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Lighten Up! Fall Mac 'n' Cheese

Posted Nov 22 2011 8:06pm
Big Bowl of Healthier Mac 'n' Cheese. Dig In!!!
So I decided to start a new little segment on my blog called Lighten Up! There are some dishes in this world that one should never have to give up (case in point: mac 'n' cheese), but could stand to be healthier and with less guilt attached. In this new Lighten Up! segment, I take such dishes and make them more healthful without sacrificing flavor. 
To debut Lighten Up!, I decided to revamp mac 'n' cheese, traditionally made with lots of heavy cream, lots of cheese, and sometimes, Velveeta (eeks!). Those are some major whammys right there! I kept the cheese, but substituted a squash sauce for the cream. Remember my Fettuccine with Lemony Squash Sauce ? That's where the inspiration came from. If I could make a creamy sauce for fettuccine sans cream, why couldn't I do the same for mac 'n' cheese? It's possible, and way delicious! I served it at a potluck this weekend and NO ONE could tell there wasn't an ounce of cream in there (or for that matter that it was whole wheat pasta). Not even the girl from the South who grew up on homemade mac 'n' cheese!

Makes 8 servings
Ingredients1 tbsp butter 1 shallot, minced3 sprigs thyme, roughly chopped3 sprigs rosemary, leaved removed from stem and roughly chopped1 lb Acorn squash, diced into small cubes (you can also use Butternut Squash or Yellow Squash. Nothing with too strong a flavor)1/8 tsp salt1/4 tsp pepper1 cup water 3/4 tbsp dijon mustard1/4 tsp nutmeg1/3 lb Cheddar cheese (as sharp or mild as you like it)1/3 lb Gruyere cheese1 cup warm 1% or 2% milk (more or less depending on how gooey you like your mac 'n' cheese) More salt and pepper to taste as needed1 lb whole wheat mezze penne, elbow pasta, rotini, or orecchiete, cooked according to box
In a large pot, heat up the butter. When hot, add shallots, thyme, and rosemary, and cook until shallots soften, about 4 minutes. Add the squash, salt, pepper, and about 1/3 cup water and cook until squash is soft, about 8-10 min. You should be able to easily cut into the squash with a knife. Place all the ingredients from this pot into a blender, add 1 cup water, and make a smooth puree. If you need a little more water, that's fine. Pour the puree back into the pot, and add the mustard, nutmeg, cheeses, milk, and the cooked pasta. Place back over low heat, and you will see the cheeses begin to melt. Stir until the the cheese and pasta have soaked up the milk and everything is piping hot. Serve nice and hot!
Yummy Acorn Squash
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