Kale and Broccoli Mac and Cheese – Gluten Free

This is the perfect cozy dish for a cold, rainy fall day. In Chicago, we’ve been enduring a sodden two days, and adorable tots dressed as pirates, princesses and monsters had to seek indoor trick or treating options in apartment buildings and shopping malls. I don’t have to tell you that when we were kids, we ran around in that rain, and returned home triumphant with a hefty, if wet load of candy.

Meanwhile, I came home late, and decided I wanted to cook up some homemade mac and cheese, with a heavy hand on the cheese – and the kale. This is the kind of comfort food you throw together with bits and bobs of whatever greenery and cheese you have on hand. Cook and bake, and in 40 minutes, you’ve got some killer comfort headed straight for your belly.

Kale and Broccoli Mac
Serves 6 as a main dish

12oz gluten free elbow macaroni
3 strips of bacon, diced
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ onion, minced
1 bunch kale, rinsed, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
1 ½ cups broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
3 T butter
½ cup half and half
¼ cup almond milk*
1 tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
3 T cream cheese
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (Kerrygold cheddar is my favorite), divided
salt & pepper to taste

*hint, if your fridge is stocked better than mine, just use ¾ cup of whole milk in place of the half & half/almond milk blend

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter a large casserole dish and set aside.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water, then cook the pasta according to the package directions until it’s al dente, perhaps a minute shy of the package instructions.  Reserve ¼ cup of pasta water.
  3. While the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the diced bacon and cook 1-2 minutes until some of the fat starts to render. Add the kale, broccoli, garlic and onion and stir together. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until the kale is tender, then turn off the burner, and set the pan of kale aside.
  4. Strain the pasta, and run under cold water to stop the pasta from cooking. Pour drained pasta into a large bowl and toss with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.  Set aside.
  5. Return pasta pot to the burner over medium heat and add butter. When the butter has melted, add the milk, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and ⅓ of the cheese. Whisk constantly until the cheese dissolves and is incorporated with the milk. Add another ⅓ of the cheese and continue whisking. Add half of the pasta water and add the cream cheese in small dollops. Continue whisking for another 3-5 minutes until cream cheese is incorporated and sauce thickens slightly.
  6. Pour the pasta back into the pot and stir to coat with the sauce. Add the kale and broccoli mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Taste, and add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the whole mixture into the buttered casserole dish, and top with remaining ⅓ cup of cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes, then serve.


Disclaimer: These aren’t the best photos, but sometimes, you just want to snap a quick pic with your phone, and when a friend pleads for the recipe later, you get what you get…this mac is no less delicious for the poor lighting in my kitchen.  

Ready to Run: Poblano & Mojo Pasta

It’s not much to look at, is it? Sometimes, a seemingly beige bowl of pasta spiked with chiles is just the thing to wake you up and get ready for the next challenge. Life continues at breakneck pace for me with work, half-marathon training and too many evening obligations that have been taking me away from the stove.

I spent Friday night volunteering for the American Cancer Society at the Skyline Soiree. The party delighted 350 guests with a night of carnival games, dancing, food and cocktails to support our fight against cancer. I had a blast working the mini-golf carnival game and witnessed a roomful of adults clamoring to play and win a silly jelly ring that had LED blinking lights inside…by the end of the evening, the tent was a giant mass of dancers alight with blinking rings. Sometimes grown-ups just need a night off to play like the kids.

After the fundraising was done, I was staring down a double-race weekend and feeling like I bit off a lot more than I could handle. At the last minute, I signed Mark and I up for a 5K race on Saturday, in addition to the Race Against Hate 10K we already had planned on Sunday. The 5K was at 5:00 p.m. and miserably hot and humid – neither of us were at our best. I won’t call the 5K a total loss, though, as it gave us a chance to meet up with some of the awesome DailyMile members that have been cheering for me online for months now as I prep for the half-marathon.

By the time we got home, our stomachs were rumbling, and I wanted to have a “proper” pre-race meal, so I boiled up some Bio-naturae gluten-free linguine, and rummaged through the crisper to come up with something quick and healthy. I came back with onion, some of that liquid gold mojo de ajo confited garlic, and a couple of huge poblano peppers. While the pasta boiled, I simply sauteed the veggies with a little olive oil, added some salt & pepper and tossed the peppers with the cooked linguine and a little cooking water. A squeeze of lemon and a little finely grated aged gouda, and we had a pretty great meal to sit down to. Photos were an afterthought, but I’m glad to have captured a little of the meal, as it’s a simple dish we’ll definitely make again – maybe even the night before the next race.

For the runners out there – what’s your favorite pre-race meal? Or, what’s your favorite way to use chiles in your cooking? Share in the comments below…

Poblano & Mojo Linguine
Serves 2

6oz Bionature gluten-free linguine
2 poblano peppers, seeded and cut into long, thin strips
1/2 onion, sliced
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup mojo de ajo
1/4-1/2 cup pasta cooking water
salt to taste
lots of fresh ground black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Garnish with finely grated aged gouda or parmesan

  1. Bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water heats, slice the poblanos and onion. When the water is boiling, add the linguine and cook uncovered until al dente – about 10 minutes on my stove. Stir the pot often, so the linguine doesn’t stick together. As the pasta cooks, make the “sauce.” Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, poblanos and onion to the pan with a pinch of salt, and saute until the veggies have softened and just begun to caramelize at the edges – it should take just about the same amount of time that the pasta will need to cook.
  3. Before draining the pasta, scoop out 1/2 cup of the pasta water to help bind the pasta together. Drain the pasta quickly and add to the pan with the peppers and onions. Add the mojo de ajo and toss quickly to coat. Add some of the pasta water to help the flavors blend together. Grate lots of fresh black pepper over the pasta, and add salt if needed. Hit the pan with a squeeze or two of lemon juice just to brighten the flavors. Serve, and garnish with fresh grated aged gouda or parmesan.

The Race Against Hate Running Crew: Mark, Jeremy, Jenn, Steve, Katey, Dave, Danielle, Lane, Chris, Debbie, Shelley, Aria

Love Letter to Rick Bayless: Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Pasta

My favorite way to workout in the wintertime is to hop on the elliptical when I get home from work and catch up on favorite shows that I’ve missed. The TV takes my mind off the chore at hand, makes the time fly and the calories burn. I’ve been known to watch an entire movie (fluffy romantic comedies need only apply) while exercising. Monday night, I had a hard time picking something to watch, and eventually settled on an episode of Rick Bayless’ PBS show, Mexico One Plate at a Time.

As usual, I decided that I needed to make whatever Rick was cooking and hopped off the machine to grab paper and pen to make a shopping list. Crazy, right?! So, my workout pace might have slowed a bit, as I scribbled few notes about this recipe. But if you catch this particular episode, you’ll understand why I was so captivated by a simple sauce of garlic and olive oil. Make this, and I think you’ll agree that your kitchen will forever be changed.

Rick explained that this simple sauce is called mojo de ajo which literally means “bath of garlic,” and it is exactly that. 2 cups of smashed garlic cloves. 3 cups of olive oil. A sprinkle of salt and a dash of red pepper flake. Lime juice. Bake. That’s the whole recipe. Simple, right?!

This is one of those dishes that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I’ve made roasted garlic olive oil before, and it’s wonderful. But the simple additions of red pepper flakes and lime juice sends this dish over the edge into culinary heaven. You add the lime juice partway through the slow-roasting, and the citrus flavor is softened by a few moments in the oven. When the mixture is done relaxing in the oven, you can spoon off about two cups of the pure garlic oil to save in a separate jar for salad dressings, roasting potatoes, and just about anything you want to make – I added a spoon of garlic oil to a bowl of homemade refried beans, and we found the bottom of that bowl FAST.  Then, scoop the other two cups of garlic oil goodness into a jar…this is your mojo de ajo. Use a spoonful or two of mojo in pasta, slathered over chicken before roasting, added to a simple tomato sauce – I think this sauce would be a welcome addition to just about any dish. I can’t wait to roast some potatoes with it.

For my first meal with the mojo, I settled on a simple shrimp scampi pasta (much as Rick did on his show). It highlighted the garlic oil perfectly and we found ourselves fishing through the bowl of pasta to spear a sliver of smooth, mellow garlic with every forkful. All I can say is that you need to make this. Now.

Mojo de Ajo
From Rick Bayless6 heads garlic
, about 2 cups peeled garlic cloves
3 cups fruity olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Break the heads of garlic apart, then mash each clove (a fist against the side of a knife is what I do) to release the clove from its papery skin.
  2. Stir together the garlic, oil, pepper flakes and salt in an 8×8-inch baking pan (make sure all the garlic is submerged), slide it into the oven and bake until the garlic is soft and lightly brown, about 45 to 55 minutes.
  3. Add the lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes for the garlic to absorb the lime and turn golden brown.  (If you’re using the larger quantity of oil, ladle off 1-2 cups—no garlic cloves—and store it in the fridge for use in salad dressing or sautéing.)
  4. Using an old-fashioned potato masher or large fork, mash the garlic into a coarse puree.  Pour the mixture into a wide-mouth storage container and refrigerate it until you’re ready to enjoy some deliciousness.

Mojo Shrimp Pasta
serves 2

6 oz dried (gluten-free) pasta, whatever shape you like best
6 oz shrimp – peeled, and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 T garlic oil
3 T mojo with garlic chunks
red pepper flakes to taste
1/2 cup pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese and cilantro to garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. When you’ve got about 5 minutes left in pasta cooking time, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 T of the garlic oil and red pepper flakes, then saute the shrimp for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta when it is done cooking, reserving 1/2 cup of water. Pour the drained pasta and reserved cooking oil into the pan with the shrimp. Add the 3T mojo de ajo, and gently toss to coat everything in the beautiful garlic oil. Grate in some parmesan cheese, and serve. Garnish with cilantro.

682 cal per serving, 290cal from fat, 34g fat, 170mg cholesterol, 380mg potassium, 380mg sodium, 67g carbs, 3g fiber, 28g protein