|Unfortunately, it was too dark out by the time dinner was ready to get a picture of the finished dish. Darn winter time!|
When I was growing up I had this friend who slept over occasionally. One night she observed that whenever she was over we made macaroni and cheese late at night, probably due to the fact that I was obscenely picky and mac and cheese was one of the 5 food items I'd eat. She coined the term 'Midnight Macaroni' and now the blue box always reminds me of her.
In college I discovered Velveeta shells and cheese and I had to limit how frequently I allowed myself to indulge as I apparently had zero self control when it came to that stuff. There's enough calories in a spoonful to power a small army.
And then, all of a sudden, I became an adult. I didn't pull out boxed mac and cheese for years. It wasn't until Stinky was over the age of one and I needed a quick and easy option for a cranky toddler in need of lunch before his nap. I remember being excited to reacquaint myself with my childhood staple and share it with my son. Instead, I took a bite and nearly gagged.
I don't know if they changed the recipe or if it's always been that bad but, mercy. We have a few boxes in the pantry for food storage purposes but you won't catch me eating them for anything other than the apocalypse.
Real mac and cheese from scratch is infinitely more palatable. The cauliflower virtually disappears in this dish and the butternut squash imparts zero squashy flavor, just a subtle sweetness and a whole lot of creaminess. If you wanted to stick more veggies in there you could. Cheese sauce is a perfect place for veggies, in my opinion.
A note about pasta: I try to make my own pasta as much as possible to cut down on the processed junk factor. But sometimes you really need a good shaped pasta and unless you have a fancy pasta maker you just have to make do with what the store can provide. I shoot for organic with as few ingredients as possible (the one I use has two ingredients: durum wheat and water) and try not to worry too much about it. I SHOULD use whole wheat pasta but I think Aaron would go on a hunger strike if I did. I don't mind it but he hates that stuff.
Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
Adapted from here
1 small butternut squash
1 head cauliflower
12 ounces elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white wheat flour
½ teaspoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk
4 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1. Adjust on oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and lay the halves cut side down off toward the side of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes while you cut the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Toss the cauliflower with two tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground pepper. Pull the baking sheet out of the oven, toss the cauliflower on the other side of the baking sheet and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a butter knife inserted into the squash flesh meets no resistance. Scoop 2 cups of flesh from the squash and mash it with a fork, or puree it in a blender or food processor.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until it’s tender. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the foaming subsides, add the flour and mustard. Whisk constantly for 1 minute, then gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking frequently, then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the mixture has the consistency of heavy cream. Add the cheeses, ½ teaspoon table salt, and the squash, stirring until the cheese melts.
4. Pour the sauce over the drained pasta, add the cauliflower, and stir thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.