One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

We've had warm and sunny weather this month. The crabapple tree is heavy with fruit!

I took this photo on a warm and sunny day. The crabapple tree in the backyard is heavy with fruit!

It’s the dark and gray month of November here in Vermont. So what is better than tucking in when you get home with a nice warm plate of macaroni and cheese? This one-pan dish is easy to make, plus it’s filled with broccoli and winter squash with less cheese, so you can feel good about eating this healthy twist on an all-time favorite!

I made this dish one lazy Saturday night; it had been a long day and I wanted something tasty and satisfying for dinner and yet I didn’t want to be in the kitchen cooking all night. I love one-pot meals, along with being simple to cook it makes cleanup easy! And this dish is easy enough you can fix it on a busy weeknight.

Don’t be put off from the color; the squash can give the dish an almost neon orange color. The broccoli gives a nice crunch with the creamy cheesy noodles and the bacon lends just a hint of a smoky flavor. Vegetarians (and other eaters) can easily omit the bacon and substitute vegetable broth or water for a completely veggie meal. I buy bacon a couple of times a year and when I do (unless I plan on frying up the entire package), I’ll wrap two-slice servings individually in cellophane and stick it in the freezer in a plastic bag so I have two slices ready to go for recipes like this. No need to defrost, just chop and fry. Served with a simple salad of greens, this was one dish you’ll definitely want to go back for seconds and put on your winter meal rotation!

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One-Pan Broccoli-Bacon Mac ‘n’ Cheese

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
1 cup 1% low-fat milk
1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed
10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni
3 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)

1 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.

2. Remove all but 2 teaspoons bacon drippings from pan. Add garlic to ­drippings in pan; sauté 30 seconds.

3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.

5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.

rubbermaidMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids
This endorsement is sponsored by Cooking Light and Rubbermaid®.

One morning as I was making my lunch, I was lamenting the condition of my leftover dish drawer. I was in a hurry and trying to find containers plus a lid to go with each one so I could pack up my lunch. I try to keep things organized in the kitchen, but when I’m in a hurry, I can never find things easily and get frustrated with myself for not organizing things better and that I’m running late. That afternoon, I received an email asking if I wanted to test out Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids. I answered quickly with a resounding YES!

This 20-piece set includes different size nesting containers with the same cover fitting each one! Plus the covers snap together, so they are no longer roaming around all over the drawer! The different sizes are great for all sorts of things; they are handy for packing leftovers for lunch, prepping ingredients for dinner, and keeping my dried beans and grains in the cupboard. Best of all, when I’m getting ready for lunch, I’m not spending forever trying to find a lid, they are all right there. I’m thinking about buying another set!

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Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

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A drive over the mountain recently displayed no leaves left on the trees. Winter is coming. But sometimes we are treated to breathtaking sunrises, which brings beauty to the day.

Put me in the camp with former president George H. W. Bush–I don’t like broccoli. But I usually put some in my grocery cart each week. It’s dark, green, is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and everyone says you should eat it because it’s good for you. The only time I ever like it is late July and early August when I buy it at the farmer’s market; it was picked that morning and it so fresh it’s sweet. Steamed with a little bit of butter, salt, pepper, and a squirt or two of lemon, I could eat a huge bowl of the stuff. But any other time of the year, I’m less than enthused. So one day I said to myself if I should eat this, I’m going to eat it MY way!

It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a soup recipe, and in fact a while since I’ve even made a soup. But with the weather turning colder, I wanted something to warm me mid-day and decided to create a blended soup using the broccoli and  cheddar cheese I had in the fridge. This made just slightly over two cups, and was enough for two lunches; I am the type of eater who gets tired of eating the same thing every day and two days is about my max, so it was perfect for the week’s end of lunches.

I know how I’m eating my broccoli from now on!

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Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup
For a vegetarian version, you can easily substitute water or vegetable broth in place of chicken broth. And be careful with the cayenne; don’t just dump some in like I did! Add it 1/8 teaspoon at a time to taste. 

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
½ onion or about ½ cup, finely diced
About 5 cups of chopped broccoli
2 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth or water, more if needed later
¾-1 cup grated cheese
Cayenne pepper, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add the olive oil to your soup pot and gently warm over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté slowly until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Stir in the broccoli, and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat for the broccoli to simmer until very soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Lower heat and with a soup ladle, puree the soup in a blender or food processor in batches until all the soup is very smooth and creamy.
  5. Stir in the cheese, cayenne, if using, and the salt and pepper. Add more liquid if needed, and serve!

Some Exciting News for My Vermont Kitchen!
Starting this week, My Vermont Kitchen is now a member of Cooking Light magazine’s “Bloggers’ Connection.” My Vermont Kitchen joins just a handful of food blogs from across the country that partner with the magazine. Since I’ve been a reader since the 1990s and really learned how to cook from the recipes in the magazine, I think this is a perfect collaboration. And don’t worry that things will change here; you’ll still receive a recipe every Wednesday morning, you just might get a few more each month! So it is a win-win situation for all!