Pinterest is a beautiful thing. That’s all I can really say. If you don’t know what it is, let me know and I’ll pass an invite on to you (I have 4 left)! Feel free to check out my boards! Julie at dutchbeingme.com decided to launch a 52 Weeks of Pinterest Challenge to get us to try the magical things that we have “pinned”! I’m not so inclined toward the “crafty” side of Pinterest (but I’ll probably give something a try in the near future), but it’s also a great resource for new recipes! I have been wanting to try Mac & Cheese in the slow cooker for a long time, but I just never got around to it! I “pinned” one, but I guess it comes down to the fact that I have a really hard time these days making a meal that has little to no nutritional value. Mac & Cheese is delicious, but it is cheese and fat. Yum, but hmmmmm. My friend Dana has been talking about a “Dirty” Mac & Cheese that he makes (on the stovetop I believe) with kale, and that got me thinking. We actually have swiss chard in our garden right now!! I decided to add that to the original recipe! I absolutely don’t have to hide veggies in things to get Gemma to eat them, but sometimes it makes so much more sense to mix everything together rather than to have a totally separate side dish! So, faithful readers, I give you…
“Dirty” Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese
adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer (with major inspiration from Dana!)
*8 ounces Barilla Plus Elbows
*3 cups of shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)
*1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
*1 1/2 cup of milk
*1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (I used fat free)
(*1/4 cup of room temp butter–I totally forgot to add this)
*1 bunch of swiss chard
*4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
*2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Chop swiss chard into bite sized pieces.
*Heat oil and garlic in skillet until garlic starts to turn fragrant.
*Add chard and sauté until soft.
*Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.
*Add milk, evaporated milk. eggs, (butter), salt, pepper, and swiss chard.
*Use immersion blender to blend mixture so there are no large chunks of greens and all ingredients are incorporated.
*Parboil pasta for about 5 minutes.
*Add pasta and cheese blend (not the Parmesan) to the slow cooker.
*Incorporate thoroughly and then add Parmesan cheese on top.
*Cook on HIGH for 30 minutes.
*After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to LOW and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours (until the custard is set in the middle)
*After 2 hours I removed the lid to let some of the moisture air out for a bit.
*I toasted some bread crumbs (3/4 cup breadcrumbs, dash of dried oregano, dash of “Italian Seasoning,” 1 tbsp olive oil) to add to the top. I grated some more Parmesan cheese on top of the breadcrumbs and put the cover back on for 15 more minutes.
This was FANTASTIC and we didn’t even miss the butter and the 8,000 calories that it would have added! The next time I make it, however, I’ll probably use a different cheese blend. The Italian blend is a little bland, but a Gruyere/Emmenthal mix would be great as would something like Cheddar & Pepper Jack! YUM!! Now I’m thinking about all of the other sauteed and roasted veggies that could be blended up and added to this to enhance it: cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, green chile…the possibilities are endless and I’m going to have to start going to 8 Zumba classes a day to keep up with the Mac & Cheese!!