They say when it rains, it pours.

Much has happened since my last post, including a shiny new job and a much delayed return of my band, Waiting for Jerry to the stage. Read below for a slightly more detailed explanation of things which have come and gone, but first, I must tell you that Mac and Cheese will inevitably be the bandaid for all pain and frustration in this world. Especially when you add crimini mushrooms and an assortment of herbs.

Look! Look!

See what I mean?

Oh, right. Shiny object. Back to the point:

It seems like so many people in my life are redirecting their focus and making huge changes in their lives. Going back to school, playing music again, creating, writing, having more babies, moving, shifting jobs…change!

Though I miss being slightly more social, I’m happy that so many creative people around me are being incredibly inspiring. It’s almost like a light bulb went on above everybody’s head, at the same time, and showed us just how miserable life is without the ability to focus on what we love.

All of the sudden, everyone I know is simply excited about the prospect of making something better for themselves, without the dream of “making it big” or surviving on their passion. We’re just doing it. Because it makes us happy. And it makes other people happy.

Win win.

So here’s some news, as well as a recipe that celebrates another inspiring person in my life, a woman who is grabbing her kimchi by the balls and sacrificing precious time to work out a way to communicate with her newly extended family (something I have a new respect for after trying to learn two Chinese words and realizing Asian languages are, I dunno… haaarrrrrdddd.)

New Job: That’s right! I left my comfy cozy job in early childhood music (that I actually loved quite a bit, aside from the weird hours and very little pay) and traded it in for an opportunity to work full time, with benefits and all kinds of security. So I traded in my folksy kids songs for some bilingual chorus music for the 6th and 7th grade students at IS 220 in Sunset Park. I wish I could tell you it was the right decision to make, but it’s much to early to really say… and honestly, much more difficult than I could ever imagine. Let’s just say this might be the toughest gig I’ll ever have and I can only hope in the end, I will be happy that I gave it a go.

Gig: The band is back and kickin’ with several new songs and a dummer to boot. Our first show back was last weekend and there are more to come. (Nov 20th, Rockwood Music Hall, 5pm)

So, without further ado, here is Dani’s Mac and Cheese. Add some hot sauce to really make it kick.


Mushroom Herb Mac and Cheese

Adapted from 30days30Ways

11 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 shallot, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) Gruyère Cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) White Cheddar Cheese, shredded and divided
1 box (12 to 16 ounces) small pasta, such as elbow pasta
1 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Set a large pot of water (for the pasta) over high heat, cover and bring to a boil.

In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallot; sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms have cooked down and are browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar and cook, stirring, until the liquid has cooked off. Turn off the heat and set aside.

For the  sauce, in a medium-sized saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in flour and cook for about 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Add the herbs and, still whisking, sauté for an additional 30 seconds. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook to al dente, or 1 to 2 minutes less than the box calls for.

Once the sauce simmers, stir in 5 ounces each (about 1 cup) of the Gruyère and Cheddar Cheeses until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat.

Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs. Drain the pasta. In a large mixing bowl, toss pasta, sauce, and mushrooms. Pour into the baking dish.

Sprinkle with remaining 1 ounce each of  Gruyère and Cheddar. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top of the cheese. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and bubbly. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.