Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkins & Things

Well, I'm officially one month from my due date. What does this mean? I'm freaking out. And when I'm freaking out, I cook. A lot.

So that's what I've been doing. Cooking a lot. Specifically with pumpkin, squash, and the like. Is this too obvious? Sorry, I like pumpkin things. They are delicious.

So among some of the other delights I have dreamed up during my marathon freak out cooking sessions, a few are Pumpkin Mac & Cheese (Whoa! What?!!), Pumpkin Protein Pancakes (NOM NOM), and Pumpkin Green Smoothies (Yes!).

I'll start with the obvious. Pumpkin + Cheese. Yes, I went there. And it rocked! I dreamed up this little number last night after (ahem) we had a perfectly healthy dinner. Oops. Mama needed more than kale, fish, and rice. I have some pumpkin puree in the fridge and have been adding it to everything all week. So when I saw a quick glimpse of mac and cheese on my Pinterest, I knew what needed to be done.

Now, on a side note, I have a love/hate relationship with brown rice pasta. Do you like it? I don't really care for it so much from a textural and flavor stand point. But I do appreciate that it's wheat free and more nutritious than regular pasta. Which leads me to be extremely picky about when I will actually use it. When the pasta is the shining star of the dish, I definitely go with fresh pasta or a great dried (regular) pasta. But I've discovered that if it's a baked pasta dish, such as lasagna, or if the pasta is secondary to cheese or sauce, such as mac and cheese, I'm usually okay with a brown rice or gluten free pasta because the structural (texture) integrity of the pasta isn't compromised. In fact, it's generally okay if it's on the mushier side in these cases.

Anyway, I digress.

Back to the good stuff. This pumpkin mac and cheese rocks because not only is it made with brown rice pasta, it is half the fat of the regular stuff. WHAT?! I know. You're mind is blown right now. Well, since you are adding enough pumpkin puree to the cheese sauce, you eliminate half the cheese and therefore fat. Yeaaaah!! And of course, it's super creamy, cheesy, and rich while providing you with plenty of fiber, anti-oxidants, mineral, vitamins, and virtually NO calories. Good stuff.

Lastly, you could make this dish vegan by replacing the milk with non dairy milk, butter with canola oil, and replacing the cheese with your favorite non dairy melting cheese (like Daiya) and nutritional yeast.

So here we go:

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese 

  1. Cook 2 cups of your desired pasta (brown rice or whole wheat, etc) to package specifications. Drain.
  2. Melt 1.5 T butter over low heat.
  3. Whisk in 1.5 T All Purpose Flour until it's incorporated. 
  4. Add 1 cup of your favorite milk (whole, skim, etc.) while whisking. This will turn into a base sauce for your mac and cheese or "roux."
  5. Mix in 1/2 cup of cheese (I used sharp cheddar) until melted.
  6. Mix in 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. Yum!
  7. Let all the flavors come together over a few minutes. The sauce should be thickening up.
  8. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg. You won't regret it. 
  9. Taste. WOW! Amazing right?
  10. If the sauce is too thick, add a little milk. If too thin, let it cook down for a few minutes. 
  11. *You can stop at this point, mix your pasta in and go to town. Or you can do as I did and put in a baking dish with bread crumbs, broil, and have an amazing crunch crust.
  12. If you're still here, you're looking for the real thing. Baked mac. You won't be sorry. After mixing in your pasta, spread your mac and cheese in a lightly creased baking dish, top with bread crumbs, (maybe a light spray of oil) and broil for a few minutes.
  13. After cooking for as long as you can possibly wait (let's be real) devour and let people praise you for being such an amazing cook.
I hope you enjoy this as much as S and I did last night. I'll be posting my other pumpkin recipes too. since I know you can't get enough. I obviously can't. I'm making pumpkin, goat cheese, and spinach "hot pockets" tonight for dinner. 

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