How can you go wrong with cheese and pasta? Well, you basically can’t. There are endless ways to turn a little macaroni and a lotta cheese into the perfect comfort food.
As a Chicagoan who loves her locally made cheese, I decided to come up with a creative use of my favorite melty French/Swiss cheese, Raclette, which is available from the lovely cheesemakers up in Wisconsin. Why Raclette? Well, my stepmom, Sabine, is French, which makes me a foodie by association. It packs a major nutty flavor, so even though it can be a bit pricey, you don’t need a lot. Plus, it’s super-melty, helping make the whole thing silky smooth.
Though this recipe is packed with cheese, cream, and butter, I’ve balanced it out with veggies—you know, to start the New Year off right. I pureed some roasted butternut squash for extra creaminess but half the fat, plus good ol’ beta-carotene and dietary fiber. And while I was at it, threw some mushrooms in to vary up the texture a bit.
The result: We served it up at a recent family gathering and it was quite a hit. Everyone in the group—from the teenager (also the talented photographer; see above) to the grandpa proclaimed it a delight. And they’re family, so if anyone can be honest about not liking it, it’s them. At least I think so. . . Anyway, enjoy!
Macaroni & Cheese with Wisconsin Raclette
1 onion, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 pound elbow macaroni noodles
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup (4 ounces) Wisconsin Raclette, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place onion, garlic and squash (open-side down) in a baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 40 minutes, or until soft. Remove peel from squash and puree with roasted onion and garlic and broth until smooth. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
In a large pot of boiling water, add the macaroni noodles and prepare according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add heavy whipping cream and Raclette; stir until melted together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and mushrooms, sauté until cooked, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the squash puree; stir to combine.
Grease a 9x12-inch baking dish with butter. Place half of the cooked macaroni noodles in the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar and season with salt and pepper. Pour the squash/mushroom mixture over the Cheddar. Add a layer of remaining pasta. Pour Raclette cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.
Lavender, I love you. Ideally, I'd be rolling around in fields of you right now, preferably somewhere in the Chateau region of France. Perhaps with a hot air balloon waiting nearby with lavender biscuits and champagne...
But, being that it's January and I'm in Chicago, the closest I can get to this bliss is in my bathtub, filled with my fave lavender-honey almond milk bath recipe. Other than the fact that it obviously smells like a dream come true, it's a winning combo all around - lavender is one of nature's best tension tamers, honey not only softens your skin but also absorbs its impurities, and you can always drink it if you change your mind about the whole bath thing.
Anyway, once you have the ingredients, it's super easy. Fancier groceries tend to carry the lavender, but smaller co-op style spots do too - I scored mine at True Nature Foods (a great Edgewater shop with organic, locally sourced goodies) and I already had some locally made honey thanks to Beeline. Just mix with creamy almond milk, pour in the bath, and voila, a heavenly, toxin-free bath. Enjoy.
Lavender-Honey Almond Milk Bath
1 1/2 Tb dried lavender
3/4 cup almond milk
3 Tb honey
Process lavender flowers in a blender until they become a powder, turning off the blender and scraping down the sides as necessary. Whisk together lavender powder, milk and honey in a glass bowl, then pour into a jar. Before each use, shake the jar and pour half of the mixture into the bath. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes enough for 2 baths.