If the papaya chunks did not give it away, I will admit I am craving a bit of color. The pure whites of snow, the deep greens of pine needles are wonderful. I have marveled at them for weeks now and I will be ready to do so again, come next November. But at the present time, I’m ready for a fresh pallet. Fortunately, tomorrow is the first day of March. My wishes will soon be fulfilled.
I stood in front of rows of lettuce at the grocery store yesterday. I searched for the spinach, hoping the timed water misters would not open up while I was leaning in beneath them. Then it hit me. Thankfully not the water, but the scent of daffodils and hyacinths. It would be prudent of me to share with you that the produce section sits just beside the floral department. I lost track of the mixed greens and baby spinach, I was aloft in warmer days and dew drops on miniature daffodils.
I resisted the urge to pick up one of each, for soon the daffodils that run abundantly in our yard will shoot up and be fresh for the picking. I also spent last weekend giving an update to my garden bench in my room, with a small ivy plant and some herb seeds. More on this in another post soon. I would walk away holding only spinach and kale, but the songs (and scents) of spring were awakened within my heart.
With this encounter, I knew dinner needed to be colorful. I could not wish spring to come any faster, but I could liven up the dinner plate. It had also been a rainy, blustery day with lights flickering and threats of power outages. I wanted warmth and I wanted color. I wanted a bit of spice too. Thanks to pinterest and Food and Nutrition Magazine, I had found a satisfactory recipe. Spicy Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese. Comfort food meets fresh produce.
Spicy Roasted Vegetable Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from Comfort of Cooking Blog
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into small chunks
1/2 to 3/4 cup a large red pepper, diced
1 medium yellow squash, quartered and diced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (whole grain if you’d like)
just slightly less than 1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 TBSP all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used a mix of sharp and extra sharp, freshly grated)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
crushed red pepper flakes smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
3 TBSP panko breadcrumbs
About 2 TBSP freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F. Set a medium pot of water to boil. Prepare a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Toss broccoli, red pepper, squash and carrots onto the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Once water is boiling, lower heat slightly and cook pasta, according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook for one minute. Gradually add in milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Add in smoked paprika and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese sauce over pasta, mix in vegetables.
Transfer mixture to a large casserole dish and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. Place under the broiler (500F) for 3 to 4 minutes, until top is golden brown. Serve and enjoy.