Cowboy Chili Mac and Cheese

8 oz. package elbow macaroni

2 tbs. olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped

8 oz. lean ground beef

2 tsp. Chili powder

2 tsp. Cumin

2 tsp. Smoked paprika

1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 14.5 oz. can Ro-Tel tomatoes

2 tbs. butter

2 tbs. all-purpose/whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cup milk

1/2 block (4 oz.) cream cheese

3 cups shredded shrarp Cheddar cheese, divided

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce

1/2 cup plain panko crumbs

preheat oven to 350 degrees; spray a 3 quart baking dish with oil spray and set aside. In a large pot, bring about a gallon of salts water to a rapid boil. Add the macaroni and cook until “al dente,” about 12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the meantime,  in a good-sized skillet, heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and peppers until soft- about 4-5 minutes. Add the grounds beef, and continue to sauté until meat is almost cooked. Add the seasonings, beans, and Ro-Tel and heat through.

In a separate skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, then whisk in the flour, cooking and whisking for 1 minute. Turn heat up and whisk in the milk. Continue to whisk and cook for another minute. Turn heat off, and add in the cream cheese, 2 cups of the cheddar cheese, mustard, and Worchestershire sauce. Combine until smooth, then stir in the macaroni with a heavy wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Pour the macaroni mixture into the oiled baking dish, then add in the meat mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon/spatula until thoroughly incorporated.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese and the panko crumbs on top, and bake for 40-45 minutes.