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Cheesy spinach macaroni

I'm not very good at planning dinner ahead of time. I shop with half a list and only half an idea of what I want to make that week. So when it's late afternoon and I still have no clue what I'm going to put on the table that night, pasta is usually the first thing that comes to mind. It's quick, I usually have the ingredients around, and it's oh so yummy. Ask my 3-year-old for his opinion on pasta though and he'll tell you, "I don't wike it." Honestly, I wonder about him sometimes.

Creamy macaroni and cheese is a fun one because so many things can be added to it. You can do a crumb topping or add a can of chopped tomatoes. You can throw some tomato paste in the cheese sauce or use fresh herbs. I also like chopped ham or leftover chicken. This time I reached for the bunch of fresh spinach in the fridge.

Here's how I made it:

4 cups dry pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 cups shredded cheese (I used a blend of monterey jack, mozzarella, and cheddar)
a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves

I started by pouring the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water to cook. In a medium saucepan, I preheated the oil over medium heat and added the onion and garlic. When the onion began to soften, I added the thyme and flour, stirring until the flour was absorbed. Keeping the heat on medium, I added the milk and dijon mustard, stirring until the sauce came to a boil. Another 30-60 seconds later the sauce was nicely thickened, so I removed it from the heat and stirred in the cheese. Ooey gooey good! Once the pasta was cooked, I strained it and poured it back into the large pot. Then I poured the sauce over the pasta and stirred it all up. The spinach leaves were stirred in last and they quickly softened from the heat of the pasta and sauce.

I think this one gets two syllables: YU-UM!

How far ahead do you plan meals? What are some of your last-minute faves? What do you like to add to mac and cheese?