Healthy Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

Well it’s January, which means we all eat healthy about 50% of the week but with better intentions. To kick off the new year, I was searching for something crave-able and satisfying that didn’t feel like diet food. I’ve been reading about and this butternut squash mac n cheese for a while now and decided to give it a try. It’s a clever riff on a classic comfort food that’s low on calories and high on fiber, and completely guilt-free!

I learned a few things on my first go here. I cut out the butter and flour from the original recipe and substituted fat free cream and low fat shredded cheese. My sauce to pasta ratio was a bit off and it came out a bit dry so I would add pasta slowly until you have a thick base, almost like a stew-like consistency. I also used a whole wheat rotini instead of the traditional macaroni. Big mistake! Everybody asked “Where’s the mac?!” Finally, I added a vegetarian spicy sausage which I have to say is a DEFINITE KEEPER. The puréed squash provides a surprisingly sweet and luxurious sauce paired with sage flavors of the sausage.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large butternut squash, cubed
  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup fat free cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup aged low fat cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 package Lightlife vegetarian sausage
  • 2 TBs olive oil (for frying and roasting)

Pan fry the entire package of sausage until the chunks are nice and browned. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and drizzle butternut squash chunks with olive oil on baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tender. While the squash is roasting, cook the macaroni according to package directions then drain well and set aside. In a medium sauce pot, add the cooked squash, cream, nutmeg and vegetable broth then use a hand blender to purée to a smooth texture, like a thick soup. Add the sausage, cheese and pasta to mixture and fold together. Pour into a greased casserole dish and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Moroccan Butternut Squash and Creamy Coconut Soup

IMG_3286-0Another week of freezing temperatures in Chicago sent me scouring for new soup recipes this week. I was looking for bold flavor but creamy in texture, the kind of soup you might savor in a steamy oversized mug and feel inspired by. My search led me to this unexpected butternut squash recipe posted on www.halfbakedharvest.com. Enveloped in the deep Moroccan flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and curry, then swirled with creamy coconut milk, this impressive recipe did not fail to impress and was easily adapted to a soul-satisfying one-pot vegan wonder.

MOROCCAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CREAMY COCONUT SOUP
1 head garlic, for roasting (or you may sub 2 cloves garlic, not roasted)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon spicy curry powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth
salt and pepper, to taste
roughly chopped cilantro and pistachios, for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves, pour one teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil then roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool five minutes. Squeeze garlic out of the paper skin. Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat, then add the red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add the cubed butternut squash, spicy curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes then pour in the coconut milk and veggie broth, reserving just a few spoonfuls of coconut milk. Bring the soup to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender. Once the butternut squash is tender, then add the roasted garlic. Use a hand blender to puree the soup, then let simmer for additional 5 minutes. Top with freshly chopped cilantro and pistachio, and drizzle with a splash of coconut milk.