Tuesday, December 16, 2014

MindFull Meal for Friends: Creamy Dreamy Spinach and Artichoke Mac N Cheese

Our blog, Essential Living MindFully, is about living mindfully around food, wellness, and life in general.  Part of life is sometimes simply and fully enjoying yourself.  Often that joy comes while dining with friends over good (occasionally decadent) food and stimulating conversation.  Sometimes it comes in the garden or kitchen with the beauty, smell, or taste of something delicious.  The dish we are sharing today encompasses all of that.

Some of the recipes we share here use healthy, fresh foods and sometimes essential oils.  Once in a while, we will share something decadent.  This is one of those dishes, yet it also contains veggies and dairy to keep essential nutrients in reach. 

This Creamy Dreamy Spinach and Artichoke Mac N Cheese is vegetarian, but not vegan.  You can add chicken if you want, but really, it is a complete meal in itself.  Perfect for entertaining, this is quick and easy to prepare, allowing time to set the table or enjoy a cocktail while it bubles away in the oven.  And you get to join your guests at the table without lingering in the kitchen with last minute preparations, leaving plenty of time for dinner conversation.

If you like the artichoke spinach dip found in restaurants,  you will love this dish.   It has a similar flavor without the saltiness of most of them, and it has pasta! 


16 oz. Box of macaroni noodles
6 cups chopped fresh raw spinach
2 small jars artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
4 oz. Cream cheese
8 oz. Shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
6 oz. (6 slices) Smoke gouda cheese
4 oz (4 slices) sharp white cheddar cheese
2 oz swiss cheese (2 slices)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3-6 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbs real butter
2 Tbs flour


Preheat oven to 350

Cook pasta only 2-4 minutes in salty water.  It should still be firm.  Drain and Cool until no longer too hot to touch.

Cheesy Sauce

This is a good time to start the cheese sauce:  melt butter in a large saucepan.   Add garlic, onions and nutmeg until fragrant.   Add flour, stirring until incorporated with the butter (a minute or less).  Stir while adding milk, cheeses and sour cream.  Cook on medium low until everything is melted together.  Stir frequently to keep from sticking or burning.
Fresh Spinach, Canned Artichokes and Lighly cooked Macaroni noodles
Place chopped spinach and chopped artichokes in a large bowl, add macaroni and combine well.  Pour the cheese sauce over the this and combine until all pasta and veggies are coated.

Put into a buttered 9x13 pan, or individual ramekins.  Cook 45 minutes to an hour (less time if you are making individual serving sizes). It should begin browning on top and have an irresistible smell.

Ready to Bake!
Smells Amazing!

Steaming Hot Ready to Eat.

Remove from oven, and scoop from large pan into bowls or onto plates while still steaming.   Add garnish if you wish.
It won't be long before it disappears.

Where Did It All Go?
NOTES:  You may substitute similar good quality cheeses for some of those listed here.  If you want a saltier flavor, you can add more parmesan.   You can also add more spinach or artichokes if you see fit.  If you use frozen spinach, drain it well.  Frozen artichokes will also work.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Spring Blooms, Bugs and Oil Blends

It's spring! The flowers are blooming, and the insects are beginning to wake up. We are nurturing pollinators this spring by letting our dandelions do their thing. What are you doing to nurture your environment this spring? I read in a magazine last year that if you want to attract pollinators and your blooms are a bit late, put a drop of wintergreen essential oil here and there near the plants you want them to work on soon. As the insects wake up, it's also time to pull out the Terra Shield oil blend to help repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. When i experimented with the killer mosquitoes last year, the arm i sprayed with Terra Shield and water had about half the number of mosquito bites than my untreated arm. Then, I put lavender and fresh aloe or Balance Oil Blend to help with the itch. Peppermint oil placed into mole holes is supposed to repel moles. They supposedly don't like the smell. I tried that last year, too, but our two terriers took care of them first. The amazingly intricate trenches and craters are evidence of this. We may have to buy dirt this year to fix the yard. It reminds me of the old kid's rhyme that starts, "there was an old lady who swallowed a fly..." I think our rhyme would end something like, "there were two old ladies who brought home some dogs to catch the moles that dug the holes that housed the grubs that grew to beetles that ate the grapes that would have been juice that the old ladies hoped to swallow, I don't know why the craters were dug, I guess they'll fill with rain and become bogs." Another good springtime use for peppermint oil is as you throw open your windows to get ready to add new color to your walls, add a couple drops to your gallon of paint to help reduce the odor. And, before you paint, Lemon oil, Purify blend or Citrus Bliss added to your vinegar, castille soap and water cleaning solution adds a bright, uplifting scent to your home. And, if a friend's dog happily happens to pee in your shoes, use some Purify Oil Blend and vinegar and castille soap to scrub them well. We did that, and our shoes smelled great! Thanks, Jake for peeing on our shoes, they are clean and fresh now! (The tennis shoes went into the washing machine with our homemade laundry soap and Purify Blend, but Deb's leather dockers just got a good scrubbing inside and out. How do you use essential oils in the spring?