Well, hello there. No, you're not imagining things -- that butternut mac and cheese photo really is much crappier than what you normally see here! It's because I'm not Sandra and that's my craptacular photo.

I'm Jules (aka, The Ninj) and I normally blog over at Yankee Kitchen Ninja, where I write from my home in Vermont about what I call "stealthy homemaking" -- healthy recipes that are easy to prepare, how to use CSA produce creatively, gardening tips and the occasional DIY project, with a heavy dollop of humor and snark.

I'm a big fan of Sandra's recipes and photography, so when she suggested we do a blog swap for a day, I jumped at the chance.

Originally, we decided to each pick a recipe involving pumpkin for this blog swap, given that we planned it for October. Hilariously, we both realized soon after that we were already completely sick of pumpkin (and assumed you probably were, too) so instead opened our topic up to all fall squash.

Even more hilariously, out of “all fall squash”, we both ended up choosing butternut squash.

But come on, who can blame us? It's the squash that, with a little butter and maple syrup, can nearly taste like candy.

(Not quite like candy, I realize. But more like candy than, say, a paper bag though, right? Bear with me, I tend to be dramatic when it comes to trying to get you to make a recipe I like.)

I'm totally jazzed about this butternut mac and cheese recipe -- largely because my husband actually ate it.

Little back story: My husband is not a fan of vegetables and claims that it's not often the taste but the texture that turns him off (he is genuinely afraid of asparagus). It's sort of like having a 3-year-old picky eater, to which I'm sure many of you can relate. So when he saw the roasted butternut squash sitting on the kitchen counter as I pulled this dish together, he freaked. I assured him that, because it was being incorporated into the cheesy sauce, he'd never even know it was there.

I was lying, of course.

But, holy smokes, it turned out to be true! The mashed squash almost melts into the cheesy sauce, yielding a pasta dish that truly earns its "mac and cheese" monniker. This is like sneaking beets into chocolate cake: it tastes delicious and comforting and you don't even realize how loaded it is with good-for-you vegetables.


With respect for Sandra's largely vegetarian focus, I resisted adding bacon to this butternut mac and cheese (believe me, it almost killed me, as I generally refer to myself as a meatasaurus). So if you're not strictly a vegetarian, throw some bacon in there – trust me, you'll be extra happy.

Another thing that's handy about this butternut mac and cheese is that, if you're pressed for time, there's a squash prep shortcut that can make this fast enough for even the busiest night of the week: if you don't have time to oven-roast the squash, simply steam it until soft and mashable in a veggie steamer basket on the stovetop or in your microwave.

Thanks for reading and I hope you're inspired to give this butternut mac and cheese a whirl. And feel free to drop by anytime and see what else The Ninj is cooking up at www.yankeekitchenninja.com


Butternut Mac and Cheese by The Yankee Kitchen Ninja

(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

Ingredients:

10 ounces curly pasta (something with enough curves to hold the sauce – I used cavatappi)
3 ½ – 4 cups peeled, “gutted” and diced butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 cups sliced mushrooms (about 8 ounces)
I bunch green onions, sliced and divided
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup skim or 2% milk
¾  teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 cups shredded fontina cheese


Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring a small amount of water to boil in a pot with a veggie steamer placed inside. Add the squash, cover the pot and steam for about 10 minutes or until the squash is very soft when poked with a fork. [NOTE: Alternately, you can roast the squash, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 25 minutes or until mashable. This can be done in advance.] Mash the squash well and set it aside.

Cook the pasta until al dente. While it is cooking, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan until hot and foamy. Add the mushrooms and ½ cup sliced green onions (more, if you are an onion fan) and cook for a few minutes until tender (the mushrooms will just begin to brown). Add the flour; cook, stirring continually, for about a minute, until the mixture is well combined. Add the milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until thickened (this only takes a minute or two). Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the mashed squash, forming a creamy, orange sauce. Add the cooked pasta and stir gently to coat.

Put half the pasta mixture into a prepared 2 or 2 1/2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Add the remaining pasta and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and it looks yummy to you. Serve sprinkled with green onions.




 


Comments

10/28/2013 2:55pm

Jules... you're totally selling yourself short! The lead photograph is beautiful. And adding bacon sounds like a fantastic idea. I'm sure Sandra would do some wacky and crazy thing like turn coconut flakes into a vegetarian bacon or something like that.

Love the guest post, love the recipe idea, and I'm going to check out your site now!

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10/28/2013 9:27pm

Thanks, Chris! Glad to hear there's another bacon fan that frequents Sandra's site. :-)

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10/28/2013 9:48pm

And I agree with Chris, you sell yourself too short when it comes to your pictures. I think you have a good eye and do a great job with composition (something I really need to work on).

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10/30/2013 5:01pm

Too kind. :-)

10/28/2013 9:44pm

LOL! I was laughing tears with that intro. Specifically, "...that butternut mac and cheese photo really is much crappier than what you normally see here!" love the sense of humour Ninja!! :). Our boys heavily dig Mac 'n Cheese so my husband and I are always reinventing it to keep it on the healthier side. (Kraft fails in every respect). Squash is a great idea and one that we have not yet tried -- looks so juicy too! Bet it tastes delicious. I'm putting this one on the list! Thanks for the idea.

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10/30/2013 5:00pm

Glad I could make you laugh AND inspire you to cook some squash, Kelly. :-)

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05/23/2014 6:18am

Nice post and excellent recipe. I cooked it many times but not in that way, the way you described here.

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11/10/2014 3:48am

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