I promise to stop complaining about summer soon, but I have to tell you that I’m pretty sure I figured out the problem I have with summer. The problem is that I always feel really heavy.
Don’t ask me how it’s possible, since I definitely eat less in the heat. Maybe I’m retaining the 24 glasses of water I drink each day. Maybe the lethargy brought on by heat makes dragging my weight around seem like an enormous chore. Maybe I’m just dreaming of the chunky, forgiving knits waiting in my closet for fall.
I’m not usually one to think much about my body. I’m aware that my thighs are disproportionately large (or is my chest disproportionately small?) but I couldn’t really care less. I believe it’s important to take care of the body God chose to give specifically to me, a body that has done a lot of pretty amazing things for me, so I try to eat reasonably well and stay reasonably active. My weight fluctuates a good 5-10 pounds regularly, but, while I might skip making cookies for a week, I’m not going to get my knickers in a knot.
It is the feeling consistently uninterested in food yet also feeling consistently unhealthy and heavy that gets a person frustrated. And then when I hit an air conditioned grocery store all bets are off. Suddenly I realize how hangry I am and I do crazy things like buy the 3 bags of chips for one low price, all in my favourite flavour.
It’s all summer’s fault.
Let’s have some creamy, cheesy comfort food to make it all better.
AND let’s make it lighter, healthier creamy, cheesy comfort food, mmkay?
This is my kids’ absolute favourite side dish, and sometimes I throw in ham, chicken, or bacon and call it a meal and they do cartwheels (or would if they could – Gemma desperately wants me to teach her, but if you think I can get these disproportionately large thighs to swing up and over my disproportionately small chest you’d be wrong :)
So what makes this macaroni and cheese lighter and healthier?
Spaghetti squash, my friends! A whole, entire spaghetti squash! That and the use of half chicken stock in place of milk makes for a creamy, cheesy, gooey macaroni and cheese that will beat the socks off the store-bought kind. And it only takes about 10 minutes longer to make, and even less once you’ve made it a couple times!
I make this all the time and am so excited I finally took the time to work out the measurements and write it down so I can blab about my excitement to you :) Spaghetti squash vary a lot in size, and if yours produces less don’t worry about it, and if it’s larger feel free to throw it all in. I usually reserve some to puree into baby food, but if you don’t have a wee one around you might end up with it languishing in your fridge, and that’s never a good thing, so throw it in while you have the chance. Of course, you can also sneak it into spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, smoothies…you get the picture. It’s a very mild, slightly sweet flavour that hides in just about any stronger flavour.
But, for the record, if you use spaghetti squash in place of actual, official spaghetti? Let me just say, don’t get your hopes up, and don’t invite me for dinner. Pasta, folks. It’s the real deal. Spaghetti squash is really just squash.
This dish does thicken as it sits, so you might want to add a splash of milk to leftovers when reheating. We love to have a big batch of this in the fridge and eat it for lunch. Like any mac ‘n’ cheese, a squirt of ketchup is never a bad idea, not something you’ll hear me say often :)
- 3 cups dry macaroni
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 tsp dried mustard (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1¼ cups spaghetti squash puree (see note)
- 125 g (1/2 a pkg) cream cheese
- 2 cups lightly packed grated cheddar cheese, preferably sharp cheddar
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 3 Tbsp chives (optional)
- Prepare pasta according to package directions and drain.
- While it cooks, melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Whisk in flour, dried mustard, and salt until combined. Pour in milk and chicken broth, whisking vigorously to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and simmer until thickened (5-8 minutes).
- Stir in squash and cream cheese until cream cheese is melted. Remove from heat and stir in pepper and cheddar cheese until melted. Add chives, if using, reserving a few to sprinkle on top.
- Toss cheese sauce with noodles, sprinkle with reserved chives, and let rest 5 minutes before serving hot - the sauce will thicken further as it sits.
Drizzle whole spaghetti squash lightly with olive oil or spray with cooking spray. Pierce all over with a fork or sharp knife and roast on foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 1 hour, until you can easily slide in a sharp knife. Let cool slightly before cutting off stem end and slicing whole squash lengthwise. Gently scoop on seeds with a spoon and discard. Shred remainder of squash with a fork and remove to blender or food processor. Blend with just enough milk or water to make a smooth puree - add up to about ¼ cup of liquid. Puree can be stored in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen for longer storage.