Sweet Potato Chili Mac

Hi.  Ok.  What you're about to witness is slightly controversial.  Slightly...odd.  But don't freak out! 

I mean, we're only having macaroni and cheese with mashed potatoes, smoky chili peppers, and turkey sausage for dinner.  Pretty standard.  No big deal.

Macaroni and cheese!  With mashed sweet potatoes!  And sausage!  AS YOUR DINNER!

Sorry, not yelling.  Just celebrating.  Can we celebrate this joyous, carb-on-carb situation for a short minute?

Truth be told, this dinner idea originally weirded me out.  I hardly consider myself an expert when it comes to cooking, but I know what I like, and I know how to follow a recipe.  You cook dinner four nights a week, and you start to see patterns in how recipes are written, and with what gets added when and why.

It's not rocket science.  It's just dinner!

But adding Monterey Jack cheese to sweet potatoes?  Wait, what?  Stirring in elbow macaroni?  Hold the phone.  Topping it all off with sausage?  This is madness!

So...yeah.  This is not your typical macaroni and cheese.  In this recipe, we use mashed sweet potatoes to add bulk and creamy texture, and hot turkey sausage for lean protein. Then we have the usual cheesy elbow macaroni thing goin' on, but the addition of the smoky chilis give your standard mac and cheese a little Tex-Mex attitude adjustment.

And no need to stick with my cast of characters either.  Not a fan of smoky flavors or cilantro?  Omit the chilis in adobo, and try ground mustard or garlic powder instead.  Don't like turkey sausage?  Give crumbled bacon a whirl.  I mean, we added sweet potatoes and the whole thing didn't implode, so I think you'll be ok.

"You know what I think this needs?  Tabasco!  Oh man, I wish I had two stomachs."
                  - Husband who typically sweats just looking at my cooking, upon going in for seconds.

And that bright, slightly crazy-looking orange hue you're about to witness below?  It signifies vitamins, my friends.  Vitamins in your macaroni and cheese.  Amen.

Sweet Potato Chili Mac
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
Yields 4-6 servings

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
1 tbs canned chili in adobo sauce, chopped
3 oz part-skim or fat-free shredded cheese, cheddar or Monterey Jack
1 c fat free milk
10 oz turkey sausage, casings removed
8 oz short whole wheat pasta, such as small shells or elbow macaroni
2 tbs fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan, and fill the pan with cold water, enough to cover the potatoes by an inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until fork-tender.  Drain, and return to the saucepan.

Add the chopped chilis, cheese, and salt and pepper, and begin to stir together.  Add enough of the milk to loosen the mixture until it's soft and creamy, up to a cup.  I used an electric mixer to get a smoother consistency, but a potato masher would work as well if you like chunkier potatoes.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray.  When hot, add the sausage, and cook for about 7 minutes or until thoroughly cooked, stirring to crumble as it browns.  Remove from heat, and reserve.

Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, and add to the sweet potato mixture, stirring to evenly coat and mix everything.

Preheat broiler to high.  Scoop the potato mixture into a broiler-safe baking dish, and sprinkle the sausage evenly over the top.

  Broil for 2 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Serve with cilantro, if desired.

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