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Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

squash mac & cheese

Ever aiming to squeeze more vegetables into my family, I have been experimenting with augmenting macaroni and cheese.

A basic cheese sauce is actually not that much harder to make than reconstituting one from a pouch. I was quite annoyed when I figured that one out! Yes, you make a roux, but it’s just some whisking really. Nothing to panic about.

Butternut squash seemed like a perfect candidate for the added veg as the colour was right, but so often recipes I tried with squash would turn out too fibrous or too watery. Roasting rather than boiling the squash, and pureeing the life out of it, seems to have solved those problems. Finally, I don’t like crumb on top of my macaroni cheese, but by all means, add some breadcrumbs on top and broil for a few minutes until brown.

Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • 500g shaped pasta, like macaroni, penne, bowties
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 heaping tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 60g shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds, brush with olive oil. Lay cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until very soft. Let cool for 10 minutes, or until you can handle it with a hot mitt.
3. Scoop out squash flesh with a spoon and transfer to food processor or powerful blender. Process for 2-3 minutes until squash is baby food consistency. Press through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon if you can still see fibres. Put 1 cup of pureed squash in a small bowl, store the rest for another use.
4. Put a pot of water on to boil, prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta and return to pot.
5. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour one spoon at a time, whisking constantly. Add milk a splash at a time, whisking to incorporate.
6. Add squash puree to white sauce, and whisk until smooth. Add more milk if sauce is too thick.
7. Tip in the cheeses, whisking to melt the cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Take pan off the heat.
8. Pour sauce over pasta and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Serve with more parmesan cheese on top.

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Best roast pumpkin seeds, sugar v carving pumpkins and more

Best roast pumpkin seeds, sugar v carving pumpkins and more

egg carton pumpkin

Pumpkin time is reaching a fever pitch. I thought I’d save you googling all the same things I did in the last three days.

This is the best recipe for roasting pumpkin seeds (it involves boiling and then roasting, I can attest it makes a huge difference).

Cooking with pumpkin? Find a sugar or pie pumpkin, don’t use a mammoth $4 jack o’ lantern one. Good discussion here about the differences.

I was feeling uninspired on my pumpkin carving this year, and found this site had the best pumpkin stencils. You have to pay, but they are by far the most user-friendly, and you can spend forever choosing which ones before you commit.

Someone made the best pumpkin-related finger food at our co-op’s Halloween party this year: peel a bunch of mandarins, tuck a small piece of celery in the top for a stem. Ta da! ‘Pumpkins’. Love it. Here’s a photo, including some brilliant ghost bananas too. Genius.

Not feeling like wrestling a pumpkin? Make one out of an egg carton.

Finally – looking for good pumpkin recipes? We love Cooking Light’s pumpkin muffins (I add chocolate chips, ahem), the Pioneer Woman’s pumpkin cinnamon rolls, and swapping the butternut squash for pumpkin in my pasta and cheese (recipe pending…sorry, I know, it will be up here as soon as it’s been published!). I use canned pumpkin puree all the time, because I have seen sugar pumpkins for sale about three times in my entire life.

 

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Very Cool Thing: Eat Your Books + giveaway!

Very Cool Thing: Eat Your Books + giveaway!

eatyourbooksv1

I’m standing in front of my fridge, staring at the contents. I got it together to have pork ready to go, and I know I have some sage in the garden.

What was that recipe I made once? Which book was it in? It involved pork and sage… what was it. Hmmm.

This happens to me, oh, three times a week. I do sometimes wonder what the point of those piles of cookbooks are if I don’t use them. It’s not that I don’t want to, I know the perfect thing is in one of them. It’s just… which one?

Enter the most useful online service I’ve seen in ages: Eat Your Books.

It is this simple: enter your cookbooks, cooking blogs you use, dog-eared cooking magazines propping up the rice cooker into their easy system and you can then search by ingredient, recipe name or cuisine. A list will pop up with all the recipes in your collection that fit.

How brilliant is that?

No, the recipe is not online, as this is an indexing service. However, telling me where to find it is nearly as valuable.

For example, I popped in 32 of my cookbooks, and then ticked off 19 different food blogs I have read at some point. I now have 23,355 recipes to hand. Well, technically I always did, but now I can actually find one of them. Quickly.

You can add five cookbooks to your library for free, but to get the best use out of Eat Your Books, adding your whole library is worth it. It’s $2.50 a month or $25 a year (USD). Personally, as soon as I understood the concept, I scrambled to pay my annual membership straight away*.

I love being able to sort my recipes by ‘buzz’, which means how many people have made comments about each one. It’s a great way of discovering what may have looked a bit lack lustre on the page (or screen) but in fact loads of people make it and love it every week. Not only that, you can then lose a few hours by checking out other users’ libraries and oh… right. I was supposed to make dinner.

Eat Your Books has generously offered up a lifetime membership to their service to one of my readers. Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I found Eat Your Books through a friend’s blog and approached them myself about hosting a giveaway. *I paid for my annual membership myself, which was extended to a lifetime membership for hosting the widget you see in the sidebar.

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On Treehouse: Lemon oat blueberry muffins

On Treehouse: Lemon oat blueberry muffins

lemon oat blueberry muffins

 

Elliot loves blueberry muffins. Whenever Mummy needs a coffee, Elliot needs a blueberry muffin. Even if I try and sneak through a place he calls ‘banana loaf drive-through’ when he’s sleeping in the car, there’s a more than 60% chance he’ll wake briefly to tell me he wants a blueberry muffin.

Blueberry muffins from pretty much anywhere means cake. It’s too bad, because blueberries are actually quite good for you. I set about making a blueberry muffin I didn’t mind giving to Elliot often, and I came up with this one. It has whole grains and oats for staying power, and maple syrup instead of refined white sugar. I bake them in a mini muffin pan to make it easier to pack into bento boxes, but also because I toss most of them in the freezer and the small size means they defrost quickly. Enjoy!

My recipe for Lemon Oat Blueberry Muffins is over on Treehouse TV Parents.

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