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 Art of Not Doing

I’m going to need to warn you about the sheer number of double-negatives you are about to encounter in the following post. Any English majors out there shouldn’t not avert their eyes.

There are a lot of things I don’t do.

It isn’t bad not to do some things. For example, I don’t smoke and I don’t murder people. I consider these to be generally good accomplishments. And this rings true even if we take a step back into slightly more realistic examples (unless homicide really is something that you struggle with, in which case my blog doesn’t hold the answers for you. Dexter does.) For example, it’s good when I don’t bottle up my feelings. When I actively take action not to take action in the face of emotional hardship. (Let’s see if I can be more vague! Hahaha.)

Sometimes the “good” part in NOT doing isn’t obvious though. I do feel that my choice not to weigh myself this morning was actually quite healthy considering the strong impact that last week’s weigh-in had on me. And it was hard, too, because it’s difficult for me to let go of the number on the scale. Plus there’s the idea that some of you out there who might be judging me for crapping out, as it were.

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But I stand by my convictions (er, for once.) My emotions have been on enough of a roller coaster on their own over the past few days. They don’t need any help from the 0.2 lbs I may have lost or gained. I’m not giving up. I’m not even giving up the scale. I’m just… taking a beat.

Of course, even I can acknowledge when my choice to not do something comes purely out of stubbornness or laziness. I might not admit it. But I can acknowledge it.

Like when I was supposed to run four miles yesterday as part of my race training plan. I confess that I did not, in fact, do that.

Judged again.

But enough about what I didn’t do. Or what I continue to not be doing. Or… other… equally awkwardly worded incarnations of the same. I’m going to do what I do best and eat my feelings focus on the positive.

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I DID seed the crap out of this itty bitty baby butternut squash.

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I DID sprinkle it with olive oil, salt & pepper, and roasted it in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. (I DID NOT remember to peel off the skin before cutting it in half though, which made for difficult extraction. Whoops!)

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But I DID turn it into a beautiful(ish) mash of orange deliciousness with the help of a splash of soy milk and my handy dandy immersion blender.

What is one thing that you’ve felt good about NOT doing lately?