Mac & Squash

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Comfort foods – I’ve written about them before. I’ve stated my oldies but goodies (mashed potatoes, spaghetti and meatballs) and new ones I’ve come to love (miso soup, shakshuka, polenta). Over time, my comfort foods have become lower in calories as I, apparently, learn what’s good for me.

Here’s another to add to the list: what I’ve come to call “Mac & Squash”. It’s deceptively similar to your favorite homemade mac and cheese, without all of the cheese (and calories). The cheese is replaced with a squash sauce with a creamy consistency, and you still get some cheese melted on top. Here I used acorn squash, but you can really use any squash that you prefer.

I have to be honest – this is a multi-pot recipe, which isn’t my favorite way to cook. I used two saute pans, two pots, and a baking dish. If you have a limited pantry, do this in shifts and set aside each item as it is finished. The plus side? It’s easy to make a large batch, freeze some, and reheat later when that mac and cheese craving hits you out of nowhere!

Mac & Squash: Squash Baked Pasta

Yield: 8 servings. Per Serving: $2.29, 374 calories, 12g fat, 49g carbs, 21g protein.

Cook 1 pound of large shells according to package directions. Meanwhile, chop 2 acorn squash into one inch pieces. Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil on the stove. When boiling, add squash and boil until fork tender, about 12 minutes. Drain the squash and add back to the pot. Add ½ cup milk and blend using a hand blender.

While the pasta and squash are boiling, brown 1 pound of ground turkey in a medium saute pan in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Also saute one bunch of spinach in a medium saute pan in 1 tablespoon olive oil, with salt and pepper.

Combine the turkey, shells, squash, and spinach, and ½ cup ricotta in a large bowl. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray, put in the pasta mixture, and top with ¼ cup of mozzarella. Additionally, you could divide the pasta into two 9×9 pans and freeze one before baking for later.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes.

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Butternut Squash & Kale Lasagna Rolls

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Anything served in a pan (brownies, casserole, and, in this instance, lasagna) comes with risk of overeating. You start by cutting yourself a reasonably sized piece and enjoy every last cheesy, saucy bite… and just want one more taste. So you go back to the pan and cut yourself a tiny little sliver more just so you can have one more bite. And then you have one more tiny little piece, and another, and another… and by the end you’ve had three times as much as you first put on your plate. It’s inevitable.

To save yourself from over-indulging, try this creative take on lasagna; rather than layering everything in the pan, the lasagna noodles are rolled up with the filling inside. For this reason, you need to use traditional lasagna noodles rather than the ready-to-bake version. It’s a little messier to prepare, but much easier to serve (and control) – just portion out 2 rolls per person.

This is a perfect recipe for entertaining. Not only will it impress your friends, it’s easy to prepare in advance.  Assemble the rolls but instead of baking, pop them in the fridge. 45 minutes before dinner – while your guests are enjoying wine and apps – throw the lasagna in the oven. You can also prepare this recipe up to a month in advance and freeze it, defrosting it in the fridge the night before you’re expecting guests.

Serve with a fresh side salad, sautéed asparagus, or all alone. If you end up with too much filling and not enough noodles, whip up some eggs for a high-end scramble!

Butternut Squash, Kale and Turkey Lasagna Rolls

Cook 6 lasagna noodles according to package directions. When done, lay the noodles on greased cookie sheets so that they are not touching to avoid sticking together.

Steam 2 ½ cups of diced butternut squash until soft, about 10 minutes, and set aside. Steam 4 cups of kale until dark green, about 15 minutes. Sauté ½ cup diced onions in ½ tablespoon olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add ½ pound ground turkey and saute until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mash squash and mix with ½ cup ricotta cheese and 1 egg until smooth.  Roughly chop kale.  Spray two bread pans with cooking spray.  Spread ricotta-squash mixture onto cooked lasagne rolls, top with kale, and then ground turkey-onion mixture.  Roll along the short side and place in pan with the open end down.  Repeat with remaining noodles, placing three rolls in each pan.  Top each bread pan with 6 tablespoons tomato sauce and ¼ cup of mozzarella cheese, divided between the two pans.

Cover with tin foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 10 minutes. If preparing from frozen, defrost the lasagna in the fridge overnight before baking.

Yield: 3 servings. Serving size: 2 rolls. Per Serving: $3.39, 506 calories, 15g fat, 77g carbs, 32g protein.

Deli Salad with Turkey, Asparagus, & Avocado

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Quality ingredients don’t need much messing with – like in this quick and easy Deli Salad. I love arranging salads in this style, with ingredients side by side, because it is so visually appealing. As they say, we eat with our eyes first!

You can mix this up with ingredients that appeal to you or serve it over mixed greens as a traditional salad. To store and transport for lunch, wrap each ingredient individually in plastic bags or containers and arrange when you’re ready to eat. This is a great quick post work-out meal when you want to feel healthy and light.

Deli Salad with Turkey, Asparagus, & Avocado

Steam or boil 5 asparagus spears for about 5 minutes. Slice 1 medium tomato and dice ¼ avocado. Arrange asparagus, tomato, and avocado on a plate with 3 slices deli turkey and 1 ounce shaved parmesan. Drizzle with ½ teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 1 serving. Per Serving: $4.56, 300 calories, 16g fat, 23g carbs, 22g protein.