One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese

You know how you can tell I'm a nutrition nerd? I genuinely love kale.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

My friend tells me the only reason I like kale is because I cook it with oil and salt. That's probably true. And then I tell him: at least I'm putting oil and salt on something as amazingly healthy as kale.

Okay, so I really do like kale for more than just it's excellent ability to perform as an excuse for me to eat salt. How do I love thee, kale? Let me count the ways.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Reason #1: Nutrition

Kale has recently been elevated as a "superfood," along with other great treats such as blueberries and salmon. As it turns out, this title is well-deserved.

Superfood (ˈso͞opərˌfo͞od)
A nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being
— Oxford Dictionaries

Here are some of the my favorite nutrition facts about kale:

  • Lots of Phytochemicals: Kale is high in lutein and beta-carotene, doing its job to support immunity, eye health, and prevention of cancer.
  • High in fiber: one cup of cooked kale provides 2.6 grams of fiber, thus supporting digestive health, helping to lower bad cholesterol, supporting heart health, and helping you to feel fuller on fewer calories!
  • High in vitamins & minerals: Kale has lots of Vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), B6, C, and K. It is also a good source of calcium and potassium, and is a great vegetarian source of iron.
  • Low in all the bad stuff: Zero bad fats, no cholesterol, (almost) calorie-free, and low in sodium (until you add salt while cooking). I <<heart>> veggies.
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Reason #2: Structure

For those of you in the world who enjoy eating cooked spinach, you have my deepest respect.

I love spinach, and will eat it cooked when it's served to me (and even pretend to enjoy it). Buuut when I'm being honest, I really don't enjoy the slimy pile of mush that spinach turns into after being sautéed for a few minutes.

Kale, on the other hand, holds its shape even under high heat. You can cook it until crispy (like with kale chips) or sauté and add to various dishes (like scrambled eggs) without it dying completely.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Reason #3: Flavor

To avoid bitterness, choose kale leaves that are young and tender. Beyond that, kale doesn't have a very strong flavor, which turns out to be one of its greatest attributes. Kale blends in nicely to many dishes, like this grown-up mac & cheese that we'll make today. Or serves as a great vehicle for salt & fat -- kale chips are much healthier than potato chips.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas & Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Have I convinced you to fall in love with kale? If not, try making the fantastic (and easy!) One-Dish Healthy Mac & Cheese, and perhaps your taste buds can do the talking.

Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a four-quart sauté pan. Dice a red onion and add to the pan.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Mince three garlic cloves (remember the trick to smash the cloves before peeling the outer skin). Add to the onions and continue to sauté.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Sauté onion and garlic until transluscent and garlic is fragrant, then add eight cups of kale that has been torn into small pieces. If using fresh kale, remember to tear the leaves from the stalky stems and discard these - fiber is good, but eating the stems is really not an option. An easier option is to purchase a bag of kale (found next to the bagged lettuce in your local grocery store).

Add kale to the sauté pan and cook until it shrinks to about half of the volume that you started with.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

While your kale cooks down, dice six medium tomatoes, then add to the kale mixture.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Next, add four cups 100% whole grain pasta (I used Rotini, but you can also use elbow macaroni or penne), two cups skim milk, one cup of water, a half cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, and a half teaspoon of salt. Stir and allow to cook until pasta is almost finished cooking.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com
One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Add two cups grated colby jack cheese and one half cup crumbled feta cheese. Allow the cheese to melt and continue to cook until the pasta is al dente. That's "to the tooth" in Italian -- the pasta should be slightly chewy when finished.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

This is my beautiful basil plant. He lives on my windowsill and provides me with fresh basil in exchange for a little water, sunlight, and love.  Add a fourth cup of freshly shredded basil leaves just before taking the dish off the heat.

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Serve hot and enjoy this cheesy, veggie-filled goodness!

One-Dish Grown-up Healthy Mac & Cheese from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Enjoy!

One-Dish Grown-up Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 c. fresh kale
  • 6 fresh tomatoes
  • 4 c. 100% whole grain pasta (uncooked)
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 c. skim milk
  • 1/2 c. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 c. colby jack cheese
  • 1/2 c. feta cheese
  • 1/4 c. fresh basil leaves, shredded

Instructions:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a 4-quart sauté pan until shimmering. Add onion and garlic to pan and sauté until onion is tranluscent and garlic is fragrant.
  2. Tear leaves off and discard tough stems. Tear leaves into 2-inch pieces and add to the sauté pan and cook until it shrinks to about half of its original volume.
  3. While the kale cooks, dice tomatoes, then add them to the kale mixture.
  4. Stir in pasta, milk, water, yogurt, and salt. Cook until just before pasta is done, about 12-15 minutes. Once cooked add both types of cheese and continue to cook until pasta is al dente.
  5. Just before removng from heat, add shredded basil.

Serves 6 - Serving Size: 2 cup - Nutrients per serving: 513 calories -- 20g total fat -- 9g saturated fat -- 53mg cholesterol -- 635mg sodium -- 54g total carbohydrates -- 11g fiber -- 27g protein