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Healthy Living Recipes

Deb Morgan: Did someone say “comfort food”? If the cold winds of January are blowing where you are (they are in the Berkshires!), get the fire going and sit down to enjoy a bowl of one (or both) of these all-time favorite comfort foods. First up, a classic macaroni and cheese, which we take up a notch by adding nutritious spinach. Then to show you just how yummy vegan food can be, we offer you a dish I created over 20 years ago: squash-a-roni! You won't even miss the cheese. Enjoy.

Spinach Macaroni and Cheese

Serves four to six.

1 pound elbow macaroni or other pasta
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1½ cups Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup bread crumbs (optional)

First cook pasta, cool, and set aside. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in olive oil. Add thawed and drained spinach along with parsley and oregano.

To make the cheese sauce, begin by making a roux. To do this, heat the butter in a sauté pan, then slowly add the flour and stir; this should make a thick paste. Continue to sauté for a few minutes. In a separate pot, warm the milk. Slowly add the warmed milk to the roux to make a sauce. Then melt in the cheese. Add salt and pepper.

Oil a baking pan and layer first the vegetables, then the macaroni, and finally pour the sauce on top. Top with toasted bread crumbs, if you like. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Remove top and bake for 10 more minutes to brown.

Read Lead Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift’s nutritional commentary: Green Is Good

The spinach adds a dark-green dose of high-profile nutrients, including vitamin K (for bone health), vitamin C (immune defense), and folic acid (heart and cancer prevention) as well as carotenoids such as lutein (eye health). Parsley and oregano perk up the flavor and the phytochemicals that help us detoxify and keep bad bugs at bay.

Squash-a-roni

Serves four to six.

¾ pound elbow pasta (gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta recommended)
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
Pinch salt
1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
13 cup tahini
3 tablespoons white miso
1½ teaspoons umeboshi vinegar
Stock water as needed
1 cup chopped roasted nuts or seeds (optional)

Place the peeled and cubed squash in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt, and simmer until soft. When soft, drain the squash, setting aside the cooking water for later use. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente and drain.

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until caramelized. Combine the squash, sautéed onion, and all other ingredients (except the pasta) in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add stock water a little at a time, if needed, to create a smooth, thick sauce consistency.

Toss pasta with sauce and place in a baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

To garnish, try chopped roasted walnuts or almonds, or pepitas. Enjoy!

Read Lead Nutritionist Kathie Madonna Swift’s nutritional commentary: Butternut Squash Is Golden

Butternut squash is “golden” when it comes to its carotenoid content—plant compounds that are converted to vitamin A in the body, essential for our immune systems to ward off colds, viruses, and bacterial infections. The tahini adds to the creamy texture of this recipe and increases the calcium content, important for happy bones.

Find more delicious and nutritious recipes in Kripalu Recipes.