Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Butternut Squash Macaroni or Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

Yes, this is a caking and baking blog. Yes, the picture above does not include a cake or baked good. I do apologize if I am disappointing anyone. It's just that, like many of you I am sure, with the advent of the New Year I have resolved to serve healthier foods to my family.

It's not that we were eating badly before. Even though I bake so much, we don't eat cake for every meal, believe it or not! However, we are sometimes more indulgent than we need to be. For example, a few months back when Cadence BEGGED me, her big blue eyes so serious, for mac 'n cheese I immediately consulted Google for Paula Deen's recipe. While making it and serving it I realized, that while it is delicious, Paula's is a recipe best reserved for special occasions.

So I thought I would start there with my vow to serve healthier options: mac 'n cheese. I found this particular recipe while browsing Food Gawker. It comes from "Daily Unadventures in Cooking". Now, I normally would shy away from a recipe like this because I would assume that substituting a vegetable for tons and tons of cheese would be setting myself up for a massive fail. However, I took a chance on this recipe for some reason, and it was quite good!

I had to make a few tweaks to the recipe according to what I had in the house. I used shredded Parmesan and Romano instead of the blue cheese and dried rosemary instead of fresh sage. I also did not have whole milk so I used skim and it did not seem to impact the thickness of the sauce at all. I also omitted the chili flakes.  Despite the substitutions, my husband, my 10 month old son, Trevor, and myself really enjoyed this. The squash lends the dish a creaminess and the rosmary, garlic and onions give it a nice flavor. Cadence, well, she wasn't fooled, and she did say she didn't like this kind and she wanted the "other" mac 'n cheese. It didn't take too much coaxing to get her to eat a decent sized portion though. I would say 3 out of 4 aboard the eating healthier train is not bad!

Butternut Squash Macaroni
adapted according to what I had in the house from Daily Unadventures in Cooking

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 onion, grated
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tablespoon flour
2 1/4 cups skim milk
2 cups butternut squash puree
salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups dried macaroni (I used elbow)
3 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 cup shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese
Put a big pot of water on to boil. While you are waiting for it to boil, start your sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add onions. Sweat over low heat until sweet and tender. Add the garlic and dried rosemary and continue sweating until garlic is softened, stirring regularly.

Sprinkle the flour on top and stir it in. Stir the flour mixture over medium heat for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk 1/4 cup at a time, waiting until it starts simmering before stirring in the next batch. Whisk in the squash. Season with salt and pepper to taste, approximately 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a gently simmer, stirring occasionally. Turn on oven to 375F.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, undercooking slightly. Drain. Fold the pasta, tomatoes and grated parmesan and romano into the sauce. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake for 10 minutes to let the cheese melt. Serve hot.

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