Three weeks ago I said I was going to try to start eating healthy again before my graduation party. I’m happy to say that, for the most part, I stuck to it—I cut out sweets, ate as many whole, natural foods as I could, and scaled back on portion sizes. The time to exercise escaped me, so I didn’t do quite as well as I’d hoped with losing weight (just barely 3 pounds), but I still made a positive change in my eating habits. I’m a lot more conscious now of the choices I make; I’m hoping that this will be the norm and not the exception from here on out. Breaking bad habits and forming better ones is half the battle, so I feel like I’ve really accomplished something here.

That’s not to say I deprived myself at my party on Saturday. We had most of the food catered, but I did make two things myself that I was pretty proud of. The first was macaroni and cheese—yeah, I know, not very healthy. But I like to think of it as my signature dish. I adapted this recipe from one of my favorite celeb chefs, Alton Brown. Fun fact: I met him once and it was sort of awesome.

From the New York Wine & Food Festival 2010. My father is apparently scrutinizing Alton’s autograph.

Mine is a little bit more involved than his version because my Intro to Foods & Food Science class at NYU turned me into a pretentious little snob in the kitchen, but it’s also lighter. You can always use reduced fat cheese and/or whole wheat pasta to make it even healthier.

Never-Going-Back-to-the-Blue-Box Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
-1lb. pasta (Recommended: elbow macaroni or shells)
-2 tbsp. butter
-2 tbsp. flour
-1 cup fat free milk
-2 egg whites, beaten
-8-10 oz. shredded cheese (cheddar is my go-to cheese for this)
-Salt, pepper, and ground mustard to taste

Cook the pasta and set aside. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. As soon as the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk to form a thick paste. Pour in the milk and stir until there are no more lumps.* Whisk in the beaten egg whites a little at a time (if you do it all at once you’ll get scrambled eggs in your sauce. Not cool). Continue stirring until sauce reaches desired thickness, then turn off the heat and add the cheese. Stir until melted, season with salt, pepper, and mustard, and pour over cooked pasta. Makes 8 servings.

*Yep, this is your basic bechamel sauce. Here’s a video:

What is Bechamel Sauce

If the sauce gets too thick, just add some more milk and whisk until it’s smooth. You can also experiment with spices (I tried paprika once and it wasn’t bad), or add hot sauce like Alton does. I don’t really like to detract from the pure cheesy goodness, though.

I also made sangria, which is pretty much an essential for any outdoor summer party. My best friend’s grandfather gave me his recipe when we stayed at their condo in Florida over spring break. We had it almost every day and it was a-ma-zing. I altered it slightly based on what we had on hand at home.

Spring Break Sangria
-1 bottle of red wine
-1 12 oz. can or 1 ½ c. ginger ale
-2 12 oz. cans or 3 c. Sprite
-1 ½ oz. triple sec
-1 oz. peach schnapps
-½ oz. brandy
-Sliced fruit (I used 1 apple, 1 orange, and 1 peach per bottle of wine)

Combine wine, triple sec, schnapps, brandy, and fruit in a large bowl or pitcher and refrigerate overnight. Stir in soda just before serving.

Sangria ingredients, Instagram style

Other than the random passing downpour halfway through the night (which meant there were 50 people crammed in my basement…but we all like each other, so it’s fine) I’d say the party was a success. Plenty of good food and good times were had by all (I hope!) and the weather was perfect for the pool. I really do have the best friends in the world, especially because they don’t judge me when I have a little too much of my sangria.

Backyard, ready for an invasion of college students

 

 

Just a few of my favorite human beings:

              

My sister & me with a chocolate mousse cake with raspberry filling. Yum 🙂

PS – Hannah, I really meant to make your guacamole but I completely ran out of time to buy everything for it! I promise I’m going to try it soon. 🙂

What are your favorite recipes to make for parties? Share them here!

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