So, I’m a little distracted. I still can’t believe that in three days I’ll be on a plane to Fiji. My impending trip, coupled with a lengthy reflective post I’ve drafted, a novel that needs reworking, and a work project en media res, has me splintered. I’m viewing my trip as a beacon of sorts, one that will allow me to get myopic about where I need to place my energy in the coming months. Unfortunately, I booked my trip during Fiji’s rain season (note to self: don’t book holidays on your phone while mourning the loss of your pet), so I’ve decided to book an impromptu segue flight to Melbourne, Australia. All of this can certainly be filed under problems of the First World variety, but still, I’m distracted. Unfocused. Rushing to get things sorted out before my departure.
Not to mention, I’m all broken up about leaving my Felix, my little man.
This week you’ll find me buttoning up on a work project, packing, settling in my lovely house guest/cat sitter, running errands like a mad woman, sitting in Los Angeles for a day layover, and then boarding a flight to Fiji, Australia, and hopefully I’ll cultivate some clarity along the way.
In the interim, enjoy this simple + savory squash mac and cheese, which is legitimately as good as the real thing.
INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart, slightly modified
1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock, skimmed of fat
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat penne)
6 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated (1 ounce)
3 tbsp fine breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil
Olive-oil, cooking spray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine squash, stock, and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until al dente according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish (4 inches deep) with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
Cover with foil, and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 40 minutes more. Serve immediately.