Cheesy Risotto (Mock Mac&Cheese, Gluten Free) (Mystery Man Part 4)

Cheesy Risotto Cheesey Arborio Rice

Skip to the recipe here. Cheesy Risotto

The Grand Canyon was brilliant. I walked down the South Kaibab Trail in the bright sunlight and carried a full pack of provisions for our trip. Mystery Man, Hockey Guy and his girlfriend, Lady Hockey, hiked along side me. It was only a 6.1 mile journey, but the elevation change was a decent of 4860 feet with little water on the trail and the sun was already baking. We had a full day of walking ahead, but luckily had a campsite along the Colorado River awaiting our arrival.

Mystery Man had just graduated with his Master’s Degree three days earlier. It had been several long years stuck in classrooms, computer labs and offices. It was time to get outside.

I knew the hiking would be challenging. It would be hot. Once we were on the trail we were at least three days from getting back to civilization. I knew all of these things and more. What I deliberately put out of my mind were the shear cliffs and dizzying views from heights I would not be comfortable. I suppressed my fears. I hiked along. Dealt with it. In fact, we were getting close to the bottom of the Canyon and I thought ‘hey, I might have put my fear of heights behind me.’

Then I saw this.

South Kaibib Bridge

Are you kidding me?!

I approached the bridge with shaky knees. Mystery Man was fully aware of this bridge, and had kept this little detail to himself. He knew I would do it – if there was no choice.

There was no choice.

The walking surface was made of grates. You could see all the way – straight down – to the moving river. The bridge was suspended between two rock faces and swung slightly in the breeze.

I laughed at my previous thoughts of overcoming my fear of heights. It was real. It was happening.

We were the only people on the trail, so I asked the others to stay off the bridge to minimize any movement. Taking a deep breath, I put my boot on the first grate, looked straight ahead and strode my short, little, tired, shaky, legs to the next grate. Then the next, then the next. It was a long bridge.

The red dusty dirt clouded the air when I jumped onto solid ground. I finally exhaled. The others had started across and where taking their time with pictures and pausing to take in the views. I peeled my pack off and took a rest on a large boulder.

They joined me at the boulder, and we soon decided our short rest was over. Darkness was just two hours away and we still had to set camp and make dinner.

Upon arriving at our home for the night, Mystery Man and Hockey Guy suddenly became slightly panicked. A camera was missing and the search was on to find it. They decided it must be back at the resting boulder and left Lady Hockey and I to set camp.

So we did.

We set camp, prepped the stove, and settled in. I was getting hungry and short tempered. It was time to get dinner on and Lady Hockey insisted we wait until they returned before beginning to cook. Where were those guys?

Finally. Boots kicked up dust into camp. Making my way to the stove to get things going, I hear Mystery Man suggest we take a short walk down to the river to take in the sights.

“I’m hungry”. I groaned.

He promised it wouldn’t take long and suddenly all three of them were prodding me along. I followed reluctantly, until we reached a path to the helicopter pad. The trail head was marked for “Authorized Personnel Only”, and with a chip on my shoulder, I refused to go further. I really, really, just wanted to return to camp, eat, and rest.

Since I was being the stubborn rule-follower, Mystery Man found a nearby overgrown path. It had thickets. I had changed out of my boots into sport sandals. He led on in front of me.

I called up to him, “If I hurt my feet, I am never going to forgive you!”

“Never?” He said over his shoulder.

“Never!” I yelled.

Just a few seconds later he stopped. The Colorado River’s edge was at our feet, and the valley colors were every shade of orange and green with the setting sun. As I took in the greatness surrounding me, my eye was suddenly disrupted by an unnatural sight. Another bridge stretched across the canyon, but this one was bigger, and there was some sort of trash or strange flag hanging from it.

I turned to Mystery Man, “What is that?”

“I don’t know. Here, check it out.” He said, and handed me binoculars.

The view was very blurry at first, and it took some time to adjust the lens in the darkening valley. I finally zeroed in on the spot. This was not trash or a flag.

Hanging on the bridge was a giant white sign. It had five words.

Jessica Will You Marry Me?

Completely stunned, I brought the binoculars down and turned to Mystery Man, who was suddenly on one knee, with a ring.

Here I was. Covered in red canyon dust. Sweaty. Smelly. Cranky. And here he was. On one knee. Asking that we spend the rest of our lives together.

“….well?” he asked.

It didn’t occur to me he had been waiting for an answer. Of course I would!


A few moments later we headed for the bridge to retrieve the sign. Thoughts were flying through my head. The ‘lost’ camera, the stalling for dinner, leading me to the right spot along the river… It was all coming together and making sense. That’s when he looked at me.

“It’s all uphill from here.” he said.

“Very funny. I’m hungry.” I replied.

(We had Mac & Cheese with canned chicken for dinner. Since I can’t have Mac & Cheese anymore, I have found this recipe fills the craving, and brings back memories of the Canyon.)

Print It Here Cheesy Risotto

Cheesy Risotto


Best Buttermilk Waffles


A long week exploring National Parks. Our packs were prepared and Mystery Man and I were on our way out for a day-hike along the Yosemite Valley. First, breakfast. We sat in a dining hall that would give Harry Potter’s Hogwart’s a run for its money. The windows looked out onto slabs of granite and pristine vistas. The weather was perfect.

Waffles, among other standard breakfast fair, where placed before us and we dug in. Loading up on calories for the hike was essential since we planned on a light lunch and late dinner back here, where we started. Barley speaking to one another because the views were too much to comprehend, we ate.

Tea at Yosemite

I always save the waffle for last, like a morning dessert. Pushing the edge of my fork through its surface, my attention snapped from the rocky beauty and brought to my plate. This waffle was not the standard hotel batter from a bag. It crunched with my fork, but the interior was light and fluffy. The bite was full of flavor, a tang of buttermilk, a crunch came from an unknown source, and it was far from heavy. There was nothing artificial about it and I was intrigued. These were the best waffles I had ever had. My eyes met Mystery Man’s and he was chewing and grinning at the same time, seemingly reading my mind.

We finished up and headed out. The hike was gorgeous, and after doing a little scrambling to get to the top of Nevada Falls we settled down to take in the view and crack our packs for lunch. With our breakfasts still sustaining us, we ate little, but stayed a while for the views that changed as the clouds moved across the sky and the light played on the valleys, trees and mountains.


The second half of our walk joined with the John Muir Trail and while we shared our morning hike with many others, this section of the trail we found pleasantly deserted. The only sounds were of our own breath, an occasional breeze through the trees and small, scattering wildlife. Our boots crunched with every step and my mind slowly let go of the things we left back home. Jobs, commitments, adult responsibilities, they all melted away. With the clearing of my head came an idea. Crunch. The crunch of my boots reminded me of the waffle and I put the recipe together. Corn meal. That had to be what they used to get the texture. Whipped egg whites. That is how the waffles stayed light and never settled into rocks in our stomachs.

Finally returning back home, I set to work right away recreating the taste of Yosemite. Once I got it right, there was the same chew and grin combination on Mystery Man’s face. I hope your crunch into this waffle will result in a moment of release, no matter where you might be.


Best Buttermilk Waffles

Yields about 10 waffles, this recipe can be halved.



2 large eggs

2 egg whites

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose four

1/4 cup corn meal

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt



• You will need two medium bowls, plus a stand mixer/bowl (or hand mixer) for this preparation.

• In the first medium bowl beat together the two whole eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla, set aside.

• In the second medium bowl whisk together the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk these dry ingredients to the first bowl of wet ingredients, in small amounts at a time, until incorporated with few lumps remaining. Set aside.

• In the third bowl, preferably for an electric mixer, place the two egg whites. With the whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form.

• Carefully fold the fluffy egg whites into the batter. Try to retain the air in the foam of the egg whites and stop folding once they are just barely incorporated.

• Use this batter in your waffle iron per the manufacturer’s instructions. My waffle iron time is five minutes, exactly. Yours may differ.