Nat’s Seafood Mac

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Hey y’all! I have been asked to share my seafood Mac n cheese recipe and here she is! 
We are all inspired from time to time, and I have to give credit to the two recipes who got me here. My recipe is a combination of Divas Can Cook’s “Southern Baked Macaroni and Cheese” and Queenslee Appétit’s “Cajun Shrimp and Crab Mac and Cheese”. 
I wanted to make sure I kept the true southern essence while enhancing it with seafood, and the method I came up with worked very well for me. 
I took what I liked from each, and came up with this recipe, so enjoy! 

Prep: 30 minutes 
Cook: 50 minutes 

2 lbs wild caught shrimp (cleaned, deveined and diced. I used fresh and frozen)
2 tbs grapeseed (what I used) or olive oil 
2 tsp of Tony Chachere’s (will sprinkle more, to your liking, on the top before baking) 
1 tsp Magic Seasoning Blends Seafood Magic (will sprinkle more, to your liking, on the top before baking)
1/2 tsp Garlic powder 
1/2 tsp Onion powder 
4 cans of lump crab meat (I used the Bumble Bee brand)  
Elbow macaroni (2 - 16 oz boxes)
1 cup whole milk 
2 cans evaporated milk 
1 1/2 cup Monterey Jack hand shredded
1 1/2 cup colby shredded hand shredded 
1 cup sharp cheddar hand shredded 
Smoked cheddar (hard to find, but I found some seasonal at Target)
About a handful of fresh parsley 
1 15 x 11 foil baking pan 

*Special Notes:
First and foremost, always use what you can within your budget and be mindful that substitutions can alter the end result. If you feel you have a better technique as well, please throw down in your kitchen in whatever way makes you comfortable (i.e: I did not use flour nor egg, but if you would like to, that is entirely up to you). 

The seafood alone will run you a minimum of $40 dollars, so be mindful this is not an everyday dish and more suited for special occasions. 

If you have time to boil and crack two pounds of fresh crab, hats off to you chef! But for time sake, grab the cans off the shelf. If the cans are bad, so is the cheese and this is not the meal for all of that. 
So, for the cans of crab meat: if you decided to buy the cheaper cans, be advised the meat is sawdust-like and the smell is very off and chemically to me. The lump crab meat is more expensive, but it’s closest to fresh and you don’t run the risk of fine milled pieces of crab shell in your dish, like I have experienced. 

Yes, the plant based gyal is telling you to use whole milk. We’re already using cow milk cheeses and swimming crustaceans in this dish, so I do not know how it will set with alternative milk choices, since the milk helps add a creamy texture to the dishes. You may want to use a tablespoon or two of flour to help hold the macaroni and cheese if you go with a less fatty and alternative option. 
And yes, evaporated milk is off white, pretty much tan. Don’t be tempted to throw away your evaporated milk like me, since I haven’t used a can in years and was worried. Vegans, I tell you. 

The block is hot, the block is hot! 
I used block cheese to make sure the mac n cheese wouldn’t have any unnecessary dryness. The caking agents added (pulp/cellulose) can affect the moisture in the Mac n cheese and since I had time, today, I didn’t want any parts of that. 
I think your love ones will still think it was  made out of love if you use pre-shredded. 
But Ms.Diva said the smoked cheddar has to be shredded, and when you have a plethora of delicious recipes like her, you do whatever she says, ok!  

  1. Set the oven to 350° degrees. Depending on your oven, you will need to adjust. 
  2. Now wash your hands. Thank you. 
  3. Grab your blocks of cheese and begin to shred. I used my 4 sided grater and went with the large shred side. Add cheese into one large mixing bowl or place in 3 separate dishes. You can shred half of your smoked cheddar now, but you will only need it in the end, for the top. 
  4. Soak rinsed fresh or thawed shrimp in water and lemon while you get ready to prep the macaroni.
  5. Boil both boxes of macaroni in a large pot (I used one that can hold 8 quarts of water). I have cooked them as recommended on the box (7 minutes) and have cooked them past that to 10 minutes and the dish came out fine. Use your discretion. 
  6. While the noodles are cooking, rinse the shrimp again and begin to dice in small cubes. Make sure the shrimp is deveined, please. The more pieces the more you’ll have to spread throughout the pan.
  7. Drain noodles and dump into 15x11 pan. It may seem low but once you add seafood, milk and cheese it will rise up. 
  8. Heat pan on medium heat and add in the 2 tbs of oil. Pat dry shrimp and add diced pieces into pan. Cool until the skin starts to turn pink and then add in seasonings. Turn off heat and set aside; don’t overcook shrimp! 
  9. Save some of the shrimp drippings/sauce and add it to the cooling macaroni. Drain and dump in the cans of crab meat. Go ahead and mix around the seafood and watch things start to come alive. Be proud because your making something that can move...tables and chairs, not the mountains though. 
  10. On medium heat, in the same pot you used for the macaroni, add in the whole and cans of milk and cheese to make a cheese sauce. I grabbed a handful of each (Monterey, sharp cheddar, and colby) and added in to the pot. Whisk and whisk until you see the cheese become goey, and you can feel the milk become thicker. This takes about 5 minutes until you have a nice creamy sauce. Once you have your chess sauce, add in garlic and onion powder, a dash of both seafood seasonings, and a pinch of salt (remember cheese is salty, you added seasoning to the shrimp and you will be sprinkling the seafood seasoning on the top once your mac n cheese is assembled. So don’t get salty, I want you to have a well seasoned dish too. 
  11. Pour cheese sauce over noodles and mixed in seafood and begin to blend it all. We want every noodle to feel appreciated now. 
  12. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and add sprinkle on the smoked cheddar as well. Sprinkle on both seafood seasonings for a little more flavor, but most importantly for color and presentation.
  13. Top with your fresh minced parley. Queenslee’s recipe called for fresh basil, but I don’t like basil (even though it’s not for me) and opted for another herb. Parsley always pairs well with seafood, so I knew that was a safe switch. Fresh herbs always spruces up any dish, so get fancy, but not too fancy. We want to enhance, not overwhelm. 
  14. Viola. You are all done and you get to put it in the oven for...30 minutes. You thought I was going to say for baby and me, didn’t you? Don’t cover. We want it to get golden brown and the crispy edges lovers will thank you. 
  15. Remove and let it cook for about 10 minutes. I never get the chance to let that happen, so I’m just telling you this because every meal that was cooked at a hot temperature needs the chance to let the flavors set in place. But like I said, your guest will probably kick you out of the kitchen before you can shoo them away. 

Hopefully this dish will be a knockout staple for you to bring to gatherings or something new you can try for your loved ones to enjoy. 
If you want to add lobster, a different cheese or two, or even bread crumbs on top, do your thing. 
Just don’t forget to share and tell me how it goes. I would love your feedback!
If you feel I should revise a part for better understanding, please don’t hesitate. Constructive criticism is always welcome and I cook by sight and feeling, so recipe writing is still very new to me. 

Bon Appétit,


Grant, Party of Five: Family Photos

Saturday, November 9, 2019

It is that time of year again, when we need to renew our family photos. Since Nori-Ann was born, take portraits together has been a favorite past time of ours to gather, capture our family and our dynamic, and then have memories look back on. 
And each session, we sure have grown!
The last photo session we partook in was for our maternity shoot, in April of 2018.

Dress by Pinkblush

 I loved everything about these photos and my great friend, Sabrina (here) did a great job capturing our growing family beautifully. 


 Even though Noah was there gestational, our walls still felt bare (no literally they are after we painted the whole house and I said I wouldn’t put the old ones back up until we took updated family photos. And here we are one year late

These beautiful photos were captured by Dani of Dani Parada Photography. Though my personal style has changed a bit, I wanted the portraits to reflect the same. I’ve fell in love with rust, mustard yellow/turmeric’s and the like, and wanted to embrace the warmth and softness of my visionary lifestyle. 

Mommy Tip:
Bring your little ones favorite snacks so they can be comfortable.
 It's ok to let them roam and the photographer can get some candids of them.
Happy babies who get to frolic and won't become hangry, win win!   

I first started looking for inspiration on Pinterest. I tell everyone, all the time, it is a visual Google and perfect for inspiration! There’s ideas for poses, color palettes, locations and so much more. 
I went looking for color palette/outfit  ideas and I was not left empty handed.  
Outfit Inspiration by 100 Layer Cake-let

I’m already minimal/capsule style gyal with pops of boldness and with a tad of eccentric, but I knew I wanted denim for sure, white and gray as a base and went from there. I saw sage greens and olives, navy, black, and camel; which were all colors worthy of consideration. I would recommend sticking to 2/3 neutrals and 2 bolder colors and I did just that. 
For the bolder colors, I picked dusty rose (Nori-Ann’s dress ) and rust (Noah’s jumper ). 

 Outfit Details:
Norvaris sweater
Jeans: Old Navy 
Boots: DSW

My sweater
Cami: Zara 
Jeans: Levi’s 
Mules: Madewell (an investment piece I’ve been coveting and now that I’m not worried about keeping them pristine for photos, I can wear them mad, and I have plans to. Literally, a list of outfits just to wear them!)

Nori-Ann’s dress: (linked above) Zara
Boots: Old Navy 

Nathaniel’s Henley top
Jeans: Target 
Boots: Carter’s 

Noah’s jumper: (linked above) Amazon 
Shirt: Target 
Moccasins: Amazon (needed cheaper, hard bottom ones, quick, and these did the job). 

I got that out of the way, I did a quick Instagram search. Literally type in your city or county (or one you are familiar with and don’t mind driving to) and then photographer right after. So hashtag, slide all them letters together and boom! (ie: #fakecityphotographer).
Ask about their policy, get to know them a bit, and scope out who is within your budget and available for your schedule. 
*Please remember, these pictures, are an investment, so treat them as such and respect the photographers price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, but if you want JC Penney prices, go to JC Penney. They have to pay for their own equipment, fees etc. 
Ok, photography civil rant over. 

We found Dani, scoped out her work, I checked the tagged post to see what others said about her (reviews and accreditation) and how well she photographed not only different locations and event, but what mattered to me: families, outdoor, and people with my complexion as well. 



Next was location. I knew I wanted outdoor again, but wanted to have an abandoned road behind us. Dani found a park I’ve never been to, for us, but the day of, there was torrential rain and we had to change locations the day of! Yup, you read that right. 
We almost ended up at a coffee shop or museum, but we settled on a park (almost 2 hours away) but we were determined and was sticking to our scheduled plan. 
Make sure you check for fees, location safety and weather. Always have a plan b! 

 All in all, I hope you loved these photos as much as we love them and don’t be afraid to comment at the end which ones were your favorite. Now I have my work cut out for me, to go try and find  my “top 8” for our gallery wall. 

-xo Natasha 

Quick and Nutritious Breakfast Ideas

Monday, October 28, 2019

It seems like no matter what we do, time always seems to get the best of us and a disadvantage of that can be putting ourselves on the back burner. Wellness and self care should be just as important and that should involve a breakfast, even if it has to be quick, that’s healthy and your body deserves. 
Here are a few items I regularly fix for myself or feed my family that takes a little bit of time to make and has a whole lot of nutrition.

Hydrate First! 
Try to start the day with some warm lemon or key lime water. 
Warm up those systems and get your body hydrated and prepped first and foremost. Here are some benefits of warm lemon water. 

Always my favorite healthy fast food. 
A bowl of berries, 2 or even 3 bananas, some season pears or apples or peach and mango slices. Add some raw nut butter for added protein and healthy fat. 



One of my favorite quick and nutritious meals. You can make it sweet or savory and can take it with you. Sitting down and taking the time to eat is better for your digestion, but for transparency purposes, toast 
can go on the road with you. I prefer sprouted or spelt wheat bread over “bread” that’s bleached, nutrient zapped and replaced with artificial dupes, or has a way too long list of ingredients.

Photo by: Deryn Macey (@runningonrealfood)

Favorite recipes:
Almond butter honey or maple syrup

-topped with chia seeds, hemp seeds, or fresh berries 
Avocado w/sea salt and pepper, or hemp or sesame seeds
-topped with Roma tomato slices or red onion if time permits 
Chia preserves 

**Whether you eat eggs, or don’t eat eggs like myself, that’s neither here nor there. I know I can find nutrition elsewhere without eating an animal by product and the mister and children eat eggs. So you can 
boil and eat your eggs or skim over. 

Hard boiled eggs 
Crack and pack and ear on the go. 
I don’t eat eggs, but when the kids occasionally do, they always opt for hard boiled eggs. 

Waffles or Pancakes 
Nature’s Path waffles and cereal. 
I love that the ingredients are much better than conventional cereals, dyed with fruits and veggies and made with less sugar. 
Now for homemade, you can make extra one morning and freeze them for later. Then, homemade pancakes can be nutritious and quick. Make and freeze later French toast we’ll help as well. 
Here’s my favorite vegan recipe: Here

Light and Fluffy Vegan Pancakes by The Pretty Bee

Make little baggies the night before and have them ready to blend and go. I love smoothies for summer mornings, but in the colder months, I’d rather have them for an afternoon snack. 
Add in plant based protein from chia or hemp seeds, or even powder.


W/ granola and fruit. 
I like the So Delicious brand for yogurt (unsweetened) and then add honey or agave to your liking, fruit (berries are usually my go to and then some granola (homemade or store bought. Pay attention to ingredients). 


I prefer stove top, but if you are going to use prepackaged, check those ingredients. We want oats, real cane sugar; you can add your own cinnamon, pumpkin spice, minced apples, peaches or strawberries etc. 

Bake ahead of time and grab and go. The options are endless: banana, chocolate zucchini, carrot, apple, berries. 

Photo by: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron (@shootdelecious)

Trail mix
Mix up some raisins, Gogi or mulberries, with 3/4 of your favorite bits. Tons of healthy fats and packed with protein and will give you a steady bit of energy for the morning. 

My fav mix is raisins, pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts, and vegan dark chocolate mini chips. 

These are go-to meals for my family and I and don't be afraid to tweak it to fit your taste buds or satiety level. 

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