My husband is pretty in tune with his taste preferences. He knows, and makes known, 2 bites in when he likes a meal. I can tell a meal isn’t a favorite when he eats more than two bites and doesn’t say anything.
This recipe creation, inspired from a friend’s facebook post about hot dogs (I’ll get to that later), was deemed “freakishly good” after his first bite. 🙂
His enthusiasm has me sharing this meal with you.
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Most of my meal creations are born out of a whim and what I have on hand in the kitchen.
I used to spend hours pouring over recipes and then make them in meticulous fashion so they would hopefully turn out ok. You see, I started out not knowing how to cook and being pretty timid in the kitchen.
Nowadays I just go with the flow.
Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. And I can live with the ups and downs of experimenting in the kitchen. It’s part of the whole experience and journey.
I have learned that relying on some basic kitchen skills as a guide can help you have more ups than downs.
To create this meal, I relied on knowing how to make a mornay sauce. (Thank you Wikipedia for putting a name to this sauce for me. Mornay is the beginning of the fancy cooking terms coming your way via this post, so brace yourself. But translation- it’s simply a cheese sauce).
A mornay (aka. cheese sauce) starts with a roux. A roux is simply butter and flour. I melted a chunk of grass fed butter in a pan and then stirred in equal parts spelt flour. Voila- a roux. 🙂
A roux is the basis for a bechamel sauce (white sauce= roux+milk). Nothing tricky here. Just stir in some organic whole milk. Voila, a bechamel sauce.
Lastly, this bechamel becomes a mornay by adding grated cheese. But my delicious added step before I stirred in grass-fed cheese, was adding some butternut squash puree. I wanted the addition of something creamy and nutritious, and butternut squash sounded just perfect!
To my mornay-butternut sauce, I also threw in some kale. I happened to have some rinsed and chopped leftover kale from the night before. But you can use kale, spinach, chard- whatever greens you have on hand.
I seasoned with basil and fresh nutmeg. And to my husband’s delight, I also added some heat to his bowl- cayenne pepper and chili flakes. BAM! 😉
So why a mac and cheese to begin with? That I owe to my friend who posted about hot dogs on Facebook. She said, “Today I feel like eating a hot dog” and my brain immediately wanted a hot dog AND mac and cheese.
Anyone else grow up eating hot dogs with the blue boxed mac and cheese? Believe it or not, that was actually a staple for my husband and I when we first got married! I blame it on all the years as a babysitter. Aside from ordering pizza, that seemed to be what parents had planned for their kiddo’s dinner the nights they hired me as a babysitter. And if you remember my story, I didn’t really learn to cook confidently in the kitchen until years later, so I was thankful for their easy ready-made dinners.
Anyway, I usually insert a recipe here… but, I’ve made this a handful of times and each time a little bit different. AND each time it’s been delicious. So rather than insert a recipe, I want to encourage YOU to get in your kitchen and play.
Here’s some inspiration from a fellow foodie and friend, Virgina from Vert Foods.
“When I have the materials in front of me, I let the items inspire me instead of the recipe. This is why my food is never the same. Sometimes chopped garlic is better than crushed or I thinly slice onions or add a little more cumin.
Food is nourishment and it is part of our instincts. When you listen to your surroundings and what “sounds” “smells” “looks” good, you will come up with your best “now” creation.
…Set aside the need for perfection and your kitchen life will become much easier. Sometimes your perfect dinner was circumstantial to your mood and the environment, or that week’s produce at market. A happy chef makes happy food. If your family senses it was “fun” for you to make dinner – not just a chore and hard work, they will love the food. And if they don’t, you will!”
So use this post and the ingredients in your kitchen as a guide to make a healthy and nutritious mac and cheese from scratch and the freedom to adapt it however your heart desires. Go for it! And enjoy!!