Like pretty much every post in the last year, I will use the preamble to remind you all that your friend ChefKef is a VERY busy woman and has little time to putter around the kitchen perfecting recipes these days. Turns out that that I’m not in this canoe alone, and that pretty much everyone I know is a busy m-effer. #thisisthirty
Luckily, misery loves company, and I am lucky enough to count QueijoKef among my people. This woman has been hacking the copy-cat recipe since at least 2004, when she figured out how to recreate the sweet-and-salty flavor of a Payday bar with ingredients sourced solely from the Village C vending machine. How’s THAT for ingenius? (Don’t ask, by the way, why we didn’t just get the damn Payday bar from said vending machine… that wasn’t the point.)
We’re long time fans of more or less everything in the Amy’s Frozen Meals line, and Queijo has had her eye on recreating the 3 Cheese and Kale Bake for some time now.
Because she’s so good at life, she’s put in the work and has already had her Eureka moment for 2017. She’s kind enough to share the fruits of her labor below. Truly, a thing of beauty!
QueijoKef’s Kale Mac & Cheese Bake
- 1 box pasta, 12 ounces rotini (or similar) pasta, cooked al dente. GF or regular
- 2 cups kale, shredded and de-stemmed
- 4 tbsp butter + extra for baking dish
- 1 can of coconut milk, 13.5 ounces (unsweetened)
- 4 tbsp of coconut flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 4 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb. of ground turkey, cooked (if adding an animal protein is your thing)
1. Cook pasta according to box directions for al dente. Drain, set aside.
2. Pre-heat oven to 375˚. Prepare baking dish (9” x 13” or similar) by wiping bottom and sides with cold butter stick.
3. For kale, lightly sauté shredded kale in batches, each batch with 1 tbsp of olive oil heated in a skillet with a pinch of salt until kale just begins to wilt (about 2-4 minutes) and set aside.
4. Begin to build the bake in the dish by tossing the pasta, kale, ground turkey (if using). and HALF of the grated cheddar cheese. Lightly toss. This will make it easier to incorporate the cheese sauce once done.
5. For roux (cheese sauce), begin by melting 4 tbsp of butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat until just begins to bubble. Slowly add coconut flour while continuously whisking. Lower heat to medium-low and continue whisking until paste begins to lightly brown and bubble like pancake batter (2-4 minutes).
6. Slowly add about 1/3 of the coconut milk, continuously whisking. Raise heat to medium. Season with pinch of salt and black pepper and bring to light simmer, whisking occasionally until fully incorporated and no roux is left on the bottom of the sauce pan.
7. Slowly add about 1/2 of remaining cheddar cheese, continuously whisking. Slowly add next 1/3 of the coconut milk, whisking. Repeat with remaining cheddar cheese.
8. Slowly add remaining coconut milk, continuously whisking. After about 1 minute of incorporating, add about 1/2 of the parmesan cheese, continuously whisking. The mixture will begin to take on a melted cheese sauce quality. Remove from heat. If for some reason you are not continuing to step 9 immediately, stir occasionally.
9. Carefully add roux to the prepped baking dish, tossing to distribute with all ingredients.
10. Top with other ½ of the parmesan cheese (this will be your crusty topping).
11. Bake at 375˚ for about 20 minutes, then raise to 390˚ for last 10-15 minutes of baking, or until top is golden brown and sides are bubbling. Remove and let cool.