Seasonal (Sneaky) Spinach and Crab Mac and Cheese

Spring has finally sprung! April is a great month to start entertaining outdoors, not too hot, not too cold and the days are beginning to get longer, providing some lovely long afternoons and evenings perfect for dinner parties and late Sunday lunches.

Sometimes it’s hard to find yummy, seasonal and green offerings that also appeal to those pickiest of food critics-your kids! Here’s a fantastic seasonal recipe your kids will love, and so will your guests.

Both spinach and asparagus are in season in April, along with that most delectable of seafood-crab!

Crab is considered a sustainable seafood choice, since crab fishing is well -managed, and the crab fishing gear used does not capture other species or cause habitat destruction or ecosystem disruption. In particular, Alaskan King Crab, Dungeness crab and Blue crab are all considered to be sustainable and ocean-friendly choices.

This recipe takes advantage of all these seasonal ingredients, while cleverly hiding the spinach and asparagus in that most beloved of children’s dishes-mac and cheese.

Yummy enough for your kids, sophisticated enough for your guests, and healthy enough (with a few clever substitutions) for everyone, this crowd-pleasing recipe is sure to become a favorite.

You will need:

I lb (I box) whole-wheat macaroni of your choice

3 ½ cups 2 % organic milk

4 Tbsp flour

I cup low-fat cottage cheese

2 cups shredded chedder

1 cup shredded gruyer, emental or fontina

1 lb organic spinach

1 bunch organic asparagus

2 tsp olive oil

1 ½ lbs cooked crab meat

1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

salt, pepper, nutmeg

To make:

Cook pasta 6-8 minutes until not quite tender (it will continue to cook while baking). Drain and set aside.

Remove tough ends of asparagus stalks and quickly blanch by dropping in rapidly boiling salted water for about 2 minutes until bright green, then shock by plunging immediately into ice water.  Cut asparagus into bite size pieces.

Also blanch spinach (you can use the same water) for about 30 seconds until bright green then shock in ice water.

Meanwhile, heat 2 ¾ cups of the milk in a saucepan until hot but not boiling (be careful-milk boils over very rapidly!)

Mix the remaining ¼ cup milk with the flour in a separate bowl and whisk until smooth.

Add the milk/flour mixture to the hot milk in the saucepan and whisk until smooth. Cook over low heat 2-3 minutes until it starts to thicken. Take sauce off the heat, and stir in the grated cheeses until melted, then add cottage cheese, salt and pepper to taste and a dash of nutmeg.

Mix macaroni, crab meat and asparagus pieces with the cheese sauce.

Spray bottom of large baking dish or individual ramekins with oil, (or you can use oil oil or butter)

Layer half the macaroni into the bottom of the baking dish (or fill ramekins halfway for individual servings)

Spread spinach over the whole top of the macaroni layer, then add remaining macaroni mixture.

Top with breadcrumbs mixed with 2 tsp olive oil or melted butter.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and brown on top.

Serve with a green salad.

By Sarah Horan

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