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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Candy corn popsicles

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

These treats resemble candy corn in color, but not in taste. Because candy corn is disgusting.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

However, candy corn says "childhood autumn" for me like nothing else. Mostly because we didn't have cider donuts or pumpkin spice anything back then. Dark times.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

These fruit and vegetable purees/pops are packed with seasonal flavors while also being light and refreshing since it was 80 degrees in New York last week. Also, it's always teething season in our house, so these pops are a handy way to soothe the savage beast while also getting some vitamins and good fats into him. These purees are delicious on their own, but especially when combined.

Spices like cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and turmeric make these frozen candy corn-inspired treats so much better than the original. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear

Banana, coconut milk, and cinnamon puree (White)

Whelp, I thought I was being creative here and then I found this puree on Baby Foodie when I was searching for a different recipe. Credit where it's due: I'm sure this puree was rattling around in my brain because I saw it there originally. It's great! The author recommends microwaving the banana, but I didn't and it was fine. It also froze well. I recommend doubling Baby Foodie's recipe and using the blender for these pops.

 

Sweet potato, coconut milk, and coriander puree (Orange)

Also from Baby Foodie, this combination was one of M's very favorites when he was still eating exclusively purees. For these pops, I used a ratio of 1 cup coconut milk to 1 sweet potato, which is significantly more liquid than is called for in the original recipe, but works in these pops. I used 1 large sweet potato, 1 cup coconut milk, and 1/4 tsp coriander.

 

Pear, apple, ginger, and turmeric puree (Yellow)

2 small or medium pears, peeled
1 large apple, peeled
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp turmeric

Peel the apple and pears, if desired (though if you leave the peel on, you may not get a uniform yellow color). In a steamer basket over boiling water, steam apple chunks for 5 minutes. Add pears and steam for 5 more minutes. Let cool slightly. Combine fruit and spices in a blender and process to desired consistency.

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric

Combine purees in a tall pop mold starting with the coconut, banana, and cinnamon puree. I was too lazy to freeze them in stages, but if you're more precise than I am, you could freeze the white puree for 30 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes to achieve a cleaner color barrier. But, meh.

Yield: 4 double pops (like those pictured) or 8 single pops
 

The colors of candy corn, but none of the preservatives. Candy corn popsicles | Me & the Moose #meandthemoose #candycorn #popsicles #puree #coconut #sweetpotato #pear #turmeric