Zesty macaroni and cheese

Unless I was one step short of starving, I never could tolerate more than the smallest serving of macaroni and cheese. It was too bland for my taste, and too stodgy. In a word -- blah. So my wife did some experimenting and came up with a winner.

Looking around for something to improve the acceptability of the macaroni dish, she turned to some of the offerings from teh vegetable garden. The result -- blah turned to zesty and a single dish became a balanced meal in itself.

My wife was inspired in part by a recipe in the natural foods cookbook, "Wings of Life," by Julie Jordan (Trumansburg, N.Y: The Crossing Press). Ms. Jordan added a medium onion and a green pepper to the otherwise ordinary macaroni and cheese. Why not go further, my wife thought. So she doubled the onions and peppers and added a medium-sized zuchini. Then she threw in a handful of mushrooms for good measure.

Here then is the recipe: Macaroni and Cheese With Garden Vegetables 1 cup macaroni elbows 1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated 2 medium onions, finely chopped 2 green peppers, finely chopped 1 medium zucchini, diced 1 tablespoon butter 1 1/4 cups hot milk 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs Handful of mushrooms, sliced 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 teaspoon salt Dash of paprika

Bring 4 to 5 cups of water to the boil and add macaroni. Allow water to return to the boil and cook macaroni 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Place lid on pot and remove from burner. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Saute onions, peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms in butter.

Pour hot milk over breadcrumbs and 3/4 of the grated cheese in a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables, beaten eggs, and salt and stir. Add cooked macaroni and mix in well.

Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish and top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in 350 degrees F. oven for 30 minutes.

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