Roasted Veggie Mac 'n Cheese

Airstream at Sun Lakes

Wow!  Back from Sun Lakes, flip open the computer, find 31 comments!  All about my little trip to Portland. You'd think I'd gone to Rome or something.  Not Rome--just existential tangents about everyday minutiae and yes--more leftovers.  Rome is overrated anyway (so is Hawaii and Turkey and Prague and Tokyo and all those other places I'll write about someday).

Anyway, thanks for being so curious about my small life and hardworking kitchen.  I suppose that's what makes my (or anyone's) world bigger--getting to share it.

One little story and a recipe from our trip to Sun Lakes in Central Washington, where we spent the last five days with Yancey's mom and stepdad (aka Grammy and Poppy Dick). And let's be honest here--I'd make a pretty miserable travel writer.  I always fail to give you the real details--how one would make reservations, what the average temperature is--and am so busy using up all my leftovers that even the restaurants get short shrift.

Wyatt at Sun Lakes

One afternoon, while Yancey and Wyatt were swimming in the lake, Loretta woke up from her nap and wanted a snack.  I usually like it when my kids ask for snacks because it feels like something so tangible and immediate I can give them.  And I do it well (unlike many, many other parenting duties.  Sigh.).  This particular snack was a sliced peach, which seemed just about perfect to me.  The ensuing (conversation?) went thus:

Loretta:  I don't want peach.

Me:  Why?  This peach is so delicious.  You love peaches.

Loretta:  I don't want peach.  I want yogurt.

Me:  Mommy will put some yogurt on your peach.  [Open fridge, scrounge, put yogurt on peach, sigh heavily]

Loretta:  I want honey on it.  New honey.  [That little devil had somehow noticed that I had put a bottle of "new"honey in the cupboard of our cabin]

Me:  [Get honey down from cupboard, squeeze an ungodly amount on peach and yogurt, sigh again, think "I am spoiling this child to death.  Who's in charge here, anyway?"]  There.  You happy now?

Loretta:  [Silence.  Slurping.  Chewing.]

Loretta:  Mommy, you know what?  I love you.

So what's the moral of this story?  Mostly that I'm glad I let her order me me around in exchange for a couple minutes of sweetness. Her sitting on my lap, eating  peach and yogurt, declaring her love for me in the way only a sleepy, bossy, honey-covered two-year-old can. Like Rome, boundaries are overrated.

Loretta at Sun Lakes

Okay.  I made this in our cabin with things I brought from home.  The sudoku in the photo wasn't shoved in there at the last minute.  I really was playing it.  That's how relaxed I felt about this dinner.

Roasted Veggie Mac 'n Cheese

But I hope you haven't gotten your hopes up for this recipe.  I tricked you.  It's really Ratatouille Mac 'n Cheese!  Do you hate me? Not only am I not writing about Rome, I'm recycling this for the third time!  Here, here, and now this.  So clean out your produce drawers and harvest that tattered garden--onions, garlic, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, basil, lots of olive oil. Roast it down, mix it with pasta and this easy cheese sauce, pour a glass of red wine, and we'll pretend like we're in Rome.  It's good to be back with you.

This Week's Version of Ratatouille

Roasted Veggie Mac n' Cheese
There are lots of ways you can make a quick cheese sauce--feel free to do your favorite one.  This was made from what I had on hand--more cream, more sharp cheddar.  They are finally gone (!!), which is probably good for all of us.  And you could do so many combos of veggies in the ratatouille.  Even just roasted tomatoes would be sublime.

3 c. ratatouille
2 c. heavy cream + 2 c. whole milk OR  4 c. 1/2 and 1/2
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 c. grated sharp white cheddar (or Gruyere)
salt and pepper
one pound penne, cooked for about 11 minutes until it's tender but not mushy, drained
more grated cheese for top

For ratatouille: Follow this recipe (roughly, of course).

For cheese sauce:  Combine cream, milk, and minced garlic in a heavy saucepan.  Bring just to a boil slowly, then turn it down.  Add cheddar and stir until it melts into the sauce.  Set aside (in my case, I made this a couple days in advance).

To assemble: In a large stockpot. combine cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and ratatouille. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan, sprinkle with about a cup more of cheese (cheddar, feta, Gruyere, etc.).  Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 20-35 minutes until hot, bubbly, and a little crusty in places.  Your cooking time will depend on how hot your ingredients are when you put them in.