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Joe Vandal’s Hidden Treasure Mac and Cheese

By Megan Johnson, Sara Tikker and Annie McGee

Thanksgiving is a time to bring families together and share yummy food, but sometimes new or different foods like traditional stuffing or casserole recipes may send little ones running for the hills! Before you reach in agony for that blue box in the cupboard, let Joe Vandal tell you the secret of his hidden treasure! But what is Joe Vandal’s hidden treasure? Butternut squash! Pureed butternut squash lends this macaroni and cheese its vibrant gold color and adds to the buttery mouthfeel, all the while keeping fat and calories low! Fall is the perfect time to utilize this colorful and nutritious veggie, and when combined with macaroni and a homemade cheese sauce tiny tummies will never be able to tell that this casserole is secretly healthy! One bite of this velvety macaroni and cheese will ensure your taste buds are begging for more. Its luxuriously creamy texture and decadent rich taste are sure to make it a hit at the adult table as well as the kids’ table! Your guests will never guess that this seemingly sinful dish is actually full of fiber and contains a third of your daily calcium and vitamin A needs.

  • Oven: 375
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 9 servings


  • 1 ½ cups cooked whole wheat macaroni noodles
  • ¾ lb shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. flour
  • ½ cup fat free milk
  • 3 T. cream
  • ½ large butternut squash, steamed
  • ½ medium white onion, diced and browned
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (preferably whole wheat)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Take the steamed butternut squash and cut it into chunks, removing the exterior peel. Place squash chunks in a blender or food processor. Process until squash is smooth and has no lumps, it should come out to about ¾ of a cup. Next mix 1 T. butter and 1 T. all-purpose flower in a non-stick pan over low heat (2-3 setting out of 10). Once melted begin adding in milk and cream one tablespoon at a time, mixing vigorously to incorporate milk with pasty flour/ butter mixture. Continue to add in milk and cream slowly until all the milk and cream have been added. Add in cheese 1/2 c. at a time (make sure the cheese is fully melted before adding more), continuing to add until all cheese is melted. At this point the sauce should be thick but not lumpy. Add in blended squash and onions and mix until fully combined. Grease an 8x8 pan and spread macaroni noodles across the bottom in an even layer. Pour the cheese sauce across the top of the noodles and top with breadcrumbs. Bake for 15 minutes, or until top is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition facts:

Calories: 274
Calcium: 32% of RDA
Carbohydrates: 20g
Vitamin A: 32% of RDA
Protein: 14g
Fat: 16g
Saturated fat: 10g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 283mg

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