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This month’s cover recipe for the greatest magazine on the face of the earth boasts one of the the greatest of all comfort foods- Macaroni and Cheese. I’ve made my fair share of mac’n’cheese- seeing that I adore it to the core. I’m always interested in making it a bit more healthy for me and my Fireman. I have in fact tried many off the Cooking Light site. There are probably 128947563956 versions across the board- from Momma’s Homemade to the Blue Box, I’d say this dish is pretty versatile. While there are quite few versions out there- one thing they all have in common.. high fat, high calorie, and (just as important) high sodium. Many of us are quick to chalk this food off as being on that ‘bad’ list we keep in our back pocket (ahem..fried apple pie does my dietitian belly good once in a while..) When my September issue arrived I quickly thumbed through the pages to see what these genius food editors had come up with, yet again- eager to know the secrets up their sleeve for making this notoriously un-healthy dish more healthy. Two words: Butternut Squash. The squash and a bit of Greek yogurt make up a creamy base for the homemade cheese sauce- and the curly shape of the cavatappi pasta noodles make superb cling support of all the cheesy-ness. The bold flavors of Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Romano cheeses allow for the less is more tactic- it doesn’t take much of these ‘stinky’ cheeses to get a solid flavor profile going. The end result was a deliciously rich dish. I definitly was not missing all that cheddar and heavy cream. My Fireman mentioned how much he liked it, multiple times- in between bites and his second plate. In September butternut squash isn’t quite in it’s peak- resulting in a really hard-to-cut-through vegetable. I opted out of the fresh vegetable here and chose to use frozen. You can find frozen cubed squash in the frozen food section on your grocery- I used two 10 ounce bags, thawed. This was a little more than 3 1/2 cups- but more fiber couldn’t hurt! This gets my Meatless Monday seal of approval- Fireman tested, Dietitian approved! The only thing only I hate about it? Well- my competitve brain is errkk because I didn’t think of it!
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Preheat oven to 375°.
Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper, and Greek yogurt. Remove the center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in Gruyère, pecorino Romano, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir until combined.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture, and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko, and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
Bake at 375° for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.