Friday, February 24, 2012


I usually post pictures of the recipes I make on Facebook, but I have a story.
PJ LOVES his grandma's mac&cheese. The recipe calls for 6 cups of cheddar cheese. I don't care for  cheddar cheese and I like my noodles al dente- even in mac and cheese. So we usually just buy off brand velveeta mac and cheese but we also differ on how to season it. I like to add just a little bit of mustard (like 1 tsp) to add some bite and then garlic and black pepper. He likes the garlic, but likes it more spicy and adds red pepper flakes. So this has become a debate in our house: how to cook mac and cheese (the comfort food of all comfort foods)?
I found this recipe on Pinterest and really only saw the different cheeses and fell in love:

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
1 ½ cups 1% milk
3 cloves garlic peeled
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 tbsp fat-free Greek yogurt
1 ½ cups shredded Gruyere cheese
1 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound pasta (Cavatappi or Rotini work well)
1 tsp olive oil + more for drizzling
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, bring large pot of salted water to boil and grease a 9x13" baking dish.
Combine squash, broth, milk and garlic in a pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to mid-low heat and simmer until squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Next place the hot squash mixture in a blender (will have to do in 2 batches) and blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture into a bowl and stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg and Greek yogurt. Then stir in Gruyere and pecorino Romano. Set aside.

Add pasta to water. While pasta is cooking, add 1 tsp olive oil to pan on medium heat then add breadcrumbs and cook until breadcrumbs are golden, remove from heat and set aside.

Once pasta is cooked, drain and stir into reserved squash and cheese sauce. Pour entire mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bubbling.

Serve as is, or with a shot of hot sauce or spicy peppers!

But then I re-read it when I was making the grocery list and saw butternut squash. I am not a squash fan. My mom used to grow squash in our garden and I never ate it. If she put it in dishes, I'd pick it out. And I'm still the same way except if I go over to someones house I get a small serving and just swallow. But I thought this recipe was in a magazine so I'll try it. So I went to the local grocery store here in Rexburg, ID looking for butternut squash. I looked in the produce isle, only found yellow squash. Looked in the canned isle, no butternut squash. I looked in the frozen isle (on my sisters recommendation) NO butternut squash! I thought I could just use yellow squash but my sister assured me I couldn't. So I brainstormed and found myself looking at baby food in the baby food isle and alas: I found it! 
As I was cooking I thought I'd taste my ingredients and I popped that jar of baby food and tasted butternut squash and I hated it. I started doubting the recipe again as I continued to add in the yogurt and nutmeg. I started going into mom mode and hiding all the ingredients and dishes that had any resemblance of squash in it in case PJ came in because I knew if he saw what I was doing he would not eat dinner. So I finished shredding all the cheese and combining the ingredients to bake and I got some on my finger. Natural chef reaction is to taste what is now on your hand and before I knew what I was doing I tasted this squash concoction and... I loved it! I thought maybe this will work after all! 
And it did. PJ ate one whole serving and his only complaint was that there wasn't enough cheese. I had two servings and even brought it to a friend to try because PJ's reaction wasn't good enough and she ate it! 
The debate is still going on but at least we're a little bit closer to finding our family mac and cheese recipe. 

**In case you find yourself unable to find fresh butternut squash like me, I used 3 small baby food containers of winter squash and skipped the first step. Meaning I did not put the milk and chicken stock in with the squash and puree it. I warmed it up on the stove and then added the rest of the ingredients.**