Get Your Greens On

Wow, this tasty recipe for Sweet Potato & Greens Mac ‘n’ Cheese will knock your socks off. Enjoy!

If you’re craving fresh, local produce at this time of year, then greens are the way to go. Kale, collards, and cabbage are available almost all through the cold season in Hampton Roads, but often people are wary of cooking these massive, leafy plants. Anything that you buy by the trash-bag full can be intimidating, but cooking them just a few times will give you the confidence to take them on all winter. 

This winter our Buy Fresh Buy Local administrative assistant, Julie, has been receiving her monthly winter CSA from Mattawoman Creek Farms. Each week provides a fresh bounty of greens, and Julie has come up with several unique and creative ways to sneak them into just about everything (so that her teenagers will actually eat them). 

“With so many different varieties of kale and cabbage showing up in my CSA each week, I’ve found the easiest thing to do to use them up is to toss them into everything,” she said. “I add about 3 cups chopped raw kale to seasonal stews;. I blanch it before using it as a topping on pizza, or adding it to a root vegetable bruschetta. I’ve made kale pesto, I add kale and bacon to mashed potatoes, and I’ve even braised kale for toast topped with a fried egg.

“For cabbages I often chop them and add them to raw salads and slaws.  I’ve also blanched the leaves and stuffed them with a meat mixture, covered with tomato sauce and cooked in the slow cooker to make cabbage rolls. Braise thinly sliced cabbage in soy sauce and top with soy glazed chicken to serve over rice. I make stir fries a lot, and that’s always a quick way to use any of the greens.”

Julie also sent along this sweet potato and spinach macaroni and cheese, which is a staple at their house. Sweet potatoes are another cool-season product available locally. The spinach can be substituted with kale or even collards, quickly blanched and dried. So don’t be intimidated by these big, green Jurassic plants. They can be tamed into almost any dish. You just have to have the gumption to try it out! 

Sweet Potato and Greens Mac & Cheese

1 medium sweet potato
1 1/2 cups milk
3 cups pasta (shell, macaroni, farfalle, penne)
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup asiago cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 handfuls spinach (or kale or collards, blanched in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, then drained and dried)

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Pierce the sweet potato in a few different areas with a fork. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until tender, 40-50 minutes. Let cool slightly until able to be handled. Peel and place in medium bowl. Mash with 1/4 cup of the milk until smooth.

• Bring large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta until almost al dente, 5-6 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.

• In a medium bowl, combine the mozzarella, asiago, and parmesan cheeses.

• In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, 30 sec.-1 min. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining 1 1/4 cup milk. Cook, whisking occasionally until the milk begins to thicken. Whisk in the pureed sweet potato. Cook, whisking occasionally, until heated through.

• Remove the pan from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Add the pasta, tossing to coat. Stir in the spinach or other greens. Transfer to a large casserole dish and cover with remaining cheese. Bake in preheated oven until the cheese is bubbly and top is beginning to brown, 25-35 minutes. Serve warm. 

Recipe adapted from tarasmulticulturaltable.com

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.

back to top

More From Cuisine

5 Must-Try Floral Cocktails

5 Must-Try Floral Cocktails

Wine & Spirits 09-01-2018

Wow your friends with these amazing floral cocktails! Read more

Not Your Father's Bartender

Not Your Father's Bartender

Wine & Spirits 05-02-2018

Who’s behind your favorite bar? Chances are it’s a woman since 60 percent of American bartenders are women. For three local ladies, bartending offers... Read more

Tasty Vegan Recipes

Tasty Vegan Recipes

Recipes 04-01-2018

Who knew vegan recipes could be so good? Taste tested and approved!  Read more

Pass the Gourmet Salt

Pass the Gourmet Salt

Nutrition 12-30-2017

Salt adds complex flavors and minerals to your food. Whether it’s barbecued meat, roasted chicken, grilled pineapple, or even chocolate, high-quality sea salt’s nuances... Read more

Yummy Cranberry Recipes from The Osthoff Resort

Yummy Cranberry Recipes from The Osthoff Resort

Recipes 02-11-2014

Here are a few of the amazing recipes I cooked up at L’ecole de la Maison, The Osthoff Resort’s fabulous cooking school, and wrote... Read more

Soup’s On

Soup’s On

Seasonal 01-03-2014

Soup, the perfect antidote to winter. Don't miss these tasty healthy recipes your family will love! Read more

December Desserts

December Desserts

Seasonal 11-24-2013

Just in time for the holidays, I came across these heart-healthy dessert recipes. Enjoy! Crunchy Pumpkin Pie This pie uses only a small amount of oil... Read more

Squash for All Seasons

Squash for All Seasons

Seasonal 11-01-2013

Winter squash is super healthy. Try these family-pleasing recipes. Read more

Harvest-Inspired Bounty

Harvest-Inspired Bounty

Seasonal 09-30-2013

Fall is as busy a time for local farmers and markets as mid-summer. In southeastern Virginia fresh produce remains abundant in October, although the... Read more