It was a rollercoaster of a week.
On Friday, I shipped my huge bundle of book edits back to New York. A definite high point this year. Strangely, I enjoyed the meticulous process of sifting through each chapter line by line. By the time I finished almost every page was scribbled with red ink and I squeezed in a few photo re-shoots too. I lived and breathed that document day and night, as you might have guessed from my blog absence. After a few curse words at the Staples print & copy centre (never underestimate how many times a multi-thousand dollar printer will jam…), I even printed my own copy should anything happen to the one in the mail. You will not get me this time, postal service!
Naturally, I went straight to the grocery store and bought some cheesy kale chips and a dark chocolate bar to celebrate. Living. it. up.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, we found the house of our dreams last week. We’ve been looking for almost a year now. It almost felt too good to be true and I barely slept all week. This house has everything on our list with several renovation projects for us to tackle in the future. Everything felt like it was falling into place after a challenging year. We’ve been dealing with some rental issues lately and we’re just ready to move on and settle down. Plant roots. Build another vegetable garden. Storage space! This house was the one, we were certain. I’m a bit superstitious, so I didn’t even tell my family about it because I didn’t want to jinx it.
We lost the house. It was scooped up by a higher bidder. Nothing new in this hot housing market, but it’s still tough to swallow when you get your heart set on something. We had already spent a few days planning and preparing ourselves for a quick move, taking measurements, dreaming, the whole shebang, and then it was all over just like that. I went from cloud nine to feeling rejected and defeated all within a few hours. Back to square one.
I tried to cheer us up by playing the “let’s list all the things we don’t like about the house” game. A solid effort, but we weren’t fooling anybody. Love is blind.
This dish, on the other hand, was just what we needed – a hug in a bowl, and a reminder that time heals all wounds. So what if I burned the broccoli to a crisp and overcooked the pasta. It was still major comfort food when nothing else seemed to help. Plus, I discovered that over-cooked crispy broccoli tastes a lot like kale chips. Yes, I ate every one straight off the pan. Weird, but good.
In the end, I realized that nothing good ever comes out of a full moon eclipse, especially if you happen to be pms-ing. Unless of course this meal is the end result. Then it’s not a total loss.
Onward and upward, keep the faith, may better things come to those who wait, and all that cliché jazz… :)
This recipe is adapted from my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheeze recipe from 2011. While the former version is a huge hit on the blog, some of you didn't like how sweet the sauce is. I've been playing around with this recipe every time I make it. This version I'm sharing today is still quite sweet thanks to the butternut squash and cashews, but I've tried to balance it out better with some smoky seasonings like liquid smoke, chili powder, smoked paprika, and some hot sauce for a kick and more depth of flavour. It's a big hit in this house. Feel free to adjust the various seasonings to taste. This sauce is also great heated up and poured over roasted vegetables and brown rice. Use it any way you see fit! I think you'll be surprised by how creamy and satisfying it is all without a lick of butter or oil.
- 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked
- 1 (3.5-4 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (or two (450g) packages chopped squash)
- 3/4 cup water
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke
- hot sauce, to taste
- 1 (450g) package mini shell or macaroni pasta (use gluten-free, if desired)
- roasted broccoli or sauteed kale leaves, to stir into pasta
- Add cashews in a small bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight or for at least 3-4 hours, until soft and plump. Drain and rinse before use.
- Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. See note about prepping squash below. Spread out chopped squash on sheet and drizzle with oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, flipping once half way through baking, until squash is fork tender. Let cool for at least 5 minutes.
- Add the soaked and drained cashews, water, garlic, nutritional yeast (if using), lemon juice, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 2 cups of cooked squash into a high speed blender. Blend on high until smooth. Now add the salt, liquid smoke, and hot sauce to taste and blend again.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. If using broccoli, kale, or other vegetables, roast or saute those too.
- Add the drained pasta back into the pot. Pour on your desired amount of sauce and stir to combine. Stir in the cooked vegetables, if using. Cook over medium until heated throughout and serve immediately.
- Leftover sauce can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 week or so in the fridge. It's great poured on roasted vegetables too!
Time saver: You can also simply slice the squash in half, remove seeds, and roast the two halves rather than chopping the squash up. The butternut squash sauce makes 2.75 cups.