Roasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

As macaroni and cheese recipes go, this roasted red pepper and pumpkin macaroni and cheese is packed with vegetables, flavor, and protein! Bring fall into your favorite comfort food with sweet and savory pumpkin and roasted red peppers and plenty of cheese. 

Dish Count :: 1 Dutch Oven, 1 Mini Food Processor, 1 Non Stick SkilletRoasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Today I’m meeting with the doctors to start to really plan for the impending arrival of the “Tater Tot”. We are rapidly approaching the less than one month mark and frankly, shit is getting real.

Maternity Photos? Check! I even managed to squeeze my ass into my favorite non-maternity jeans… we just won’t talk about how far (or not) the zipper actually went up…

Country Cleaver Maternity Photo

My mom visited for a day to help with the continuing saga of unpacking the house in preparation for the baby shower next weekend. Check! Also yes, we are still unpacking from our move three months ago… is that job every really done?!

And I raced like a mad woman to Ikea today like it was a bad game of Supermarket Sweep to get the right dresser we wanted for the kiddo’s room.  Ikea really is like the mad rush for the latest Tickle Me Elmo at the holiday season, on a daily basis. Or maybe that was my hormones pre-emptively raging that if I didn’t get it on my second visit to the place that I was going to utterly lose it in a meltdown to match all pregnant lady meltdowns. Hormones and a successful shopping trip? Check!

Meal prepping all the best comfort foods and freezing them? Double check!!  Yes, this roasted red pepper and pumpkin macaroni and cheese is one of them!
Roasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

And today, I meet with the doctor to start replanning our plan for the arrival of the kid. With the diagnosis of the gestational diabetes it has really put me through the wringer I had not expected on many levels, emotionally and mentally. But while this has been a condition “easy” to manage by comparison to so many other mothers dealing with far greater complications, it has been just hard.

A couple weeks ago I met with one of the nurses during my bi-weekly non-stress test that stressed me out well beyond a degree I was prepared for when I inquired about any changes in our plan for his arrival. The notion of inducing a week early was floated as the new protocol, and sent me into a tailspin of worry and concern that had me crying in my car on the phone with my mom as soon as I left. With all the things going “right” since the diagnosis of the diabetes, the idea of him arriving by induction anytime before my 40th week in October was a hard stop for me. His NST’s were sound, amniotic fluid levels were good, and my blood sugar and his weight were in good ranges – why would we induce early?! Everything in my head was all a jumble.
Roasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

But now, a couple weeks later I can hopefully approach the subject with a little more of a level head than I did previously, asking the questions that need asking, and getting the answers to put me at ease.

Knowing that little in my life is really in my control at this point, his arrival is one thing I had hoped would just go right. Or as right as possible under the circumstances. As someone who loves their job(s) – this one, and the real one I have on a daily basis, I am trying to plan my departure with a set timeline, I’m wanting to stay as active and mobile as possible until I no longer can, I want to eeek out those last fading days of my own independence, and two free hands, before being tethered to a live human, instead of one who is along for the ride in his own custom jacuzzi suit. (Someone please tell me you get that Simpsons reference!!)

So readying myself for a last day of September 29th at work was fine if needed, but inducing even three days earlier was one that threw me for a loop. Sigh. In the BIG picture, it’s not a BIG deal. But for me, as a first time mom, it is all daunting and scary. Here I am, with Ben and the doctors, weighing the balance of and early induction, versus just waiting to see if he makes a timely arrival, and inducing on his due date if he doesn’t. It’s weighing the risks of 39 versus 40 weeks in utero, a big baby, with big shoulders, and whether it is safe for us to truck ahead with our planned natural delivery or the increased risk of a c-section. How big are the risks? Are we safe? What are the benefits of an earlier than anticipated arrival? Can we both transition to this new phase of our lives in the best possible way?

Oh yes, these are the things keeping me up at night.

Nothing like hormonal induced panic and worry to keep you on your toes. And, the worst part – is I can’t even eat my feelings while doing it!! Now THAT is life’s true injustice! But you can bet, as soon as I get the all clear, I’ve got a list of foods ready to eat! Starting with pizza, pasta, a cold cut turkey sandwich, sushi, a glass of red wine and a COOKIE. Fine, five of them.

And just to make sure I’m ready to go, I froze half of this roasted red pepper and pumpkin macaroni and cheese so I can enjoy the precious time that me and the kid, and Ben have together without me worrying about where our next meal is coming from. Heat, eat and snuggle the newest addition to our family. We can’t wait to meet him.

In three or four weeks.
Roasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

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Yield: 6-8

Roasted Red Pepper and Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups Rotini Pasta (I used Barilla Protein Plus Rotini)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 pint Half and Half
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1 tsp Dried Minced Onion
  • 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning, substitute 1/2 tsp dried sage if possible.
  • 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 can (15 oz) Pumpkin Puree (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 1 cup Roasted Red Pepper, pureed.
  • 2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Colby Jack
  • 1/2 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your dutch oven, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse. Set aside.

In the same pan, melt the butter, and sprinkle in the flour. Whisk the two together over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Whisk constantly to form a roux that turns dark golden brown. Slowly whisk in the half and half and bring the mixture to a simmer, allowing it to thicken. Whisk in the remaining spices, salt, pepper, minced onion, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.

When the mixture has thickened, whisk in the pumpkin puree, pureed roasted red pepper, and tomato paste. Lastly, whisk in the cheeses and stir together until melted. Taste the mixture to ensure it is spiced to your liking. Adjust as needed. Add the drained pasta back into the cheese mixture and stir to combine. Pour the whole pot into a lightly greased 13×9 inch baking dish or casserole.

In a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat, and add in the panko crumbs. Toss to coat the crumbs and toast them, stirring frequently until they turn golden brown. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the mac and cheese.

Bake the pan for 25-30 minutes, until bubbling and the panko crumbs are nicely deep golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.