Last fall I was invited by the folks with Share Our Strength to attend one of the ‘Cooking Matters‘ events they hold on a regular basis that helps middle school kids in low income families with nutrition information as well as hands on cooking classes. The event I went to had myself and others helping the kids that evening with cutting and cooking and everyone received a sample of the finished dish as well as a set of identical products to bring home so that we could re-create the dishes in our own kitchens. I never got that dish done; if I’m completely honest I did not find it very appealing which made me also feel a bit guilty. The truth is I’m privileged that I can buy the products I want at the grocery store and am not reliant on government allocations for my foodstuffs. I’m also fortunate that I was taught at an early age how to cook; that has served me well especially as a single mom who wanted to provide nutritious meals for my family that didn’t also break the bank. This is such a fabulous program though and it made a big enough impression on me that I have never forgotten that I did not make that butternut squash macaroni and cheese…maybe because I was waiting on this recipe?
This recipe is another in a series that has been provided to me by the folks with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I’m partnering with them to make several of their recipes for #Waunstrong Wednesday), recipes geared to be nutritious for their patients but which I’ve found to be absolutely delicious too and this was no exception. Roasted butternut squash is blended with a melted cheese sauce that is used to dress pasta. I decided to sprinkle some toasted and buttered panko bread crumbs on top of the finished dish; that little bit of crunch made it perfection.
I can honestly see this using other vegetables too; remember this recipe when you think you can not find any other way to eat garden zucchini this summer; use it in place of the butternut squash and add a bit of tomato and you’ve got another great, simple and healthy meal.
For the Macaroni and Cheese
- 2 cups small pasta (shells, elbow or piccolini)
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 cup butternut squash puree (see Notes)
- 1- 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese
- 2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp paprika
For the panko crumb topping
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1 tsp butter
- Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta
- Once boiling, add pasta and cook until pasta is tender (about 7-10 minutes)
- Drain pasta when finished and set aside.
- Melt butter over medium low heat in a saucepan and add the flour
- Whisk and cook for 2 minutes – it will resemble a paste
- Slowly add milk
- Whisk until combined; add remaining ingredients up to butter and stir until combined
- Add sauce to the pasta and stir.
- Sprinkle with the toasted panko crumbs and serve.
To Make the Topping:
- While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small skillet; add panko and cook over medium heat until lightly browned. Set aside.
If you can’t find butternut squash puree, simply cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and discard. Place face down on an oven safe dish. Roast in the oven for 50 minutes at 400°. Allow to cool. Scoop the “meat” from the skin and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth.
Lauren Update: Lauren had her first chemo treatment last week and it was a tough week. She had a port installed under her collarbone on Friday that will be where the cocktails are administered and I don’t think four days was enough time after surgery to start chemo so she definitely had a double whammy. We also went wig shopping and she found one she loves. Not long but more of a short bob and her exact hair color. As hard as those trips are, I think doing them before they are necessary helps acclimate all of us to the reality; hair loss will be hard. Knowing she looks great in cute wig makes that eventuality a bit easier to face. She’s feeling better this week and actually stayed in her own apartment for the first time since learning she has breast cancer. That’s huge…she’s a very independent young woman and though all of her family welcomed her back home with open arms, that step was one she wanted to make and I’m glad she did. Her friends have been fantastic…keep up the good work kids!