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How to make seasonal fall mac 'n' cheese; recipe below

By Jon Stante and Milana Katic

Oct. 2, 2014

As the air turns crisp, there are few things more inviting than a warm kitchen filled with the smell of home cooking.

Read on as Chris Gray, food and beverage director at the IMU, shares tips for cooking seasonal fall foods and a recipe for delicious macaroni and cheese that incorporates one of fall’s most popular vegetables: squash. 

Bring out the crockpot. There isn't much you can't cook in a crockpot. Maybe a wedding cake? Some of my favorites are Coke pulled barbecue pork (say that 10 times fast), short ribs, tortilla soup, and of course chili.

Preserve fresh herbs in butter. Another great method for preserving herbs is to make them into flavored butter and freeze that. Mince one part herbs (one type, or a blend) and mash into two parts softened butter, shape into a log, and freeze. Cut off slices of herb-flavored butter as needed to melt over vegetables, meat or fish, or to sauté in recipes for the taste of summer all winter long. My favorite is minced garlic and parsley, which makes awesome garlic bread!

Snack on roasted pumpkin seeds. After cleaning the seeds off, boil them in salted water for 10 minutes, drain, pat dry with a towel, toss with tiny bit of olive oil and sprinkle with fine ground sea salt. Spread on a sheet pan, bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes, stir and bake again for eight minutes. Yum!

Help fresh herbs last long after the growing season is done. Freeze herbs by cutting leaves into small bits, packing the bits into an empty ice-cube tray. Fill the trays about three-fourths full with water, and freeze. One measured tablespoon of herbs per cube is a good amount. The next day, top off with water and freeze again (this covers the floating bits with ice to prevent freezer burn). Pop the finished cubes into a sealed container in the freezer. Drop frozen cubes into soups, stews and such, for fresh-cut flavor.

Light and creamy mac 'n' cheese

Yields: Eight servings (serving size: 1 1/3 cups)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about one, 1-pound squash)
  • ½ cup diced white onion
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups fat-free milk
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup (2 ounces) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 pound uncooked wheat pasta
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Combine squash, onion, broth, milk and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork (about 25 minutes). Remove from heat.

3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid to allow steam to escape; secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over the opening in the blender lid to avoid splatters. Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl and stir in the two cheeses until combined.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13-by-9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

5. Mix the olive oil and panko in a bowl to evenly coat the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture.

6. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.

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