Meatless Monday: Pumpkin mac and cheese

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Fall is here! And I’m all in. I love summer as much as the next gal (tomatoes! the beach! relaxed schedules! sunshine! longer days!), but I can only take so much sweating before I’m ready for fleeces and squash (leaves changing! fires! apple picking! Halloween! schedules!).

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This mac and cheese is warming, cheesy, and chock full of veggies. It also works as dinner or lunch (or both!). I’ve made this with some sausage on the side for an even heartier meal, but it’s very filling on its own.

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A couple of notes:
- I use half roasted squash and half pumpkin (butternut or acorn squash is my favorite, but you could use kobocha or delicata) because I don’t always love straight pumpkin pasta sauces. There is something heavy and somehow both flavorless and overwhelming about a sauce made with just pumpkin.
- The most time consuming part of this recipe is cooking the onions. A longer, slower cook yields much better flavor that significantly improves the final dish. I recommend taking the time.
- This recipe makes twice as much sauce as you need. You can either freeze half, or make two boxes (2 lbs) of pasta for a large family. We’ve found that using 1 box of pasta and freezing half of the sauce yields one dinner for the three of us and two lunches for M (and some late-night picking for us).

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Pumpkin mac and cheese

1 Tbsp olive oil, butter, ghee, or your fat of choice
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
10 large sage leaves (about 1 Tbsp), minced
½ tsp kosher salt
½-1 can pumpkin puree
½ small acorn squash (or about 1 cup any type of squash), roasted
½-1 cup milk
½ cup gruyere, shredded
½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 lb pasta
1/2 cup reserved pasta water

Preheat the oven to 425. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Bake until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes.  


Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. (I add 2 heaping tsp of salt to my pasta water and that usually does the trick.) Cook your pasta according to package directions (towards the end of cooking your onions). Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the thinly sliced onions. Brown, stirring often, until caramelized, about 25- 30 minutes. Don’t worry if your onions become a little frizzled or fried instead of caramelized. I tend to forget them or have the flame up too high for a minute. Either way, they’ll taste delicious as long as they’re well cooked.

Add the garlic and sage to the onions and cook for one minute, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat.

In a blender or food processor, combine the cooked onions, garlic, sage, acorn (or other) squash, pumpkin puree, and cheese. Blend on high. Slowly add the milk until you’ve reached your desired consistency.* Scrape down the sides as needed.

Pour about 1/2 of the sauce into a large container for another time.

Drain your pasta, but reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta back into the pasta pot, top with ½ of the sauce, and thin out as needed with the reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

*The amount of milk you’ll need depends largely on your squash. Some squash have more water in them, so you’ll need less milk. Start with ¼ cup and add more as needed.

Yield: 4 adult-sized dinner servings, 6 kid-sized dinner servings, or more if you’re serving this for lunch

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Persimmon, pear, and squash puree

Persimmon, pear, and squash puree | Me & The Moose. This puree tastes like pie filling, but contains no added sugar. #meandthemoose #squashpuree #persimmonpuree #pearpuree #babyfood #toddlerfood #hiddenvegetables

Last week was seven full days of cooking fails. From seized chocolate to mismeasured coconut sugar, I haven't been able to get it right. But hopefully I can pass along some of the lessons I've learned from these botched experiments over the next few weeks to save you some time and frustration in the kitchen.

Friends, let me tell you, unripened persimmons are DISGUSTING. I've cooked with this fruit a hundred times, but apparently have never misjudged one's ripeness so badly before. Pictured above are Hachiya persimmons. They are about the size of a large apple or pear and are the largest type of persimmon that I've seen in the grocery store. I learned the hard way that they aren't really ripe until they're literally falling apart. And if you eat them unripe--even just slightly so--your tongue will feel like it's growing hair.

Persimmon, pear, and squash puree | Me & The Moose. This puree tastes like pie filling, but contains no added sugar. #meandthemoose #squashpuree #persimmonpuree #pearpuree #babyfood #toddlerfood #hiddenvegetables

Instead, Fuyu persimmons (pictured above) are short and squat and smaller than the Hachiya type. They're also much more forgiving and can be eaten when they're either firm or soft, though I like them best when they're about as soft as a ripe avocado. I like to peel them, but the skin is edible.

This puree is warm and comforting, but also full of goodness, which is especially nice this time of year when the days are darker and colder and the food is increasingly indulgent. M eats this combo with a spoon, out of a pouch, mixed with oatmeal, or plopped on whole grain pancakes. The persimmons and squash give the puree some thickness, but all three fruits and veggies have a mellow sweetness to them that pairs well together. Add in some cinnamon and ginger and it almost feels like you're eating not-too-sweet pie filling. And who doesn't like pie filling?

Persimmon, pear, and squash puree | Me & The Moose. This puree tastes like pie filling, but contains no added sugar. #meandthemoose #squashpuree #persimmonpuree #pearpuree #babyfood #toddlerfood #hiddenvegetables

Persimmon, pear, and squash puree

2-3 Fuyu persimmons
2 medium pears
½ medium acorn squash (or one whole squash if it’s very small)
Heaping 1/8 tsp ground ginger
Heaping ¼ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Peel and cube the pears and persimmons and place on parchment- or foil-covered sheet pan. On a separate pan, halve the acorn squash and place cut side down onto a foil- or parchment- covered pan. Roast both pans for 20 minutes. Check the fruit for doneness: The cubes should be softened (but not mushy) and slightly browned. When done, transfer to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Continue cooking the squash for another 20-25 minutes until the skin can be easily pierced with a fork. Using a spoon, remove the flesh of the acorn squash and add to the blender or food processor. Add the spices and the oil. Blend until you reach your desired consistency, adding 1 Tbsp of water at a time, if needed.

Yield: 22 oz or 2.5 cups

Persimmon, pear, and squash puree | Me & The Moose. This puree tastes like pie filling, but contains no added sugar. #meandthemoose #squashpuree #persimmonpuree #pearpuree #babyfood #toddlerfood #hiddenvegetables