I’ve known Angie since I was an 11-year-old stowaway”Work Scholar”/wild child at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. She was about three years older but treated me just as she thought of herself, i.e. as an “Emancipated Citizen of the Wild World of Big Sur.” She did whatever the heck she pleased, wherever, and whenever, she wanted, and was smart enough to pull it off. And she took me under her wing!

Angie knew how to make dressing in funky clothes look really cute, like a kind of “cowgirl hippie chick” – and it wasn’t like we were shopping at Aéropostale; we sought clothing treasures amid the free boxes of hand-me-downs and giveaways located at a couple of spots on the Esalen grounds. She could even transform a scarf or other shmatta into a tiara, belt or a shirt for that matter.

Angie lived in this cool little trailer, on a hill, up above pretty much everything. That’s where we spent time dressing up just so we could priss about Esalen, as if we owned it, which in a way we did! I remember our good times like they were yesterday, including dancing on the deck outside the Lodge, watching her sing on stage with the Esalen Band, thinking to myself, “I’m gonna be just like her someday . . .a goddess in her own right.” I still feel that way, to this day.

We went through a lot together over the years, and although we eventually lost touch, through the magic of Facebook, the warmth, humor, and good vibes, from deep inside her, are back in my life. I get a “comfort buzz” from being part of her daily Facebook, online coffee klatsch. She’s been so supportive of me as a friend and of this blog that I must join her many friends in declaring “This one’s a keeper!” You make me feel strong, positive and comfortable. Even from 3000 miles away. I treasure our friendship. Merry Christmas!!!

Angie, knowing that “comfort food” is your favorite, I had in mind some favorites we’ve previously discussed, but they are still in the works. This one however just passed the Christmas Eve kids test last night – no leftovers! – so here it is:

Start with one 12- to 14-oz box of Ronzoni macaroni, shells or whatever shape floats your boat. Note that the importance of making the pasta in advance is, that way it’s ready for the sauce and then can either be refrigerated to be cooked later or prepared right away.
In a skillet over medium-to-medium high heat,
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped finely
1 or 2 cloves of pressed garlic 

Let the onion cook five minutes over medium-to-medium high heat until translucent and just starting to brown, at which point add:
1/3 cup White Lily All Purpose Flour
Stir constantly, for two to three minutes. Then turn down to low heat and, whisking constantly, add:
1 1/2 cups Swanson chicken stock in a box/ or canned or just bouillon cubes and water (adding more if it gets too thick)
3/4 cup Land O’Lakes Half & Half

When it becomes thick and bubbly, remove from heat.
Meanwhile whisk together two eggs in a large bowl. To temper the sauce into the eggs, add slowly to eggs about a tablespoon of sauce, at the same time whisking constantly. Once the eggs start getting warm you can add it a little faster but trust me, if you add it too fast, you will make scrambled eggs and cheese. So take your time, in this case cooking in a hurry doesn’t work, it’s a timing-is-everything deal. Very much like life!
Once the eggs and sauce are incorporated, pour all of it back into skillet over low heat, stirring while you pour.
8 oz of your favorite shredded Kraft cheese (or cheeses – I used a blend of Mild Cheddar and Pepper Jack).
Keep stirring until cheese is melted, then turn off heat
In an 11″ x 8″ baking pan, mix pasta and sauce.
Next, add Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning and black pepper to taste. Remember, the cheese and the stock are both salty so really taste everything as you flavor!
Top with 5 oz. Kraft Sharp Cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup buttered bread crumbs (put bread crumbs and two tablespoons of butter in a small pan over low heat, until butter is absorbed and crumbs are golden. Put in 350º oven uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. If your making ahead of time, cover w/ foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready to, put in oven for 30 minutes covered and then uncover, and bake 15 more minutes.
   And as always, enjoy!!

   © Jennifer Green Alger 2009