Do You Smell Something Burning?

Hello internet folk! 

This week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba's annual Date with a Star fundraiser at the Fort Gary Hotel. It was a wonderful evening with a lot of delicious food and lively conversation. This combination inspired me to write about one of my favourite two pastimes, cooking and of course eating.

Part of my speech was a story about the day I was diagnosed with ADHD. Not so much the appointment itself but about getting ready for that appointment and the struggles attached to living with undiagnosed ADHD. I knew I had a problem that morning when I found myself sitting at the piano, playing a song with my right hand, holding a brick of cheese in my left, and I was dripping wet, only wearing a towel because I had just gotten out of the shower. This was the moment. Well. This was a moment. I’ve had many moments like these throughout my life where I have to stop and ask myself, “What are you doing?”. 

The answer that morning was simple. I had just gotten out of the shower, was on the way to my bedroom, as I passed through the kitchen I decided I should make myself a grilled cheese sandwich, because I couldn’t possibly wait until after I was dressed. So I turned on the frying pan, grabbed the cheese, but that’s when I realized I forgot to take bread out of the freezer the night before so I went to get that from downstairs. I decided to take the cheese with me because I knew I would probably lose it if I set it down, then on the way I passed the piano and needed to know if I remembered how to play that song I wrote in grade seven. I did by the way. I remembered. It was a good moment. Until it was over and I was wet, cold, holding a soggy brick of cheese with faint scent of burning butter in the background.

I always enjoyed the cooking part of making food but reading recipes and trying to organize a working space would often make the whole thing too frustrating. This was actually the case for a lot of the things I enjoyed doing. I’d get into a hobby only to quickly find myself with obstacles, like reading the instructions or the crushing defeat that the actual reading part was an obstacle when I was 16. 

Getting diagnosed was a release from that defeat. It separated my identity from my disability. A way to compartmentalize it in a way. I didn’t need to feel stupid or lazy, I could make a clear distinction; there was now a line between the learning disability, which made it difficult to read, and my identity. So I developed strategies to work around it. If I was going to use a recipe, I would read it at least 4 or 5 times until I could memorize it and say it out loud. That way I wouldn’t have to walk around the kitchen for 5 minutes looking for the recipe book because I placed a paper towel on it moments before. I started reminding myself before I sat down at the piano, that the frying pan was on. That way, I didn’t have to put out as many fires. 

After that, something really incredible happened. Because I had memorized the recipe, I was able to make it 3 or 4 days later. Improve on it, add my own ideas, I even started combining recipes. Today I want to share one of those with you. It originates from when I started making a cheese sauce to put on top of perogies and fried kielbasa. I’m not great at naming things, so we’ll just call it Best Ever Kielbasa Mac and Cheese. Easy. Done. 


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Best Ever Kielbasa Mac & Cheese


  • 1 1/2 cups Shell Pasta (Amounts of noodles eludes me. I usually just make an amount of pasta and then at the end, add however much it takes to get that perfect sauce, noodle ratio and save the rest for leftovers. So use your discretion here.)
  • 1 1/4 cup of Cubed Kielbasa 
  • 3 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 3 tbsp. Flour
  • 2 cups  Milk
  • 2 minced Cloves of Garlic
  • 2 tsp. Red Chili Flakes
  • 1 tbsp Whole Grain Dijon Mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups of Grated Cheddar Cheese (I don’t actually measure the amount of cheese I use.. I have yet to find a ceiling for the amount of cheese you can put in mac and cheese. And yes, my recipes include a running commentary, I get that from my grandmother. Wait.. oh.)


  1. Get your noodles going. I’m not going to go over this. If you don’t know how, take some time and learn, call it a new skill. You can warm up a frying pan and throw in your cubed kielbasa as well. Fry to your preferred crispiness. 
  2. Put your butter in a medium sized pot on the stove just above medium temperature. A six for those of you with numbers on your dials. 
  3. Just as the butter finishes melting, add your flour and mix it up with a wooden spoon. Add your garlic and some salt and pepper. 
  4. Slowly add your milk. You’ll want to turn the heat up to 7.5 and constantly stir while you add about a half cup of milk at a time. I usually try and maintain a saucy viscosity, but give up and dump the rest of the milk in because I’m impulsive and impatient. 
  5. Mix in your whole grain dijon mustard, followed by your fried kielbasa. 
  6. You’re pretty much done at this point. Mix in your noodles, get that perfect ratio and cook while stirring for a couple minutes to make sure everything is warm and melty. 


It won’t be your go to Mac & Cheese but it’ll definitely be the best Kielbasa Mac & Cheese you’ve ever tried. It pairs well with a Malbec, Merlot or a tall glass of cold milk. The great thing about this style of cooking is that you can’t really fail, just learn. And if it works for cooking, it might work for life. 

You all have a good week, I’ve got a pile of dishes to do. 

Until next time, 


Bob Essex1 Comment