Friday, October 3, 2014

Recipe: Butternut Squash Mac n' Cheese

Hello cooler temps, chilly breezes, and the changing colors that comes along with it. Lately I've taken it upon myself to redecorate our front porch to fit the season. The hubby has been coming home with gifts of pumpkins, much to my excitement. I am really not hard to please. Sure fresh flowers are nice, but this time of year he usually wows me with handpicked colorful leaves found while trail running or pumpkins bought from a roadside stand...and I wouldn't have it any other way :)


Blacksburg in the fall is full of trees like this one! Photo credit: Hubby.

That being said, who loves fall recipes?!?!

While I haven't had much time for cooking, the changing seasonal produce has reignited my desire to whip up a few new recipes to savor. Now, the husband LOVES mac n' cheese, but you better believe I am not buying that crazy boxed/powdered cheese stuff. No thanks :) My inspiration for this recipe actually came from Jessica Seinfield's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. The cookbook is written around the concept of finding creative ways to sneak healthy foods into the diet of those "picky eaters" of the world who may not eat a dish if it contains that dreaded "V" word (vegetables). Not saying that I live with one... he still avoids green veggies but what fun would a mac n' cheese recipe be if it were green?? I whipped up another batch of this last night for him fuel up on in preparation for his 100 Mile Ultramarathon which starts at dusk today in the mountains of western-central Virginia.


Butternut Squash Mac n' Cheese

This twist on mac n' cheese has a winning flavor combo. The addition of butternut squash both enhances the creamy texture of the dish while boosting the nutritional value to boot! Add in a sprinkle of cinnamon and you have a warm and gooey comfort food with a dash of fall with each bite!



Ingredients

1 box (13.25oz) elbow macaroni (whole grain!)
1-2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
2 cups butternut squash, cooked and pureed
1 c. milk (2%) or plain soy milk
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp cinnamon, salt & pepper to taste


Directions

Cook your butternut squash. This is probably the hardest step. First, preheat the oven to 350 F, then cut your squash in half lengthwise like this:

Second, remove the seeds. Don't automatically throw them away! These can be roasted like pumpkin seeds for a yummy snack :) Next, place the two squash halves in a casserole dish with 1/2-1 inch water (you don't need much!) Place your squash in the oven for about 45 minutes until the flesh has fully softened.

Meanwhile, cook your macaroni according to directions in a large pot. Drain and place macaroni into your pot while mixing in 1-2 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil. This is a great source of healthy fats and keeps the macaroni from sticking.

Remove your squash from the oven and allow to cool. Be patient! When cool to touch, use a spoon to scrap the flesh away from the skin into a separate bowl (Yield will be approximately 4-5 cups while this recipe calls for 2 cups). Combine 2 c. of the squash puree with your seasoning & spices, then add to your pot of macaroni and stir until thoroughly combined. Mix in your cheese and milk, stir, and transfer to a 9 x 12" casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 F. Uncover, add another sprinkle of cheese (about 1/2 c.) and bake another 5-10 minutes until golden and bubbly :)

Time to hit the road for some quality trail action.

Peace!

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