Oak & Acorn: Healthy Comfort Foods

Healthy Comfort Foods that Kids Love

Wondering what to do with butternut squash? How about a healthy version of a kid favorite… macaroni & cheese!

Comfort foods are something we start to crave as it starts to get closer into the winter months. As it starts to get lower and lower in temperature, it’s easy to fall for the idea of having comfort foods we had as kids, or a hearty soup with warm bread to warm our bellies.

I recently went to our community garden with my six-year old and noticed the drastic change from how it looked months ago. Months ago there were cages full of tomatoes, strawberries and long stalks of corn among other things growing in gardens…not to mention very colorful flowers popping up everywhere. Now, you mostly see plots with winter and root vegetables covering ground space and of course, lots of kale

I love seasonal cooking. It’s mostly during early summer where we have so many choices and then it starts to slow. A lot of local farms stop their CSA’s as mid-fall approaches, but we are lucky here in western MA that we have local farms that offer winter shares with plenty of storage crops, while still offering greens that are greenhouse grown. And if we choose to not be a part of a winter CSA, we can visit a winter farmers’ market to pick up what we need, when we need it, especially root and winter vegetables.

We tend to spend more time indoors as it gets colder. We also love the feeling of coziness and warm meals to keep the spirits going. So one of the things we serve up during these colder months more than any other time of the year are comfort foods. One of the things I loved as a kid was baked macaroni and cheese. I’m pretty lucky to have a kid who will eat just about anything that I give her, but there are those times where she will just ask if we can have something simple like mac and cheese. So this is where you can make a stereotypical kid staple while throwing in some of that local produce and upping the health factor.

Making baked macaroni and cheese with winter vegetables is really easy. It taste good, kids love it and its another way to use up all those Fall vegetables you have stored in your house. Here is a recipe for the way I like to make it. I also like to add in greens sometimes. If you do have a child that is resistant to lots of vegetables mixed in, there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple. As always, try to include them with the cooking and they are more than likely to eat why they have just made.

Here is a recipe that will use butternut squash. Yum! Not only does it taste so good, but it’s also so good for you. High in Vitamin A, potassium, poly-nutrients and antioxidants just to name a few. It always feels good to know that what we eat not only taste good, but is good for us!

Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 pound of macaroni of your choice
  • butter
  • 3/4 cup of milk or heavy cream
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • breadcrumbs (optional)
  • spices like nutmeg or cinnamon  to taste (optional)

I’ve made this both baked in the oven or on the stove top. Both taste very good, its just whatever your preference is. You can also easily make this vegan or gluten free by substituting dairy products for non-dairy.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel and dice the butternut squash. You will roast the squash for about 20 to 25 minutes. Make sure you drizzle and coat the butternut squash so that it doesn’t dry out. I like to add salt and pepper before I put it in the oven.
  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water. Drain and rinse with cold water when ready.
  3. In a saucepan, add the butter till its melted. Then add the milk or heavy cream with salt and pepper. Next, add the pasta to the mix. Then, add the cheese. Next you’ll add in the squash. Just mix in according to what consistency you want with it. Add spices if you would like.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. If you want to top it with breadcrumbs for added taste and texture, then sprinkle on top before putting it in the oven. If you want to just cook on the stove top. Just mix everything on medium till desired temperature.

You can also add greens to make it more hearty and healthy. Enjoy!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leslie Lynn Lucio
Leslie Lynn LucioLeslie is from Texas but has always been drawn to New England. She lives in the town of Northampton and loves living in Western Massachusetts. She spends a lot of time with her five year old and connecting with the community. Her interest include cooking, DIY projects,writing, biking, being outdoors, photography, restoration, food preservation and social activism. She spends some of her time farming when she can and also you can spot her working with the Pedal People.

[Photo credits: Leslie Lynn Lucio]

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