macandcheese

Mac & Cheese is an all time favorite in my house not just among my kids but also among the adults.  I tend to keep this creamy treat a fall/winter recipe since that is when we start craving richer, creamier meals to warm us up when the temperature begins to drop.  I also love that during these months winter squash is readily available and that means I can quickly puree it and add it into my mac and cheese to boost the nutritional value (hello beta carotene/antioxidants and fiber!) and decrease the amount of cheese required.  I’ve never gotten a complaint but I always get “can I have more?”.  I am loving this recipe because bite size everything gets gobbled up but also because it freezes well.  So after a long day at work, playing in the snow or a last minute dish on the weekend, this healthy “bite” is stock piled and ready to go.  Dig in without filling out, and sure, this time you can nibble on your kids’ leftovers!

Winter Squash Mac & Cheese Bites (20 bites)
Modified from this recipe http://weelicious.com/2010/01/21/mac-chicken-cheese-bites/

Ingredients
1/2 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
3/4  cup white cheddar
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3/4 cup pureed winter squash (butternut, kabocha, delicata, pumpkin)
1/2 cup peas, frozen or fresh

Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions (the pasta I used said to cook for 9-12 minutes, so I cooked it for 10 minutes).
3.  Add peas to boiling water 1 minute before draining pasta.
4.  Drain the pasta and set aside.
5.  While pasta is cooking, cut squash into cubes and set in a steamer over water until fork tender.
6.  Place cooked squash into food processor or blender and blend until smooth (add steaming water as needed to thin out)
7. In a small heavy bottomed saucepan melt 2 Tbsp of the butter.
8. Whisk in the flour and salt and cook for 2 minutes.
9. Add the milk in a slow stream and whisk to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes stirring occasionally .
10. Add the white cheddar and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and stir until melted.
11. Pour the cheese sauce the pasta and peas and stir to combine.  Add squash puree, stir until mixed.
12. In a bowl, combine the 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and bread crumbs.
13. Grease mini muffin cups.
14. Pour about 1/4 cup of the macaroni mixture into the muffin cups, sprinkle the top with the bread and cheese mixture and bake for 15-20 minutes (I cooked mine for 20 mins) or until breadcrumbs are golden brown.
15. Cool in muffin cups, remove and serve.
*Allow to cool and place in Ziploc bag,label and freeze up to 4 months. When ready, place in toaster oven or oven at 300 for 10 minutes or until heated through.