Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Crisp fall nights call for baking. Lots of baking. Cookies and cakes are obvious go-tos anytime I choose to bake something sweet. When it comes to savory dishes, though, the first thing that always comes to mind is pasta.

There’s just something so nice and comforting about taking a big tray of baked, bubbling, cheesy pasta out of the oven. It’s instant happiness and a whole meal without putting in a lot of effort. Sometimes, if I’m in the mood, I’ll serve a big tray of pasta with a side dish, like a green vegetable or a salad. It can help to feel a little bit better about eating all of that cheesy goodness, even if I know, deep down, that it doesn’t make a damn difference.

When it comes to naming a so-called king of baked pastas, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in my house who disagrees with the fact that it’s macaroni and cheese (baked ziti, a distant second place.) It’s one of the most versatile baked pasta dishes that I can make and everyone loves it. I’m always trying new recipes, too — adding spinach or other vegetables, bacon, or simply just loading up on different kinds of cheese because more cheese, more better. The best part is that even when a recipe doesn’t come out quite as I planned, even bad mac and cheese is good.

This is how, on a whim a few years ago, I ended up with this memorable, very orange — and, dare I say, sort-of healthy — mac.

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Pantry Raid: Spinach-Tomato Alfredo with Rotini

Want to see more posts from Meal Prep Week? Search for #MealPrepWeek or see a recap of all of the posts here.

I came home hungry from work one day and was too lazy to make something from scratch. It happens, right? Rather than resulting to take-out, I peeked around in my pantry and freezer for pasta, a jarred sauce, cheese, and some veggies to make this tasty Alfredo pasta dish in about a half-hour or less.

Here’s how I make it. To make things easy, it starts with a good, jarred pasta sauce.

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Swedish Meatballs

I started eating meat again earlier this year after almost 14 full years of being vegetarian (or 10 years, if you don’t want to count the fact that I was technically a pescatarian for the past four.) Swedish meatballs have since become one of my go-to dinners. It is a quick and easy to make dish that is delicious when served over egg noodles with lingonberry jam.

If you don’t have some on-hand already, you’ll want to buy a jar of lingonberry jam to serve with. Similar to eating cranberries with Thanksgiving turkey and gravy, the jam adds a nice, sweet-tart flavor to compliment the rich sour cream gravy that goes with the meatballs.

Fair warning: Don’t try to substitute strawberry or raspberry jam. It won’t be the same. If you’re worried about having leftover jam sitting in your fridge for all eternity, don’t worry — you’ll want to make this dish again (we make it a few times a month, it’s that good) and there are plenty of other uses for it, too.

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Grilled Orange Chicken

Last year was a big year of canning for me. I made countless batches of jams and jellies, fermented pickles, fresh-pack tomatoes in their own juices, a few batches of applesauce, and other things that are happily at-home in my basement pantry.

What I guess I just revealed to you is this: If the zombie apocalypse comes and in the event that anything happens to me (i.e., let’s hope Darryl rescues me from a zombie hoard and we ride off into the sunset together on his motorcycle), my house is a good location to raid for food.

Anyway... I give away a lot of my canned goods as gifts to friends and family, but one of my favorites that I selfishly held on to was a batch of bourbon and black pepper orange marmalade.

I recently had a craving to do something that involved more than just spreading the marmalade on toasted English muffins with butter — which is amazing, by the way. I was also craving Chinese food at the time and thought a savory application, orange chicken with some steamed vegetables, would be the thing to try.

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