Sunday, December 2, 2012

Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Spinach Mac and Cheese

I have this white board hanging in my kitchen where I always plan out my meals for the week. The planning out of weekly meals probably stems from my mom who has been making menus on the backside of her grocery list for as long as I can remember. This ritual of planning is important to me for several reasons:

First, I can avoid all of those unnecessary trips to the grocery store by only going once a week. This cuts back on impromptu purchases that can make a dent in the wallet. If the menu planning goes along with looking at the grocery ads, it can also save some additional cash.

Secondly, it helps keep variety in my life. You know me and my love of cooking magazines, cookbooks, and food blogs. By planning out my meals I can insure I have the ingredients I need to whip up something new and different each week. It is easy, if you don't have a plan, to fall into the rut of the same recipes day-to-day or week-to-week. For me, that just isn't fun.

Thirdly, it helps me to eat healthy. The stops by a fast food joint or the popcorn for dinner don't happen nearly as often if I am looking forward to my planned dinners. I always make sure to have enough veggies for a side salad or something of the equivalent to enhance my main dish.

Lastly, since I cook for myself, it allows me to plan out what to do with leftovers. Like if I'm going to make a butternut squash for ravioli then I'll most likely have leftovers. And what should I do with that extra squash? Well, make a nice mac and cheese, of course. I came across a delicious looking recipe that used sweet potatoes and spinach in a hearty mac and cheese dish. I adapted it significantly to utilize the butternut squash, add some extra vegetables (like broccoli) and changed up the cheese for my preference (and to use what was in my fridge). It worked out great, I tell ya!

So are you a menu planner? If not, I would suggest trying it out. You'll save some money, add some variety to your life, and maybe even eat a little healthier. What's on your plan for this week?

Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Spinach Mac and Cheese (significantly adapted from Naturally Ella)
1 cup uncooked pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 cup broccoli florets
1 handful fresh spinach
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup butternut squash, cooked and mashed
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp flour
1 garlic, minced
1/4 small onion, diced
1 oz cream cheese
1 American cheese single

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 4-5 minutes until almost done. Add the broccoli and boil for another 2-3 minutes. Finally add the spinach and cook for about 30 seconds. Drain the pasta and vegetables.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and cook while stirring for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook until thickened slightly. Add the squash and cook until hot. Add the cream cheese and American cheese and stir until melted.

Pour the cheese mixture over the pasta and vegetables in a bowl. Toss to mix thoroughly. Pour into a baking dish. Bake for 25 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Serves 1.

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