Butternut Squash and Beer Mac & Cheese (Giveaway!)

*The winners for this giveaway have been announced! Please check this post to see if you won!*

‘Ello gov’nah! This morning I have a very, very special post for you, complete with giveaway! As some of you may already know, the illustrious, fantabulous Cassie from Back to Her Roots recently had her first (of many, I hope!) cookbook published: Cooking with Greek Yogurt.

Cooking with Greek Yogurt by Cassie Johnston

Not only is it impressive to get a cookbook published in the first place, but Cassie did almost EVERYTHING when it came to this book: the writing, the recipe creation, the photography, AND the design/layout/font selections/you name it. And as anyone who has visited her blog or has seen her design work in the past (including the cover of my own book!) knows, she has an amazing aesthetic and her personality shines through every page of this cookbook. The colors are vibrant, the photos are gorgeous, the tone of the writing is playful but easy to understand, and the recipes are pure gold. This is one damn beautiful cookbook, ladies and gents.

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I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of the book, and spent days poring over each recipe, trying to figure out where the heck I was supposed to start. Ultimately, I gave a few of her smoothie recipes and sauce combos (Sriracha spiced greek yogurt?! Why didn’t I think of that!) a spin before making the following recipe and knowing THIS was the one I had to share with all of you.

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Lo and behold, Beer & Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Right? RIGHT?! It was tastes just as awesome as it sounds, and with the amazing addition of hidden veggies AND the protein-packed Greek yog, it’s just about the healthiest mac and cheese I’ve ever had!

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I paired it with some chicken meatballs and it was soooo good. Creamy and cheesy without being heavy, and just a little bit tangy… mmm. Even Sean loved it, and I’ve never known him to willingly eat butternut squash anything in the entire time we’ve been dating! It complements the dish that well. So, without further adieu:

beer & butternut squash mac and cheese
From Cooking with Greek Yogurt by Cassie Johnston (reprinted with permission)

The inspiration for this fun twist on mac and cheese comes from my love of local beer. The cheese sauce combines Greek yogurt with wheat beer, butternut squash, and a mixture of two cheeses to get an incredibly unique dish.

INGREDIENTS:
1 (12 ounce) package whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cubed
3/4 cup wheat beer
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare a 9 x 9-inch baking dish by spraying it liberally with cooking spray. Cook
elbow macaroni according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain and set aside. In a large
saucepan, combine squash, beer, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and
simmer until squash is very tender, about 25 minutes. The mixture may begin to separate; this is fine.
Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, or a standard blender with the
steam vent removed, blend squash mixture together until very smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into a
large mixing bowl and stir in yogurt, Gruyère, Romano, and butter until cheeses are melted. Add in elbow
macaroni and stir until well coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs
evenly over top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is browned and crunchy, and sauce is thickened.

Nutritional info per 1/8th serving: 245 calories, 13g fat, 17g carbs, 15g protein.

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I ended up making just a few adjustments based on what was available in my pantry (and because I have a REALLY hard time following recipes to the tee… I guess I’m just a kitchen rebel like that), but they were really small. I used two cloves of garlic instead of one (love my garlic!), didn’t have skim milk and didn’t think that vanilla almond milk would go very well haha, so I used 1/2 a cup of heavy cream + 1/2 a cup of water, and I ended up realizing after the fact that the box of pasta I used was larger than a normal 12 oz. package of macaroni elbows (’cause I got it from Costco). So there just wasn’t quite as much sauce per bite as there normally would have been, but really that worked out in the end because MOAR LEFTOVERS FOR ME BWAHAHA.

Either way, it turned out DELICIOUS, was incredibly easy, and VERY filling — the absolute definition of win-win-win! So I give major thanks to Cassie for giving me an awesome new recipe to add to my repertoire, and YOU are about to give major thanks to her too — because it’s GIVEAWAY TIIIIIME!

Yep, Cassie and her publisher are giving away two free copies of her cookbook! All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post answering this question:

What’s your favorite way to use Greek yogurt?

I’ll announce the winners later this week. Good luck!

The Healthy Living Summit 2013

Hiya folks! Well, I’m back from Minneapolis with a belly full of delicious food and a brain full of blogging inspiration. Ahhh, just like old times!

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There was a lot of picture-taking (photobooths FTW!), a lot of hugs of friends I haven’t seen since, well, last year’s HLS, and lots of delicious food. I actually made the conscious choice to leave my big DSLR at home this time, since in past years I’ve had such a focus on taking pictures, editing them, and posting blog posts DURING the conference. And since I wanted to be able to really enjoy the summit (and the folks I was summiting with!), I opted for the good ol’ iPhone instead.

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I still think we ended up with some pretty cute pics, don’t you? 😉

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Lauren, who I’ve missed SO much since she moved from this area out to Colorado earlier this year, and Cassie, who I CANNOT BELIEVE I HADN’T PHYSICALLY MET BEFORE SINCE WE ARE LIKE SISTERS OMG TRUTHFACT, stuck together for much of the conference, getting to meet and mingle with so many of our fellow bloggers as we did.

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Photo thanks to Mindy

I’m sure many of you have already gone through dozens of HLS recaps, so I’ll keep this one brief. There was an awesome dinner the first night at Town Hall Brewery the first night that Casey put together, followed by the traditional cocktail party, and then Saturday kicked off with the sessions!

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For those of you who weren’t able to attend, or who missed the presentation by Cassie, Lauren, and me, please feel free to check out the slides and recaps of the presentation. Here are a bunch of links for ya:

The most beautiful slides in the world, by none other than the amazing Cassie Johnston

Lauren’s Presentation Recap

Sam’s liveblog of the session

Cassie’s HLS Recap

I’m also happy to answer any questions you might have on utilizing your personal blog to help transform your career path! (Feel free to check out the hashtag #HLS13BlogtoJob to see what other kinds of questions we’ve already had, too!)

So as I mentioned before, I also participated in a book club centered around my very own bookchild, TERRA! It was awesome getting to discuss the book in person with so many people who’d read it (and enjoyed it, or so they said ;)) and I totally felt like pretty baller when I was signing copies, hehehe.

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Photo thanks to Alicia

It was an awesome weekend, over ENTIRELY too soon, but thankfully I have eighty zillion various food samples and products to keep the memories alive… until I eat them all. Sidebar: Have you guys tried the Salt & Vinegar Blue Diamond Almonds yet?! CRAAAAACK ALMONDS!!! THEY ARE SO GOOD.

Thanks for another great weekend, HLS!

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By this time tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to sunny (?) Minneapolis for the 2013 Healthy Living Summit! This year marks my third year at the Summit, and my second year speaking.

Some of you might remember that last year I gave a presentation on Blog Photography 101, and this year I’m teaming up with my gals Lauren from Me and the Mountains and Cassie from Back to Her Roots for a panel on how blogging has helped lead to our dream jobs (without having to blog full time AS our jobs).

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I’m super excited, not only for the panel, but getting to reunite with Lauren, who moved from this area a few months ago, and to finally MEET Cassie, who I feel like I’ve already known forever. Cassie designed an absolutely epic presentation and I know it’ll be amazing.

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(I mean, seriously, it is the most beautiful set of slides I’ve ever seen in my life. Do you SEE why I asked her to design my book cover now? :D)

Here’s the official blurb for our panel in case you’re interested in exactly what we’ll be speaking about:

From Blog to Job: Utilizing Your Personal Blog to Elevate Your Career

Unfortunately, it is a small (itty bitty, teeny weeny) percentage of us that will be able to turn our blogs into a full-time career on their own. But that doesn’t mean that blogging can’t help lead to great things for our careers! Join Cassie from Back to her Roots and Lauren from Me and the Mountains for a panel led by Gretchen of Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen, on the ways that blogging has helped these different women find their dream jobs.

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In addition to leading the panel, I’ll also be front and center at the HLB Book Club meeting which is on… my book, TERRA! Yay! Hopefully this will be the final push I need to finish out Book 2! Hehe.

If you’re at HLS this year, PLEASE make sure to say hi! I like to think I’m fairly easy to spot now that my hair is purple. Purple and pink. Kekeke.