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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Signature Thanksgiving Cocktail: Bourbon Cider

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Bourbon cider is the best cocktail I have made to date. Fresh apple cider, warm spiced bourbon, and rosemary simple syrup are shaken and poured over ice making the perfect signature Thanksgiving cocktail (or for this unusually warm November here in the city). Not that I’m complaining, but I was expecting chilly winds that lead to roasted chestnuts, hot toddies and warm ciders. Bourbon cider is the perfect signature thanksgiving cocktail for a fall dinner with friends, your Thanksgiving feast, or holiday party this season.

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Bourbon cider is sweet, spiced, and refreshing with a hint of earthiness borrowed from the rosemary. When recipes are simple and call for few ingredients, you need to seek out the very best you can find to maximize deliciousness. I purchased my rosemary and fresh apple cider for my signature Thanksgiving cocktail from Migliorelli Farm at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. The cider was crisp and subtle and masked the strength of the nose on the bourbon just enough.

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Rosemary simple syrup is insanely easy to make- I microwave equal parts water and sugar with sprigs of rosemary and allow it to cool for this earthy fall cocktail. Bourbon cider has all the sweet and spice of fall with savory and aromatic rosemary balancing the apple and autumn seasonal flavors. This Thanksgiving cocktail is easy to make and perfect for a signature holiday drink! The bourbon cider can easily be made into a punch for a large crowd too.

Bourbon-Cider-Set-up

Signature Thanksgiving Cocktail: Bourbon Cider

Makes 1 cocktail, increase proportions as needed

  • 2 oz bourbon or rye
  • 1 oz fresh apple cider
  • ½ oz rosemary simple syrup
  • Splash club soda (or hard apple cider if you like)
  • Sprig rosemary for garnish

Make the rosemary simple syrup according to how much you would like on hand. I knew I was going to use more rosemary simple syrup the next day for my Baked Brie with Guava, so I made a larger batch than usual. For around 6-8 signature Thanksgiving cocktails pour 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in a microwave safe bowl with a large fresh sprig of rosemary. I microwave the ingredients for 30 second intervals and stirred well after each set of 30 seconds up to 1 minute and 30 seconds or until the simple syrup is no longer cloudy and is clear (if you are making a larger batch microwave at 30 second intervals until clear). I let the rosemary simple syrup cool with the rosemary sprigs in it, and once cooled I replaced them with fresh sprigs which have a brighter color and flavor.

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When the simple syrup is cool add the ingredients into a shaker over ice. Shake well, for about thirty seconds, and strain over fresh ice then top with a splash of club soda (or hard apple cider if you like to emphasize the apple flavor with some effervescence. Garnish the bourbon cider cocktail with a warm rosemary sprig. I run the rosemary over a lit lighter for around 20 seconds. Heat just until the rosemary is warm and aromatic, they should not light on fire. This step is very easy and enhances the bourbon cider cocktail especially the sweet apple and earthy profile.

If you want your cocktail to be sweeter or stronger simply manipulate the proportions to your liking. Remember cooking and bartending is all about experimentation and what you like. Everyone’s palate is different so have fun with it and find out what you like best.

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*Note: If you want to make this as a pre-made punch for a crowd I would pour the entire bottle of bourbon or rye,  2 cups fresh apple cider, and 3/4-1 cup of the rosemary simple syrup. Stir together well and add a larger format bottle of hard apple cider and about 8 oz of club soda. Guests can pour over ice and you can have sprigs of rosemary ready on the side. I haven’t made this as a punch but I will closer to Thanksgiving and update on its success!!!

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Maple Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

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Maple rosemary pork tenderloin is incredibly easy, looks impressive, and is so delicious and tender. Easy recipes are my salvation, especially when the dish can be prepped ahead of time. Inspired by my recent purchase of real maple syrup for my maple thyme roasted carrots, I had to find more uses for this wonderful ingredient besides pancakes and the like.

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The maple rosemary marinade is four simple ingredients that sing fabulously together. I made this recipe twice, both times using Hormel ‘Original’ Pork Tenderloin- mainly because it was on sale at Publix. Turns out the ‘original’ means it is marinated already in basic brine, which explains why my recipe needed no salt whatsoever. If you are going to recreate this recipe I would suggest buying the same pork tenderloin which I’m sure is available all over, or place your pork tenderloin in a brine for a few hours before removing and placing in the marinade.

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The maple rosemary pork tenderloin was fabulously flavorful, tender, and the marinade made a great rich sauce. The sweetness of the maple was subtle and became savory with the stone ground Dijon mustard, fresh rosemary, and cooking white wine. Make this recipe for family, friends, or for a memorable dinner party.

Maple Rosemary Pork Tenderloin 

  • ¼ cup real maple syrup
  • ¼ cup white cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons stone-ground Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1.15 lb Hormel ‘Original’ Pork Tenderloin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Serves 3

Remove the pork from the packaging, whisk the ingredients together, and pour the maple rosemary marinade over the pork. Place in a sealed bag or air-tight container. Marinade overnight or for at least 6-8 hours.

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Preheat oven to 400F. Heat the olive oil on medium to high heat in a pan or in a skillet with grill ridges. Sear on all sides for 5 minutes. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Err on the side of 12 minutes if you prefer a more medium to rare pork, and 15 minutes for a solid medium.

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Meanwhile deglaze the pan used to sear the pork tenderloin with the remaining marinade. Allow the marinade to cook on low, bubble, and thicken for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and pour the marinade into a gravy boat or sauce dish. Remove the maple rosemary pork tenderloin from the oven, allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes, slice, and top with a few spoonfuls of the sauce.

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Serve with green bean potato salad in bacon vinaigrette or with one of your favorite sides. This recipe for maple rosemary pork tenderloin is pretty amazing, and I’m sure you’ll agree so bon appétit friends!

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