Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

 

If you could choose your final meal on Earth, what would it be? My choice would be mac and cheese. The ultimate comfort food! For me, nothing brings more satisfaction than to dig into a creamy bowl of cheesy pasta, made even better topped with crunchy bread crumbs—and maybe some crumbled bacon pieces. 

Mmmmmmmmm….

I’ve enjoyed this favorite dish while on my WW (once known as Weight Watchers) wellness journey for the past 19 months. That’s what I love about this plan: You can eat the foods you love. Nothing is off-limits! I just have to adjust my other meals during the day to compensate, which is all part of eating in a balanced, healthy way.







I’m down 83 pounds so far! 








One day I went looking for a lightened-up version of mac and cheese that wouldn’t take such a big chunk out of my daily food budget. That’s when I came across a recipe on the WW website for butternut squash whole grain mac and cheese. At first, it seemed almost scandalous to add squash to my beloved dish! However, I decided to give it a try, but with my own personal flavor twists of cayenne for a little heat and crunchy bread crumbs for the topping.


Eureka! It tasted amazing! Honestly, I don’t even notice the squash flavor, but it adds a creaminess to the dish typically put there by cream/whole milk and lots of cheese. Not to mention added nutrients. 

Need more convincing? How about this: You make the mac and cheese on the stovetop. In one pan! No boiling the pasta separately. No oven needed. 

This recipe calls for whole-grain elbow pasta (Barilla is my favorite) but feel free to use regular if you prefer. Of course, it could also be made with full-fat cheese as well. I also grate some parmesan cheese over the top and sometimes sprinkle on some crispy bacon crumbles like I did here 👇.



For my fellow WW purple plan members, with the bread crumb topping, this dish is 3 points per serving. (2 points without the bread crumbs.)


Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Makes 6 1-cup servings

1 cup water
2 cups fat-free milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry English mustard
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon thyme 
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
10 ounces whole-grain elbow pasta
9-ounce package frozen butternut squash, cooked and mashed
4 ounces 50-percent reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

For topping:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
Black pepper, to taste

In a 3.5-quart or larger Dutch oven over medium-high heat, bring the water, milk, seasonings, and macaroni to a simmer, stirring constantly. (Don’t let it boil. You just want to see bubbles begin around the edges of the pan.) Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.

While the pasta cooks, make the topping by heating the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs, thyme and pepper. Sauté until the mixture becomes golden brown. Pour into a bowl and set aside.  

Add the butternut squash and cook for an additional minute or two. Then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cheese a hand full at a time, until it is melted and creamy.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of the breadcrumbs over the top of each serving. 


   

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