A Cheesy Challenge Accepted

About a month ago I had an intriguing email in my inbox. It was from Megan at the 20 Minute Supper Club, inviting me to participate in a new recipe contest on their site called the 20MSC Favourite Food Fight! With a name like that, I was definitely interested. Plus they are Canadian based – bonus points! Basically, you have to create a recipe for the theme that month, and submit it along with a photo. Sounds easy enough. The theme for October was “Cheesy Pasta”. Um, cheese? Hell yeah I’m in!

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I brainstormed a few ideas, knowing I wanted to keep some degree of healthiness in mind. I didn’t want to do the traditional mac & cheese, and I knew tomato sauces would NOT be involved. For awhile, I thought about using bacon, but that never materialized.

At some point in time, I remembered a recipe from one of my Rachel Ray cookbooks where she made a butternut squash mac & cheese, and thought I would try incorporating that idea into my own dish. Seemed like a great way to kick up the veggie content, and create a creamy sauce without actually using a ton of cream or cheese. 

But despite all of that planning, I almost didn’t get a chance to make it. School, work, and all that jazz kept getting in the way. Finally, I just said screw it, and whipped up the dish right after school the day before I had to get my entry in. It was fast and furious, with a quick trip in the middle to pick up some plating dishes, but the results were excellent.

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Creamy, cheesy, wholesome, and delicious – this pasta has it all. Mom really enjoyed the butternut squash in the sauce, and the addition of a  little crumbled goat cheese on top added the perfect taste contrast to the rest of the dish.

So I submitted the dish. And today, the email I was waiting for came – I’m one of 20 finalists in the contest! So now, I have to ask all of you a huge favour. In order to win the contest (which is a KitchenAid Prize Package worth $1000), I need your votes. Yes, the contest all comes down to a vote. I would love it if you could take a minute or so out of your day and hope on over to 20MSC Favourite Food Fight and cast your vote for my Creamy Ham, Mushroom, and Cheese Pasta (it’s at the bottom of column 2). And from what I can tell, you can vote multiple times – if you cast your vote, and then refresh the page, it clears what you had in there. So, ya know…maybe you want to vote twice? Voting runs until the end of the month. Feel free to also link to the contest on your own blogs, because it would be great to get more exposure, and perhaps more entries into next month’s contest. Which is a Qunioa Salad by the way. I’ve already got an idea for that one.

 

Creamy Ham, Mushroom, and Cheese Pasta

Serves 6 – 8

A creamy, cheesy pasta doesn’t have to mean unhealthy. With whole wheat pasta, skim milk, and lots of veggies, this pasta makes a satisfying and delicious weeknight meal. The secret ingredient? Butternut squash!

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  • 2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 250 g whole wheat fusilli pasta, dry
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 227 g cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup cooked ham, diced
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 2 cup shredded aged white cheddar
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 200 g goat cheese, crumbled
  • chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Add 2 to 3 inches of water to a pot that fits a steamer basket, place the cubed butternut squash in the steamer basket, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook squash until fork tender (10 to 15 minutes).
  2. While the squash steams, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente, as per package instructions. Drain when complete. Time it to finish just after your squash is cooked.
  3. Chop the rest of the vegetables and ham, and grate the cheese while the squash and pasta cook.
  4. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp butter and the mushrooms. Sauté until golden brown. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add the rest of the butter, onions and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until the onions are translucent. Stir in the mustard, then sprinkle with flour. Cook for a minute, stirring the entire time.
  6. Add milk and cooked butternut squash, whisking to combine. Allow to cook until sauce thickens. Using an immersion blender, purée sauce until smooth. Whisk in shredded cheddar until smooth. Add chopped ham, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. In the large pot you cooked the pasta in, add the drained pasta, sauce, cooked mushrooms and baby spinach. Stir to combine.
  8. Divide amongst serving bowls and top with crumbled goat cheese and chopped parsley, if desired.

Notes: Feel free to substitute other mushrooms for the cremini, or another green vegetable for the spinach. Crispy chopped bacon would be a good option instead of the ham, or just leave it out.

Please head on over to the 20 Minute Supper Club and vote for my cheesy pasta recipe, and check out the other great recipes of my fellow finalists! I would be forever grateful 🙂

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8 Comments on “A Cheesy Challenge Accepted”

  1. October 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    what a fun contest and great meal!

  2. October 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm #

    Sounds delicious! How can you go wrong with ham and cheese?

  3. October 6, 2010 at 5:19 pm #

    Voted! Good luck!

  4. marie
    October 6, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    I voted! Good luck!

  5. October 6, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    I voted for you! There was lots of mac & cheese there. Good job on being original!

  6. October 7, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Great recipe! I totally ran out of time to participate in that one, but I’m already all over the quinoa challenge!! Good luck!

  7. October 8, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    What a great recipe! I love squash in pasta and you have so many other great things tossed in here. A delicious combo! Great challenge, I voted for you!

  8. October 11, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    You know I voted for you dahhhhhhhhlink!
    Oh man. That does look amazing, and I really would make it!

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