Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese...

This is no ordinary mac and cheese, in fact it's down right sneaky!  Confession: I can't eat something that's just plain old unhealthy.  I have to spike it with veggies somehow to make myself feel less guilty.    My little farmhands wanted macaroni and cheese and this is what popped out of the oven.  Cheesy and creamy, with pumpkin and kale mixed in; we all loved it.  The kids had no idea that it was loaded with pumpkin, and they are used to me putting kale in just about everything they eat, and the hubby gobbled it!  I felt a little less guilty knowing that I was eating noodles spiked with a superfood!  Pumpkin has just about every nutrient under the sun in it, or so it seems: vitamins A and C, potassium, manganese, copper, riboflavin, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamins E and B6, niacin, thiamin, and pantothenic acid.  Phew!  It has major amounts of micronutrients and it's super tasty.

This fabulous mac and cheese has three cheeses blended into a white sauce made with a roux.  It's loaded with oodles of garlic, with pumpkin and kale mixed in to make it extra good.  Add whole grain macaroni and you have turned a comfort food into super food.  Although, I wouldn't eat it every night, it still has some serious cheese in it.  Serve it with garlicky green beans and you are in cheesy heaven.  This is one of those special meals that you eat maybe once a month!  It's so good, you'll wish you could have it all the time...

*Note: This makes two good sized pans of macaroni.  You can freeze one for later, cover it with parchment and plastic wrap after you spoon it into the pan.  Don't bake it in the oven.  Put it in the freezer for up to 1 month.  When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375ºF, unwrap, remove parchment and cover with foil. Bake in the oven until hot and bubbly.

backyard farmgals

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
1 stalk celery, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups milk
3 cups grated cheese:
     1 cup Colby Jack
     1 cup Sharp White Cheddar
     1 cup Emmentaler (Swiss) Cheese
1 cup cooked and pureed pumpkin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
16 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 cup kale, cut into thin ribbons
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp melted butter

Heat oven to 375ºF.  In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the celery and minced garlic and cook until just softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the flour and stir until a thick paste forms (you will have some lumps from the celery, it's okay, just keep stirring).  Cook for a few minutes.  You are making a roux to make a white sauce.  After the butter and flour mixture have cooked for a few minutes, slowly add the milk, stirring well to incorporate the flour mixture to the milk.  Stirring continuously, cook until thickened and smooth, it will take just a few minutes to thicken, be patient.  Add the cheese and stir to melt and combine.  Add the pumpkin, salt and pepper, and stir until incorporated.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

You may need a large bowl at this point, depending on the size of your pan.  Either in your pan or a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni with the pumpkin and cheese sauce.  Stir carefully, so you don't break the macaroni.  Add the thin ribbons of kale and stir to combine again.  Pour into buttered casserole pans, or 1 pound bread pans work well too.  Mix the bread crumbs with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle over the top of the macaroni.  Bake in 375ºF oven for about 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.


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