Spicy Southwest Mac and Cheese

One of the meals that we ate when we were in Scottsdale, Arizona, was a spicy mac and cheese with sausage and red peppers. It was a nice change of pace from traditional mac and cheese, so we decided to try and replicate the recipe ourselves. Making homemade macaroni and cheese isn’t very difficult and tastes better than anything that you can get out of a box, but we rarely take the time to do it. Fortunately, it is easy to find seasoned varieties of sausage in the grocery store these days, so we didn’t have to go to the trouble of making our own sausage. We found a nice Cajun spiced andouille sausage that paired nicely with the chipotle chili. One nice thing about a recipe like this is that you can easily modify it to feed a larger crowd or reduce it for a meal for one or two. We decided to cook ours in individual crock bowls, but cooking it in a casserole dish would certainly be ideal as well. You can also use different types of pasta for the dish, but we used a Cellentani noodle as it has ridges to help hold the cheese. This is definitely a recipe that we would do again in the future.

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Picante Macaroni and Cheese with Sausage in Scottsdale

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups of Cellentani Noodles (or elbow macaroni)
  • 2 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1 Red Pepper – sliced into strips
  • 2 Links of Andouille Sausage – cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbsp Chipotle Chili Powder (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 2 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 1/2 cups Four Cheese Blend
  • 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
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Sausage and Red Peppers

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook the pasta according to the directions, drain and set aside. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, red pepper, and sausage. Even though the sausage is already cooked, frying it will caramelize it and add more flavor. Cook the sausage and pepper for about 5 to 7 minutes until the sausage is browned and the pepper is soft. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and then whisk in the flour to make a roux. Be sure not to let the roux start to brown. Heat 2 cups of the milk in a microwave for 90 seconds and then slowly whisk it into the roux, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Microwave the rest of the milk for 90 seconds and then whisk that into the rest of the milk mixture. Add the chipotle powder, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper, ensuring to mix thoroughly. Add 3 cups of the cheese, whisking until it is smooth and creamy. Stir in the pasta, sausage, and peppers until the pasta is completely coated with the cheese sauce. Spoon 1/4 of the pasta into 4 oven proof bowls that have been sprayed with a non-stick spray (or transfer to a medium casserole dish). Top with the remaining cheese and bread crumbs and bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Serves 4.

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Whisking Cheese Sauce
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Pasta, Sausage, Peppers, and Cheese Sauce
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Individual Serving before Topping with Cheese and Bread Crumbs
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Enjoy a Creamy Dish of Mac and Cheese

 

Don’t Take Life, or Travel, Too Seriously

Life in general, and especially travel, can be overwhelming, stressful, and exhausting. There is a temptation to get caught up in the minutia of daily activities, the worry about missing out on something special, or just generally feeling like something might go wrong. It isn’t easy, but we all need to lighten up a little bit and let ourselves be childlike in our adventures. If we could all view our lives, our travels, the things that we do and the places that we go with the unabashed wonder of a child who has been let loose on a playground, we would all enjoy them better. How many times have you stood in a line, whether to get on a plane, get into an attraction, or waiting for a popular restaurant and found the people around you angry, pushy, and basically rude? Do they truly believe that if they try and make everyone around them as miserable as they are that somehow their experience will be better? There are times when we see people that are this intense that we want to just mess with them a little.  Tell them that they are in the wrong line, that they don’t have the proper reservation, anything to mess with their minds a little. Perhaps that wouldn’t be nice, but this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Cheeky and maybe a little mischief would wake these people up and let them realize that life is to be enjoyed, not just rushed through. One of the things that we enjoy are seeing whimsical signs or different things that remind us to keep the child inside of us alive as we travel. Here are some photos of signs or other things that remind us to smile and enjoy life. How do you keep your inner-child alive?

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Troll Statue Outside of a Store in Reykjavik, Iceland
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Family Fun Restaurant in Cochabamba, Bolivia
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Dona on a Merry-Go-Round in San Francisco
UFO Sign
UFO Crossing Sign in Roswell, New Mexico
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Whimsical Creations in the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany

The following are a series of signs outside of restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Definitely Silly
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Perhaps a Little Hokey
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Truth in Advertising

 

Scottsdale, Arizona

Located on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, Scottsdale is a resort and retirement community that is a relaxing place to visit. In some ways, it reminds us of Hilton Head, South Carolina, only it doesn’t have the beaches. What it does have is a lot of excellent golf courses, upscale resorts, and restaurants galore. Summertime is actually their off-season due to the intense heat and the possibilities of a haboob, which is dust storm that can blanket the entire area with a wall of sand.

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Old Town Scottsdale
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Southwestern Artwork
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Beautiful Flowers
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Oldest Standing Church in Scottsdale

The downtown area of Scottsdale has a historic old town that will transport you back into the days of cowboys and give you a glimpse into the old west or southwest. There are plenty of souvenir stores selling Indian jewelry, pottery, and other trinkets to take home with you. There is also a large art district where you can go an art walk and enjoy all of the different galleries with traditional southwestern art as well as contemporary and traditional art. Not to worry, there is also a boutique shopping district, should you desire to do some shopping for non-tourist related items.

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Storefronts
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Old Western Touches
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Whimsical Touches
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Interesting Statues

The other thing that you can find are plenty of restaurants and bars. If you are daring, you can stop in at one of the several saloons that are downtown and even listen to some good old western music. Needless to say, we had to give more than one of the saloons a try, if for nothing else to get out of the 108 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Cold beers and margaritas were definitely needed in order to beat the heat.

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Old Fashioned Saloon
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Historic Building and Friendly Lounge
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Country Western Music
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Unique Interior of Patties

Walking around the downtown Scottsdale area provides wonderful scenery, interesting artwork, and at this time of year, plenty of beautiful flowering plants. Whether you come to the area to play a few rounds of golf, sit by the pool and relax, or enjoy the abundant food options that are available, you won’t be disappointed. We would probably recommend that you come during the fall when the temperatures are more hospitable, but if you can stand the heat, there are plenty of deals for those who venture to come here during the summer.

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True Cowboy Bar
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More Flowers
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Downtown Artwork
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Fun and Games
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Old Town Sign