As soon as The Baby wakes up from his morning naps (which, I hate to admit, he’s been sleeping through far better since my recent acquisition of yet another Amazon Prime impulse buy. He definitely likes to have his arms up by his face but can’t sleep when he can fully flail. Thank you, Amazon gods. Take all my money and all my hypocritical proclamations about anti-consumerism. P.S. Thank you also, Amazon gods, for the gift of a baby jail. The Baby hasn’t chewed on any electrical cords since its delivery!)
I cannot get through one sentence without a major digression.
Anyway, as soon as The Baby wakes up, he and I are headed to Cleveland to bring food and fun to my good friend and fellow new mom, who celebrated the recent Cavs championship win by going into labor.
Having recently been well fed and cared for by my friends in my own early weeks postpartum, I thought I’d share a delicious, easy meal that is one of my faves and travels/keeps well. It’s not Wednesday, I know, but I made this last night, so it’s still a Weeknight Meal Wednesday.
I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum the first time I made it, and it has become one of my staple recipes. Its many, many iterations are all over Pinterest, so it’s not exactly a novel idea but I FREAKING LOVE IT. It’s extremely adaptable, super healthy and easy enough to make even if you have a six month old.
Butternut Squash Shells & Cheese with Chicken and Tatsoi
This recipe made two 9″x 9″ casseroles worth of dinner (one for my family and one to give.) Halve just about everything if you’re less hungry (though you can always freeze half!)
- One large butternut squash
- One large/two medium onions
- 2 lbs of short cut pasta (I used shells)
- 3 chicken breasts
- 1 big bunch of tatsoi (this came in my Fresh Fork bag last week. You could also use kale, swiss chard, broccoli or another green of your choice. This was delicious!)
- Milk (maybe 2 cups? Did not measure)
- 1 block of meltable cheese (I used Monterey Jack), shredded
- A dollop of spicy brown mustard
- Dried thyme
- Garlic powder
- Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
- Butter/canola oil
Cut your squash and roast it. I think I did 350 for about 45 minutes, with the squash cut into disks. I also have success cutting the squash in half vertically, sticking each half face down in a baking dish with a little water underneath for steam, and cooking, but I wanted a little roasty flavor on thse because that one circle ended up being a snack for The Baby.
I also took this time to cook three chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. Once they’re cool, you can chop them up into bite-size pieces and set them aside/stick them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put everything in the oven.
While the squash is cooking, now is a good time to shred your whole block of cheese. This can be done a little in advance because you need to be able to handle the squash, so allow it to cool a bit. Some recipes tell you to peel & cut up the raw squash and steam/cook it on the stovetop, but I’m not about to spend time peeling a raw butternut squash. Moving on.
Chop up your onions (slices are fine because you’re going to end up pureeing the whole thing) and sweat them out in some butter, thyme and kosher salt. (I sadly used all my butter to make
an upsettingly decadant cookie dough snack while I cooked lactation cookies, so I had to use oil. Butter is better if you’ve got it.)
Get your pasta water on to boil. You will want your pasta to be piping hot and ready to go when the sauce is done to help incorporate the cheese. Undercook it just a little so it doesn’t get too soft in the oven later.
Once the onions are very sweaty/leaning toward caramelized, add the squash. Once everything is good and soft, it’s time to buzz it up with milk and a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard in your favorite food processor-type gadget. I use a Nutribullet, which isn’t quite big enough for the whole thing so I do it in two batches. The consistency and color will approximate the nasty fake cheese in a delicious boxed shells and cheese.
Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add the squash puree. Begin to mix and stir in about half the shredded cheese. This is about the time I thought to cook up some greens to add, but any time before this step is good, too! I cooked the chopped stems in a little oil and then steamed the leaves, making sure they weren’t too water (but as the shells were a little under and everything goes in the oven, it’s not a big deal if there’s some extra moisture.) Add the chopped chicken and stir everything up. If it looks a little dry, add a few splashes of milk.
Grease two 9″x9″ (or 8″ x 8″? I dunno, square) *baking dishes. If you’re eating yours for dinner, preheat the oven back to 350. Split the pasta into the two baking dishes. Bake the one you’re eating now, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes. You can uncover for the last few minutes to brown the cheese, if you life. I like to write cooking instructions on the foil of the other one to make it super easy.
*I broke one of my cardinal rules of dropping off postpartum dishes, which is Thou Shalt Not Create More Dirty Dishes for a New Mom. I had a bunch of foil baking pans perfect for such occasions but lost them somewhere in the move, I guess. Don’t be like me.
Here’s the finished product! And a bonus photo of the lactation cookie dough I
ate by the fist-full made to go along with it. I did not stray in any intentional or beneficial way from this recipe, so just go there and check it out. These are so, so delicious (and effective, in my experience.)
Baby’s awake, time to pack up the car… and meet his new friend!!