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Friday, February 29, 2008

Banana Bread with Pureed Cauliflower

I think that my newest mission is to test out and write about the recipes in the Jessica Seinfeld cookbook, Deceptively Delicious. While I've only made 3 recipes thus far, each one has been amazingly good and easy to make. Her banana bread recipe is yet another recipe that didn't fail my taste expectations. It was also another good recipe to tweak and adapt to a variety of flavors and add-ins. I am not much of a baker, though I LOVE baked goods, cakes, pastries, cookies. It's definitely my downfall food group; the hardest food to curb back on my Weight Watchers program. So, when I saw a recipe that could be a tempting sweet that had healthy ingredients, I was more than willing to try it. Even though I'm not a great baker, I do have a few standby baked goods that I can make really well, banana bread is chief among them. The recipe as it was published is not that different from my two favorites - loaded with bananas, low fat and low in refined sugars and bleached white flour. I've changed the recipe slightly, that's the beauty of this book - you can always find a way to make it just a bit more healthy and of course, Weight Watcher friendly. The banana bread is incredibly moist. I suggest that after it is cooled, you refrigerated it so it doesn't spoil and develop mold. We're not making penicillin bread after all!

Banana Bread with Pureed Cauliflower Ingredients
  • 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar - Firmly Packed (light or dark - the darker the sugar the more flavor and color your banana bread will have)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Cups Banana Puree - mash 3 or 4 bananas by hand with a potato masher or the back of a fork rather than pureeing them in food processor or blender
  • 1/2 Cup Cauliflower Puree (or you can use Butternut or Acorn Squash Puree)
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract - BEST QUALITY!
  • Cooking Spray and Additional Flour to prepare baking pan

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Prepare a 9 inch loaf pan or 2 mini loaf pans with cooking spray and dust completely with flour to coat evenly. This will ensure the banana bread will release from the pan cleanly and easily.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. You will need both the baking soda and baking powder to ensure the cake rises and doesn't fall during the baking time. Baking powder starts to react when the wet ingredients are mixed with it; baking soda begins working once the mixture is put into the oven.
  4. In another large mixing bowl beat the eggs with the brown sugar until the mixture is lightened, frothy and the sugar appears to have dissolved slightly into the eggs. Beat in the banana and cauliflower purees and the vanilla.
  5. Slowly fold in the flour mixture, incorporating it with the wet ingredients. Be careful not to over beat the mixture so the batter doesn't get tough.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pans and put into the center of the oven immediately. Bake for 50-60 minutes, (25-35 minutes for mini pans) rotating the pan half-way through the baking time. The banana bread is done when a skewer or cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then release from the pan and cool on a rack for 1 hour before slicing. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate the loaf once it has completely cooled.

Flavor add-ins: Chopped Walnuts or Pecans; Raisins, Dried Cranberries or Golden Raisins; Chocolate Chips or Peanut Butter Chips; Toffee Pieces; Applesauce in place of the cauliflower or butternut/acorn squash purees.

Support OBAMA!

Liz's little Brother, Matt, has written and recorded an awesome song in support of Obama - check it out on You Tube! Even if you are supporting another candidate, (and frankly, who else is there to support anyway?) the song and video are Top Drawer - REALLY TOP DRAWER!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqvIDKFPmoE

Should this link not work, you can always search at You Tube - Matty B "Yes We Can"

Photos of the Week

I wanted to share some of my photos from the past week. For more photos and stories, don't forget to click on my photo link to the right of the blog posts. I have an extensive Flickr photo album located under Neenyd or Neenyd03.
The Angel of Laurel Hill Cemetery - looking down over the Schuylkill River

A Flock of seagulls, ducks, and geese - floating along the river - Sunday, February 24th

"Mr. Plow" riding an all-terrain vehicle with an attached plow, driving along 11th & Morris Streets in South Philadelphia
The Lady of Rittenhouse Square draped in a snow shawl


Snow Dog
St. Patrick's Day Window with scary Elf with a cactus for hair; creepy Cat in a top hat; Sad-eyed puppy statues and other assorted oddities and figurines.

In case you have the need - head on in...
Photos discarded and frozen to the ground after the trash pickup


Street Art, Graffiti, or a record promotion - your choice

Lady walking along the street with a large bundle on her head, grabbing her butt

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Garden Vegetable Cakes & Mango Salsa

Back when I was still working professionally as a cook/chef, I did two stints at the Reading Terminal Market in Center City Philadelphia. One was at a mainly vegetarian soup and salad stand, the other job was at an upscale gourmet prepared food restaurant. Both restaurants were a bit ahead and a bit behind their time. Both work experiences left me with many funny stories, some great recipes and a few battle scars. Having an opportunity to work in the Reading Terminal Market was a unique experience. The building and merchants have a long storied history in Philadelphia and I'm proud to have been a part that history. My first office job that started me on the path to being a bookkeeper, payroll and office manager was with the Reading Company - back when they still owned the Market. As a cook, I worked for two different food venues in the Reading Terminal Market. While employed in the Reading Terminal, I was an extra in the movie, National Treasure, when a scene for the movie was filmed there. David O'Neil wrote a book about the history of the Reading Terminal Market, in which I am listed; I worked with him during Reading Company's final days as owner of the Market.

My job at the vegetarian stand taught me a lot about working quickly and how to make a lot of good food out few ingredients. As I am sure it's no surprise, given my hotheaded temper and kitchen stress level - I fought in a few battles during over my 8 months while I worked there. I had previously worked at Whole Foods Market, the bastion of cleanliness, superbly prepared foods and elegant food styling displays. We had ample room in which to work; the best food to use; and the equipment was the latest in kitchen technology. Moving into the world of vegetarian cooking a decidedly low-tech affair. There was a lot of laughter and tears, and opportunities both learned and lost. It was hard to adapt to the laid back pace after coming from the hyper-sanitation and corporate environment of an industrial kitchen. There were other issues - some of which had to do with my inability to deal well with stress, working with a distracted staff and learning to make-do with less. Overall, the experience taught me a lot about cooking and myself; lessons that I still use to this day.

One of the best recipes I learned to make was a root vegetable "burger" or "cake". I made them almost daily; aside from the very good soups, they were the best selling item we made. I made so many in my 8 months that I no longer need to follow a recipe. We would have so many customers during the Flower Show in March we would have to cranked out hundreds of garden veggie cakes - my hands were stained orange from handling and grating all the carrots. Even though my experiences were hard earned, I did take away a love of soup and vegetarian cookery. This is one of my favorite vegetable recipes. The garden vegetable cakes are nutritional and tasty. They freeze well once baked. They can be made as mini burgers and served on miniature party buns, fantastic as hors d' oeuvres. You can also make a larger thinner cake - about the size of a large tortilla, which can be baked and then used as a pizza base for an all vegetable pizza.
Garden Vegetable Cakes - Ingredients
  • 1 Medium Sweet Potato
  • 1 Medium/Large Idaho Potato
  • 1 Large Parsnip
  • 2 Large Carrots
  • 1 Large Yellow or Spanish Onion
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Cumin
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat or All Purpose Flour – (to start, use more if needed)

Equipment:

  • Box Grater, or Shredding Blade & Food processor
  • Sheet pan
  • Parchment paper, tin foil or a Silpat for baking
  • 1 Tablespoon Vegetable or Light Olive Oil for baking

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375ยบ
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment, tin foil or a silpat and coat with oil – using enough to oven-fry your vegetable cakes – but not so much that you are deep frying them! Set the baking sheet aside.
  3. Scrub and peel all the vegetables. Either using the coarse side of a box grater, or the shredding disk of a food processor, grate the vegetables. Squeeze out excess water from the shredded vegetables.
  4. Put all the shredded vegetables into a large bowl & mix until well combined. Add the eggs, cumin & salt & pepper. Mix again until incorporated.
  5. Add flour, ¼ cup at a time, until mixture will hold together and form a sticky ball. Use more flour if necessary, but do not use too much or else your garden cakes will be too heavy.
  6. Use a 4 or 6 oz ice-cream scoop or a ½ measuring cup, to scoop out the vegetable mixture and place onto the baking sheet. Smooth down the tops so it resembles a patty.
  7. Bake 12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.
  8. With a spatula, carefully turn the patties over and bake another 15-20 minutes.
  9. Garden cakes are done when they are medium golden brown on both sides and tender inside. Garden cakes can be served hot or warm with salsa, as a garden burger on a bun.
When I made the garden vegetable cakes for the recipe photo shoot, I whipped up a quick batch of Mango Salsa. Here's the skinny on this quick salsa:










  • 3 Plum Tomatoes - cut in half & seeded, then small dice
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - minced
  • 1/2 Jalapeno - seeded & minced
  • 1 Ripe Mango - peeled and small dice
  • 1/2 Medium White Onion - small dice
  • 1/2 Small-Medium Red Bell Pepper - small dice
  • 1 Lime - Zest & Juice - use a micro planer to zest the lime then juice it
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro - loosely packed - rough chop
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
  • 4-5 Dashes Hot Sauce - optional
Directions:
Prepare all the vegetables and fruit as directed. Add each diced, minced or prepared item to a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Add in both the lime zest and juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Season with hot sauce if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before serving. Will hold up to 3 days tightly covered and refrigerated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Oven-Fried Tofu Bites

I'm enamored with the Deceptively Delicious cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld. I made the healthy mac & cheese again tonight, as well as another new recipe - Tofu Nuggets. As usual I found a way to make the recipe heart healthier and even more Weight Watcher friendly. The recipe can officially be my own version with props to the source (to whomever it might originally belong.) The recipe, like so many in this book is easily adaptable to whatever seasonings you have on hand and can be served with a variety of dipping sauces. You definately need to serve the tofu bites with a sauce; the outer coating is dry because you don't use any oil to fry the nuggets, hence they are not greasy or too moist.

Oven-Fried Tofu Bites
  • 1 Cup Breadcrumbs - White or Whole Wheat
  • 1 Tablespoon Grated Cheese - Parmesan, Locatelli or Pecorino Romano
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasonings - or a mixture of dried Basil, Parsely, Oregano & Thyme
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Paprika
  • Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste
  • 1 Large Egg - lightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Cup Spinach Puree
  • 1 Package (about 1 pound) Firm or Extra Firm Tofu - cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Non-Stick Cooking Spray
Equipment Needed:
Sheet or Baking Tray
Parchment Paper, Aluminum Foil or a Silpat
Tongs

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line a baking tray or sheet pan with either parchment paper, aluminum foil or a Silpat.
  3. Spray the lined sheet tray with the non-stick cooking spray and coat well.
  4. In a shallow bowl or shallow baking pan, mix together the breadcrumbs, grated cheese, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
  5. Beat the egg lightly and whisk in the Dijon mustard. Pour the egg mixture into another shallow bowl or shallow baking pan and stir in the spinach puree. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a dash of freshly ground pepper.
  6. Cut the tofu in half through its center to make two equal halves. Cut each half block of tofu into 1/2 inch cubes.
  7. Dip the tofu cubes into the spinach egg mixture and the into the seasoned breadcrumbs to completely coat on all sides.
  8. Place each coated tofu cube onto the lined sheet tray. When all the tofu cubes are completely coated and on the sheet tray, spray them lighlty with cooking spray and put the tray into the oven to bake.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes; rotate the tray and bake for another ten minutes. Remove tray from oven, and turn the tofu cubes over using tongs. Return tofu to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the tofu cubes are golden brown and crispy on the outside.
  10. Serve hot with marinara sauce, salsa, low-fat ranch dressing or honey mustard.

Flavor options - Mexican - instead of Italian Seasonings, use Taco or Mexican seasonings and omit the Grated Cheese. Serve with salsa or a low-fat sour cream mixed with Taco or Mexican seasoning. Chinese - try using Chinese Five Spice Powder, omiting the cheese and Dijon Mustard; instead whisk into the egg and spinach puree a Chinese Mustard packet. Serve with Duck Sauce or Rice Wine Vinegar flavored with Soy Sauce and Chili Garlic Sauce.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Adorable Dogs in Coats and Garb









Talk about inspiration! I realized I now have a photo collection of dogs in coats and garb to share. You start taking one photo, and 20 photos later, you have a set. These are some of the best and brightest stars of Center City I've spotted over the past few weeks.
  1. George, from the suburbs. He is sporting his hand knit sweater. He garnered a lot of attention in Rittenhouse Square.
  2. Nyla, a dog up for adoption by PhillyPaws. The group was in Rittenhouse Square on Sunday, Feb 17th, with many dogs. Nyla was the sweetest with amazingly beautiful eyes.
  3. Kraymbau - a sweet old Chow and her owner, Daniella. Kraymbau has a touch of arthritis, and Daniella takes her out in her carriage for a daily stroll to Rittenhouse Square.
  4. Dog in a Taylor Shop window. I think I may have posted it before. The taylor shop has a selection of dog clothes on display, probably for sale, but also to show their expertise.
  5. Hamlet in his Old Navy "Leather Bomber" Jacket. One of the few times he relented to wearing it.
  6. Elegant Dog in a Shearling Coat outside of Rouge - Rittenhouse Square.
To view more of my collected dog photos as well as other great pictures, visit my Flickr site - located under Neenyd03, or click on my photo link to the right of the blog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

This and that

There are days when I am thinking about things to write and share. I find I'm pondering more than actual composing. This has been one of those weeks. I suppose it's that I want to be inspired before I blog and have the musings read as original. The will and desire are here but my computer has been malfunctioning and my time has been limited. It's enough to drive me to throw the computer out a window in utter frustration. I haven't been super busy, just super frustrated.
I've been cooking a lot but not anything especially fabulous worth recipe memorializing. I did get a new wok finally! An amazing purchase bargains that happen every once in blue moon. I was working at Williams-Sonoma, in the right place at the right time. An All-Clad wok was returned, never used. It was one the company no longer sells, and had been marked down from $200 to $20! You might think I'd be woking and rolling every night, but alas, I have not. So far in the past week I've made two very excellent stir fry dishes. One with loads of vegetables and salmon and a sauce that is a variation of the essential Soy Orange Ginger Sauce; the second stir fry was a Sesame & Peanut Noodle Sauce with vegetables.

A warm front moved into Philly on Thursday and Friday making it ideal mid-winter biking weather. Since our office closes early on Friday afternoons, I was able to get out on my bike and take a ride around Kelly Drive. While I'm not riding as much as I want to or will come spring, my shorter rides are a salve to my soul. I find that I'm able to ride 10 to 18 miles, round trip, between 1 to 1 &1/2 hours. I'm trying to concentrate on riding faster for a shorter amount of time versus long distances. The wind is usually a factor on how fast and far I can go. Had there not been a head-wind along most of Kelly Drive coming off the river, I think I would have made the trip in an hour. The ride was physically satisfying - getting in my exericise points as well as getting in some nice visuals. Excellent late afternoon for bird watching too! I heard that this is a big birding weekend - maybe because birds are starting to migrate? I saw the usual suspects along the river, over-fed Canadian Geese too blotted to waddle; a tree full of robins; several hawks -one of which I've been watching in Rittenhouse Square for the past week; a stunning cardinal flying through the brush along the river banks; and a female blue-jay.

PhOTOS LEFT: This is the Rittenhouse Square Hawk. I watched it one day while it was eating its prey, but alas, I did not have my camera that afternoon. Too bad, it was low enough in a tree that I could have taken a few gory detailed photos! CENTER: Rowers on The Schuykill River. RIGHT: View of Laurel Hill Cemetary from Kelly Drive.


Caught that movie, Juno, on Friday evening. It's a sweet, touching film, good for the whole family with no huge moral dilemas or issues to beat you upside the head. Going to see this movie re-reminded me that I really love to go to the movies and don't go enough. I enjoy going by myself, mostly because it's hard for Liz and I to have evenings free together - her schedule is so evening oriented & I'm the day time office worker. Reconnecting to seeing movies on my own reminds me of discovering the Ritz movie theater when I was 19 and 20. There were so many great films to see and discover as a young adult - I was seeing and discovering myself at the same time and the movies helped in a way. I can feel that same giddiness and wonderment in the theater when I watch an especially moving or intense film now. It makes me jazzed up and full of things to talk about; I want to rewatch certain old movies again, or finally watch ones I should have seen 20 years ago. The other thing about seeing a good or great film is that it starts me wanting to see other good films out now and it also makes me want to read more and to listen to music. Funny how that works. A movie that is adapted from a good book will make me currious about the book, and any articles about said movie. If the movie has a good sound track, I want to hear it, collect the other songs by those artists and then that spurs me to listen to other similary music. It's all a connected process, one idea leading to another and making me feel artistically and intellecutally whole.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Over the River

My blog purpose is to showcase recipes, photos, humor and the occasional side order of bicycle tales. I realized I have yet to fulfill my mission statement! Mostly I have not bee riding as much as I do and will in the warmer weather. However, by the temperature readings in Philadelphia this past week, I could technically be doing many long distance voyages on my trusty aluminum steed. Between my work schedules, general laziness and the still dark and short days, I haven't been able to ride much more than back and forth to the office. Hey, I'll take the 4 miles a day - it's better than nothing and saves me at least $5.50 a day.

This past Saturday, I got in a ride with my friend, Susan Hill. That's her, as we stared on our ride. She's an avid cyclist and all around high energy and fit lady. Nice cycling partner who doesn't seem to mind my slower ascents up hills and the occasional derailment to stop and take photos. She suggested that we conquer the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, a crossing I've been wanting to try since I started riding more seriously. There are still so many rides and places I've not tried or accomplished even though I have lived in Philadelphia all of my 40 years. Aside from walking across a bridge in Pittsburgh (and really, does that count?), I don't recall if I have ever gone over a major bridge on foot or two wheels. We can cross that off my life list of 1,000 places and things to do before I die. WHOOHOO! Big Accomplishment! Seriously, it was fun. I don't' know that I would have felt in shape enough prior to the weight loss. Nor would I have felt confident enough to scale such a height. The bike climb up the bridge pedestrian path is gradual enough so I didn't fee winded. The railings on either side of the bridge are high, sturdy and safe. The path is wide enough to accommodate cyclists, joggers and the occasional Rollerblader.

After we crossed the bridge and landed on the Jersey side, we rode around the Camden riverfront, taking in the sights of the Campbell Soup River Sharks Ballpark; Battleship dock; and the New Jersey State Aquarium. Surprisingly, it's quite nice on the Camden side of the Delaware River, at least in these areas. It's clean with open spaces and easy accessiblity. Clearly the Jersey politico's and planners have a better thought out plan for their side of the River than our brethren in Philly. Don't get me started!

We passed through the Rutgers Camden Campus, small but safe looking. Found the Walt Whitman House, one of three small row-homes standing alone in an empty lot neighborhood that's going through some major re-gentrification. Along the riverfront, we stopped to view a gaggle of motorcycles parked in front of the SS Battleship New Jersey.
Members of The Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club were parked out front of the dock landing. Not sure what of the occasion, the sight of all these gorgeous machines was startling.





I had a bit of trouble heading back to Philadelphia, I couldn't quite catch my breath going back up the bridge. The climb carrying my bike up the stairs and trying to peddle up a more steep ascent was a bit much for me. Susan left me in the dust, getting a good healthy head start, while I struggled to pedal faster than 5 miles an hour, clear my phlegmy throat and not take a lot of pictures. I stopped twice, and yes, took a few photos along the way just to "document" my journey for posterity! Susan actually noticed these bird decals at the midspan part of the bridge. While I did not get to take nearly as many photos as I wanted, there will be other times to cross the bridge and chances to snap the images and things I missed on this trip. Provided the sun is out and the wind isn't beating me down, I'll be adding this trip to my biking itineraries soon.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Weight Watcher Friendly Mac and Cheese

I am totally enthralled by a new cookbook - Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious. I finally bought a copy after having drooled over it for weeks. The recipes are a snap to make and are healthy, smart and Weight Watcher friendly. Plus, big bonus, the photographs are divine! The pictures show you exactly how the finished product will look and they are a food stylists inspiration. The book is enjoyable for novice cooks because the preparations are carefully laid out. Tools and equipment are discussed. Nutritional advice is clear and concise. The recipes are family and kid-friendly. The design of the book has a fun, campy retro feel to it. I love this book so much that I am sure I'll be making almost everything in this book before Spring Training begins!


Not this book isn't without its controversy. There have been substantial claims against Mrs. Seinfeld's credibility, recipe creation and claim to fame for having "thought up the idea" of hiding vegetables in her kiddies chicken nuggets. Granted, she is a celebrity wife and mother; New York Socialite-lite, and has a crack team of ghost cookbook writers, stylists, nutritionists and photographers working behind the scenes to make this book a sensation. I still love it. According to an article I read at Slate.com - there may be grounds for having borrowed ideas already out there, but there's no real plagiarism. For me the beauty of this cookbook is in it's simplicity. I like the idea of fortifying recipes with healthier food substitutions and additions - no matter who's recipes these are in Deceptively Delicious. They are low-fat, low sugar and appear to be very well thought-out. For me, it's not about hiding vegetables in my food - I love veggies. It's more a matter of increasing my choices and adding in more pure food where I can. Heck, if a macaroni and cheese dish can be healthier, than it's for me.


Sunday evening I tested out the first recipe by modifying Mrs. Seinfeld's Mac & Cheese 1. It became a Weight Watchers' friendly, Core Plan/2- point per serving side dish that was tasty and extremely low-fat. I couldn't believe it was as good as it looked. This photo doesn't do it justice but I'm sure you get the idea. Here's my version of the recipe:




Weight Watcher Friendly Macaroni & Cheese Ingredients:


  • 2 Cups Uncooked Whole Wheat Pasta - shells, bow-ties, or penne
  • 1 Tablespoon Light Butter or Margarine
  • 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Skim Milk
  • 4 - 1 Ounce Packages Weight Watchers Shredded Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese or 1 & 1/4 Cups Fat Free or Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese of Choice
  • 1/2 Cup Butternut Squash Puree
  • 1/4 Cup Fat-Free Cream Cheese
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper - to taste
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Paprika
  • Dash Cayenne
  • Pinch of Nutmeg


Directions:
  1. Cook Pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is al dente - firm with a bit of bite, not crunchy and not mushy. Drain but do not rinse; cover, set aside and keep pasta warm.
  2. While the pasta water is coming to a boil and the pasta cooks, prepare the cheese sauce.
  3. In a small sauce pan, make a roux - heat the 1 tablespoon of light butter/margarine over medium heat until it melts. Whisk in the 1 tablespoon of flour and cook the flour/butter for 2 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste and to make a paste.
  4. Whisk in the milk, stirring well to smooth out any lumps. Simmer the milk and continue stirring - about 3 minutes. The milk should begin to thicken; when the mixture coats the back of a spoon, you are ready to add in the other ingredients.
  5. Reduce heat to low and stir in the butternut squash puree.
  6. Add in the cream cheese - whisking to make the sauce smooth and to incorporate the butternut squash puree and cream cheese.
  7. Add in the shredded cheese and stir or whisk to thoroughly incorporate.
  8. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground pepper, paparika, dash of cayenne and pinch of nutmeg.
  9. Pour the cheese mixture over the hot cooked pasta and stir to coat evenly. Taste and adjust seasonings again. Serves 4 as a generous side dish.