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Cheesey Butternut Macaroni Bake

By Kathy Little

Fri, Oct 4th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

I’m not a “Pampered Chef” (pun intended) or a Tupperware Queen with many plastic containers that burp on command. I have to honestly admit that these are good products (and also on the advice of my lawyer), but I am too cheap to buy many of them. I do have a Pampered Chef fruit peeler that is awesome for peeling oranges. I also have a two-quart plastic Tupperware measuring cup with a spout that is perfect for mixing pancakes and waffles and a green lettuce keeper which I use to store salads. The measuring cup and bowl were wedding shower presents. Tupperware really least 43 years. In our “throw away and just buy new “society this was obviously a product design mistake! As I said before my frugal nature prevents me from buying these products when I can freely recycle plastic Cool Whip and soft butter containers.

Not wanting to throw anything away in case I might need it in the future causes a certain amount of clutter in my pantry. Sometime I think that plastic containers are reproducing in my panty during the night. In order to store more in my pantry, I needed to clean, organize and de-clutter the space. Spurred on by my dear husband who kept mumbling, those three little words that cause such an emotional response in me, “Hoarder intervention needed”; I started the task. How hard could it be? My pantry has four shelves, three drawers, and three doors which enclose two smaller shelves. Well, some of those doors have not been opened recently. The first door refused to open so I just pulled harder. A tin cake pan was wedged between the shelf and the drawer as I discovered after my husband removed the door hinges. The angel cake pan was crumpled and had to be thrown. Oh well, I hadn’t baked an angel food cake for a while and obviously never would again unless I find an uncrumpled one at a garage sale for a quarter. I soldiered on in spite of my husband’s grumpiness. Good grief, he’s the one that started this!

After sorting out all my appliances and cookbooks, I still had cookie sheets, cake and bread pans, pie plates, canned goods and boxed food stuffs to organize. My husband had left the scene so I checked the attic (which enables hoarders) where I had a couple of years ago stored other metal containers. Maybe in my soon-to-be uncluttered pantry, I would have room for some of these cast-offs. Unfortunately, metal pans + leaky attic = rusty metal pans. Now, I was in the zone. Within minutes with no regret, I had gotten rid of ten pans from the attic that would have ended up in my new uncluttered pantry. Jim would be so proud of me.

The rusted pans reminded me of my sister, Julie, who is definitely not a pack-rat. Once when we were looking at a picture in the paper of a prize winning cookie baker, Julie commented on how beat-up the woman’s cookie sheets were. I reminded her in a superior tone, often used by older sisters, that she had never owned a cookie sheet. She admitted that she always baked cookies on the aluminum cover of her 9x13 pan. Older sisters live for moments like this.

Time was running out and I had only thrown away a crumpled angel food cake pan, ten rusty cake pans from the attic and a small bag of canned goods which according to” the best buy date “should have been used over two years ago. Well, obviously, uncluttering a pantry took more than a day. I had to make supper. The pantry would have to wait. I was just happy that all the doors opened.

Cheesey Butternut Macaroni Bake

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

8 oz. dried elbow macaroni

l tbsp. butter

8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

3 green onions, thinly sliced (more for topping)

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

l cup fat-free milk

6 oz. fontina cheese, shredded (l 1/2 cups)

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a 2 qt. rectangular baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine squash and 2 tbsp. water; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for four minutes; stir. Microwave, covered, about four minutes more or until squash is tender. Carefully remove plastic wrap, and mash squash. Set aside.

Meanwhile cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium high heat. Add mushrooms and green onions; cook until tender,about five minutes Sprinkle flour over mushrooms. Cook and stir for one minute. Add milk and 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat ; stir in squash. Add pasta. Gently fold to combine.

Transfer half of the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add the remaining pasta mixture and the cheese. Top with bacon. Bake uncovered or 20-25 minutes, until heated through and cheese is melted. Top with additional green onions. Makes 6 servings.

I got this healthy recipe which replaces some of the cheese with butternut squash from a Better Homes and Garden magazine. Since squash is my favorite vegetable, I am always looking for new ways to use it.

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