It’s coming! My favorite season of the year is upon us and I can’t help but get a little excited. It’s still gorgeous, warm and sunny here in Seattle, but on the occasional gray, drizzly day I find myself smiling more than frowning. I love everything about the next 4 months. Boots, soup, holiday cheer (I don’t care if that sounds cheesy), family gatherings, scarves, orchards and of course, pumpkins. To properly, and maybe prematurely, welcome in the coming season I found myself craving homemade macaroni and cheese with none other than that festive little gourd, pumpkin.
If you’re a vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or dairy-free person, then this recipe has variations that will be right up your alley. If you’re none of those, then good news, you’ll love it just the same. The key to a good macaroni and cheese is the creaminess, in my opinion. The boxed variety just doesn’t deliver the creamy goods that we’re all wanting and it’s chocked full of fake crap that should never touch your lips in the first place. The combination of almond milk, cheese (or nutritional yeast) and pumpkin creates a healthier cheese sauce without sacrificing flavor or creaminess. If you’re trying to sneak vegetables into your diet (or that of your kids or spouse), this is a winning combination, plus, it’s not green!
I consider myself to be a healthy eater, but I also happen to love food. Don’t we all? In Middle School I remember eating A LOT of macaroni and cheese which did nothing but make those awkward puberty rich years a little bit more chunky. Being short didn’t help at all either. Keeping this in mind, I hate the thought of never getting to eat macaroni and cheese again because of what it might do to my waistline so I compromise by filling what are normally unhealthy recipes with lots of healthy vegetables. With the addition of pumpkin, which kicks up the fiber in this recipe, I decided to add one of my favorite green veggies, broccoli. A bonus about broccoli is that when mixed with any kind of creamy sauce, the florets turn into little saucy sponges that absorb and lock in ridiculous flavor. Other alternatives you could try are cauliflower, peas, spinach or even tomatoes. If you’re looking for some meat, toss roasted chicken, sausage or tuna into this dish.
Feeling fall-ish yet?
How about now?
While you’re drooling, what TV shows are you tirelessly waiting for? Big Bang Theory? The Good Wife? Walking Dead? Parenthood? Those might be some of mine…end of September come sooner!
What to Bring to the Store
In an effort to reduce packaging waste for this recipe, bring the following with you to store:
– a reusable produce bag for your broccoli
– a few reusable spice bags for your various spices
– a reusable bulk bag for your pasta (sometimes available in bulk!)
As always, bring your trusty reusable grocery bag and you’re good to go!
If you’re unfamiliar with my ‘Waste Meter,’ check out the bottom of my Oatmeal Banana Chip Pancakes blog post. Here I give a rating scale to determine how wasteful, in terms of packaging, each recipe is.
This recipe gets, drum roll please, a 3! Since you mastered the bulk section, the items that belong in the recycling are: pumpkin can, box from pasta (if not in bulk) and your milk carton. This recipe gets a 3 because of the dreaded and unavoidable cheese packaging, grrr! That crazy film goes in your garbage, but hopefully it will at least last you a handful of meals! One option you can try is getting your cheese from the deli section. They MIGHT be able to give it to you in your own glass container, but I’ve run into health code issues with this before. It’s worth sharing though if you want to give it a go!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp whole wheat flour (or gluten free alternative)
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or 6 tbsp. nutritional yeast)
- 1 cup canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 box of your favorite pasta (I used leftover whole wheat rotini noodles and quinoa pasta shells)
- 2 heads of broccoli, about 3-4 cups chopped
- 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded (for top)
- Preheat your oven to 385 degrees.
- In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
- In a large saucepan or frying pan on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add in the flour and whisk until combined. Pour in the almond milk and whisk again to break down clumps.
- Add in the salt, black pepper, paprika and onion powder and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once it begins boiling, reduce to a simmer and add the pumpkin and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese. Mix to combine and leave on low heat.
- Before you strain your pasta, add in your chopped broccoli and let it blanch for 2-3 minutes. Strain it altogether and return it to the pot.
- Pour the pumpkin cheese sauce over the noodles and broccoli and stir until well incorporated.
- In a medium glass baking dish (I used 13"X9") pour in the mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Pull the dish out of the oven, top with the 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese has melted.