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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Butternut squash shakshuka

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Is it technically a shakshuka if there aren't any tomatoes or peppers? I mean, if we can pretend that swiss chard is the base for shakshuka, then butternut squash is acceptable in my book. Yes? Yes. Moving on.

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This week has been a test of how good I am at compartmentalizing. The answer is: not very good. I mean, I'm not terrible at it, but I'm certainly not myself with my mom being sick in the hospital. I think M is reacting by not sleeping and tantruming over some truly insane things.

Being a parent is really freaking hard, especially when your mental tank isn't full.

I keep reminding myself that it's not M's job to take care of me emotionally. It's okay for me not to be 100% all the time, but I also can't get mad at him for not somehow divining that I don't have it all together and being on his best behavior. 

Anyway, M is fed and clothed and bathed and read to and sung to and danced with and we built the international space station out of blocks, so I think I'm doing okay. And he wolfed down this spicy lamb, chickpea, and butternut squash stew, so he's doing okay too.

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A couple of notes about this dish: Use harissa spice instead of harissa paste. Some recipes call for the paste, but it's too spicy for my toddler. Don't be intimidated by the harissa or ras al hanout. Both are spice mixes that combine many of the usual suspects like cayenne, garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin.

Our harissa is somewhat old, so if you're concerned about the heat level for your family, taste the spice first and then decide how much to use. You can also skip the Aleppo pepper or substitute 1/4 tsp cayenne if you don't have any. I resisted buying Aleppo pepper for a while, but we live near a Penzey's so I finally caved and it's become a staple of our spice rack.

 

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Butternut squash shakshuka

1 large butternut squash (1.5-2 lbs)
2 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, sliced
2 large shallots
2 tsp smoked paprika, divided
1 tsp sea salt, divided
3/4 tsp ras al hanout
1 lb ground lamb
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 tsp harissa spice*
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper*
1 can chickpeas, drained
5 eggs
Lemon wedges
Feta cheese (optional)
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Naan or pita bread (optional, but not really)

Preheat oven to 400. Trim the top stem of the butternut squash (but not the bottom), split the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until the neck of the squash is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and remove the skin (it should slip off easily).

While the squash is roasting, slice and caramelize the onions and shallots in olive oil for about 20 minutes. Set aside half of the onions. To the remaining onions, add 1 tsp of smoked paprika, half of the salt, and the raz al hanout. Saute for 1 minute and add to the blender or food processor.

Add the cooked squash to the blender or food processor with the onions and spices and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. Set aside.

Saute the ground lamb over medium heat until no pink remains. Drain the excess oil and liquid. Return to the heat and add the remaining smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, harissa, Aleppo pepper, and salt. Cook for one minute.

Add the drained chickpeas and pureed squash to the cooked lamb and stir to combine. Heat through over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

Make 5 holes in the squash and lamb mixture and crack the eggs into the holes. Turn the flame back to medium, cover, and cook until the egg whites are solid and there is just a bit of jiggle in the eggs when you shake the pan.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, feta cheese, the reserved caramelized onions, and a squeeze of lemon (all optional!)

Yield: 5 servings

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Butternut squash, chicken, and mango puree

Butternut squash, chicken, and mango puree | Me & The Moose. This puree is full of fruit, veggies, and protein and will satisfy babies and toddlers alike. #meandthemoose #babypuree #toddlerpuree #puree #homemadebabyfood #healthykids #pureerecipes #babyfood #babyfoodrecipes #meatpureerecipes

I have to tell you something insane: My kid can eat half of a slice of pizza. I'll say that one more time for emphasis: M can eat half of a slice of pizza. We went to a birthday party last week and he had some fruit and a half of a slice of pizza and said "all done." How are kids so good at listening to themselves and stopping when they're full, no matter how delicious something is????? (Then he dove face-first into a cupcake, so he doesn't have that much self-control.)

It's been a long time since I posted a baby puree, so here's a good one! In my quest for balance in all of our diets, I love having a few purees on hand to tip the nutrition scales when lunch is pizza or a bagel. Max still gobbles up veggies and protein in puree form that he might otherwise not eat with such gusto.

Butternut squash, chicken, and mango puree | Me & The Moose. This puree is full of fruit, veggies, and protein and will satisfy babies and toddlers alike. #meandthemoose #babypuree #toddlerpuree #puree #homemadebabyfood #healthykids #pureerecipes #babyfood #babyfoodrecipes #meatpureerecipes

This puree is delicious and full of good stuff. I read a great post about mango on Baby Foode and it's pretty much a super food. Add in the protein from the chicken breasts and the fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium from the squash and this is almost a complete meal. I wouldn't recommend using chicken thighs in this puree because it has a delicate flavor that might be overwhelmed by a stronger meat, but white fish would be a good substitution.

Butternut squash, chicken, and mango puree | Me & The Moose. This puree is full of fruit, veggies, and protein and will satisfy babies and toddlers alike. #meandthemoose #babypuree #toddlerpuree #puree #homemadebabyfood #healthykids #pureerecipes #babyfood #babyfoodrecipes #meatpureerecipes

Chicken, butternut squash, and mango puree

8-10 oz chicken breast (6-8 oz cooked)
½ medium butternut squash, roasted
2 cups frozen or fresh mango
Glug of olive oil or coconut oil
¼ cup water, if necessary

Preheat the oven to 400. Butterfly your chicken if using a large piece. Halve the butternut squash with your sharpest knife and, using a spoon, scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds from the center. Place a piece of parchment or foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chicken and the butternut squash (cut side down) on the baking sheet and cook for 14-16 minutes. Check the internal temperature of the chicken. When it reaches 165, remove the chicken and cover it with tin foil. Continue cooking the butternut squash until the skin is fork tender, about 15-20 minutes longer. When cool enough to handle, remove the squash skin.

Combine the chicken, squash, and mango in a blender with a glug of olive or coconut oil. Blend on highest speed for a few minutes. Scrape the sides and continue blending. Add water in 1 Tbsp increments until you’ve reached your desired consistency.

Yield: 30 oz or 3 cups