Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

We’re approaching the halfway mark to Thanksgiving, so why not do a little #TBT (Throw Back Thanksgiving!) post?  Kevin and I hosted this past Thanksgiving for my mom’s side of the family, and in my search for new belt-loosening inspiration, I came across this indulgent recipe for Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese on Brown Eyed Baker.  I’ve always been a sucker for savory dishes with a hint of sweetness, but I also love naughty dishes that pretend to be healthy by adding a vegetable.  Ladies and gents, don’t make this if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to mac and cheese.  It’s mac and cheese. It’s not supposed to be good for you. That being said, this recipe is DELICIOUS and just as decadent as any good mac and cheese recipe.

Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Here is the recipe as adapted from Brown Eyed Baker:


  • 12 slices thick-cut peppered bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1/2 butternut squash, finely diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 C whole milk
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
  • 16 ounces cavatappi pasta (or shaped pasta of your choice)
  • 1 C breadcrumbs (I like panko)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta; cover.
  2. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy, stainless skillet), fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

  3. Adjust the heat to medium-low and add the butternut squash and onion to the bacon grease. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and onion are browned and cooked through. Once cooked, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash up the mixture (it doesn’t have to be completely smooth – leave some chunks in for texture).

    Butternut Squash, Onions Cooking in Bacon Grease
    Butternut Squash, Onions Cooking in Bacon Grease
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta (if your box doesn’t specify al dente, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes shorter than the time called for – it shouldn’t be cooked the whole way through). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
  6. Once the sauce comes to a simmer, stir in 6 ounces each of the Gruyere and cheddar cheeses, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

    Cheese Sauce
    Cheese Sauce
  7. Add the cooked, drained pasta, bacon and butternut squash mixture to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
  8. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs.
  9. Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the remaining shredded cheeses. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the cheese.

    Sprinkle with Bread Crumbs and Remaining Cheese
    Sprinkle with Bread Crumbs and Remaining Cheese
  10. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

This is definitely one of my favorite mac and cheese recipes, even better than Alton Brown’s.

2015 Thanksgiving Spread
2015 Thanksgiving Spread

Here was the menu line-up with links to recipes where applicable:


  • Crudité and Trader Joe’s hummus
  • Truffle mushroom crostini (I guessed at this, and it turned out well but I’ll have to try and retrace my steps in order to post a recipe for that later)
  • My Favorite Simple Kale Salad


  • Ham from Bristol Farms (courtesy of my mom)
  • Chicken Apple Sausage Cornbread Stuffing – this time using half sweet Italian and half spicy Italian chicken sausage instead of the chicken apple.  I actually think I like it better that way!
  • Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (tripled that recipe, without the kimchee).
  • This butternut squash and bacon mac and cheese
  • Zucchini casserole (courtesy of my aunt)
  • Mashed potatoes (courtesy of Kevin)



Butternut Squash Apple Soup Recipe

Butternut squash and pumpkin are the two produce staples that make transitioning into cold weather so much easier.  Butternut squash soup is one of my favorite go-to’s on a cold day.  I personally am not a fan of the cream-based version, as it feels like I’m eating ice cream without the satisfaction of…eating ice cream.  The butternut squash soup at Fresh Corn Grill in West LA is hands down my favorite butternut squash soup – dairy-free, not too sweet, not too salty – perfect every time.  I wanted to try and recreate it as one of the courses for the Christmas dinner I made for my dad and I last year (yes, this post is VERY late).  The ingredients in a recipe I found on Simply Recipes seemed like it would taste pretty similar to FCG’s.

Let me just start by saying – ANYONE can make butternut squash soup.  You basically just chop up a bunch of veggies, cook it in broth, and then blend it all together.  If you overcook it, it doesn’t matter!  I broke out the blender I had been neglecting since I bought it on black Friday a couple years ago.

Here’s the recipe!

Note that the smaller you chop your vegetables, the faster they will cook. 1/2-inch chunks work just fine for the apple and butternut squash, but I would recommend finely dicing the onion, celery, and carrot.


  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped (squash and apple should be at a 3 to 1 ratio)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper


  1. Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat and heat the butter for 1-2 minutes. Do not let it turn brown. Add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes, taking care to turn the heat down if the vegetables begin to brown.

    Soften Your Veggies
    Soften Your Veggies
  2. Add squash, apple, broth and water. Bring to boil. Cover, turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until squash and carrots soften. Puree, and return to a clean pot.

  3. Add salt and spices to taste, and garnish with chives or parsley.
Christmas Dinner is Served
Christmas Dinner is Served

I paired this as an opener to the Filet Mignon with Balsamic Pan Sauce and Truffle Oil that we had at Christmas dinner.  It was definitely sweeter than Fresh Corn Grill’s – probably because of the apple.  I think if I were to make this again in an effort to mimic FCG’s, I would nix the apple and triple the amount of celery and carrot and lessen the amount of spice.  I was definitely heavy-handed with the latter.  I still couldn’t get enough of this recipe though – I’ve made it two more times since.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chicken Sausage and Brussels Sprouts (Dinner à la Trader Joe’s)

I love Trader Joe’s.  I have lived walking distance from aforementioned lover ever since I finished college.  It’s the perfect place for people who don’t have time to cook, don’t know how to cook, and/or don’t want to cook. They have lovely niche items, as well as your every day staples – all at great prices.  There are a handful of items that I now purchase exclusively from Trader Joe’s not just due to their great prices and bountiful array of healthy options, but also because I’ve found that the TJ brand just tastes better than competitive brands (i.e., sun-dried tomatoes, butternut squash ravioli, beets, dark chocolate, almond butter, etc.).

Nothing hurts my soul more than a market-meanderer.  Those people set up camp in the aisles with no purpose other than to double the time my trip to the store is supposed to take.  They walk right in front of me and then stop to add nothing to their cart, staring longingly at the cheese puffs. I can be pretty patient with situations like these, but after waiting longer than what’s fair, I always intercede the wretched chicken stock-blocker with an “Excuse me, can I get by?  PS – don’t buy the cheese puffs. You are fat.” Okay, maybe that last part is just what goes through my head.

One mistake you never want to make is to go to a grocery store before you’ve eaten dinner without a list or idea of what you want to eat. You’ll end up buying way too much stuff and be one of those aisle-cloggers I so detest. I did exactly this last week (sans aisle-clogging), and decided to try to make my hoard somehow work.

I wanted to make something with the TJ butternut squash triangoli (super low in fat and calories for what it is, btw) and brussels sprouts. But what?  I ‘ve paired bacon with brussels sprouts many a time, so I decided to try it with chicken sausage. However, chicken sausage generally isn’t as sweet as bacon and I didn’t want to get something as sweet as a chicken apple sausage which would compete with the sweetness of the triangoli.  Being obsessed with the California sun-dried tomatoes from Trader Joe’s as it is, I got a package of those and then went with the sun-dried tomato chicken sausage.

Ingredients - all from TJ's
Ingredients – all from TJ’s

Cooking the brussels sprouts in the chicken sausage grease (I know – it sounds so gross) gave the otherwise pretty bitter brussels some great flavor.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Onions, and Garlic
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Onions, and Garlic

Here’s my original “recipe”.


1 package Trader Joe’s Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage, sliced
3 cloves garlic*, minced
1 small Vidalia (sweet) onion*, diced
1 bag of Trader Joe’s brussels sprouts (16-oz), halved
1 tbsp Trader Giotto’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning
Handful of Trader Joe’s California Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Julienne Cut
1 package Trader Giotto’s Butternut Squash Triangoli, cooked
Grated parmesan cheese* (optional)

*also purchased from Trader Joe’s


  1. Heat a nonstick skillet to medium-high heat.  Slice and cook sausage til brown. Transfer sausage to a plate covered wtih a paper towel, without losing any of the drippings.  There won’t be very much as it is.
  2. Heat olive oil in the same skillet, and cook the  onion and garlic until the onions become soft, scraping up the bits of the sausage drippings that have now browned. Add about 4-6 turns of the Trader Joe’s Everyday Seasoning.
  3. Add brussels sprouts and cook until slightly softened but crunchy, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. While the brussels sprouts are cooking, prepare the triangoli according to package directions.
  5. Toss everything together, add some the sun-dried tomatoes and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  6. EAT.
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chicken Sausage and Brussels Sprouts
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Chicken Sausage and Brussels Sprouts

I like dishes that combine sweet and salty, so this might be a bit off the beaten path but I’ve really enjoyed it. Hopefully you can too!

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Trader Joe’s.  I just love them.

Spiced Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew

The gloomy weather we’ve been having lately made me really want some warm comfort food so I made one of my favorite meals.  Fall is also the season for one of my favorite foods in the world – butternut squash!  The first time I had a butternut squash and garbanzo bean (or “chickpea” if you want to use the sexier word for it) stew like this was at Nook Bistro a couple of years ago.  I fell in love with it and absolutely had to make it at home.  After trying out a couple different recipes, I found one that was similar enough and really healthy.  I made this a few years ago prior to starting my blog, so I thought I’d give it the shoutout it deserves!

Spiced Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew - Close-Up

Note:  If you decide to make this at home, I would recommend buying pre-cut butternut squash because the rind is not easy to cut through.

A few people have asked what is with the sudden burst in posts.  I love to eat, sleep, and breathe food so naturally, I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen with the new found free time I’ve acquired in the last month.  However, it seems like this is slowly turning into a cooking/baking blog, so I’ll change it up in the next couple of weeks with something inedible to share!