Bacon and Kale Mac-n-Cheese

Many of you asked for the recipe, so here it is! Bacon and Kale Mac-n-cheese. I have a basic mac-n-cheese recipe that I change up, probably every time I make it 🙂 Not too long ago I shared my Spinach and Artichoke Mac-n-Cheese recipe with you all. This one is not very different. For every mac-n-cheese, I make a roux (gluten-free flour and butter), add some spices, acid (lemon or vinegar to cut down the richness a little), then the shredded cheese and whatever extras you want to include, if any.

Bacon and Kale Mac-n-Cheese


1-12 to 16 ounce package of your favorite GF pasta (I used Wegman’s GF Fusilli)

1 cup of kale, washed, pulled of stem and chopped finely

½ pound of bacon, chopped

2/3 cup of butter

1/2 cup of Cup4Cup gluten free flour

1 Tablespoon brown spicy mustard

1 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

About 2 cups of 2% milk (you can use whole milk)

1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar or juice of ½ a lemon

About 10 ounces of cheese (I used about 6 ounces of Cabot extra sharp cheddar and 4 ounces of an Aged Gouda)


Prepare pasta according to directions on the box. Place a cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat. Add bacon to the cold pan and let it heat while the pan heats. Cook bacon for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add kale. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the bacon has browned and started to crisp. Save bacon and kale mixture on a plate until ready to mix with pasta and cheese sauce. In the same cast iron skillet, melt butter and whisk in the flour, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes and then add the milk. Whisk together until all the lumps are out.  Stir in vinegar or lemon juice then add the cheese. Mix to melt the cheese and take off heat. Add drained pasta, bacon and kale. Mix through and serve!

I am, honestly, not a big fan of kale. Others in my family like it, so I’ll appease them by making it…covered in cheese 🙂

Mac-n-cheese is a great basic recipe to master and then you can play with it, using different vegetables, meats and spices to create new meals.When I don’t have time or the ability to be at the stove cooking for 20 minutes, I make a quick version of mac-n-cheese using mascarpone. Check it out here! It is a great easy meal.

What is your favorite mac-n-cheese topping or mix-in?

Pre and Post Thanksgiving ideas (with a potluck recipe thrown in)

Clearing out your fridge and freezer to make room for all the Thanksgiving goodies while saving your cooking energy for the big day can be challenging, but is doable. You will be happy that you have room in your freezer for some of the Thanksgiving foods that you don’t feel like eating or cooking with any more.

On Sunday I made a potato and kale soup to use up some onions and potatoes that I didn’t think would make it to Thursday and a 1/4 of a bag of frozen kale that I had left in the freezer.

Potato and Kale soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, diced (use whatever kind you have on hand or you could use leeks or shallots)
6-8 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced (use whatever kind you have on hand)

1- 2 teaspoons salt (add more to your taste)
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
2 Tbsp coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder (you can use fresh, just add it a couple minutes after the onions)
6-8 cups of chicken stock (use veggie stock if you want to make this vegetarian)
2 handfuls of frozen kale (use a little more if using fresh kale)

 Heat soup pot on medium high. Pour in olive oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add potatoes and more olive oil if it looks like things are sticking. Add salt, lemon pepper, coriander and garlic powder. Stir until potatoes and coated. Cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add enough stock to cover the potatoes and reserve extra for later.  Cook for about 15 -20 minutes or until you can easily smash a potato with a fork against the side. Stir in kale and cook for a couple of more minutes. Then puree using your favorite method. I use a handheld immersion blender and blend until potatoes are smooth. There will be pieces of kale throughout. If you use a blender or food processor, let the soup cool before pureeing.

TIP: This can also be done in a slow cooker by dumping everything but the kale in and cooking on low for 6-8 hours. Then add the kale and let it cook for about 20 minutes and then puree.

Keep it simple this week, make some pasta with jarred sauce or use baby food for extra veggies, do a make your own pizza night like we did last night or make some quesadillas.

Easy Flatbread pizzas

Flatbreads (store bought pizza dough or tortillas will work just a well)
jar of pasta or pizza sauce
shredded mozzarella (or whatever cheese you like)
Whatever toppings you have. Be creative! I used some leftover spaghetti squash (mix in with the cheese), leftover pesto and some sun dried tomatoes on mine. Husband had pineapple on his. Kids just had spaghetti squash.

Follow instructions on package as to how long to cook.

This is also the time of the year for potlucks at your kids school or at friends houses. Here is an easy pasta salad recipe (that does not have to be heated!!) that I recently brought to a family luncheon at my daughter’s pre school.

Caprese and Roasted Squash Pasta Salad

2 boxes of tri colored rotini
1 pint of cherry tomatoes chopped in half
about 6 oz of fresh mozzarella diced
about 10 leaves of fresh basic cut in a chiffonade (fancy word for rolling them up together and slicing)
1 Acorn squash, peeled and cubed (you can use whatever fall/winter squash you like)
Lemon Pepper
White Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Grated parmesan (I used the stuff that comes in the green can and it was great! but use fresh if you have it)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta according to the directions on the box. Drain and put in a large bowl that you would use to transport the pasta salad. While the water is boiling for the pasta, prepare the squash and place it on a sheet pan tossed with olive oil, salt and lemon pepper. Roast in oven for about 20- 25 minutes or until edges start to brown. Take out and let cool. Put tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in a small mixing bowl. In another bowl add 1 part olive oil to about 1/2 part vinegar (depending on how much vinegar flavor you like add more or less). Mix in salt, lemon pepper and grated parmesan to your taste.  Add some of the vinaigrette to your tomato and mozzarella mixture and let sit. Add about 3/4 of vinaigrette to the hot pasta and mix. Cover both bowls and keep in fridge over night. Also cover vinaigrette and put in fridge. In the morning mix the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with the pasta and taste. If needs more vinaigrette add more of the remaining until it tastes like you want it to.

Lastly today, here are some links for leftover ideas!

Scallion pancakes and crispy turkey from Sandra Lee. Here is the video. I’m definitely trying this one!
Turkey enchiladas
Other ideas

Pick up some of the groceries for these easy leftover meals when you do your thanksgiving shopping. That way you do not have to go back to the store!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Butternut squash and kale…I love the fall!

If you follow my facebook page you have seen me posting items about my slow cooker and kale experiments this week. You can click here to follow me on facebook 🙂

Fall is great for using butternut squash and kale (among other items I will highlight in future blogs). I tend to be a creature of habit and have basically been using butternut squash only for soup for the last few years. I decided to do something a little different this week and use it for other purposes, as a side dish with a meat and as part of a main course.

London Broil with Butternut Squash, Zucchini over Polenta

 Approx. 1.5 lb London Broil (mine was frozen and about 1.8 lbs)
1 small to medium size butternut squash, cubed
1 zucchini cubed
2 small onions sliced
2 cups beef broth
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of sage
1-2 Tbsp Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning (mix of salt, coriander, paprika, mustard seed, black peppercorns, onion, garlic, chili pepper)
1 bay leaf

2 cups polenta
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups milk
1/4 cup parmesan

Add London Broil, squash, zucchini, onions to slow cooker. Then add liquids and spices. Mix together. Cook on low for 5-7 hours.  About an hour before serving, make quick polenta. Bring chicken stock and milk to a slow boil and slowly add quick cooking polenta while whisking. When done, add parmesan and mix.

Serve with steak, squash + onions on top of polenta. 

Tip: For the kids, take some of the polenta and put it in a small brownie pan. Cool + then cut into fun shapes using a cookie cutter. Karina and the boys love this! Easy for toddlers to pick up.

Kale and Basil Pesto with Roasted Butternut squash  (Approx. 6 servings)
Based on this NY Times recipe.

About 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, cubed.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Lemon pepper
1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, center ribs removed
1 small bunch of fresh basil
1 box whole wheat penne

2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1/4 – 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and season generously with salt and lemon pepper. Spread pieces into an even layer, making sure there is space between them. Roast, stirring squash pieces once or twice, until golden brown and tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; have ready a bowl of ice water. Drop kale into boiling water and cook for 45 seconds. Use tongs or slotted spoon to transfer kale to ice water (slotted spoon worked better for me). Bring water in pot back to a boil, adding more if necessary so there is enough to cook pasta.

Drain kale well, then wrap tightly in a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess moisture. Roughly chop leaves. When water in pot comes back to a boil, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a food processor, pulse together kale, basil, garlic, salt, some lemon pepper and parmesan until mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Taste and add more salt and lemon pepper if necessary.

Drain pasta and reserving a little cooking water. Toss pasta with kale and basil pesto and some pasta cooking water if necessary to help it coat pasta. Add squash and mix. My 3 (almost 4 year old) mixed this for me and loved it as did my 16 month old boys. It was very messy, but they ate it all up.

I also made some kale chips, using this recipe:, but I added some South African Smoke (a great spice blend from Trader Joe’s) and salt. My husband loved them. The kids thought they were leaves they could crush 🙂

I hope to have some more posts in the next couple of weeks about the wonderful local fall produce and what I’ve made with it!

Check out this weekly column I recently discovered (Thank you Sally!) for some great ideas for local fall foods:

Kale and Cauliflower

Everyone seems to be talking about kale this week 🙂 One blog I follow, Frantic Foodie, recently highlighted a recipe for Kale chips. At my bookclub last week the conversation was all about kale and cauliflower. So I’ve never been a big fan of either, but in the spirit of getting Karina to eat healthy food I’m willing to try new things. My guest blogger for the day is my friend Amanda (mom of 2). Here are some recipes she uses. I plan to try them out soon…I tasted the cauliflower delight and it was delicious (and I don’t usually like cauliflower or mayo)! Thanks Amanda!

Cauliflower delight!
Cut the thick stalk from the underside of Cauliflower
Place in microwave safe dish and add 1/2 cup of water
Cover and microwave for 6 minutes.

Prick with fork to check for tenderness…
if cooked to your liking, spoon a mixture of 1/4 cup mayo and 2 TB dijon mustard on top of cauliflower and then 1/4 cup grated cheese (cojack or mild cheddar)
Return to microwave for 45 seconds to warm topping and melt cheeeeeeeeeezzzzeeeeee

Easiest Kale Salad EVER (also from Cynthia Lair — below)

One head of Kale, rinsed and chopped
tsp cooking oil (oil is optional– you can cook kale with the water left on it from rinsing. This sort of steams it. Just as good and even easier)

3 TB seasoned rice vinegar
1 TB sesame oil
1 tsp hot pepper oil
1 tsp maple syrup

2 TB sesame seeds

Cook over med-high heat stirring around the pan until bright green and 1/3 original volume.
toss with sesame seeds and dressing. good hot and cold

**If kale is a little strong in flavor for you when you first try it, you can toss it in boiling water for a few minutes (like 3)… just until the bitterness goes away. Keep tasting it. there seems to be a magical minute where it still tastes fresh, less kale-y, but not blah from being overcooked.

Massaged Kale and Currant Salad

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Feeding the Whole Family” (third edition) by Cynthia Lair (Sasquatch Books, 2008). *** the above cookbook is so good— totally changed how I cook and shaped my ideas about feeding kids.. Cynthia Lair is awesome.

Serves 6

Bastyr University adjunct faculty member Jennifer Adler contributed this recipe. Jennifer likes to make a large batch of this salad to ensure that she has dark leafy greens ready when busy days are ahead. It tastes better as the days go by.

Preparation time: 15 minutes.

1 bunch of kale

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/3 cup dried currants

3/4 cup diced apple

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

De-stem kale by pulling leaves away from the stems. Wash leaves, spin or pat dry. Stack leaves, roll up and cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade). Put kale in a large mixing bowl and add salt. Massage salt into kale with your hands for 2 minutes.

To toast sunflower seeds, put in a dry skillet over low to medium heat and stir constantly for a few minutes until they change color and give off a nutty aroma.

Stir onion, currants, apple and toasted seeds into kale. Dress with oil and vinegar. Taste for salt and vinegar, adding more if necessary. When at desired flavor, toss in cheese. This salad will keep for several days and still be great!

The other favorite recipe from childhood (that takes about 20 minutes start to finish) is …..

“Pepper steak!!!!!

put 11/2 cups rice/ 3 cups water on to cook


mix 1 TB maple syrup and 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 water and 2 TB corn starch in a bowl–

cut up 2 carrots, 1 crown of broccoli, green peppers (or red or orange) onions, a few small thin matchsticks of ginger.

thinly slice a small serving of beef…

Stir fry veggies in a pan or wok with a little oil over high heat. Keep moving in pan so they cook but don’t burn.

Remove veggies from pan and set aside.

Add beef and stir fry that around until barely undercooked.

Add Veggies and sauce to beef and continue to cook until sauce thickens.

Serve over hot rice and enjoy.