Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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Butternut squash mac and cheese topped with golden crunchy panko bread crumbs and rich aromatic rosemary makes for a creamy, nutty, and healthy(ier) Thanksgiving side- or just a nice fall dish. One that makes you feel cozy and comfy as nights become cooler and forgotten warm winter coats are reluctantly remembered. Since I was a kid I have been making the macaroni and cheese recipe from Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls. I have mentioned this tattered and loved cookbook before, whose recipes I still use in modified extent.

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For the butternut squash mac and cheese I replaced the macaroni for roasted butternut squash, added a bit of depth with spices and rosemary, and crunch with the toasted panko bread crumbs. The butternut squash was perfectly tender and well-coated in the sharp cheddar cheese sauce. I like to use a shallow dish to maximize surface area for lots of crisp rosemary panko. Roasted butternut squash mac and cheese is fitting for a feast like Thanksgiving or if you’re feeling fancy, just a nice Tuesday night dinner.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

  • 2 lb butternut squash peeled, cored, and diced
  • 2 tsp melted butter or ghee
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small diced white onion
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp dried ground mustard
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 12 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, 2 oz set aside for topping
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 sprig rosemary chopped

Preheat the oven to 400F. Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half, and core out the seeds. Dice the squash into nice little cubes for your butternut squash mac and cheese. Toss the diced butternut squash with the butter or ghee and sea salt. Roast the butternut squash for about 20 minutes or until almost done through. I opened the oven at 10 minutes and stirred the squash so it wouldn’t stick to the cast iron skillet. I like to use the skillet for aesthetics, but this would be easily done in a glass pyrex dish 9×13 would probably work best.

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While the squash is roasting make the cheddar cheese sauce starting with the roux. I didn’t get to take great pictures of this step because my kitchen lighting is dismal. Melt the butter on medium to low heat and cook the onion until soft and tender. Add the flour and stir well, add the spices and allow the roux base to toast slightly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Stir in the zebra white and yellow shredded cheddar and cook over low heat until sauce is thickened. Grate the nutmeg into the sauce and stir.

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Add the butternut squash to the cheese sauce and gently stir. You want to keep the squash in neat little cubes. Add the butternut squash and cheese back into the cast iron skillet (or pyrex you roasted the squash in). I hate doing dishes so I try to use as few as possible! Mix the panko bread crumbs, rosemary, and the extra side of cheddar cheese. Top the butternut squash with the bread crumb mixture and bake for an extra 10 minutes until nice and golden brown on top. Butternut squash macaroni and cheese is a great Thanksgiving side dish.

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Fall Quinoa Salad

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Soft chunks of butternut squash, salty pumpkin seeds, sweet chopped dates, crunchy kale, and aromatic sage form a sensational and light quinoa salad for fall. Quinoa, couscous, tabbouleh, and barley are all versatile grains that really shine with the right ingredients. Fall is well underway and I have been itching to make a fall-fabulous salad with seasonal ingredients. For the summer and spring I love making a bright couscous salad with fresh crisp veggies, but a fall quinoa salad calls for richer flavors and textures.

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Fall quinoa salad is crazy easy to make because it can be prepped in advance if you’re planning on treating guests to a feast. I roasted the butternut squash and made the quinoa a day ahead. It is better to work with chilled ingredients so the kale and sage do not wilt from the freshly cooked ingredients. Crunchy pepitas or pumpkin seeds add texture, flavor, and bring saltiness to the dish while butternut squash’s velvety bite gives the salad healthy richness. Dress this salad lightly with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice or whisk up a yogurt dressing to drizzle on top. Serve fall quinoa salad with roasted chicken, fish, or enjoy with extra greens as a salad!

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Fall Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa prepared as directed
  • 2 cups fresh chopped kale
  • 2 cups roasted and diced butternut squash
  • 1 sprig sage finely chopped
  • ½ cup dates pitted and chopped
  • ½ cup roasted and salted pumpkin seeds
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Prepare the quinoa as directed; you can optionally use chicken broth or orange juice instead of just water to cook the quinoa. Spread the cooked quinoa on a baking sheet so it can cool. Roast the butternut squash in advance. Cut it in half, core out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the halves cut side up on a baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes or until fork tender at 350F.

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Once the squash is cool enough to handle gently peel off the outer skin and dice the squash in cubes; set aside. Chop the kale, dates, and sage. Combine the ingredients and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I also thought an apple cider vinaigrette could work well with this dish, but alas I did not have any apple cider vinegar handy.

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

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Roasted butternut squash and caramelized onions form a perfect union atop a thin flatbread crust with dressed arugula. Fall is fully upon us, and while we don’t enjoy the changing seasons in Florida, we can at least jump on board with fall inspired recipes. Butternut squash is much easier to prepare than some of the other squash varieties. The skin peels off easily, it cuts like a dream, and its sweet rich flesh is quite versatile.

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I have always had a deep love for caramelized onions, and I find that their natural sweetness plays well with the creamy squash and salty reggiano. My local grocery store, Publix, sells awesome freshly made pizza dough which I buy on the regular to use in recipes like my German Flammkuchen. I figured roasting the squash and caramelizing all those onions was enough effort! If your grocery store doesn’t sell fresh pizza dough, I would recommend following a recipe like this one from Smitten Kitchen instead of buying the canned Pillsbury variety.

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The caramelized onions and squash can be prepared a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator making assembly that much easier when you are preparing this meal for guests. I thought about also adding bacon and kale, but I figured simpler is better, and boy was I right! This pizza was sweet and savory complimented by the peppery arugula salad on top. I would recommend enjoying this butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with a crisp German Riesling or an old world white wine.

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Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

  • Fresh pizza dough
  • Flour for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¾ pound or 4 medium sized yellow onions thinly sliced
  • ½ medium sized butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated reggiano
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground Dijon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper

Thinly slice onions and caramelize on low heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil for 45 minutes or so. Heat the olive oil first on low heat and add the onions, making sure to separate them as you drop them in. You should barely stir the onions; I stirred them 3 times only because I cannot resist the urge to stir them a few times. One of my chef instructors at FIU, Chef Moran, said caramelized onions should never be stirred, rather just let them sit on low heat and they will cook beautifully.

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While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 400F, halve the butternut squash and scoop the insides and discard. Rub olive oil on the outside and inside of the butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper and place the butternut squash cut side up on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

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Allow the butternut squash to cool down and come to room temperature before handling. Turn the squash over when cool and use a spoon to gently scrape off the outer skin. The skin will generally peel off quite easily, but around the thin neck of the squash I had to softly scrape the skin off. At this point you can store the squash in the refrigerator in a sealed container if preparing a day in advance, or thinly slice the squash horizontally to prep for the flatbread.

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Preheat the oven to 400F. Grate the cheese and set aside. Roll out the pizza dough on a clean countertop surface to create a thin crust using flour to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Next, evenly spread the caramelized onions over the rolled out dough. Layer with thin slices of butternut squash and season with a little bit of pepper. Next sprinkle the reggiano cheese on top.

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Bake the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread in the oven for 20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Whisk together 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to use as a light dressing for the arugula. Top the butternut squash and caramelized onion flatbread with the lightly dressed arugula, slice, and serve.

dressed-arugulaFinished-pizza

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