CSA Week 1- Kale and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

Apparently today is National Macaroni and Cheese Day!  Who makes these things up??  And why isn't it in the middle of November when I want all the warm comfort food?  Well, I made mac and cheese anyways, so I guess they know what they're talking about.  And this one really swings through the spectrum- on one hand we have kale in its green crisp gloriousness, and on the other we have bacon.  Delicious separately, but so happy together.

Andwhile I have a special place in my heart for Kraft mac and cheese, I fell hard for velveeta shells and cheese when I was younger.  Don't get me wrong, that blue box was a treat, but the creaminess of the velveeta cheese sauce just got me.  So yeah, this recipe involves velveeta cheese.  If that goes against your very soul, you can sub in some cheddar and monterey jack cheese (smooth melty cheeses).
I clearly went a little overboard with this first batch of produce from my CSA.  Strawberry pasta salad and macaroni and cheese?  I couldn't possibly finish both of these by myself!  But I certainly had enough food for the week at work :-)  And I absolutely looked forward to each lunch of mac and cheese, of course.
So let's get to it!

Kale and Bacon Macaroni and Cheese
serves 6-10

Ingredients:
1 lb elbow macaroni pasta
1 bunch kale, de-ribbed and chopped into manageable sizes
1/2 lb bacon
1/2 cup bread crumbs (italian style, panko, or plain will all work!)
Cheese sauce:
2 cups milk (anything from skim to whole will work!)
1 tablespoon butter
16 oz. velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking pan with foil and cook the bacon until crisp (follow directions on the package, but about 10-12 minutes).  Places slices on a paper towel lined plate, and dice up when cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, get a large pot of water boiling (add salt to the water!) and cook the macaroni 2 minutes shorter than the directions for al dente (for example- if your box says to cook for 8 minutes for al dente, cook for 6).  Drain and put back in the large pot.  Mix in the kale and set aside (the kale will wilt a bit in the heat from the pasta).

While your bacon is baking, and your pasta is boiling and cooking, prepare your cheese sauce!  In a medium pot over medium-low heat, add the milk and butter.  Stir until the butter is melted and the milk is steaming.  Remove from the heat and stir in the velveeta cubes until melted and the cheese sauce is nice and thick.  Place back on the burner if the cheese needs a little help melting!  Mix in the seasoned salt, and the black pepper. 

Add the cheese sauce and bacon to the large pot with the pasta and kale and mix all around until uniform.  (PS- I don't love a ton of sauce overwhelming the dish, so I used half of the sauce the recipe made, and saved the other half for broccoli dipping, nacho cheese, etc.  Feel free to use only as much cheese as you want!)  Distribute evenly into a 9x13 baking pan.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are getting nice and toasted on top, and the cheese sauce is bubbling.  Serve piping hot!
Enjoy!

PS- Want a trick when reheating macaroni and cheese?  Add a splash of milk before heating in the microwave.  When heated, stir everything up and you'll have an equally delicious leftover meal of mac and cheese!

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