Monday, January 23, 2012

Butternut Squash 'Mac-n-Cheese'

It's January.  It's cold.  If you are craving comfort food, or are trying to be good this winter, this recipe is for you!  Actually, it's for Stacey, one of my readers and good friends :)  Stacey asked me last month to post a recipe for mac and cheese that is super healthy.  I was kind of stumped, because I wasn't sure if you can really "healthify" mac and cheese, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to.

But then I went to Christmas party and a friend, who is a RD and knows a ton about healthy eating, brought this dish.  I was impressed.  This healthy mac and cheese sauce was delicious and is actually vegan. I don't think I could ever stick to a vegan diet (the whole cheese thing obviously is a problem) but I am always willing to give something new a try.  The sauce is made by combining cashews with nutritional yeast, herbs, spices, and almond milk.  This results in a thick and creamy vegan cheeze sauce that extremely good.    Don't be scared of the nutritional yeast - it's a vegetarian protein source that is often used as a Parmesan cheese substitute.  For a similar outcome you could use Parmesan instead, it just wouldn't be dairy free.  I found nutritional yeast in the bulk food section at our local health food store.  It kind of looks like cornmeal and is full of B vitamins, mineral, protein and is naturally low in fat.

Nutritional Yeast
The butternut squash is roasted and processed in a food processer.  It's a another sneaky way to add more veggies.  Tumeric is also added to give the sauce a beautiful orange color.  Just like the boxed mac and cheese stuff!  But healthier.  For the pasta, I used a brown rice based pasta, but you could also use a quinoa based pasta or just regular whole wheat pasta.  This meal is everything my friend Stacey asked for - comforting, nutritious, and tastes good!

recipe adapted from Oh She Glows

1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped (yields: 3.5 cups raw)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened + unflavored soy milk), or more to thin out
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
6-7 tbsp nutritional yeast (provides the cheesy consistency)
1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 box brown rice pasta


Preheat oven to 375F.  In a bowl, season chopped squash with some extra virgin olive oil and sea salt and stir. Add to a baking sheet and roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping once half way through baking.

Assemble your cheeze sauce ingredients (cashews, non-dairy milk, garlic, lemon, salt, nutritional yeast, pepper, seasonings) and add just the cashews to food processor. Process until a fine crumb forms similar to corn meal. Add in the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients and process until smooth. Leave the sauce in the processor as you will be adding the squash.

Cook your pasta according to package directions. When squash is finished roasting, add it to the food processor and blend it with the cheese sauce until smooth. Adjust to taste. The sauce will thicken up with time. If at any point the sauce becomes too thick, you can add a bit of milk to thin it out.

Drain and rinse pasta with cold water. Now add the pasta back into the same pot and add your desired amount of cheeze sauce on top. Stir well.  Serve warm and enjoy!

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  1. Yay! It sounds amazing! I can not wait to try it! Finally I won't feel guilty about mac and cheese!

  2. You are going to love it! It has a really nice flavor to it

  3. thank u thank u, it was SO good!!

  4. Nice!! I am so glad you loved it!! You actually reminded me I need to make this again this week :)

  5. you did another awesome post jess..

    anyway i am a cheese lover .. :)..

  6. Urgh! "I wasn't sure if you can really "healthify" mac and cheese"
    You have proven to us you can, but no offense to you and your RD friend, but I'd prefer the traditional artery clogging version any day!

  7. I know, I totally agree! But when you want to eat healthy, this version isn't bad!

  8. You have confirmed to us you can, but no violation to you and your RD buddy, but I'd choose the conventional artery blocking version

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