Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I'm a firm believer that comfort food is better than a hug. Whenever I'm feeling down, in need of a pick-me-up or just need to "lean in" to the dark, grey weather, my mind goes to comfort food for an emotional hug. That's a thing, right? Ok, cool. 

If you ask me, there's no other food in the world that screams comfort food quite like mac and cheese. And I'm not even a mac and cheese snob – I am down for any and all varieties of cheesy noods. Be it the classic, guilty pleasure Kraft variety, Annie's white cheddar shells or even the super guilty pleasure Velveeta shells, I'm always in for cheesy, ooey, gooey goodness. But what hits the spot even more than the boxed variety, even if they are supes tasty and easy if you're feeling lazy, is making your own stovetop version from scratch. 

Just hearing the words "from scratch" might make this sound rather daunting, I know. But I'm here to assure you that there is probably no easier task than making an impressive homemade mac and cheese. If you can boil water and add milk, butter and contents of a sauce packet to some noodles, then you're pretty much capable of making heavenly, scratch-made mac and cheese. 

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Sunflower Crunch Chopped Salad

Salad fatigue (noun) | The general feeling of extreme tiredness due to overconsuming of salads. 

Are you a victim of salad fatigue? Are you or someone you know excessively tired of eating the same, boring, old salad day after day? Do you feel like dying every time you take a bite of said salad to the point where you feel like you never want to see a leafy green ever, ever again? Salad fatigue is a serious condition and is something that millions suffer from on a daily basis. 

Hungry Ali is here to help. You see, the cure to your boring salads that are causing you serious fatigue isn't another sad salad that you feel like you could weap into. It's a salad that's full of flavor, texture and, let's be honest some cheese and creamy, delicious ranch. Because cheese and ranch, in my opinion, are a salad's best friend. 

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Beer-Braised Brats with Onions and Kraut

You all know that my first love is food. I mean, obviously. But what you maybe might not know is that my close-second love is beer. 

I attribute my love of beer to my dad. Like any college kid, I lived off of a steady diet of pizza and cheap beer (Go Dawgs!) and while I could toss back a number of Bud Lights back in my day, I didn't start to appreciate good beer until my dad handed me a Ninkasi Total Domination IPA one day. For fellow IPA lovers, you're probably thinking, whoa – nothing like going from 0-60 with that choice! But apparently the pallette wants what the pallette wants because upon first sip, I was hooked on that sharp, super bitter flavor of good, craft beer and thus, a true beer lover was born. 

I love beer so much today that it's practically running through my veins. From the aroma of the hops to the crisp, cold taste, I adore everything about it. But the thing I probably love most about beer isn't just the taste and the way it makes me feel, it's the camaraderie of drinking good beer and eating good food with family and friends. That's what living the good life is all about! 

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Charred Corn Crostini with Chili Salt

When I'm not blogging, cuddling my sweet pup Neville or bopping around my beloved Fremont, I'm working as an event coordinator at Seattle University. There's just something about my super Type A, organized personality that makes me a pretty decent event planner, if I do say so myself!

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of working events is having control over the menu. Word around the office is that I not only thoroughly enjoy selecting menus but I'm rather good at picking a great spread for a party. I'm pretty much the go-to girl for taste testing and finalizing menus because, you know, quality control. It's real hard work! 

Like most of my eating endeavors, I use this recipe scouting as a prime opportunity to research future recipes of my own. One of the last things I tasted from a menu I helped to create was a charred corn crostini with jalapeno aioli and chili salt. It was so good, I may have popped no less than eight of them into my mouth when nobody was looking, so you know that upon first bite I was already scheming a way to recreate these beauties at home. 

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Crunchy Broccoli Chicken Stir-Fry

When Cole and I first started dating over five years ago, we quickly adopted the date night ritual of cooking together. It was quite natural, really. We both liked food, cooking and, most importantly, we both liked eating. It was a no brainer to cook most of our meals together! It's a good thing that turned out, am I right? 

There are a lot of dishes that come to mind when I think about the early stages of our relationship. Pasta bakes were on the menu almost once a week as were frittatas and anything with pesto in it, but the one dish that gives me serious nostalgia is stir-fry. 

Because deep down we're both just a couple of nerds in love (who also enjoyed watching Archer back in the day), we didn't just make stir-fry frequently when we first starting dating, we made an event out of it which soon came to be known as Stir-Fry Day. It was a day we came to know and love and would look forward to celebrating for obvious reasons. Because, admit it, stir-fries are fun! They're also quick, easy, cheap and darn tasty. 

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Creamy Za’atar Beet Dip

Taste buds are funny, aren't they? When I grew up, I wasn't the pickiest of eaters but I did have a few things I wouldn't touch; mushrooms, broccoli, onions, olives, and tomatoes being a few things I wouldn't go near. I can't put my finger on what happened for certain – maybe my mom just made those things regardless of my fickle palate or maybe my taste buds just matured – but over time I started to develop a liking for these foods. Well, besides olives…but that's an entirely different story! 

Beets were another food I could just not get behind. Granted, to this day, beets are a rather polarizing food. And if you would've asked 10-year old Ali her opinion on beets she would've been on the opposing side fo sho. Magenta, gelatin-like root vegetables that resemble dirt? No thanks! 

But just as my palate has grown to like the simplest of foods that I can't imagine living without, it has also grown an intense affinity for beets. Beets no longer taste dirty, but uniquely earthy. The texture is no longer off putting but rather a perfect vehicle for more acidic and creamy flavors. Thanks to my maturing taste buds, beets have become one of my favorite foodie staples. 

Though I've been loving beets in my adult life, I hadn't actually cooked with them. Like ever. So folks, this post is not only an ode to beets but a Hungry Ali first! 

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Chimichurri Sauce

Is anybody else having a minor anxiety attack about the fact that summer is nearly over?! Ok, granted, I'm seriously looking forward to fall and all that it brings, including all the tasty food. But let's not forget that summer has been pretty good to us! I mean, sunny and warm weather, beach days, outdoor grilling, backyard chillin, breathtaking sunsets and, of course, puggie snugs?! It's been pretty stellar. Summer, you will be missed! 

So before I get too ahead of myself and get too excited about fall quickly approaching (because you know I will), let's take a step back and relish these last few gorgeous days of summer. And, if you ask me, the perfect way to do such a thing is to fire up ze grill! 

Because summer has been awfully good to us, I think it's only fitting that we send it off in style. And, to me, there's nothing like grilling a big, juicy steak to really class things up. Almost every time I grill steak, I know I'm making chimichurri to go with it. Steak and chimichurri is just about as natural of a combo as pb&j in our house! And once you've had it, it's easy to see why.

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Mexican Street Corn Salad + Life Update!

Everyone. I have a v v exciting announcement. It is so exciting that it probably beats just about anything I've ever announced or will announce about my life in the future. You ready for it?! 

Cole and I….adopted a PUG!!!!!!

Let me give you the full back story. For those who know me well, you know that I've been obsessed with pugs for a long time, especially since my parents got their pugs whom I adore, Maxwell and Chloe Boo. Cole and I dreamt of having a pug of our own for years, and that finally started to become a real possibility when we found out we could move into our new house complete with a dog-friendly landlord and a backyard just made for our future puggy.

We knew we ideally wanted to adopt a pug instead of buying one from a breeder and fortunately came across Seattle Pug Rescue. From submitting an application in May, to having a home visit to working with the adoption coordinator, it was quite the involved process, but worth every step. Because at the end of the day we owe Seattle Pug Rescue a huge thank you for putting in the time and effort to find us the perfect pug, Neville! 

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Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

Not many people know that my love for food has an even deeper connection because the first jobs I had starting from the age of 16 were in restaurants. From bussing tables to serving people fish and chips and burgers, I've seen it all and have a few too many horror stories to tell if you've got the time. But I'll spare you…for now! 

In college I worked at Red Robin (or, as we affectionately called it, The Dirty Bird) because, well, I needed to support my drinking habit like any good college student. Oh, and I guess pay the rent. Priorities! As you can imagine that Red Robin life was not entirely glamorous. We're talking dealing with inconsiderate tourist, singing that infamous happy birthday song more times than you can imagine and coming home after 12 hour shifts smelling like ranch and campfire sauce. Ah, the glory days! 

Even though I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to relive my time at the Dirty Bird, I still, to this day, find myself craving their food. It's not often, but sometimes I get a mean hankering for some fries with ranch and campfire sauce or a bleu ribbon burger. I know it's nothing fancy, but there's just nothing better than the taste of nostalgia. 

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Sausage Stuffed Mini Peppers

This whole entertaining business is something I've fantasized about for awhile now (yes, I really do fantasize about such things). There's nothing I love more than gathering people especially around food and drink. It's the basis for everything that is good in my world! 

But entertaining in our tiny 650 square foot apartment wasn't exactly ideal.  So now that we're living like royalty with luxurious extra 250 square feet in the new digs, I've been taking a crack at entertaining menus on the reg. I'm so into it that I may or may not have even gone as far as starting to map out our holiday menus….gotta stay prepared! 

In all seriousness, there's something so energizing about strategically planning out a menu to impress your friends and family. A good menu isn't just something that will keep people happy and satiated while you're partying the night away, but it's the blank canvas for you to tell your story as a cook. Whether you're wanting to showcase your socialities or just highlight the season's best, creating a killer entertaining menu is your chance to shine! 

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