by Kendra Murray.

Winter is my least favorite time of year. Any temperature below 78 degrees is too cold for me. Being stuck indoors is my nightmare. For at least three months, you’ll likely find me dressed in a minimum of three layers, hidden beneath piles of blankets pulled up to my eyeballs. Admittedly, I sometimes need to come out of my cocoon to go work, where you also will find me sitting under a blanket at my desk. How does a summer lover like myself make it through months of wind, ice, and snow covered streets? One word: hygge.

Hygge, the Danish term describing, though not directly translated as, coziness, creating a warm atmosphere, and enjoying simple pleasures. Blankets, candlelight, hot coffee and tea, and comfort foods are what can make, in my opinion, a dreary winter happy and hyggelig.

When trying to create warmth and coziness, I often have big pots of soups, stews, and pastas simmering on the stove. My go-to winter comfort food is definitively macaroni and cheese. There’s nothing like a hot, gooey bowl to warm my chilly bones.

The past few years, I’ve been participating in fall and winter CSAs, so my cabinets are often filled with storage crops like potatoes, beets, and squash, and I usually have some greenhouse vegetables in the crisper. What better way to use some of these veggies than to throw them into a pot of macaroni? Some people say it’s not a meal without meat, but I’ll have to disagree. It’s not a meal without vegetables! I snuck both into this dish, though, so everyone wins!

My favorite type of cheese to use for macaroni and cheese is sharp cheddar. This is a personal preference. Some folks really don’t like sharp cheeses, so feel free to substitute your favorite. Meat can be eliminated for those eating a vegetarian diet. Experimenting and making a recipe your own is where I find much of the fun in cooking. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound medium shells pasta
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 pound linguica, sliced
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 ounces Vermont extra sharp cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into small, bite-size cubes. Place sweet potato cubes on baking sheet, making sure not to crowd. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly browned.

While potatoes are cooking, boil a large pot of water for your pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions. Return pasta to pot when finished cooking and draining.

In a large skillet, heat remaining olive oil over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add kale, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add linguica to skillet, frying until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a minute. Whisk in milk and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add cheese, stirring until melted. Keep warm over low heat.

Mash roasted sweet potatoes until no large chunks remain. Add to cheese sauce and whisk until well mixed. The sauce will be thick.

Combine all and serve immediately.

Serves 8 to 10

Kendra Murray spends her time working in land conservation in Dartmouth, MA. During the cold winter months, you can find her cooking up seasonal comfort foods or curled up with a good book and some local wine.

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Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese