Thursday, May 17, 2012

Squashed mac & cheese

I was looking for recipes on Spark People and was inspired by this one for butternut squash macaroni and cheese. It seemed like a great way to get an extra veggie into a dish and also lighten up a traditionally high-fat - but very comforting - meal. I decided to make the recipe for Mother's Day dinner with the family but couldn't find butternut squash anywhere. Not even frozen. But I did find a spaghetti squash so I bought that and figured I'd try adapting the recipe to suit. The end result turned out better than I expected and everyone loved the dish. Here's what I did:

First to cook the squash, I cut it in a half, pierced the skin and baked it in a shallow amount of water in the oven until it is soft and browned. You can find lots of ways to cook a squash online including video tutorials.

Then I scooped out the flesh of the squash with a spoon. It does look a bit like spaghetti but more like thin rice noodles. I put the squash in a strainer to drain the liquid off while I prepared the rest of the dish.

I cooked macaroni (gluten-free for my mom & sister) and some frozen peas for colour and put that aside, too. Then in a big pot, I combined some milk, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, crushed garlic and some shredded cheddar cheese. You could use more or less of any ingredient as you wish. More cheese is always yummy but also not as healthy so I tried to strike a balance and used about a cup. I wish I had used sharp or old cheddar cheese because I think the flavour would have been better. So I'll make sure to do that next time!

The macaroni and squash was stirred around with the mixture in the pot until it was all combined and gooey. I put the mixture into a casserole dish and topped with some shredded parmesan cheese. You could top with breadcrumbs, too, if you'd like that crunch.

Then I baked the whole thing for about 30 mins until it was bubbly and browned. When served, you couldn't tell the melted cheese from the squash strands and the squash's taste wasn't detectable. Next time, maybe I will try to up the healthy (and protein) factor by combining some soft tofu in with the cheese mixture. This would also be a great dish for a pot luck & would freeze well. There will definitely be a next time for this dish!

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