Tag Archives: Cayenne Pepper

Thanksgiving: Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

My family doesn’t traditionally include macaroni and cheese on the Thanksgiving table, so I feel like a bit of a rebel putting it on my menu this year. When I was planning our meal, though, I just couldn’t resist the rich, creamy texture and slightly spicy flavor of this recipe.  It gets bonus points for ease of preparation and kid appeal: the orange hue of the butternut squash makes this look just like the blue-box macaroni and cheese that kids love.  Plus, with whole wheat pasta, this is about as healthy as macaroni and cheese gets.

This recipe tastes great when reheated, but it doesn’t look very pretty on the second day.  For Thanksgiving, I plan to prep all the raw ingredients ahead of time, and then assemble and cook the macaroni and cheese in the 20 minutes while the turkey’s resting.  I’ll probably delegate stirring of the cheese sauce to my husband or a guest; though the sauce is really easy, it does require constant whisking so the dairy doesn’t scorch.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (serves 6)
1/2 lb. whole wheat pasta, your choice of shape; we like shells & spirals
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup butternut squash puree
1-1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk flour and melted butter together for about 4 minutes over medium heat; until mixture thickens and turns golden brown. Add milk 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly.  Continue whisking until liquid is warmed through and light brown. Next, add the squash puree and whisk until combined, followed by the cheeses.  Remove sauce from heat and continue to whisk until everything is smooth and creamy.  Whisk in seasonings, adding cayenne to taste.  By now the pasta will be done; drain and shake off excess water.  Stir pasta and cheese sauce together in a serving dish. Garnish with paprika and black pepper.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.



Chili Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The insides of pumpkins are, in general, kind of gross.  They’re slimy and seedy and sticky and sweaty. And orange.  But if you persevere through the guts and roast the seeds with spices, salt and lime juice, you’ll get a delicious and healthy snack: Chili Lime Pumpkin Seeds.

The only tricky part of this recipe is separating the pumpkin guts from the seeds.  This is a great task for children since it’s time consuming and free of sharp edges.  If you’re kid-free like me, the best suggestion I have is to keep two bowls handy while you scrape out the pumpkin.  Use a sharp-edged spoon to scrape the inside of the gourd.  Shake as many of the seeds as you can into one bowl and the juicy innards into another. (See how many gross adjectives I used there? I’m getting ready for Halloween!)

These little guys are really spicy and addicting!  They’d be perfect at a cocktail party or a tailgate, or even in a big green salad instead of croutons.  We enjoyed ours with some cold Real Ale during movie night.

Chili Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, separated from flesh
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus enough to grease the cookie sheet
1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 fresh lime

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet with olive oil.  In a bowl, mix pumpkin seeds with 1 teaspoon olive oil and spices until the seeds are evenly coated.  Use a wooden spoon to spread seeds into a single layer on cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until seeds are crispy and dry.  Remove from oven and squeeze 1/2 a lime over the top of the seeds. Stir with a wooden spoon to distribute lime juice evenly and loosen any seeds that are stuck to the cookie sheet.  Allow to cool before eating (if you can resist them).

Click here for a printable copy of this recipe.