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Monday, February 17, 2014

Valentines Day at the Pinter's and a Recipe for Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese!

Dylan and I long ago decided that going out to dinner in NYC on Valentine's Day is for suckers.  Once you get around to making a reservation, the only times left are 5:30 pm or 10:30 pm.  If you do go out, you'll be forced to order from a prefix menu, and you'll end up spending lots of money on an entree that wouldn't have been your first or even second choice.  This is not to say that I don't love Valentines Day in the city.  My heart was a flutter walking through Grand Central Market at 5:15 pm and seeing hoards of suited men lined up to buy their sweethearts gorgeous flower arrangements and heavenly Li-Lac chocolates.  It's refreshing to see new yorkers, normally jaded and hurried, taking a moment to be romantic and sentimental.  At my house, there's no question: we're gonna stay in, I'm gonna cook, he will buy me flowers, and we'll both be extra charming (no sweat pants, no Angry Birds).  Last year, I tried to make him lobster with lemon risotto.  The plan was to whip up this elegant meal after work.  The result: lobster chewy, risotto under cooked, and me red-faced and sweaty.

This year would be different!  The food would be delicious, and I would be effortless and ravishing.  I planned a meal ahead of time that would satisfy both my comfort-food loving husband and my healthy, veggie-loving self; the obvious choice: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese loaded with Green Vegetables!  I'm a big fan of one dish dinners for their ease and convenience; I made it in the morning, so that I could pop it in the oven after work.  It was so good y'all, and I never broke a sweat!  The squash adds a nice sweetness, and its ooey and gooey, the way mac & cheese should be!

You should make it!

Ingredients: Yields about 5 servings

20 oz., roughly 4 c chopped butternut squash
16 oz. bag of shells or macaroni pasta
1 1/2 c of finely shredded cheddar cheese and more to sprinkle on top
1 chopped shallot
1 c peas (defrosted)
2 handfuls baby kale, spinach, or whatever green you like
olive oil
salt and pepper

Coat the squash in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.  Stir around a few times so the squash browns evenly.  Cook pasta until al dente.  Puree cooked squash in a food processor; this should make 1 1/2 cups.  Sauté shallots in olive oil until translucent.  In a big mixing bowl, add pasta, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Add pureed squash, shallots, peas, kale, cheese, and another drizzle of olive oil.  Mix everything completely, taste for seasoning, and transfer to a baking dish.

Sprinkle more cheese on top and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes covered and 10 minutes uncovered.  If you made it ahead of time and let it sit in the refrigerator, you will probably need to bake covered for 30 minutes and another 5-10 minutes uncovered.

Did you know that butternut squash is technically a fruit because it contains seeds?!  I know!
Did you also know that it is a great source of dietary fiber, potassium (essential for bone health), and vitamin B6 (important for proper functioning of the immune and nervous systems).  It also contains carotenoids, a powerful nutrient shown to protect against heart disease!

I think this is a particularly kid friendly meal.  Our kids (the ones Dylan says are too soon to think about and therefore definitely too soon to blog about ;)) are gonna love this!

Stay tuned to read about what I made for dessert...

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