Dec 202015
 

Tis the season to be jolly…and also to eat and drink excessively while wearing ugly christmas sweaters at about 14 different holiday parties. Oh, you know what I’m talking about. Sweets at holiday parties are inevitable, so here’s a slightly healthier option that will still satisfy your sweet tooth. You can even leave a few out for Santa too…I hear his cholesterol was a little high this year.
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These truffles have a whopping 4 ingredients, and 2 of them barely even count: dark chocolate, avocado (yup, I said it), vanilla extract, and sea salt. You can roll these in pretty much any crushed up toppings, but for the holidays I kept it festive with crushed pistachios, coconut chips, and freeze-dried raspberries.
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Added bonus, they take 0 real cooking, and all you have to do is blend up the avocado and mix it into dark chocolate that you melted in the microwave. Let it cool in the fridge and then roll into balls and cover in your favorite toppings and you have a seriously impressive dessert or gift to share for the holiday.
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Nutritional Highlights: We’ve all heard that (thank goodness) dark chocolate has so great health benefits from antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals. This all goes out the window, though, in typical truffle recipes, which are made with cream, butter, and probably some corn syrup or another sweetener. This recipe maintains the integrity of the dark chocolate without adding any extra sweeteners or saturate fats, and even adds another powerhouse ingredient, avocado, which makes these truffles extra creamy and provides additional monounsaturated fats which have been shown to improve heart health, as well as fiber and B vitamins. The toppings I chose are also a whole lot healthier than the sprinkles and caramels that often top our truffles. The coconut and pistachios provide additional healthy fats and fiber, and the crushed dried raspberries add virtually no calories but a killer red color. One of these truffles can absolutely be part of a healthy, balanced diet!
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Added bonus, these are gluten free (as long as you don’t use any gluten containing toppings) and can be vegan if you choose vegan chocolate.
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Dark Chocolate-Avocado Truffles
Makes about 12-16 truffles
(go for 16 and you have less calories per truffle!)
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What’s in them:
6 oz good dark chocolate, I used 72% cacao but you can go as dark as you like (about 1 cup chocolate bar squares, chunks, or chips)
1/2 cup pureed ripe avocado, about 1/2 large avocado or 1 small avocado
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Toppings of your choice: coconut flakes or chips, crushed nuts, crushed freeze dried fruit, cocoa powder, crushed candy canes, or any other toppings you can think of

How to make them:
1. In you blender or food processor, add the avocado, vanilla, and salt, and blend until very smooth. My avocado was slightly less ripe than I wanted it to be so it needed some help in the blender so I added 1 tablespoon of soy milk to provide a little extra liquid.
2. In a microwave safe bowl or double boiler melt your chocolate. If using the microwave, stir every 20-30 seconds to make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn. Stop cooking as soon as all the chocolate is melted.
3. Mix the avocado puree into the dark chocolate and stir until well combined. Transfer to the refrigerator for about an hour to let the mixture harden.
4. Lay out a piece of parchment. Scoop small amounts of the chocolate mixture (a little less than a tablespoon) and use your hands to roll them into balls.
5. Roll the chocolate balls in your favorite toppings and enjoy!
6. These should be good at room temperature for about 2 days, but keep in the refrigerator or freezer to make them last longer.
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It’s such a shame that I don’t have any more holiday parties to bring these too. Whatever will I do with 16 chocolate truffles…

Hope everyone’s holidays are filled with family, friends, and of course, a little chocolate!
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Feb 012015
 

Happy Superbowl Sunday! Sure, there’s going to be a game on later, but we all know it’s all about that food (bout that food, no football). If you’re looking for an impressive but easy treat for your Superbowl party, here it is!
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These are so adorable and even though they are totally pinterest worthy and seem advanced, they’re actually super easy to make. Melt chocolate…dip berries…decorate with little white chocolate lines. Done. Here is where I would normally insert lots of football puns, like “these will be a touchdown” or “you won’t fumble your superbowl menu if you make these”, or “these will be the perfect thing to kick-off your party”…but I won’t do that.
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Nutrition highlights: When it comes to desserts, this is a great option that will satisfy your sweet tooth without an impending sugar coma. First of all, strawberries are an amazingly healthy berry, packed with vitamin C, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals. Their bright color is a result of tons of phytonutrients (long words like anthocyanins, ellagitannins, flavonols, terpenoids, and phenolic acids) which give them anti-inflammatory properties. I used dark chocolate as the coating for these, which also boasts anti-oxidant properties and may help promote heart and brain health. So while you’re watching (or not watching) the super bowl, enjoy one or two of these guilt free.
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Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry Footballs
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What’s in it:
– 8 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped (or chips)
– 2 oz white chocolate, roughly chopped (or chips)
– about 20 strawberries, washed and dried VERY well
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How to make it:
1. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (Fill a saucepan about 1/3 way with water, ten place a glass or metal bowl with the dark chocolate on top. Heat over low heat and stir the chocolate constantly until it is melted. The water in the bottom of the double boiler should not come to boiling while the chocolate is melting.) Alternately, you can microwave in 30 second increments but I have better luck with the double boiler method.
2. Once chocolate is melted, dip strawberries, turning them so all sides are covered. Let excess chocolate drip off and lay on a parchment covered baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Melt the white chocolate (this one I did in the microwave since I needed a lot less). Transfer the melted white chocolate to a ziplock bag and cut off a tiny corner of the bag. Pipe the white chocolate to mimic the lines on a football.
4. Refrigerate at least another hour until the chocolate has fully hardened and enjoy!
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Happy excuse to eat a lot of delicious food day…I mean super bowl!
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Oct 142014
 

Some people may be getting a little tired of the pumpkin spice EVERYTHING that is popping up everywhere, but let me tell you, I am NOT one of them. It’s finally fall–arguably the best season of all–so bring on the scarves, booties, brussel sprouts, apples and pumpkins. In the fall nothing is safe from being pumpkinized, and that’s exactly how it should be. Because I love pumpkin spice as much as the next 20-something female in New York City, I made this amazing and super healthy Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds.
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If I could eat a slice of pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream every day of October and November, I would. Unfortunately I was not blessed with a metabolism that allows me to do this, so I have to get creative. As a disclaimer, this is certainly less decadent than a traditional pumpkin pie and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend serving it to your guests on Thanksgiving, but I do think it’s the perfect every-day snack, breakfast, or dessert for you to enjoy all fall. It was also incredibly easy to prepare–simply whisk pumpkin puree with spices, vanilla, and a little maple syrup, and layer it with greek yogurt and your favorite toppings (like granola, nuts, dried cranberries, chia or toasted coconut).
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Nutritional Highlights: Let’s talk about pumpkin, pumpkin. I know we don’t usually think that the healthiest foods come out of cans, but this is an exception. Canned pumpkin puree is really great for you, and way way way less labor intensive than roasting and pureeing your own pumpkins (although if you do that, more power to ya). First of all, it only has about 90 calories in a whole cup (and for each serving of this recipe you’ll only be eating about 1/2 a cup). Additionally, it’s high in fiber (7g per cup) which means a lot of great things for your body–keeps you full, helps keep things moving (if you know what I mean), and may also reduce your risk for heart disease by controlling your cholesterol. It has a ton of vitamin A which is important for vision as well as normal cellular functioning in the whole body. In this recipe, we up the nutrition even more by adding greek yogurt, which is high in protein and calcium, and chia seeds which are high in fiber. This is truly a guilt-free dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth, keep you full and energized, and help you cozy up to fall.
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Maple Pumpkin “Pie” Parfait with Greek Yogurt, Granola, and Chia Seeds
makes 4 servings
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What’s in it:
1 15-oz can of pure pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons good quality maple syrup (less if you are watching sugar intake)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups non-fat greek yogurt (recommend plain but if you need extra sweetness vanilla would work)
Toppings: Low fat granola, chia seeds, dried cranberries, chopped nuts, toasted coconut

How to make it:
1. In a bowl, whisk the first 6 ingredients. For a chilled parfait, refrigerate mixture for at least 30 minutes or keep your can of pumpkin in the fridge before you begin.
2. Prepare your toppings. You can use any combination you like, but I mixed about 1/2 cup plain low fat granola with 1-2 tablespoons each of chopped pecans, chia seeds, dried cranberries, and toasted coconut. You can also just choose a granola that already has some of those ingredients.
3. Prepare your parfaits: Start with a scoop of the pumpkin mixture (about 1/4 cup), top with a layer of greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup), sprinkle with some of your toppings, top with another 1/4 cup pumpkin puree, and additional toppings. Repeat for the remaining parfaits, or if you’re just making one serving at a time, store the components separately until you whip up your next one.
4. Serve chilled and enjoy!!
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Yum. Enough said.
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Aug 292014
 

I have a lot of things to celebrate/mourn this week:
Labor day weekend! Yay! End of Summer. Boo.
My Birthday! Yay! Getting old and realizing these lines on my forehead are there for good. Boo.
Tiny Peanut Butter-Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches that are also healthy! Yay! Nope, no downside to that one.
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The combination of flavors in this recipe simply cannot be beat. Peanut butter and banana on its own is something special. Add some salty pretzels and a dark chocolate drizzle and it’s just a whole new level. Best part about it is that the ice cream is vegan, has a whopping 2 ingredients, and takes about 2 minutes to make without requiring an ice cream maker. As I’ve mentioned approximately a thousand time on this blog, I love mini things (who doesn’t) so making these into tiny ice cream sandwiches using two pretzel thins was and pretty life changing discovery. You can make a big batch to store in the freezer for whenever your sweet too strikes—and believe me, it will strike.
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More good news for the lazy chef—If you can’t handle waiting to make these into mini sandwiches (and I don’t blame you), you can simply make an epic sundae topped with crushed pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate.
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Nutritional Highlights: I know, it’s hard to believe that I’m about to tell you this is healthy, since these pictures look like something a future dietitian should be staying clear of. But, like I mentioned before, this ice cream only has two ingredients- frozen bananas and natural peanut butter (and a splash of soy/almond milk if your blender needs a little help)- but is still super creamy and satisfying. Bananas are packed with potassium, vitamin B6, and fiber and the peanut butter adds protein and healthy, monounsaturated fats. By making these into mini pretzel ice cream sandwiches, it becomes the perfect little bite to satisfy your sweet tooth, because I’ve learned that if you totally deny your sweet tooth, it will lash out and bad things will happen. It’s OK to treat yourself in moderation, and especially with a (mostly) guilt free treat like this one.
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Mini Peanut-Butter & Banana Pretzel Ice Cream Sandwiches
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What’s in it:

For the ice cream:
3 large ripe bananas, cut into chunks and frozen
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter (or almond butter)
Optional: 1 tablespoon of soy or almond milk to make blending easier

For the sandwiches/sundaes:
Pretzel Thins
Roughly chopped peanuts
Dark chocolate, melted for drizzling

How to make it:
1) To make the banana ice cream, combine frozen bananas and peanut butter in a blender or food processor and blend until creamy and fully mixed. If you are having trouble blending, add a splash of soy or almond milk to thin it out slightly. Transfer ice cream to the freezer to firm up (at least an hour if you are making ice cream sandwiches).
2) For the Sundae eaters:
a. Top a few scoops of the banana peanut butter ice cream with broken pretzel thins, peanuts, and drizzle with melted dark chocolate.
b. Top with a banana slice to make it pretty and remind you that it’s really pretty darn healthy!
3) For the Sandwich makers:
a. After your ice cream has set for an hour, set up your sandwich making station. Lay out half of the pretzel thins top down.
b. Top each pretzel with about a tablespoon of ice cream and top with another pretzel thin, this time top up. Put the ice cream sandwiches back in the freezer so there isn’t too much melting.
c. Melt your dark chocolate by microwaving in 30 second intervals, being careful not to burn. I like to add a tiny bit of coconut oil to help it stay smooth.
d. Chop peanuts for topping and set aside.
e. Take the ice cream sandwiches back out of the freezer, quickly drizzle with melted chocolate and top with crushed peanuts. Return to the freezer and enjoy these little guys whenever you want!
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Jul 252014
 

Sometimes the best dishes appear when I pick up a random ingredient with no plan in mind as to how to use it. This is one of those times. I’ve been noticing beautiful black figs at the grocery store lately, so I decided to pick up a box and think of a way to use them. I love the flavor of figs paired with the sweet/acidic flavor of balsamic vinegar, so I made two dishes using this combination.
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Both of these dishes could not be easier. All I did was halve the figs, brush with EVOO and a tiny pinch of salt, and grill for a few minutes. For the “sundae”, I used store bought greek frozen yogurt (of course you can make your own too) and topped with the grilled figs and the balsamic reduction. This is the perfect dessert for someone who doesn’t like overly sweet desserts. If you’re like me and DO love overly sweet desserts very very much, no worries, you’ll still like it. It’s a perfect light summer dessert and putting balsamic reduction on frozen yogurt makes you feel like a grown up.
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The salad was delicious in it’s simplicity as well. To the same grilled figs, I added mixed greens, sliced peaches, roasted almonds, shaved manchego, and topped with balsamic reduction. It was sweet and savory and super fresh with just enough acidity.
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Nutritional Highlights: Figs are a great source of fiber and potassium, and even though most people eat them dried, they’re even more delicious and healthy when you eat them fresh. These grilled fig dishes are both incredibly healthy, and highlight the natural sweetness. This sundae is way better for you than your average chocolate whip cream covered vat of deliciousness. I used fat free greek frozen yogurt which is lower in sugar, fat, and higher in protein than ice cream. Balsamic reduction and figs are much lower calorie and sugar toppings, sadly, than hot fudge and sprinkles. The salad is also incredibly healthy, getting a little extra protein from the almonds and even though higher in fat, I shaved the manchego very thinly so you get the bold flavor without adding too much.
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Grilled Figs & Balsamic Reduction – Two Ways
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You really don’t even need recipes here, but I’ll give you the synopsis

For the grilled figs: Halve your fresh figs and spray or lightly brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt. Grill on a medium-hot grill cut side down for about 3-4 minutes or until slightly charred and softened.

For the balsamic reduction/syrup: Add 1 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey to a heavy sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced significantly in volume (to 1/3 cup). Let cool completely.

To make a salad: Toss your favorite greens with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and top with grilled figs, fresh peach slices (I did this mostly for color, so you can just let the figs stand alone), a few roasted salted almonds, and shaved manchego. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction. You can also swap goat cheese for the manchego, or any nut for the almonds.

To make a sundae: Use store bought or homemade vanilla greek frozen yogurt (or ice cream if you musttt) and top with a few grilled figs, chopped toasted nuts, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Enjoy some figs outside of the newton for once!

Apr 182014
 

Eastover is here again! For those of you that don’t know, it’s an official holiday that happens when you are half Jewish/half Catholic and Passover and Easter overlap. During Eastover, it is essential that you create hybrid Passover-Easter foods (think pastel-egg shaped matzo balls, etcetera). I decided to combine my favorite passover dessert with my favorite Easter dessert, and thus the Carrot-Cake Macaroon Nest was born. OK, I know it’s probably holiday hybrid overkill, but pretty cute, right?
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Macaroons are crazy easy to make—just mix some coconut into whipped egg whites. To make the “carrot cake” version, I added shredded carrots, chopped toasted pecans, raisins, and warm spices (cinnamon/nutmeg). Instead of the usual ball shaped macaroons, I pushed my thumb into the middle to make it nest like, and then added a tiny bit of creamcheese frosting and a few “eggs” which can be jelly beans, Jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, or any other egglike candy.
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Nutritional highlights: I’ll keep it short and sweet, since you know that when it comes to holidays I don’t think we need to be counting every calorie. But, as compared to other cookies, I would say these are a definite improvement. They have shredded carrots for beta carotene, pecans and coconut for protein, and no additional sweeteners beyond the coconut and raisins. Egg whites are the binder which are very low in fat and calories.  Plus, macaroons are a great gluten free dessert for the glutards of the world.
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Carrot Cake Coconut Macaroons
Makes about 16 cookies
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What’s in them:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 3 cups flaked coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup chopped nuts, lightly toasted (walnuts or pecans are great)
  • Optional: ¼ cup raisins (if you like raisins in your carrot cake)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Notes: if you are keeping passover, double check that your ingredients are OK (vanilla extract is often made with grain alcohol).
Also, these macaroons are not super sweet—many other recipes add additional granulated sugar, but I left it out. Feel free to add a bit if you want a sweeter macaroon.

For nests:
Cream cheese frosting, optional (I mixed 4 oz cream cheese with about 1/2 cup powdered sugar to create the glue to hold the “eggs” in place)
Something to serve as eggs—jelly beans, jordan almonds, yogurt raisins, etc

How to make them:

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine egg whites, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat with a whisk until mixture turns becomes frothy and begins to stiffen. Fold in remaining ingredients (coconut, carrots, nuts, raisins).  Try not stir too aggressively or the egg whites will lose their stiffness.
  3. With wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the coconut mixture into small balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Space them an inch or so apart on the baking sheet. I made balls first, then went back and pressed an indentation in to the center to make it a nest.
  4.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown (insides should be soft but outsides should be just firm). Cool completely before removing from cookie sheets.
  5. While macaroons are cooling, in medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese and powdered sugar with whisk until no longer lumpy, adding more powdered sugar or milk to reach drizzling consistency. If desired, pour glaze into decorating bag.
  6. Once completely cool, spoon a teaspoon of the frosting into the center of the nest and top with 3 jelly bean eggs. Enjoy this festive Eastover treat!

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I hope everyone has a healthy, happy Passover, Easter, or Eastover!
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Mar 092014
 

There are certain junk foods I’m OK with giving up, but mac and cheese is just never going to be one of those. Mac and cheese was a staple of my childhood–a special treat we got when we had a babysitter (along with grape soda). I’ve grown up a bit since then, and no longer frequent noodles from boxes or flourescently colored sodas, but I still do love some cheesy noodles. So I decided to make a version that was both more grown up and a little healthier. Perfect for adults, kids, and adult kids like me.
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Homemade mac and cheese is definitely an undertaking and does take some time and effort commitment, but the result is so much better. Plus, you can make a big batch that will feed a crowd and have leftovers to spare.
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Nutritional highlights: This recipe has some amazing swaps that majorly cuts down the calories and ups the nutritional factor. The easiest swap- whole wheat noodles to add fiber. The second, more sneaky, swap- some of the cheese and cream that would usually be in a mac and cheese sauce is replaced by pureed butternut squash, which maintains the creaminess without all the fat. While we’re talking sauce, this one only uses low fat milk instead of cream or whole milk in typical recipes. Finally, who said mac and cheese had to just be mac and cheese. Why not throw in some veggies. This one has roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, and kale to increase the nutrients a ton and fill you up with a lower noodle ratio.

And here’s a picture of the mac at my “grown-up comfort food” dinner party. Was definitely the highlight!
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Grown-up Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, Kale, and Mushrooms
Makes about 10 servings
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Ingredients
4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (either from 1 large squash or save yourself a lot of time with the pre peeled and cut kinds that a lot of stores have these days!)
16 oz Cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, sliced
1 small bunch kale, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken or vegetable broth)
1 1/2 cups fat-free or low fat milk (can also sub unsweetened non-dairy milks)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheese, plus and extra handful for the topping (I chose Trader Joe’s Shredded Swiss and Gruyère blend)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) finely grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1 pound whole wheat macaroni or other small noodle
Olive oil, salt, pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Optional: red pepper flakes, dried thyme, and garlic powder for the topping

Preparation:
1. Preheat oven to 425°. Dice squash into small cubes (1/4-1/2 inch) and slice the mushrooms. Spread the veggies onto two baking sheets, toss with olive oil or oil spray, salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven, tossing vegetables half way through, for about 20 minutes or until squash is soft and mushrooms are brown. The mushrooms may be done a bit sooner than the squash.

2. Boil the macaroni in a large pot according to directions, but for one less minute than the directions indicate. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, begin making your sauce. In a large pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high and add the minced garlic and shallots. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until onions begin to brown. Add the broth and milk, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When squash is done roasting, add all but 1 cup to the sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

3. To blend the sauce, you can either transfer to a blender or use and immersion blender. I wanted mine a little chunky so I just mashed it in the pot with a potato masher. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the shredded cheese and half of the Parmesan. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

4. Add cooked macaroni, roasted mushrooms, remaining 1 cup squash, and chopped kale into the sauce. Mix until evenly coated and transfer it to a sprayed baking dish.

5. Combine the bread crumbs, remaining parmesan, a small handful of the shredded cheese, and any seasonings you like (I threw in a little thyme, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes along with plenty of salt and pepper). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over your mac and cheese.

6. Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Serve immediately and enjoy!
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I’m not going to lie this is a a lot of work, but SO good.
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And while we’re doing recipe throw backs…here’s the little girl I was telling you about that loved her mac and cheese. And here’s that moment when you realize you might have peaked at age 3…oh well. Happy Throw Back Sunday!
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