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!

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know, the kind of day where nothing’s in particular is wrong, but nothing’s really right either. But then again, with sushi the day before, the bar was set pretty high.

I woke up thinking it was Friday, the weather was decidedly dreary, and I was generally in just a hum-drum mood. So after trying (and failing) to lift my spirits with far too much caffeine throughout the day, I came home and knew I had to take action. Time for some kitchen therapy!

Chop chop

Chopping soothes the soul.

Aromatics

As does mincing. And dicing. Gotta keep those knife skills “sharp”! (Badoom-ching!)

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I also roasted my first peppers! After only ever buying the pre-roasted kind that comes in a jar, it turns out it is pretty much the easiest thing ever: turn oven onto broil. Put peppers on baking sheet. Broil for 10 minutes, turning twice, until charred.

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Let cool (or, if you’re feeling masochistic, make the same mistake I did and don’t, haha), then peel off the skin. Typing out those words may make me feel creepy, but it’s oddly therapeutic!

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Slice, dice, and done! Meanwhile…

'Shrooms
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Let’s make some magic. The result?

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A pasta dish that ended up being simultaneously hearty and light, and totally hit the spot! Funny how my idea of “kitchen therapy” has evolved from eating my way through an entire box of Thin Mints in one sitting, eh? I think I may be an even better emotional cooker than emotional eater, haha. The only thing I thought was missing was a touch of fresh basil… which I would have gladly added had my basil plant not been vanquished by my black thumb. Oops.

Black Thumb
R.I.P.

Regardless, it still turned out great! Just the thing to lift my melancholia (well, finally getting to watch the season premiere of Modern Family might also have been a factor.) Behold:

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
Print this recipe!

This easy pasta is robust and creamy, tasting far guiltier than it is! I like a little zest, but you can make this as spicy as you like. Pair with shrimp or chicken, or enjoy on its own!

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat fusilli (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups diced or sliced roasted red peppers, diced or sliced (or both!)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used baby bella)
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 cup milk or cream of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1 teaspoon dried basil
Sriracha, optional
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Set pasta water to boil. Broil peppers if necessary. Cook pasta to preference/according to instructions on the box.

2. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan to medium heat. Sauté garlic and onions with seasonings (basil, salt, pepper) until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the roasted red peppers, stewed tomatoes, and sriracha (if using.) Add almond milk and bring sauce to a simmer. Reduce sauce until it is of desired thickness, about 5 – 7 minutes.

4. Combine with pasta, and enjoy!

Take a bite!
Bon appetit!

Have a fantastic weekend!