Butternut Squash Pasta

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to eat my version of healthy comfort food.  To me, healthy comfort food involves Butternut Squash, Pasta (Gluten Free Rice Pasta of course!) and roasted Brussel Sprouts.

I made a simple and delicious Butternut Squash Pasta that was rich, creamy, comforting and healthy!  It’s hard to believe you can achieve these food qualities without using cream, butter or wheat pasta, but it’s possible.

Butternut Squash Pasta

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I prepared the squash by peeling and cutting the squash into cubes.  Then I sautéed diced onions, along with the butternut squash, in about a teaspoon of coconut oil and a little water.

I seasoned with about 1/2 teaspoon of dried powdered sage and a little bit of Himalayan sea salt to taste.

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Once the squash was tender, I pureed it with an immersion blender.

While the squash was cooking, I boiled some water and added rice pasta shells to the pot.  I cooked the pasta until it was al dente, but not mushy, and strained off the water.

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Then I mixed the squash with the pasta to create this delicious dish.  I used the pasta shells because they really hold the butternut squash “sauce” well.

There are so many variations and twists that can be incorporated in this recipe:

– use a different kind of squash

– sauté fresh sage leaves with the onions and squash

– use thyme in addition to, or as an alternative to, the sage powder

– top with sautéed mushrooms (I did a little sauté of sliced cremini mushrooms and garlic, and once it was really cooked down and caramelized, I topped my leftover pasta that I was having for lunch with the mushrooms – even more delish!)

– top with finely chopped cooked greens like spinach, Swiss Chard, collard greens or kale

– use olive oil instead of coconut oil

– use vegetable or chicken stock instead of water to sauté the squash

– puree half squash and half cooked cauliflower or broccoli

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I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mac & Cheese!!

Ahhh… the days of my youth.  My mouth curls into a dreamy smile when I think of my first love… Macaroni and Cheese.  Warm, fluffy, cheesy and easy for a kid to make.  It was also my first experience with “cooking” and my lunch of choice… especially with ketchup on it.  I know, I know… but even then I was all about making things interesting.

Of course…I miss Mac & Cheese…it’s one of the ultimate comfort foods.  What I don’t miss is being an adult version of the drippy nosed, stuffed up, phlegm filled and severely allergic kid/teen/young adult I used to be.  Wheat and dairy did a number on me back then.  So you could just imagine my enthusiasm when I found a recipe that created a fantastic healthy replica of this dish.  I put my own spin on the recipe and made it fast, easy and delicious!

I liked it so much, I thought I’d share it with you.   And although it’s not exactly like the KD stuff, it was really good… good enough that the men of my house tried it and really liked it, too!  They can be a tough audience, so this is a good sign.

Here’s how to make it:

Make The “Cheese” Sauce First

* I started with the cheese sauce.  If you feel up to doing a few things at once, the water for the pasta can be put on to boil while the sauce is being made and the elbow pasta (corn or rice) can be added so that it’s hot and ready to go immediately.  However, the cheese sauce can be made in advance of the pasta.

For the “Cheese Sauce”…

Into a food processor or a high powered blender (like the Vita-Mix) add:

1 cup Nutritional Yeast

1 can White Kidney Beans (or Romano Beans or Cannellini Beans)

2 tbsp Bragg’s Soy Sauce

1 tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 cup Purreed Orange Vegetable (cooked) — e.g. sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots.  I used a blended medley of cooked carrots, celery and other good veggies that became an orange purree.  This was made for my littlest guy to eat and I had extra in the fridge, so I used it here.  Thank you Nana! 🙂

1/4 cup Olive Oil

1/4 cup Flax Seed Oil (100% Dairy Free Option) or 1/4 cup melted Regular Butter

2 tbsp Maple Syrup

2 tbsp Tahini

1 tsp Sea Salt

This sauce took me less than 10 minutes to make.

Throw everything into your blending appliance and blend on low, working up to a faster speed.  Blend until smooth.  This makes a very thick sauce so it’s best done in a food processor if a Vita-Mix is not available.  A little bit of almond milk can be added to make the sauce thinner if desired.

DO NOT TASTE THE SAUCE BEFORE IT MEETS THE PASTA!  Ok… so here’s a little secret…. I tasted the sauce before it was added to the pasta and I was like “meh!”  But I was so far into the recipe, with sauce made and noodles boiling, that I just went ahead with it.  I can’t exactly tell you why it happened, but what happened next must have been some kitchen chemistry magic.  Read on to find out what happened.

Next…

Boil pasta… strain… and put the hot pasta back into the sauce pan.  Over low heat, stirr in the sauce until all the noodles are coated.

Now…

I transfered this to my bowl.  It looked the part!  It was warm, it looked silky and cheesy.  Could it really be?

Then I took a bite.  It was really good!  It was downright yummy.  The flavours seemed to come alive when the sauce met the pasta.  Isn’t that always the way?  However, this can be seasoned with a little extra nutritional yeast for a more cheesy flavour and/or a sprinkle of sea salt.  Fresh minced parsley can also be sprinkled over top.

This recipe is best eaten fresh and hot.  It offers a good amount of fiber and nutrients wth the beans, tahini and the blended orange vegetable components.  It’s free of dyes, sugar and artificial ingredients.  Yes, it takes some planning, and on this day, the stars alligned and I had everything I needed in my kitchen to give this recipe a shot.  I’m so glad I did.  I know this will become a family favorite!

Inspirational Veggie Pasta!


Growing up, my mom used to make a quick and delicious broccoli and pasta dish.  It literally consisted of just broccoli, thrown together with some spaghetti, finished with a drizzle of olive oil, and a little parmesan cheese.  This simple pasta dish was one of my favourites!  And I was once a kid who didn’t eat vegetables!

Over the years, this was a basic recipe that has inspired when it comes to making healthy vegetable based pasta dishes.  Today, in the spirit of Meatless Monday, I’m featuring a really versatile vegetable based pasta dish.

Inspirational Veggie Pasta

I was feeling inspired to use sweet caramelized onions for the start of this pasta dish.  The idea is to take a vegetable that I’m in the mood for and going with it.

I sauteed 1 onion, sliced thinly and one sliced red pepper.  I cooked them until the onions were golden brown.

To go along with my sweet theme, I threw in some whole cherry tomatoes.

This next bit I learned from Rachel Ray.  I put a lid over the pan, once I’ve added the tomatoes, for just a few minutes to cook them.  This will cook the tomatoes without bursting them.  The end result is an intact little tomato with a juicy, sweet cooked centre that will burst when I hit it with my fork or when I bite into it.

I added a couple extras to complete this dish:  white kidney beans for some extra fiber and protein, and a few black kalamata olive to add some salty to the sweet.

Within the time that it took to cook my veggies, I cooked up some rice spaghetti.  The majority of the time I cook a gluten free pasta, like rice pasta, because it’s easier to digest and it’s a hypoallergenic food.

I mixed the pasta with the veggies, drizzled it with olive oil and seasoned with a little sea salt.

The only thing I wish I had was fresh chopped basil!  That would have made a great finishing touch for this dish!

I started with one inspiring ingredient, and I could have stayed with that and kept this a one vegetable dish.  But the beauty of a recipe like this is you can build on it or not.  Make it as simplistic or as layered as you like.

Here are some ways to switch this recipe up:

Inspiration veggie: anything!  Broccoli, rapine, spinach, green peas, green beans, butternut squash, peppers, leeks, garlic, zucchini, asparagus, etc, etc.

Additional veggies — Totally optional.. but it can be what ever might compliment… for example spinach and green peas.

Beans — Totally optional… but again… what ever compliments.  Think chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, etc.

Other ideas — Totally optional… you get the picture… Artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, anchovies, sun dried tomatoes, pickled mushrooms.

Don’t forget the basil or parsley… that would be a great thing to add that I didn’t this time around.  🙂