Verdict: win

I have a new love in my life, and his name is Trader Joe's. Unfortunately it's a long distance relationship, so the last time we saw each other I tried to make the most out of it: I left with a big bottle of olive oil and a waxy, red round of smoked Dutch Gouda. I specifically visited Trader Joe's just for the Gouda. I've been obsessed with its nutty flavor on sandwiches, on plain bread, or just to nibble on.

I can't eat cheese too quickly (darn you, lactose-intolerance), and the Gouda's expiration date was around the corner, so I decided to throw together a mac and cheese. I used soy milk because that's all I had on hand, but it imparted a slightly sweet taste so I think I would've preferred regular milk. I also used way too much panko breadcrumbs to the point that I couldn't taste the sauce - I ended up scraping off as much breadcrumbs as I could. Vegetables (spinach, green onions, zucchini) and shredded chicken are a great add-in, and since the Gouda is subtle I often mixed in a teaspoon of pesto to my servings.

Verdict: Win

Finally! It's spring break, and I have (theoretically) all the time in the world to cook up a storm. Unfortunately, the kitchen I'm visiting has a sad collection of spices and cooking utensils (meaning all I have are salt, pepper, a medium-sized pot, a large skillet, and a baking pan). They get the job done, but I miss my spices and gadgets from home...

I've been eying the several sausage and kale soup recipes that have popped up on my Google Reader for the past few months. I didn't have a recipe on hand, so I winged it...with pretty good results, I think! I'm always hesitant to share recipes that I threw together without consulting a recipe. I never know if I'm committing a grave cooking faux pas...but this was too delicious not to post. The soup came together quickly and doesn't require much work. The best part is that I didn't need to season anything - the hot Italian sausage took care of it all. If spicy isn't your thing, mild or sweet Italian sausage could work well as a substitute.