Grandma’s Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Grandma’s Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

Grandma’s Mac and Cheese


Holiday season is upon us and that is giving me the desire to cook and bake! I love holidays and I love cooking…baking isn’t really a strong suit of mine but cooking is great for me because the amounts really don’t matter as long as you taste test it to make sure it tastes right! I had the pleasure of having a few friends over for lunch yesterday to test out how my recipe would turn out here in Spain. I haven’t bought measuring cups and I don’t have an oven with a temperature gauge. So, cooking is quite the science experiment! I have to admit, I enjoyed it! Thanks to everyone for coming over!

Let’s get started on my Grandmas recipe! One thing about my Grandmas recipe is that no one knows exactly what the amounts are…really this is all just a guesstimate…so if you think you need more or less of something, that’s probably true! In reality, each ingredient can be altered a bit and it will come out tasting pretty amazing no matter what! This recipe is really easy, so that’s why I am sharing it! Good luck!

What you’ll need…roughly:

Cheese Sauce

  • 3/4 of a stick of salted butter
  • 1/4 C All-purpose flour
  • 2 TGI Fridays cups (1 pint?) of Milk (2% is best, but if you prefer “light” macaroni and cheese you could use skim I suppose)
  • 3/4 of a 350g brick of cheddar cheese, shredded or chopped, whatever you can do (any kind, yellow, white, aged…whatever you find first!)
  • 3/4 of a 390g can of whole canned tomatoes (Gram prefers the ones she cans herself…if you have those, use those
  • 3 palmfuls of salt


  • 1/2 of the bag of noodles (medium shells, or whatever you can find!)
  • 1 pot (for noodles)
  • 1 sauce pan
  • Casserole dish
  • Cook at 375 degrees for 45min-1hr…or until crispy. (In Spain put the temp about a 1/2 inch from the small flame.

The oven. This setting may or may not be 375 degrees, either way, this is the temperature you should use for your macaroni and cheese.IMG_0780

Making the sauce

Before you start your sauce, put some water on to boil for your noodles. Add the noodles once the water is boiling. Don’t forget to pay attention to your noodles while you’re making your sauce!

Melt your butter in a sauce pan and let it get golden brown and bubbly (I forgot to take a picture!). Then add flour. Let that get golden too. This is the base of your cream sauce. It will make your sauce creamy!


Now add your milk, notice the golden color in the pan with the milk? That’s the butter-flour mixture! Let your milk, butter and flour mixture get bubbly. Throw in some salt.


Once this bubbles, add the cheese! It would melt better if it was shredded but I don’t have a cheese grater so I chopped my cheese with a knife. It real doesn’t matter how the cheese goes in as long as you don’t use a whole brick…that would take too long to melt!



Yes, bubbly cheese sauce! Throw some more salt in.IMG_0769

Now add your tomatoes WITH THE TOMATO JUICE to the cheese sauce. Straight from the can, plop the tomatoes into the sauce (with the tomato juice from the can! THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART!). You should be putting 2-3 whole tomatoes from the can into the sauce. Pick up each of the tomatoes with your wooden spoon and slice them up with a knife. The reason we don’t slice the tomatoes up on a cutting board or something is because we would lose a lot of the juice from the tomato on the cutting board if we did it that way. It’s only three tomatoes to fishing them out to slice them up doesn’t take much work!

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Let the cream sauce come to a light bubbly state. NOT a rapid boil. Now, fill your casserole dish 1/2 way with noodles. Then pour all of the sauce into the noodles (SLOWLY!). Now add the rest of the noodles bit by bit. If you have too many noodles, it’s bad. So stop adding noodles if it seems like there are too many!


It should look like this before you put it in the oven! I could have put even less noodles!


Now its ready to pop into the oven! Feel free to let it get crusty, that’s the best part!


Written directions:

Preheat oven to 375, or just guess if your oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge and cook your noodles (follow directions on the package!)

Now, on the stove, melt butter in a sauce pan, wait for it to turn golden brown and bubbly, be careful not to burn it! Once butter is golden, take off heat while adding the flour. Stir together. Wait for it to be golden again, not too golden, because then it’s burnt! Return the sauce pan to the heat and add one TGI Fridays size cup of milk. Stir. Add the second cup of milk. Wait for it to bubble and get a tiny bit thicker. It won’t truly get too thick (that happens when you add the cheese!). Now, the cream sauce is bubbling, add the cheese and let it melt. Throw in a palmful of salt. Once the cheese is melted add the tomatoes (mash them up with your stirring spoon and a knife so they aren’t whole!). Bring sauce to a low bubbly state and remove from heat. Throw in your last two palmfuls of salt.

Put about half of the total amount of noodles you will use in the casserole dish and pour the sauce slowly on top of the noodles. Stir gently within the casserole dish. Add the rest of the noodles bit by bit, DON’T ADD TOO MANY NOODLES! If there are too many noodles the casserole won’t turn out as delicious! Add noodles until it looks right. Not too many! NOT TOO MANY! This is VERY important. The sauce can taste amazing but if there are too many noodles, when it bakes, the noodles will take over and the taste of the sauce will be lost!

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Don’t forget your apple crisp! I will save that recipe for another day…IMG_0776


I love mac and cheese. I also love making it! Hope this recipe makes some sort of sense and that you can enjoy it during this holiday season! Enjoy your holidays and good luck with your baking in Spain!



A Spanish Thanksgiving

A Spanish Thanksgiving

How does one go about celebrating a holiday in a country in which the holiday does not exist?

It’s obvious that I am very excited about this, being that I am making this post a couple weeks before thanksgiving. I want to share with all of you how I am going to share Thanksgiving with my friends here in Spain! First, what do Spaniards know about Thanksgiving? Not much, but then again, what do I really know about Thanksgiving? Pilgrims, turkeys, being thankful, family, football, pumpkins, gourds, pies, casseroles. That pretty much sums up my knowledge of Thanksgiving. So, giving that my expectations are low as to what people should know about Thanksgiving, I don’t mind that my roommates don’t have any idea as to what to expect. Especially because this gives me the freedom to be in charge of everything and I am so excited because I love Thanksgiving! So, you have the freedom to basically create your own holiday…what are you going to do? I mean, what would you do?

Make shit up, obviously.

Ok, ok. I would never want to ruin Thanksgiving for anyone, so to be honest, I have made a plan for Thanksgiving which I am about to share with you all. However, there are going to be a couple flaws in my Thanksgiving. First, it’s going to be during the weekend, so that I have more time to cook and prep. Second, there will be no giant roasted turkey. NO TURKEY?! are you out of your mind?! I am ashamed to admit that I will have no turkey but, it just isn’t realistic here in Spain. Mainly because I don’t even know how to cook a turkey in America. Secondly, because I don’t think I can buy an entire turkey here and lastly, my oven doesn’t have a temperature gauge. Thankfully casseroles don’t really have to be cooked at a certain temperature, I am hoping for the best with my casserole. Otherwise my dinner will be just mashed potatoes…

For the first Thanksgiving that I ever host, the Thanksgiving turkey is going to be a chicken.

Now, I am more than excited to introduce my roommates (and my American friends!) to my version of Thanksgiving! I am hoping that my American friends will contribute some of their traditions to our Thanksgiving too! If you had to introduce Thanksgiving to people who had never celebrated before, what would you do? What would you want them to take out of the experience? Here is a summary of my Spanish Turkey Day plan:


Green Bean Casserole
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
Apple Crisp


Ok, I love arts and crafts. I was a preschool teacher for four years and I am currently a first grade teacher, so expressing myself with mindless-childish crafts is one of my favorite things to do. Haha, can’t help but laugh at how if I was in the states right now, I would have to relate all of my Thanksgiving crafts to child development!

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Fine Motor and Early Literacy

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While doing these crafts, were going to have some youtube on in the background and I suggest you do the same. Of what? You ask. Well well well…lots of options. A rerun of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving day football. I think any of these would be perfect. No, they won’t be from this year, but hey, you could get vintage with it and watch the parade from 2006 or something!

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Giving Thanks

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Welp, that’s pretty obvious I think. We get to talk about how happy we are to have one another. Everyone’s family does this differently, I am not sure what me and my “family” here in Spain will do, but I am sure we will find something!

Go for a walk, a “Turkey Trot”…!

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My (American) family is really into running, so usually once we have all digested, some sort of run takes place through the neighborhood. I don’t think all of my Spanish family would approve, so a run is out of the question. However, after dinner, we are going to have to take a nice stroll through Madrid to appreciate the beautiful fall that is upon us and all of the Christmas lights that have been put up in the center! I cannot wait! See what I did there? I said “We are going to do ____ and appreciate it”. I think that means there isn’t an option, hahah. Ok, if they don’t want to go on a walk, they don’t have to…it’s just strongly encouraged. Hopefully by then the cleaning strike will be over and the only thing on the ground will be fallen leaves! A girl can dream!

I am so grateful to be celebrating Thanksgiving here in Spain and I cannot wait to share all of my favorite things with the people who have become my family here in Madrid! I hope they are just as excited as I am!! Have you begun planning your Thanksgiving? Have I left out anything important?


Does everyone have their rubbers?

Does everyone have their rubbers?

I am not a professor or even, a teacher!

Ok, I admit it. I am not a professor or teacher (although my elementary school kids do call me “profe/teacher”). I am prancing around Europe pretending that I am a fancy schmancy English professor but it’s all lies. I work at a public bilingual elementary school in Madrid, Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacion or a North American Language and Culture Assistant, they mean the same thing. They mean that I am an assistant to the teacher. I bring my “fancy schmancy” American English accent and my knowledge of the United States of America to work and that pretty much prepares me for what I have to do on a daily basis. I don’t write lesson plans unless it’s for a something special like a holiday (Halloween, Thanksgivng) and I don’t teach the class by myself. Alright, alright. So you aren’t preparing classes or in the class by yourself, you aren’t teaching alone and you aren’t in charge of any kids…

That has to be pretty easy then, right?

In comparison to other jobs, not gonna lie, you should be pretty jealous. However, one thing that I have learned about my job is that we are teaching British English to the kids. No, the kids don’t ask me if I want “a spot of tea” on a daily basis, but they do throw their “rubbish” in the “bin” instead of throwing their “garbage” in the “garbage can” and things of that nature. That being said, I have learned a lot in the last couple months.

Mostly, I have learned that I have been taught lies my whole life.

First of all I’ve learned the date. Today is: weekday, day of month, 2013.

It’s Tuesday, 12th of November, 2013. Not to be confused with Tuesday, November 12th, 2013. Also, you must add the word “of”, if not, you’re very much wrong because today can not be and never will be “Tuesday, 12, November, 2013”, nor will it be the “12st of November”, trust me, the options are endless with the combinations of these words. Don’t let them fool you. There is only one right answer and in Spain it’s not, Tuesday, November 12th, 2013.

It’s Autumn, not Fall.

If you ask one of my first graders what the season is, they will tell you, “The season is Autumn”, in the cutest british/american/spanish accent they can muster up and although you may hate that they don’t know the word Fall, you will appreciate that they understood the question.


Also, the temperature outside is 48 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun is shining. For my first graders, that means it’s: sunny and COLD.

What? Since when is 48 degrees cold? is this because Madrid is the capital of the country and if Madrileños say 48 degrees is cold, then it must be cold, right? All I know is that these kids would be freezing if they were in the Midwest today, 19 degrees and snowing, now THAT’S cold!IMG_0691

So, these kids are learning all sorts of fun things (the weather, the date, etc), do they pay attention? What are Spanish kids like at school?

Pay attention? We’re talking about 6-year-old here. All I know is that they love their rubbers, their pencil sharpeners and really anything inside of their pencil cases.

I think one day, a girl spent an entire one hour class period sharpening all of her crayons. Another day a different girl spent a 45 minute class period erasing. Just…erasing. Why didn’t the teacher stop them? I don’t know. Sometimes things just happen, and if a kid is quiet and peaceful while sharpening all of her crayons, why not leave her to it? I think that must be the mentality at least.

Lets talk about the contents of pencil cases.If you have a pencil case, you are basically set to spend the whole day playing with your school supplies, why? Because it’s fun.

First, there are no erasers in Spain. You must “rub it out” with your “rubber”. Yes, Teachers do tell kids to “rub it out”, it’s a British thing.


Also, a hard days work may include sharpening all of your crayons and pencils.


Oh no! The teacher caught a kid playing with school supplies. What happens? Do they get sent to the Principals office? Nope, no principal. They have to go stand by a green dot on the wall.IMG_0710

Or if they were talking, they may be sent to the corner with a mask…


Later on, the kid may have to pee. They will ask,”May I go to the toilet please?”. They don’t mean to be rude by asking for the toilet, they would like the restroom, which just so happens to be where the toilet is located.


So, the kids have talked about the date and the weather, they’ve played with their school supplies and then asked to go to the bathroom. Where does the learning come in?

Here, with Max and Susie! Max and Susie are two British characters that are full of all sorts of fun phrases and songs. Phrases include, “What’s this?”, “It’s a ball”, “These are pencils”, etc. Songs include, “I can sing a rainbow” or “Days of the Week”. My life pretty much revolves around Max and Susie while I am working. Our goal as auxiliares is to get all of our kids to remember and understand all of Max and Susie’s fun phrases and songs!

Is this Tiny Ted? Yes, it is! Phew, mystery solved.
This specific exercise is meant to focus on “Is this your____?” “Yes it is” or “No it isn’t”


Now, what sort of grammatical things are taught to first graders? They are taught many things, but let me tell you about some things they are taught incorrectly.

They are taught to say, “My favorite toy is THE ______” instead of saying, “My favorite toy is A/AN _____” or “My favorite toy is MY _____”

The teachers are very tough about the kids using the word “THE” when stating their favorite toy. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert but if a kid said “my favorite toy is my bike”, I would be happy. Even if they said “My favorite toy is an iPad”, it makes sense. What doesn’t have the correct sound for me is when a child says, “My favorite toy is the car.” I suppose in a book somewhere (in England), it must say that’s correct, it just doesn’t sound right spoken!


Another thing they are strict about, when there is an apostrophe (they call it a “stroke”), the letters that are separated CANNOT touch.

Please notice the minuscule space between the letters. This is real life. I definitely need to go and re-write everything I have ever hand written apparently, because I haven’t put a space between the letters that were divided by the apostrophe!


What is your teaching experience like? Have many things surprised/confused/shocked you? Have you had the same experiences that I have had?


Em pa dro na mi en to. Do re mi fa so la ti do, so do?

Em pa dro na mi en to. Do re mi fa so la ti do, so do?

I live in Madrid, why do I have to prove it? and how?

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Yes, I live in Madrid. Yes, I work in Madrid. Now, I just have to prove it to the Ayuntamiento with some simple paperwork. If I am able to prove that I live here, I will get a certificate of empadronamiento! But wait, what is the Ayuntamiento anyways and why do they want me to have a certificate of empadronamiento? Why would I tell them that I live in Madrid if I don’t? this paperwork is seeming a little unnecessary. Well, the ayuntamiento is a part of the Spanish government of course, and I have read that it can be translated as town hall. The certificate of empadronamiento states that you are living here in Madrid, simply put, they are counting us. They don’t care if you are legal or not, they just want to know if you are living here.

Then you ask yourself, “wait, am I even empadronada (or whatever the equivalent would be) with my town hall in the states?”

The answer,”no idea, but, wait?! I have to go to a Spanish town hall? Where people want me to fill out paperwork in Spanish? and then later use this paperwork for something really important (my TIE) that I also don’t fully understand?” This is crazy! So, how do I prove to them that I really am living in my piso in Madrid? Well, you can prove it with qualifying paperwork! Perfect! You will get the Padrón Municipal (Alta por cambio de residencia desde otro municipal)Screen Shot 2013-11-03 at 2.17.09 PM

Wait, I don’t have any of the qualifying paperwork.

In my particular situation I don’t have a rental contract, I don’t have fixed bills in my name, none of my roommates are empadronado in Madrid (they are from other parts of spain). Please note how this says “today persona que viva en España está obliged…”…I am not 100% fluent in Spanish but I am pretty sure that means that everyone is obligated to do this.  However, my Spanish roommates have not done this, and that’s a whole different issue. Anyways, you get the idea. I basically looked at all of the documentation that qualified and said, well, I guess that is the end to my time abroad, should just start packing now. I legitimately don’t have any of this qualifying paperwork.

Well, well, “qualifying” paperwork here in Spain is arbitrary my friend.

So you are telling me that this paperwork may or may not be necessary depending on the specific ayuntamiento I go to or the government worker that I talk to? Yes, yes I am. So, go through the list of documentación and check out what you need. You may or may not have it. Even if you don’t have all or any of the paperwork, make yourself an appointment.

Making an appointment

Make your appointment at any ayuntamiento online, here.
The ayuntamiento that you have the appointment at DOES NOT have to be in the same barrio that you will be empadronado in!
For example: I went to the ayuntamiento in Chamberí for the appointment but I am actually empadronada in Ciudad Lineal. Really, wherever you can find an open appointment is great. So, choose a location that has an available appointment on the day you want to go.

Here is a list of the documentation that you need to bring to your appointment:

English version from the AngloINFO Madrid page:

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Spanish from the Spanish governments website:
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I believe the most important part is the “documento que acredite el uso de la vivienda”…that is the “proof of address”, the rental contract, fixed bill, deed, copy of leaseholders DNI, etc. This is where my stress kicked in. Woahhhh, I don’t have any of those documents. When I went to the appointment, I didn’t actually bring in a “document” that would have been the “proof of address”, I didn’t have one. I just brought a friend. If you don’t have proof of address, you can just bring in whoever you live with or whoever you want. I think as long as the address on their DNI matches the address that you put on your solicitud de empadronamiento, it will be fine.

Here is a list of ALL the paperwork that I brought in to my appointment:

1. Tramite – Solicitud de Empadronamiento (the form!)
2. Passport + 1 copy
3. A Spanish boy who signed my solicitud de empadronamiento.

Wait, seriously? Yes.

How did that qualify you? No idea.

Either way, I am now empadronada in Madrid, and I will use this piece of paper for my NIE appointment! The address that I am empadronada at will be the same address that I use for my NIE paperwork, Also, if they ask you if you want two copies of your empadronamiento, say yes! Because you will give one of the copies up at your NIE appointment! It doesn’t hurt to have two originals!

Was it this easy for you to get your empadronamiento? Tell me about your experience!



Hiking: Sierra de Guadarrama

Hiking: Sierra de Guadarrama

You like nature? I like nature!

Let’s be honest, by saying “I like nature” I mean that I like to go outside in favorable conditions with a picnic lunch and a map. I also like going to the lake, drinking beers on the boat and later cooking s’mores by the campfire. So, given that information, you may be able to guess what kind of hikes I like to go on. My idea of a hike is a stroll through a prairie or a walk on the bike path along the Rock River. I live in the Midwest. There are hardly any hills and definitely no mountains. So, yeah, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I decided to invite my friends to hike through the Sierra de Guadarrama.

Did I mention this was the morning after Halloween?


Yes, I was a soccer ball for Halloween and my sister was a soccer player. Why? because we love sports I guess. Anyways, I woke up and said “let’s go hiking!”. I think my sisters response was, “are you serious?”. I googled “hiking in Madrid” and found some directions as to how to get to Cercedilla (about an hour north of the city center).

This is a great last minute day trip! Busses are hourly and convenient!

Before we left, we went to the grocery store and got spanish bread, lomo, queso, chips, fruit and water. I made us each a bocadillo of lomo and queso and packed our bags and we headed for the mountains! The one thing that we forgot was dramamine. The bus ride up was a little rough, we were grateful for the 24-hour pharmacy right by the bus stop.

Things you definitely should bring for your hike:

Water (you can never have enough!)
Coat (be prepared to take it on and off!)
Comfortable shoes
Dramamine (for the bus ride!)
Cash: for bus tickets, food (that you forgot at home), or dramamine (if your sister gets motion sickness)

Things to keep in mind:

Time of sunset (it’s dangerous to hike in the dark no matter where you are)
Temperature (be prepared to be sweating but cold!)
Weather (don’t go if there is a blizzard or rain, please)
The hour of the last bus/cercanías to leave for the city center (it’s normally around 10 p.m. so shouldn’t be an issue)
There is a 24-hour pharmacy by the cercanías station
There are hostels and restaurants near the cercanías station, too!

Cercedilla, your door to Sierra de Guadarrama

You can take the Cercanías from Atocha, Nuevos Ministerios or Chamartín or take bus 684 from Moncloa to get to Cercedilla which will drop you about a 30 minute walk from hiking trails. The bus and cercanías both drop off at the same spot, the cercanías station. We took bus 684 from Moncloa to Cercedilla. Within the Intercambiador de Moncloa it was really easy to find where we needed to go, bus 684 leaves from Isla 2 (Yellow), Dársena 20. Also, if you get motion sickness I would suggest taking a dramamine before getting on the bus.

Bus 684 from Moncloa to Cercedilla was one hour and cost €5,10 each way!


Where to go once you arrive at the bus stop in Cercedilla? Up. Up forever.

You walk up the road (nn the same road that the bus drops you off, the road that is outside of the cercanías station) to head towards hiking trails. If you feel that you are not going up then you are going the wrong way. You will walk up for 30 minutes or so on a sidewalk along the road until you get to an information station. The person who works at the information station will give you a map and tell you to choose your own adventure! Whichever you choose, be sure that you make your way to the mirador, you won’t regret it!

Choose wisely, my friend.


We decided to follow the blue dots, to the orange dots until we got to the mirador and then on the way down we took yellow to blue and made it to our bus stop about 20 minutes before the bus got there! It was VERY VERY easy to stay on the trail and the views were perfect!



Be sure to stop to take photos, your butt will be grateful!


Once you reach the road, you know you are close to the mirador!


Looking out from the mirador as the sun begins to set



“Afila Siete Picos en la sombra su aguda dentellada” from the book Geografía es Amor by J. Garcia Nieto. You will find this poetic rock and some of his friends at the top of the mountain near the mirador. If you take the yellow trail to the blue on the way down, be careful not to slip on rocks! Also, if you happen to be heading down the mountain around sunset, the view will be outstanding.

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The hike that we did took around four hours. We made it to 2,000 meters and hiked around 10km.

I am not sure exactly how long it took going up or down, I am going to guess that it was about 30 minutes up until we got to information then about 2 hours to the mirador, then an hour and a half down from the mirador until we reached the bus stop outside of the Cercanías station. If I was watching the clock during that hike I probably wouldn’t have made it!

Have you gone hiking in the mountains outside of Madrid? Which trail did you take? How long was your hike?