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In my opinion, there are some foods that are so similar, that it only stands to reason – if you like one, chances are you are gonna like the other.

Like lobster and shrimp. Apples and pears. One shape of pasta or another shape of pasta. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

But not my husband, oh no. He loves him some lobster, but shrimp must be fried or masked in a lemony, buttery sauce. He’ll happily eat an apple slice with a hunk of cheddar cheese, but the crisp and lovely pear slices on the same platter will go ignored. He adores pasta, but if I make fusilli, he will push it around in his bowl until inquiring “Why didn’t you make farfalle?” And last but not least, while the man has grown to love nearly every pie, mash, soup or stew you can make out of a sweet potato, he recoils in disgust at the mere mention of eating butternut squash.

Until now…

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Kitty’s Butternutty Mac & Cheese

1/2 pound pasta w/ ridges, like penne, cavatappi, etc…
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed & chopped
1/2 small onion, diced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 -3 dashes hot pepper sauce
1 package frozen cooked/pureed butternut squash, or winter squash, defrosted & drained
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 & 1/2 cups lowfat milk
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated or cubed (plus more for topping)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
freshly grated nutmeg
kosher salt and white pepper
2 -3 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375F. Set a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook the pasta for 4 -5 minutes less than the package directs you to. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot you cooked it in.

Step 2: Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onions and thyme, and cook until onions are soft and fragrant. Add the flour and whisk for 2 minutes, then whisk in the chicken stock. Add the defrosted squash until warmed (whisk until it is smooth, it will look like an orange paste)

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Step 3: Whisk in the milk, along with the pepper sauce, mustard, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Allow the sauce to begin to bubble (that’s what will make it thicken!)

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Step 4: Add the cheeses to the mixture, and stir until smooth.

Step 4: Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta, and stir to incorporate. If using a tubular pasta, make sure to stir very well so the sauce gets into the holes of the pasta.

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Step 5: Transfer to a greased baking dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with the remaining parmesan, and a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle over the pasta. Dot the top with the remaining cheddar cheese.

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Step 6: Bake for 20 minutes.

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Winter squashes, like acorn, butternut or buttercup are all excellent sources of Vitamin A (beta-carotene). What does beta-carotene do for our bodies, you ask? Well, how’s this for multi-tasking: Beta-carotene’s antioxidant AND anti-inflamatory properties help to prevent heart attacks and strokes, protect colon cells from cancer, and reduce the severity of conditions like asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cigarette smokers may benefit most from a diet rich in vitamin A – as one of the common carcinogens found in cigarette smoke actually induces vitamin A deficiency. Here’s a little story for you: A professor of nutrition at Kansas State University fed rats a vitamin A deprived diet. They got emphysema. He gave them vitamin A again. It reduced the effects of their emphysema.

Eat your veggies!!!

My husband ate this dish happily. “Is there something in this that I don’t like?” he asked. “I don’t know”, I said “is there?” When he was done, I told him it had been butternut squash he just enjoyed. “Well, I like butternut squash, don’t I?”

Now you do, baby. Now you do.

On our official veggie fake-out broccoli head rating scale, I give this recipe for Butternutty Mac & Cheese 7 out of 10 heads of broccoli.

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