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Friday, August 27, 2010

Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash

My son could eat macaroni and cheese every day of the week.

I try to make it as healthy as possible when we have it for lunch. I choose the boxed versions that are organic whole wheat pasta. And most days, I add peas into it or serve edamame for a side. It's not the worst thing he could eat, but it's certainly my lazy go-to lunch and I know we could do better.

So that got me thinking: maybe I should try a healthy version for dinner? There are a million versions out there. I spent one naptime researching recipes that interested me. The following recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart. I think her recipes are fantastic, but found that it needed a bit of tweaking to work for me.

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound frozen butternut squash
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup milk
3/4 tsp coarse salt
pinch of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup part-skim milk ricotta cheese
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375. Thaw the squash in the microwave in a large bowl. When thawed, make sure to squeeze out as much water as possible. In same bowl, mash the squash with the chicken stock, milk, cheddar, ricotta and 4 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Season with nutmeg, pepper and salt. If the mixture seems too soupy, take out a bit of the liquid.

While thawing the squash, cook the macaroni according to package. Drain and add to the squash/cheese mixture.

Spray a 13" x 8" baking dish with cooking spray. Spread macaroni and squash into the dish. In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs, pepper, the rest of the Parmesan cheese and the olive oil. Spread the breadcrumb mix over the macaroni.

Bake for 20 minutes covered in foil. Remove foil and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes or until browned and crispy.

The verdict: OK. We had invited my friend and her two-year-old daughter over for dinner while her husband was out of town. The kids love to play together and we think that their excitement trumped eating dinner. So neither kiddo ate more than 3 bites a piece. Again, there's a large dish of leftovers, so I'll be interested to see if Amir will like this mac & cheese better without a friend to entertain.

The adults really liked the crunchy topping. My friend recommended adding sage to the top. I agree, but also think a balsamic reduction would be to die for if drizzled on top. I would also suggest bacon bits...though we don't really eat pork in our house. You'll have to add that one yourself and let me know how it goes. On my end, I'll report back how the leftover go over.

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