Friday, March 29, 2013

Butternut Squash Mac n "Cheese"

I have been MIA lately as a lot has been going on in the Monkey household. All of the happenings have been good (like spending a 4 day weekend camping with the monkeys and watching them get filthy), but keeping us busy! Hopefully I will get a chance to update on everything very soon.

We've had a lack of school-related posts too for various reasons. We are still learning at home, but Big Monkey has mastered most of the work that we had set aside for the school year. So we are doing some "alternative" learning through living life for the moment as we revise and replan! More school items to come later this spring and summer (yes, we will continue learning through the summer)!

Anyway, tonight I remade a very yummy butternut mac n cheese recipe that my family loves. The original recipe was from Better Homes and Gardens and contained bacon, milk, cheese, and butter. It was divine, but still didn't fulfill my desire to find a mac n cheese that I could feed my boys as an entire, complete meal and feel 100% guilt free about giving it to them.

We are not a vegan household by any means. We've tried twice and failed within a week. I have some barriers to becoming vegan - namely eggs. However, we are still trying to cut back on our consumption of dairy and meat, so I try to find alternatives where I can. Alternatives that are natural and not soy based are even better! This fits the bill. The best part - it is toddler, preschooler, and meat loving husband approved. In fact, I'd say it is the closest mac n cheese resembling vegan recipe I've tried to date (although all the others I have tried are good, they don't make me think of mac n cheese).

Vegan Butternut Squash Mac n "Cheese" 

- 2 cups unsweetened, plain coconut milk (I use SoDelicious brand which is peanut free)
- 1 medium butternut squash (smaller will make it less creamy, larger will be more creamy) 
- 1 small yellow onion
- 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 16 oz pasta of choice - use any shape you like! 
- day old french or sourdough bread (approx a quarter loaf) 
- 2 tablespoons melted vegan "butter" (I use Earth Balance) 

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. While pasta is cooking peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler (hate your vegetable peeler? These Titan brand ones are AMAZING), remove the seeds, and dice into cubes (the smaller the faster they will cook). Peel and dice the onion.

Add the milk, butternut squash, and onion to a large sauce pan or pot (I've done this in both a large cast iron skillet and my dutch oven) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until butternut squash is tender stirring frequently.

While the squash is cooking, tear your bread into chunks and place in a blender or food processor and process until you have coarse bread crumbs. Add in the melted butter and quickly process to combine. Set aside.

Once the squash is tender, you have 2 options: 1) you can just gently smash the butternut squash and onions and mix with the remaining milk until it forms sort of a thick and chunky sauce or 2) add to a blender or food processor and blend just until the big chunks are gone (just a minute or two). I prefer to blend mine and make it creamy like a cheese sauce.

Add the nutritional yeast. This is optional, but it will add some of the "tang" that cheese would bring to mac n cheese. Salt to taste (or you can salt on your plate if you prefer).

Mix the pasta into the sauce and transfer to a glass casserole dish. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top. Bake in the oven until the breadcrumbs are golden brown (approximately 15-20 minutes).

Serve and enjoy!

According to Big Monkey, this mac n cheese is third helping, plate licking good! In fact, both boys refused to eat their pulled chicken sandwiches and opted for the vegan mac n cheese solo. A mama can't be happier than that!