November supper: white cheddar pumpkin shells + prosciutto + herbed mushroom saute

November crept up and smacked my head from behind. The door to 2015 is fast closing and someone cracked open the window leading to the path of 2016. I’m rather startled by this rapid passing of time, flitting off the ticking clock like dust mites. Who have I been in 2015? A stranger, mostly. Yet, at the same time, a familiar friend.

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2015 is and was a year of discovery. I know two months remain still and my growth is not yet terminated, but in 10 months I feel I’ve aged 20 years. I don’t mean that in a negative way. The experiences life offered have clotted in my soul, but in a temperate manner, not one which chokes me. I am entirely wrapped around the human condition. I am an embodiment of it. The flaws, the bloodstains, the burns, the picket fences, the undulating waters, the hillock zephyrs. Each day I am relearning what it means to be a person, in flesh and in heart. How tragic and self-serving life is. But oh, how rewarding, enriching, and deeply, deeply personal.

I wake up every day wondering who I will be through those particular 24 hours. Sometimes I make sense and other times I toss around clueless to what Kellie means to the world and what Kellie means to myself. Mornings involving the latter probably outnumber the former. On some occasions the guessing game is amusing and I haphazardly move the pieces on the board and see if I land a chance victory – if I don’t I shrug and move on, if I do I celebrate. On others I overturn the board and let the pawns and kings and queens spill onto the floor, and then I rip the box in half.

But I come back down to earth after a duration. I remember that life is quirky and I am allowed to wrap my arms around the feelings, because eventually the cells overturn and I am normalized, if only for a few minutes. I come into my own. I’m Kellie, in the rawest connotation. A human being, intrinsically tied to the ebb and flow of the universe. Of humanity. One of a number. One who understands the number.

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November is here. Only two months must elapse before I turn 22. I feel far too old to be just a pair of years above two decades in age. The bones in my feet creek too often. I could never rob a grocery store. I don’t recommend anyone try that either: it’s much easier and much more honest to pay for the bits and bobs of this creamy pasta through the formal checkout line via credit or cash.

I register for senior year classes tomorrow, and while I harbor anticipation for the three courses in my schedule, senior year means graduation and graduation means question marks. Upside down ones, too, like those pesky shimmering brutes which overturn your car last-minute in Mario Kart. I’m hard pressed to plan my next step. I can’t look beyond next week’s work schedule, much less eight or so months from now.

But I’ll worry about that later. Right now, warm mac n’ cheese sits patiently on the table. The pumpkin adds an earthy calm to the sharp white cheddar, and both simmer in cream and spice. The recipe makes enough for a small gathering, but halving it is palpable if you’re a solo rider like I am, whisking through life on a whim. The most important part of creating this pasta dish is ensuring you have a thick enough roux – a simple step, so long as you give the cooking butter and flour your undivided attention for one whole minute. I never thought I liked prosciutto, but…damn. My opinion has altered. Final note: any pasta will do, but I prefer shells because they soak up the sauce more effectively than elbows. Whatever type you choose, just follow three rules: dig in happily, smile plentifully, and pay attention. Good guidelines for life, too.

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White Cheddar Pumpkin Shells + Prosciutto + Herbed Mushroom Saute

INGREDIENTS:

For the pasta/sauce
4 T butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half and half (or heavy cream, but I prefer the former)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 oz white cheddar.
(buy it in block form & shred yourself; trust me, it makes a difference.)
4 oz prosciutto, cut into strips
8 oz shell pasta

For the mushrooms:
1 package baby ‘bella mushrooms, sliced
1 T olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt & pepper to taste

ASSEMBLY: Prepare the mushrooms: slice & fry in olive oil with spices for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain, rinse, and set aside. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in flour constantly for one minute – this is crucial to creating a thick, creamy sauce. Slowly add half & half, stirring to incorporate; then, stir occasionally until thickened, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add pumpkin puree and stir to incorporate. Add spices.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese, stirring until melted. Once the sauce is thick and no shreds of cheese remain visible, fold in the prosciutto and sauteed mushrooms. Pour the mixture over the pasta shells and stir until every shell is evenly (relatively) covered. Serve warm with fresh bread, a glass of wine, and Pulp Fiction, which is exactly how I consumed this bad boy of a dish.

Come say hi:

Instagram: @venturingeast

Portfolio: flickr.com/photos/venturingeast

Email: venturingeastblog@gmail.com

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