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beats the socks off the blue box

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So, I’m really bummed that I didn’t get to participate in Rachel’s first challenge in Project Tasteless 😦 I was pumped about it on Wednesday, but being in Jacksonville for homecoming all weekend (and shopping for homecoming outfit changes on Thursday) really cut my time short. I got back in town around 930 on Sunday night, shortly before entries were due…and I realized I still lacked an apron. Fail. Oh well—there’s always next time! To make up for it, I have a really fabulous recipe that I would have liked to have cooked naked. It was amazing; I can imagine how much the lack of clothing would have contributed.

I used to hate macaroni and cheese. Like, really hate. It grossed me out…melted cheese? Or worse, powdered cheese and hot milk? Gross. Whenever my mom would make box mac ‘n cheese for my sister, I would turn up my nose. My mom responded by leaving some salty elbows out of the pot before she added the “cheese” for me to in turn cover with Parmesan.

Don’t hate; it was good.

Side note: I also just started eating butter (on ANYthing—I never even buttered toast or potatoes) and black pepper in the last 5 years or so.  You can imagine how bland my life was.

Back to the mac.

So, I went a very long time without eating macaroni and cheese. One day, I think it was at my old job, we had a catered lunch with homemade macaroni and cheese. We’re talking chewy noodles, protruding up and out of a sea of lava hot, bubbly cheese, nice and brown, crusting around the edges. I had a scoop and never turned back.

Since then, I have gotten to the point where I can eat the box kind (I usually mix in more shredded cheese, various seasonings, and then broil it in the oven till the cheese is crispy on top). But why do that when I can make it myself?

I made my first homemade mac, complete with roux and homemade breadcrumbs, last Thanksgiving. It was packed with squash, broccoli, and shredded carrots. Sooo good. This past week, I decided to try my hand at another veggie-infused mac, something more in line with the season.

Enter Brown Butter Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese from Broke-Ass Gourmet.

You heard me right—pumpkin. (It’s what’s for dinner.)

I made a few modifications to Gabi’s original recipe, mainly so I could use what I had on hand. Turns out, all I had to do was buy the cheese! Jonathan and I opted for some fancy cheese at V. Richard’s market.

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Love this place! Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s so fun. They offer local products (like Fudge Farm pork and Yellow Moon Cheese from Wright Dairy), and they’ll sharpen knives for you as well. (Check the website for days/times.) They also have a café you can dine at, which I’ve wanted to try.

DSC04857Oh, my.  Chocolate butter cream.  Look at the ingredients!  I wanted to take this home and eat it with a spoon.

I’ve bought a few bottles of wine from V. Richard’s, but this was a first for cheese. I wasn’t certain of how much I’d need (recipe calls for half a cup), so I just asked for half a pound. This was what we purchased:

DSC04891 There was so much to choose from, and not only were we not exactly sure what kind to get but we also didn’t want to spend an arm and/or leg on our purchase. This turned out to be pretty satisfactory. It was creamy, not too sharp and all-around tasty.

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After some sampling, I grated up about 1/2 cup.

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To begin, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the pasta noodles (we used rotini) as directed. Keep an eye on them—you don’t want them to overcook and be gummy. (Been there, done that.)

Next, heat the butter in a large pot.

DSC04878 You’re supposed to wait for it to brown, but since I didn’t have any real butter (just Blue Bonnet), it didn’t quite do this. Next time, I’ll for sure pick up the real thing. After it had heated through, I sprinkled in the flour (I used whole wheat because I had it on hand). Whisk in the flour. (It’ll be really crumbly).

Slowly add the milk, then the pumpkin and shredded cheese. It will be really creamy and smooth.

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Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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Once the sauce is well mixed and all melted together, add the drained pasta, turning to coat completely. Transfer your pasta to a glass baking dish, top with 2 tbsp (approximately, I think I may have used more?).

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Pop the whole thing in the oven for about 20 minutes.   It will be hot, bubbly, and melty—perfect.

DSC04897 DSC04898 I served this with some (canned) reduced-sodium mix greens and cast-iron skillet cornbread.

DSC04903 The latter was a little dry…maybe I should have tossed some pumpkin in?!?

I cannot sing the praises of Broke-Ass Gourmet enough; I’ve gotten some real keepers from Gabi without having to spend too much on ingredients. I remember when I realized, hey, I may not always have box mixes for various things on hand, but I almost always have all the ingredients for brownies, or cookies, or (as you can see) mac and cheese!

When did you learn to cook (if you cook)? Does it seem more or less convenient to you? I love cooking dinner for myself, family and friends. It’s also a great way to blow off steam!


3 responses »

  1. I’ve made a mac n’ cheese like this before! DH turned his nose up at the idea of pumpkin mac n’ cheese, but then he tried it and absolutely loves it. You’ve got me thinking I should make a batch this fall… it’s been a while! 🙂


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