Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Trick or Treat? Both please, thank you. It’s macaroni and cheese, but with a trick – the squash. You wouldn’t take a bite and say “ew, squash in my mac n’ cheese.” Instead you say “delicious, this is amazing and say what? It has whole wheat pasta and butternut squash? I think I will have two helpings and feel no guilt.” The treat is you can.
I am not here to convince, however, merely tell you the tale of the best fall macaroni and cheese. It starts with a simple onion saute, goes on to cozy up with butternut squash and is topped with a blanket of melty cheese. It takes no time to prepare and even less time to bake. And, it’s delicious – seriously delicious.
If you are still reading instead of gathering the ingredients, I have tricked you into thinking there was anything more to say.
  • 1 pound macaroni noodles, can use whole wheat
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano blend, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded muenster cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
How To:

Bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook macaroni to according to package directions, leaving the macaroni with a slight bite (al dente). Heat butternut squash in microwave according to package directions (or use stove top). Set aside. Squash should be very soft – turn into a puree with the back of a spoon.

Preheat broiler and place rack in middle of the oven.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 6 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, then add stock and milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add to onions and garlic. Stir to combine. Add butternut squash, mix and reduce heat. When sauce comes to a bubble, stir in 3/4 cup parmigiano and muenster cheeses. Combine the sauce and macaroni, transfer to a casserole dish and top with remaining parmigiano-reggiano, shredded cheddar and paprika. Brown the macaroni under broiler, about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and deliciously brown.


Caramel Apple Bars

Since my experiments in making caramel apples with homemade caramel all backfired, I found a new method of delivery for caramel apples – in the form of bars. This recipe brings all those flavors into an oat filled, crunchy, gooey, yummy little (or big) square.
I find eating caramel apples to be a little difficult. The caramel gets all over, I have the tendency to bump the apple into my chin, and the stick in the middle is hard to navigate. At the end, the apple often falls off into pieces.
With bars, there is no mess, no fuss, no muss. They are very sweet and a little bit salty, something lacking in caramel apples unless they had a sprinkling of sea salt (which would be a great addition). And now that I have the ideas flowing, adding peanuts or peanut butter would be awesome in this recipe. Some crunchy chopped peanuts on the top or using peanut butter instead of butter in the crust…I might have to revise this recipe at some point, but for now the caramel and apples work mighty well.
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (or 1 recipe homemade caramel)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (small dice)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling (as much or as little as you want, I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
for caramel:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
How To:
If you are making the caramel, take out an 8″ X 8″ glass baking dish. Your caramel will cool here. Dice butter into even sized cubes. Add sugar to a medium sauce pan and add 3 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add butter and stir slowly until combined. Add corn syrup and half and half; mix.

Cook and stir on medium for one minute, then to medium to high heat until boiling. Once boiling, clip on a candy thermometer. Reduce heat to medium and keep a steady boil, stirring occasionally. Watch the temperature – you want to reach 240 degrees. Remove from heat, add vanilla and salt and stir. Pour into baking dish and set aside.

For the bars, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, butter and pumpkin until smooth. Combine flours, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Set aside 2 cups of this mixture. Press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
In a medium bowl, toss diced apples with lemon juice. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and toss again. Spread apple mixture evenly over the crust. If caramel has set at all, microwave for 10 to 20 seconds, or until pourable. Spread over apple layer. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top of the caramel layer. Press down lightly. Sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender. refrigerate and cut when room temperature or cool. Refrigerate left over bars.

Pumpkin Muffins with Mini Chocolate Chips

If you love fall as much as I do, you will find yourself making anything apple, pumpkin, cinnamon and squash related. I can’t help it. It’s basically automatic as soon as that first chill of Autumn is felt in the air. This pumpkin muffin recipe makes the most tender, moist and delicious muffins. I made pumpkin muffins before, but they more donut-y than muffin-like. If you’re looking for a breakfast pumpkin muffin, this is it.
Mini chocolate chips are better than regular chocolate chips. I don’t need to go into depth about this, they just are. I encourage those of you who bake often to keep whole wheat pastry flour in your pantry. It can be used in place of or with all-purpose flour, and you won’t be able to taste a difference, but you’ll be adding some whole wheat. I added some bran cereal as well because a little bran never hurt anybody.
If you aren’t looking for a breakfast muffin, add a little cream cheese frosting (or just add it anyway…). With some pumpkin pie spice. And a cup of hot cider alongside.
  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup bran cereal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (can also use regular chocolate chips)
How To:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a regular muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, molasses, oil and eggs until combined. Add the pumpkin and vanilla and whisk to combine. Stir in the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Add mini chocolate chips. Do not over mix, just make sure everything is incorporated.

Spoon batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup to almost the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the muffins to loosen them and remove from pan.