NYC, I fell in love with Chinese dim sum, and pork buns are my absolute fave- the nutritional info on these is not so bad, and they were only $2.99.

 

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Gorgonzola Multi-grain crackers, Ezekiel Bread, Organic Polenta, 2 blocks of organic tempeh, and Thai-style rice noodles. Oh, and the weird brown lump is whole-wheat pizza dough– only $0.99, y’all! Guess who’s having calzones soon? Smile

 

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Orzo, Yucca chips, Whole-Wheat rotini, Raspberry Greek yogurt, Goat cheese medallions, and Greek Feta Dressing (so delicious).

 

 

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Whole-Wheat couscous, Frozen steel cut oats (pre-topped with cinnamon and brown sugar), cauliflower, and (a lot of ) organic bananas. I eat a lot of bananas- at least one per day. Therefore, I bought some fairly ripe bananas, and some greenies- that way, the greenies will be ready to eat by the time I finish the first batch.

 

I’m still on a bit of a grocery shopping high. It probably doesn’t hurt that I just finished a really empowering run on the treadmill. I’m so amped that I can barely think of what to eat for dinner- oh wait, that’s right- my name’s Jessamyn. Surely I figure it out. Smile

Have a great weekend, y’all!

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Jessamyn’s Six Tips for Jealousy Inducing Skin

Like I mentioned in my Stages of Beauty Product Review, I am frequently complimented because of my (allegedly) smooth skin. In my eyes, my skin is not very smooth. But nevertheless, everyone seems to think I was born with really great skin.

Unfortunately for me, I was not- I come from a long line of women (and men) who have suffered at the hands of the environment, time, and other external influences with the result being that their skin does not look like a baby’s backside.

Because of traumatizing experiences during my adolescence, I have developed an irrational paranoia about my skin. Though this  paranoia manifests in some rather unorthodox and (probably) unnecessary habits, there are a few habits which I think are absolutely necessary for an individual to have and maintain clear and smooth skin.

Some of these steps may seem obvious, and some of them will remind you of reading teen magazines in middle school, but trust me: when combined, these six tips are absolutely fool proof.

water glass1. Water is Your Friend: I’m not saying other beverages are illegal or satanic. Ok, maybe I will say that from time to time (I’m liberal and I’m loud- so sue me). But no matter what other liquids you enjoy, you can’t expect to have fresh and vibrant skin without drinking a lot of water. That whole 8-8oz glass equation? Yeah, that’s real life. You need to do it- it will also help control rampant midday hunger pains. I’m sure you’re probably wondering how you can manage to fit that much liquid into your diet. It’s simple- invest in a 32 oz water bottle, fill it up at the start of the day, and aim to drink the whole thing by lunch. Then, after/during lunch, re-fill your bottle and sip the contents through the rest of the day. See? Boom goes the dynamite- you’ve just ingested 64 oz of nature’s kool-aid. But whatever you do, DON’T buy disposable water bottles. They are, in the words of The Office’s ever-wise Gabe Lewis, the “scurge of the earth”. It really is worth it to buy a reusable bottle- they are very affordable nowadays, and they are super handy. Inexplicably, I’ve managed to acquire a mini-collection of nalgene bottles. But if you don’t have time to gradually accumulate products, check out this nalgene model.

smoking and drinking2. Put Down That Cancer Stick and Cork Up Your Wine- Ok, I’m not an idiot and I was born in America’s tobacco capital: I am well aware of the prevalence of smoking among young adults, ESPECIALLY those living in the Old North State. Because no matter what your parents or DARE coach said, smoking does have a certain ‘cool’ cache. Especially when you’re young and hanging out in seedy yet bad ass locales. Same goes for alcoholic goodies- if they didn’t look cool and weren’t fun, most adults wouldn’t imbibe so frequently. But here’s the thing- if you overindulge in both of these common vices, you can kiss clear skin good-bye. Because as much as you don’t want to admit it, smoking and drinking will shoot your skin straight to hell (not to mention the rest of your body). I’m not here to be the hypocritical morality police- god knows I’ve got enough vices and bad behavior to make a school girl blush. But I have seen too many beautiful girls smoking like chimneys to not make an internet plea. Even if you don’t care about your vocal cords (or your liver…or your gums…or every other precious internal organ), think about your cheekbones. And your teeth. And your bone structure. And your eyelids. Think about how all of those lovely features are going to be riddled with stains, blots, lines, and other disfigurements. And it won’t have anything to do with age. You’ll be a 35 year-old with the face of a 45-50 year-old. And there’s no skin care regiment to fix that sort of damage. So do yourself a favor, and lay off the unnecessary (and premature) damage.

fruits and veggies3. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies- Popeye had the right idea. So did whoever said ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Increased intake of fruits and vegetables (especially a wide array of colors and types) has a profoundly positive impact on skin.  By integrating a wide variety and LARGE quantity of fruits and vegetables into your diet, you will see noticeable results within a week or two. Honestly, when I think my skin looks especially bright and ‘glowy’. It’s usually because I’m stuffed full of a veritable cornucopia of vegetation. However, this is another area where people can’t seem to figure out how to reinvigorate their diets. There are dozens of ways to do it, but here are three of my favorite ways:

  1. When you leave home in the morning, toss three different fruits in your bag. That way, when you get the midday munchies, you have a healthy and skin brightening snack on hand. I eat a lot of oranges, apples, and bananas, mostly because they are wicked portable. But don’t be afraid to slice fruit on the go, or pair your fruit with a tablespoon of your favorite nut butter (I’m partial to almond butter).
  2. Green Monsters are the way of the future. The vitamin intake you can get from one green smoothie will blow your mind, and you can fit a day’s worth of fruits/veggies into one beverage. Plus, they taste freaking delicious and are really versatile. You can throw together  a green monster with whatever fruits and veggies you have on hand. I’ve actually already written about this topic- check out my tribute to Jack Lalanne’s Power Juicer and the magic of the green monster.
  3. Make a point to add extra vegetables into your evening meal. Start small: spinach topped with special seasonings. Try adding an array of chopped bell peppers to your pasta, or just try out a new-to-you vegetable. Better yet, find a fun recipe for your least favorite childhood vegetables- braised Brussels sprouts, perhaps? Cauliflower topped with earth balance and old bay seasoning? Make your childhood nightmare into your new favorite side dish.

yes to carrots eye makeup remover4.  Remove Makeup Before Bed- I know, it sucks. You’ve been out having the time of your life, you watch the sun rise with your best buds, you stumble home at 7am and you’re ready to fall face first into Egyptian cotton and down feathers. However, before you can go into a vampire coma, you have to….REMOVE YOUR MAKEUP AND WASH YOUR FACE?! SAY WHAT?! But, um…yeah. You do. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my female family members, leftover makeup+your skin+bed friction does not equal happy fun times. It equals mascara tears, perma-lipsticked lips, and (the worst part) facial bumps that make your face look like the exterior of  a black truffle. And let me tell you something about truffles- fun to eat, NOT FUN TO LOOK LIKE. Do yourself a favor, take 15 minutes before bed, and give your face a good wipe down. I use two different makeup removers: Boots Sensitive Eye Makeup Remover and Yes to Carrots Eye and Face Makeup Remover. I like them both for different reasons, and I use them interchangeably. It’s really important to use a remover that’s not harsh on your skin (say no to toner– as a makeup remover, that is), and make sure to wash your face afterward. Both of these products can be found really easily- you can buy them both at Target and Boots only costs about $5-6.

neutrogena sunblock5. Wear Sunblock- For the love of god almighty,put on some freaking sunscreen. I don’t care if you’re ebony, ivory, or somewhere in the middle. Wear it. Even when it’s not sunny. Because here’s a fact of the universe- just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not beating the crap out of your skin. The sun is obviously really awesome- who doesn’t love vitamin D? I certainly do. But unless you want a side of skin cancer with your breakfast, you’d better lather up before you head out. Even in the winter. This is not just for girls– year-round sunblock application needs to be a genderfree rule. However, if you plan on wearing makeup (or don’t like blotting sunblock grease from your forehead), buy a dry-touch sunscreen. I really like Neutrogena’s sheer dry-touch product– but I’m cheap and it’s expensive. Therefore, I buy the Walgreens knock off– in my opinion, it’s just as good as the real thing. And it’s both oil-free and water resistant- very important traits.

vaseline brand lotion6. Use Separate Face and Body Lotions- Surprisingly, skin on your face is not like skin on your feet. Or your butt. Or your back. Due to evolution, it does different things, is exposed to different elements, and needs to be taken care of differently. Because my skin is so dry, I refuse to use body lotions that are not SUPER thick and creamy. I have a test- if I pump some lotion into my hand, overturn my hand, and the cream slides to the ground, I know not to use that product. I only use body creams that are thick enough to literally defy gravity. However, my face doesn’t need quite such a thick formula. I prefer to use a much lighter face cream, and I can definitely tell the difference. Don’t just buy one lotion and think you’re perfectly ok- invest in your lotion options, and I guarantee you’ll see a difference.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t talk specifically about face wash. After spending the last decade trying out different products with mixed results (some good, a few bad, and some REALLY F****** ugly), I’ve decided that the best face washes vary from person to person. For example, I usually swear against scented products on my face- but I use Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit Face Wash on the daily and I think it gives me the best results I’ve ever had.

neutrogena face wash

My only real advice is to do research on your skin type, and try out different products. If you can afford to do so, talk to an esthetician and get their advice. But if you rely on the internet and your own wit, trial and error is the best response.

ALSO, how’s this for exciting: Stages of Beauty wants to make sure their products are accessible to all ladies (regardless of financial means). Therefore, to help out, their offering all Jessamyn Not Jasmine readers a 20% discount on all online Stages of Beauty purchases made from until 12/31/2011. Just enter my name (JESSAMYN) in the promo code box during check-out. Smile

Basically, the key top having skin that makes everyone jealous is to take care of yourself. Treat your body like a temple, inside and out. And all of these tips (especially the dietary habits) will result in a stronger and healthier total physical package.

What are your skin-care rituals?

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Beach Babies and Little Bites

Thank god for Spring Break. Seriously. If I stayed in Cancer City a moment longer, I am absolutely certain my head would have exploded.

Ok, so maybe I’m being a little overdramatic. But probably not. Smile

Anyway, rest and relaxation is definitely what the doctor ordered. As I write, I’m staring out at the beautiful Carolina coastline. Maybe I’m biased, but I honestly think there are fewer things that are quite as beautiful as my state’s coast.

Anyway, I’m also creepily watching my fellow vacation adventurers sleep in our charming oceanfront motel room. Actually, while I’m the subject of our digs, can I just shout out to the Silver Gull Motel? I know, you’re probably trying to figure out why I’m singing the praises of a motor hotel which clearly had its glory days before I was even a gleam in my father’s eye. Well, clean rooms, good service, and good location are timeless. And this joint has those characteristics in spades. If you ever take a jaunt down to Wrightsville Beach, check this place out- it’s right next to the pier, and it’s literally right on the beach. Also, it was in the Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood. So, you know, it should be included in your Wilmington Hollywood tour. Along with the Dawson’s Creek set.

Anyway, since I’m on a vacation from the realities of my life, this entry is really just a recap of all the things that happened pre-beach that I meant to write about it. I think they shall be deemed little bites. Sit back, relax, and let the little bites roll.

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This little bite is quite ironic given my current beachfront locale. Basically, last week I was checking in on Gina (the Fitnessita) and her shrimp adventures, and I was nearly overcome by a seafood craving. However, in case you’ve misinterpreted everything there is to know about Jessamyn, I’m not made of money. Some people might think this lack of constant funds would put a damper on seafood dinners. Not for this girl! If you’re cooking for one, buying seafood can be wicked cheap. After class, I skipped over to Whole Foods and picked up 1/4 pound of squid rings and 2 shrimp skewers. The skewers were $1.49/each, and 1/4 pound of squid rings was only $1.82. Yeah, that’s right- I ate a delicious seafood dinner for less than $5. I grilled up my seafood medley and ate it in an “everything but the kitchen sink” style stirfry. I’d have photographed it, but I was too busy being a greedy girl and eating faster than I’ve ever eaten in my life.

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Last week, Kate and I had a delicious Mardi Gras dinner at a Winston restaurant that may not be new, but is quite new to us. It’s called Hutch and Harris. Even though I spent most of last week shouting about my need for jambalaya, I ended up not ordering it- I was too entranced by the cannellini bean burger. I had it with a side of whipped cauliflower. First of all, THAT CAULIFLOWER- oh my god, THAT CAULIFLOWER. I’ve been a convert to the Church of Cauliflower for a number of years, but Hutch and Harris’ whipped cauliflower is enough to turn any non-believing 10 year old into the firmest of believers. Seriously, they were so buttery, soft yet firm, and perfectly seasoned- I’m swooning just from the memory.

However, while I absolutely loved the cauliflower, the cannellini burger left quite a lot to my imagination. I mean, it was good. It was quite good. But I could have made it at home. The seasoning was- lackluster. The texture was awesome. It was served with a chevre and red pepper coulis. I loved that juxtaposition of flavors, but the burger itself was WAY underseasoned. I would definitely go back to Hutch and Harris, but I might not get the bean burger again.

I know you’re itching for more little bites, but my comrades have finally risen from the depths of sleep, and it’s time to get back to appreciating this:

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Have a lovely spring break, y’all. Smile

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The Bathing Suit Blues: A Word On Weight-Loss

(TRIGGER WARNING: There’s a lot of FAT talk in this entry. If you are not comfortable reading about bad self-esteem and weight-loss, please don’t read any further.)

(STOP: By reading below this disclaimer, you are allowing yourself to read a stream of conscious and potentially nonsensical rant. You were warned.)

I’m sure some of you have noticed that I don’t spend a lot of time talking about my weight-loss journey on this blog. This is unusual for a healthy living blogger- typically, if one is aiming to lose weight and they blog, progress photos and pound for pound weight-loss entries are the norm. I respect those who choose this method of chronicling. I admire it. But that’s not the point of my journey.

Yes, I’m on Weight Watchers. I must admit, I am a true convert to the Weight Watchers philosophies- I have definitely consumed my fair share of the Weight Watchers kool-aid. Since starting up again, I’ve steadily lost weight every week. In fact, this week I lost nearly 3 pounds.

I don’t want my weight to start dictating my progress. In the words of the great French philosophers Daft Punk, I want to be Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger. Being Harder, Better, Faster, and Stronger does not always mean being thinner. Yes, I want to lose weight so I can move faster. So I can run better. So I will be stronger than I’ve ever thought I could be.

But I like my body. I think I’m hot. I think (nay, KNOW) other people think I’m hot. Yes, I have days where I can’t reach this conclusion (just like any other person in the world). But I’m afraid of the media. I’m afraid of models. I’m afraid of what they do to the minds of everyday people who look beautiful just the way are.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well, it’s finally spring break and I’m absolutely thrilled to be away from school for a few days. I have the opportunity to head to the beach for a short vacation, and I’m now contemplating the idea of wearing my bathing suit.

I don’t have a problem wearing a bathing suit. I’ll wear it all day long. The trouble is, I haven’t purchased a new bathing suit in over five years. This may seem especially odd for a girl who loves shopping and practically lives in Forever 21. My old bathing suits are too large- I grew out of them quite some time ago. They are stretched out, and in desperate need of a trade-in. So why haven’t I bought a new suit?

Because of this:

black polka dot monokini

This may just look like a scant piece of nylon to you, but this swimsuit has become my kryptonite.

You see, when I began my first Weight Watchers journey, I told myself I would be wearing a swimsuit similar to this one once I was within 20 pounds of my goal weight. I had extraordinary willpower. I could do it. I made the swimsuit photo my desktop background, I pasted it on my door, and I prepared my body for the time when it would be “ready” to wear this suit. And in the mean time, I refused to buy a new swimsuit. Why buy a bathing suit I’d be too small to wear by the end of my journey? This was my dream suit. And I was going to wear my dream bathing suit.

Since that initial proclamation (a little over two years ago), my vision of the world has shifted. My understanding of the concept of Fat has morphed dramatically from where it was at the beginning of 2009. I’ve shifted my goals to non-scale victories only, achievable through physical perseverance and mental training. However, somehow my vision of myself and the bathing suit has not changed at all. For all my self-confidence, I still feel too Fat to wear this bathing suit. To be honest, I don’t know what amount of shame is more mortifying- my shame over actually feeling too Fat, or the shame I imagine I will feel upon donning this suit before reaching my goal?

Recently, this conundrum was put in even sharper focus. I have been lucky enough to begin a friendship with someone whose weight-loss journey is unbelievably inspirational to me. This person has battled the odds of losing weight while in college- she has achieved an astounding weight-loss (through weight watchers) in a fairly short period of time. Her current weight is significantly less than my goal weight, and I think she looks wonderful (for the record, she looked fly as hell BEFORE she lost weight, but that’ s neither here nor there Smile). Basically, this person is my personal weight-loss hero.

However, she is still ten pounds heavier than her goal weight. And, in her mind, those ten pounds make all the difference. Recently, we discussed how those ten pounds have kept her from purchasing a bikini. Yes, she’s always wanted to wear one. But she’s felt that a bikini was out of her reach until she reaches her goal weight. Do you know what I did when she told me about her internal struggle?

I judged her.

I judged her because she didn’t have the ‘wear anything, do anything’ resolve I’ve acquired. I rolled my eyes at her body issues.

I am such a hypocrite. Here I am, rolling my eyes at her body issues because of my own fat positivity, and I can’t bring myself to buy a new ONE PIECE BATHING SUIT.

I’d love to say that I had an epiphany at that moment. I’d love to say that I immediately went out in search of a polka dot monokini to wear at my first swimming opportunity.

I didn’t. Even at this moment as I live, breathe, and type, I can not convince myself to wear this swimsuit. It’s not all about weight- part of me just wants to complete my goal and reward myself properly. But there’s a substantial part of me that’s embarrassed to wear this bathing suit at my current weight.

To be honest, I’m actually overcome by my self-disappointment. I don’t have a resolution to this problem, but I think it helps to actually admit that I’m not as bulletproof as I may appear. In spite of my best efforts, I must show solidarity with every person who fears a certain clothing item- whether its jeans, bras, or any other dreaded piece of cloth.

For every fat girl who rocks a bikini regardless of society norms, I applaud you. YOU are my superhero. But as much as I want to be, I’m not there yet.

And as much as I hate to admit it, even confident, fat-positive girls get the bathing suit blues.

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Jessamyn’s Macaroni and Cheese Super Bowl- Day One

As I’ve mentioned before, macaroni and cheese is my absolute favorite food (next to rice). I could eat it all day, every day. It’s the first thing I look for on restaurant menus, and I find absolutely random excuses to make large quantities of it, usually under the ruse of feeding others.

(By the way, did you know Merriam-Webster defines ruse as a wily subterfuge’? Isn’t that the most fabulous thing you’ve ever heard?)

(Ok, I apologize for that foray into the geek kingdom. Actually, I don’t apologize. I’m a nerd who enjoys clever word combinations. Deal with it.)

ANYWAY, though I love macaroni and cheese, I can’t pretend as though it’s healthy. A one cup serving of regular macaroni and cheese is 10 wwpoints+. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if I could stop myself at one cup- but, really, when faced with a giant dish of hot, cheesy goodness, how can ANYONE stop at one serving?

Over the years I’ve developed a number of recipes which fulfill my desire for macaroni and cheese- my favorites including cauliflower and cheese, and a number of Weight Watchers friendly recipes. However, I’ve never done a direct comparison of my new concoctions against the macaroni and cheese which sits on the pedestal of my childhood.

Therefore, in honor of Ayyam-i-ha (which ended yesterday), I decided it was time for me to do a formal taste test. Therefore, I’m pitting my mother’s world-famous recipe (well, it’s not world famous yet but TRUST ME: it will be) against my own spin on a vegan mac and cheez, and a Weight Watchers friendly recipe.

Let’s start with my mama’s recipe, shall we?

Like most traditional Southern families, my mother learned to cook at the knee of her grandmothers. So really, I have my grandmothers to thank for this delicious recipe. Also, my family has  a bad habit of not writing down its recipes- we’re verbal people, you know? Therefore, some of the measurements are my estimations of what has commonly been known as “just toss in a pinch” and (my personal favorite) “just keep stirring until it looks right”. However, these measurements will produce a very rich and cheesy mac and cheese which might put you in a food coma- it might also CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

Tangela Stanley’s Life Changing Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

8 oz small curved pasta

I’m being as vague as possible on purpose- while macaroni is the obvious choice, there are plenty of other curvy pastas which will work just as well, if not better. I’m especially partial to gemelli and pipe rigate.

8 oz Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Not Medium: SHARP

2 tbsp Butter

1 tbsp Flour

2 cups Milk

1 large egg

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray.

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2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

3. In a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Lower the heat, and stir in the milk. Simmer for five minutes until slightly thickened.

Ok, this is one of the steps that gets lost in translation. Making a ‘roux’ is necessary for most creamy sauces and can be difficult to manage all the . I’ve watched my mom do it for years- here’s her method:

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First melt the butter. Second: Quickly whisk in the flour. Third: Quickly whisk in the milk, removing all flour lumps.

4. Temper In The Egg.

Here comes the “secret” to perfect Stanley Family macaroni and cheese. Adding an egg to the cheese sauce binds the noodles and cheese beautifully. However, if you just dump a raw egg into hot cream, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs and cheese. I don’t think that’s what you want. Before adding the egg to the sauce, you must first bring it up the same temperature of the sauce. Here’s how to properly temper an egg:

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First, crack the egg in a small bowl. Second, while whisking the egg rapidly, slowly add spoonfuls of the hot cream to the egg. Once the egg is up to temperature, slowly whisk it in to the pot of sauce.

5. Once the sauce has thickened and passed the ‘spoon test’, remove from heat.  Stir in the cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste.

The spoon test is something I learned from Alton Brown, master of all things culinary:

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Dip the back of a spoon in the thickened cream. If you can run your finger across the coated spoon and create a trail through which liquid can’t pass, the sauce passes the spoon test.

On the subject of cheese, I ended up buying a block of cheese and shredding it by hand. Pre-shredded cheese is perfectly fine.

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Ok, this is really just an excuse to sing the praises of my cheese grater. I got it at ikea: it’s basically a set of two plastic bowls with two different attachments- one for roughly grating cheese (seen above- used primarily for grating soft cheeses) and one for finely grating cheese (used primarily for hard cheeses- parmesan, romano, etc). They also come with matching lids so you can store cheese that’s not used. The set of two graters only cost $4.99- this is an example of an ikea purchase I LOVE- unlike my old food scale, which is an unfortunate example of the darker side of ikea.

6. Place drained pasta in casserole dish. Pour cheese mixture over pasta and stir gently to distribute cheese evenly.

7. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.

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Decadent Cheesy Goodness Smile

A Note on Breadcrumb Toppings: Yeah, I don’t do that. Ever. At all. It’s a JessNotJazz policy. I will not judge those who choose otherwise, but you will never catch me dousing perfectly good macaroni with a dust ruffle of breadcrumbs.

Coming Soon In The Macaroni and Cheese Bowl: Adventures in ‘Vegan-izing’”-Macaroni and Cheese edition.

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