Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Breaking a Pregnancy Taboo (oh and a baby announcement)

Macaroni and cheese with butternut squash puree mixed in with the cheese sauce.

I don’t know how to talk about this so most of the time I keep very quiet. You see, I’m breaking a very serious rule about pregnancy. The rule is that you are supposed to be so happy to be pregnant. There are permissible modifiers to this rule and they include: you can be unhappy or even miserable (but only in a physical sense) because of terrible pregnancy symptoms and you are allowed to be worried about the well-being of the baby. What you can’t be is thrown into a serious but still functional depression after seeing the test show positive.

I had been just coming out of the darkness of what was likely post-partum depression from both having both my sons. On speaking with someone, she believes that I never really addressed PPD that I had with Timothy. This became cumulative PPD with Patrick. I was certainly worse off with Patrick than Timothy, so her theory holds some water.

The panic, shock, and heavy burden that I was faced with during the excruciatingly long nine months that was upcoming eventually turned into a rather dark depression. Then the nausea and headaches started, which brought me lower.

I’m really good at keeping up appearances. I still smile and say thank you when congratulated about baby number three. We did the de rigueur Facebook announcement after the twelve week mark and I was happy about how happy everyone seemed to be. I put on a pretty good show for Patrick’s birthday and most of the time I keep my shit together enough to make sure the house and my boys are well turned out. There are moments when I am doing all of this that I have to stop and close my eyes, calm down and push forward just until I can be alone. Sleep is often not a refuge for me since it does not come easily and when it does, it is disturbed, sometimes to the point where I’ve woken up crying.

Does this depression mean that I am a bad mother? No, absolutely not. This only means that I am a struggling woman. I’m actually a pretty kick ass mom. It also means that I am one of the many women who struggle quietly with depression during pregnancy.

Back to the rules of emotions during pregnancy…If you feel anything less than joy at finding out you are pregnant and dare to talk about it with more than just your most intimate friends or partner, be sure to quickly add a qualifying statement about how much you will love your baby when it arrives. It is key that everyone know that you are aware that you are supposed to be really happy and that you will be a good mother to the new baby. Heaven forbid that you be allowed to experience your emotions without being made to feel guilty about them. You simply must reassure people that you know your feelings are wrong. Wait. No. Don’t do any of that. You can feel depressed about being pregnant or having a baby and those feelings can be respected without qualifying them with what people believe you should be feeling.

I’m very lucky that my husband is incredibly supportive and has never told me that what I’m feeling is wrong. He simply steps up with the boys wherever he can and then listens to what I have to say. Listening without condemnation, without attempting to correct how someone is feeling, and listening with simple compassion helps someone suffering depression beyond measure.

There are days when I order in dinner and there are days that I make a full spread of a dinner that includes salad, a main dish, proper side dishes and even dessert. There are days in between that where I crave comfort, ease, and the satisfaction of a meal that my children love. The process of cooking a dinner that is enjoyed and has a decent amount of a healthy vegetable buried within a luscious cheese sauce gives me a heightened level of motherly satisfaction that helps on those rough days.

Yields 6 servings

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese with pureed butternut squash, flavoured and garnished with fresh sage and pancetta.

1 hrPrep Time

1 hrCook Time

2 hrTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 4 slices of pancetta, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh sage (optional)
  • 1 shallot or small onion, minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (preferably a mature cheddar)
  • 1- 1 1/2 cups pureed butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream (use milk if preferred)
  • 2 tbsp crumbled goats cheese (for garnish - optional)
  • 300 grams dry penne or other preferred shape (2/3 of a package)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F and line a cookie sheet with foil. Cut a small or medium butternut squash lengthwise down the centre. Scoop out the seeds and place the squash cut side down on the pan.
  2. Roast for 40 minutes or until a knife goes into the thickest part of the squash easily (like a hot knife through butter).
  3. Flip the squash over and scoop out the flesh using a spoon and put it in a bowl. Puree it with a potato masher. Measure out 1 cup or more if preferred and set it aside (the recipe is flexible enough that you can use more squash if you like). If it is a large squash, put any extra in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer for another day.
  4. Set a large pot full of water on the stove and bring to the boil in readiness to cook the pasta.
  5. In a large and deep pan or another pot, heat the olive oil and add the pancetta. Cook the pancetta until it is crisp and then remove it from pan. Set it aside to add to the macaroni and cheese later.
  6. If using fresh sage, add it to the hot oil to crisp up briefly and then remove it from the pan and set aside with the pancetta.
  7. Add the minced shallot or onion to the oil and pancetta fat. Cook for several minutes or until softened.
  8. Add the butter and when it has melted add the flour and whisk it together until it makes a paste, this is your roux. Let the flour cook for one minute and then slowly start to add the milk. Whisk in about half a cup of milk at first. Whisk vigorously as it creates a very thick paste. Then slowly add more milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. If it starts to lump, stop adding milk and whisk until the lumps have been incorporated into the sauce and then continue adding the remainder of the milk.
  9. Whisk in the dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and bring the sauce to a simmer.
  10. Whisk in the shredded cheese. When it has melted whisk in the pureed butternut squash and 1/2 cup of whipping cream (half and half or milk will be just fine if you prefer a lower fat option).
  11. Turn the heat down to low or even turn it off altogether while you cook the pasta.
  12. Cook the pasta until just barely al dente as it will continue to cook within the sauce as you bake it.
  13. As the pasta cooks, turn the oven on to 400 F if you had turned it off after roasting the squash. Butter a large casserole dish.
  14. Drain the now al dente pasta and add it to the cheese sauce. Pour the whole mixture into the casserole dish and top it with the reserved pancetta, crisp sage, and crumbled goat's cheese. Add some extra shredded cheddar if you like as well.
  15. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. It should be bubbly around the edge and starting to get golden brown in places on top.
  16. Serve generously.
http://strawberriesforsupper.com/butternut-squash-macaroni-cheese/

Cheese Cappelletti Updated

Comments

  1. says

    I’m listening. Your story is so important, both for women who are struggling with depression in pregnancy or PPD, and for anyone who thinks it’s all hearts and flowers. Thank you for sharing and best wishes. Big hugs.

  2. says

    I think it’s so important for women to start speaking up more about this. Too many have guilt over how they “should” feel but they end up feeling very alone because they wonder why they can’t be happy like everyone else. Thank you for sharing.

  3. diversivore says

    Putting the recipe aside for a moment (it sounds wonderful), I just wanted to say how much I appreciate what you’re saying. Obviously I can’t pretend to empathize with trials and tribulations of pregnancy, but I do believe that it’s important for people everywhere to remember that how you feel and emotionally process something as major as pregnancy, childbirth, or parenthood doesn’t need to follow some sort of pre-approved template, nor does it always entail happy sunny thoughts. I got a teaching job one week before my first son was born, and the insane workload coupled with a difficult and exhausting time at home left me utterly spent and frequently frustrated. It was tough to explain wanting to tear my hair out or scream into a pillow while simultaneously explaining how much I loved my baby. It took me a very, VERY long time to adjust, and to accept that not all of my parenting feelings are going to be smiles and sunshine. Now with two boys and a very busy blog schedule, I have to remind myself of this. And all of this is without any of the physical or hormonal issues presented by pregnancy (etc.). It’s hard enough to understand the complex emotions we feel without comparing them to some sort of societal standard. Thank you for having the courage to say this.

    Now… as for the recipe – well, it looks pretty freakin’ awesome. I’m always looking to figure out new ways to sneak veggies into my kids (who isn’t?) and this sounds pretty tempting. There’s a substantial amount of squash in there! Kudos! Too often mac and cheese recipes just pay lip-service to the veggie component, so well done. All the best.

  4. kelliemacmillan says

    Hi Christina : I am a person like you who has had PPD – actually I had post partum thyroiditis which mimics post partum depression. I am so glad you have shared and it is very important to be honest and keep pushing though stereotypes.
    Your feelings are completely natural and being a parent is not rainbows and butterflies for many, regardless of what we see.
    I certainly don’t want to pretend what you are going through is easy but I’d like to in the friendliest way encourage you to seek medical help immediately. If you have experienced PPD with your 2 prior pregnancies, your risk at this time are incredibly high and you should be looked after immediately by a professional.
    I in no way have medical experience, just some knowledge and you don’t really know me except in FBC and I apologize if this is in the wrong format but by sharing your post today I simply can not pass your situation by.
    Big hugs to you.

    • says

      Thanks Kellie. Not to worry, I’m seeing a therapist who is very well qualified specifically in this area. I have also discussed the situation with my midwife. My doctor is also aware so I’m not going this road alone. I didn’t go into those details in my post but I understand you concern. 🙂

      • kelliemacmillan says

        Christina, I’m so glad to know that you are in good care. I’ve been thinking about you since I read this post. It’s the first time I’ve left a comment like this and sometimes I’m a reactor and that can get me in to trouble, but in this instance I’m glad you responded so quickly and I can rest assured.
        That being said, I do wish you all the health, lovingness and support that is available to you. Your honesty is such a great attribute, not only did you share your story but I’m sure will help others as well.
        All the very best to you.
        Kellie
        P.S. I will be checking in on you through your blog in the future.
        xoxo

  5. says

    Oh my god Christina, every time I see one of these butternut squash mac’n’cheese recipes I die a little, and somehow I have yet to make it and try it for myself. They look so creamy and dreamy, yet appear to be on the healthier side. Sounds like a winning combo to me. I need to get on this stat.

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