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!

Snapshots & Stitch Fixes

Happy Monday, friendos! I hope you all had wonderful weekends, the lot of you. Sean and I continued our 2-year anniversary celebration this past weekend, so it was pretty fab… though, as you can probably guess, involved a liiiiittle more foodstuffs than I probably should have indulged in. Thank goodness my weigh-ins are on Fridays now, eh? Hahaha.

Anyway, in the spirit of always being honest and transparent with you guys (plus the fact that I’m a weirdo and I love seeing what other people are eating), I figured I’d share a few snapshots of some of the things I’ve been eating recently. I promise it’s not all from dining out, too! I even have a couple of recipes to share with you guys this week, so there.

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Whipped up a glorious batch of my (and Katniss’s) favorite Lamb Stew with Dried Plums — although evidently the Polar Vortex made it so that there was no good lamb at the grocery store, so I used beef instead. Still delicious!

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Played a game of pantry roulette and ended up creating a hot steaming bowl of deliciousness that included farfalle pasta, bacon, peas, and amazing mushrooms with a super light cream sauce just to bind it together. I know you all probably read the word “cream” and your collective buttcheeks all tightened, but I promise that it was still a very diet-appropriate dish. Recipe to come soon!

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A iPhone pic collage of some of the amazingness that we experienced at Tuscarora Mill, where Sean took me for our anniversary dinnah. It’s in Leesburg and it is DEFINITELY worth the drive. You can peep my review on Yelp if you want deets about everything we ate (spoiler alert, it was a lot more than what is shown, hahaha), but that on the right there is a truffled goat cheese ravioli with mushrooms and pulled short ribs. I KNOW. I had never been so excited to eat leftovers the next day IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

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And, finally, last night my friend Reema came over and we whipped up a recipe from my homegirl Cassie’s AMAZING new cookbook: Beer & Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese. It really was just as delicious as it sounds, and even Sean got on board with the hidden butternut squash in the sauce. Mm-mmm, good. I’ll post more deets about the recipe (and Cassie’s cookbook!) soon!

So, lots of good eats (though in retrospect, I realize that there is a lot of pasta pictured. I promise I’ve been eating, like, vegetables and salads and stuff, too, hahahaha.) over the past few days, and even better ones to come!

So, in addition to all the deliciousness, time with friends, and anniversary celebration stuffs, I also had another fun addition to last week: I received my first Stitch Fix! Those of you who are already familiar with Stitch Fix are probably sick of hearing about it, and honestly, I kinda was too. But just before the holidays I had a chat with my friend Rachel about how much she was enjoying it, and I finally gave in and figured I’d give it a try. And when they hit it RIGHT OUTTA THE PARK with my very first box, I knew I had to share it with you all!

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So, for the uninitiated, Stich Fix is like a mail-order personal shopping service. You set up a style profile and you can do one-time or monthly recurring “Fixes” (same price either way, $20, which is applied to the cost of the clothing if you end up wanting to keep anything) and they send you five items that they think you’d like! I was skeptical as to how personalized it would really be, but they let you link to things like your Twitter, your Pinterest fashion board (if you have one), and I even put my blog address in the extra field at the bottom. And when I received my box, and it came with a personal note explaining all of the items, AND it also pointed to my love of polka dots which they would only have known if they really HAD checked out my Twitter and blog and whatnot, I knew this was pretty legit.

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Of course, it helped that the totally knocked it out of the park! I received a dress, two cardigans, a shirt, and an infinity scarf. Every single item is absolutely my style, and has details that I looooove. The dress has a light polka dot pattern and has that vintage-ish silhouette that I love, the blue cardi has polka dot detailing on the pockets and down the button closure area, the red cardigan has a light butterfly cut-out print and AWESOME buttons — each button is different! — and the infinity scarf is a bright, fun orange and THEY PUT A BIRD ON IT. Many birds, in fact.

The striped shirt was the only item where, before trying it on, I was kind of meh about, but once I did put it on, I LOVED it. It’s actually really flattering, incredibly soft, and super comfortable. Horizontal stripes! Who knew?!

I ended up feeling the most iffy about the red cardigan after trying everything on, just because from a distance there was nothing too special about it. But because Stitch Fix offers a 25% discount if you end up purchasing all five items, it was essentially free — the cardigan cost less than the amount I ended up saving from the discount! Plus, it ended up being way cute when styled with the dress instead of on its own — I ended up wearing the combo to Tuscarora Mill for our anniversary dinner!

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Speaking of pricing, you can set your price points for all the various categories of stuff they offer. So in that way, you can totally emphasize the clothing items that are most important to you. For example, for jewelry and accessories, which I don’t particularly care about, I put “As cheap as possible,” but for dresses and outerwear, I said I was comfortable with paying over $100 for those. Now, it just happened that every single item in my first box was between 28 and 48 dollars (yes, even the dress! I ended up paying just over $100 for all five items with the discount and the $20 styling fee I already paid going towards the total), so this was like a double-win in that arena.

ANYWAY. Enough talk about Stitch Fix and my latest obsession. I promise that this is not a paid promotion or a sponsored post or anything like that — they’re not paying me to say these things! (Though, as a disclaimer, the “Stitch Fix” hyperlink above is my referral link for the site.) I was just REALLY impressed with this service, especially because I was admittedly worried that I was too big to fit anything they offer. Which, now that I bring that up, is probably the only real problem with it, because the biggest size they offer on their style profile is 14… and, let’s be honest, that is deeeefinitely pushing it for me right now. So it bodes well for my continued weight loss efforts, but it was kind of a crapshoot whether I’d be able to fit everything they sent this time around. Thankfully it did all fit… but still. Broaden your sizing horizons and you will be utterly perfect, Stitch Fix!

OKAY. Sorry, sorry, enough chatter for now. Hope you’re all having utterly tolerable Mondays, and I’ll see you on the flip side!