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Today: For dinner tonight, make this bright, kid-friendly dinner in no time at all.
Once the weekend is over, it feels like everything gets more serious: Our bright sundresses get re-hung in the closet, we dutifully return to work, and we sometimes don't venture outdoors for several hours at a time. Amid all of this responsibility and midweek blues, dinner should offer a respite with fun, creative menu plans and dishes to make us smile and let loose. Enter your childhood favorites in dinner form, which come together in no time at all. Let this easy macaroni and cheese with chocolate-glazed frozen bananas give you a glow that sticks with you through the next morning's commute. And, since Mom won't be around to tell you otherwise, go ahead and play with your food.
(Organized by the area of the market)
Serves 4 to 6 (or 2, with leftovers for tomorrow night)
1 pound elbows, mini shells, mini ziti, or your favorite macaroni-shaped pasta
1 1/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts
1 teaspoon ground New Mexico chile (or another spicy, ground chile, such as cayenne)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
8 to 10 slices individually wrapped American cheese slices (yes, the plastic-wrapped kind—the best quality you can find)
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup full-fat grated cheddar or cheddar blend
8 slices crispy bacon, chopped (optional)
6 medium, ripe bananas
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate
We are assuming you already have honey, cinnamon, and sea salt. If not, add those to your list, too!
About 3 hours before dinner (or even earlier, if you have the time), bake honey-roasted peanuts and let them cool. Break them apart into pieces and sprinkle them with flaky sea salt. This can even be done the day before if you're pressed for time. Once the peanuts have cooled, coat bananas with melted chocolate spiced with cinnamon and Mexican chile, then roll them in the peanuts. Freeze them until it’s time for dessert.
While the bananas freeze, take a break. Make yourself a drink and relax knowing that dinner preparation will take minimal effort.
Thirty minutes before you want to eat dinner, bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the macaroni until al dente and set aside. While your pasta is cooking, make your cheese sauce in a separate pot—make it extra cheesy if it's been one of those weeks. Add in your cooked pasta and mix gently to coat. Enjoy, with or without bacon crumbled on top, then grab a banana from the freezer for dessert.
Photos by Mark Weinberg and James Ransom