So I feel like I’ve said this a billion times but, what in the world happened to the year?
Wow, I know that time has a way of sneaking by but this is ridiculous. The last few months are a blur in my memory. Maybe it doesn’t seem as drastic to you, but if that’s the case I’m hoping you’re still as excited as I am about the next few months. And if the first three quarters of the year have passed like they have then the last one is pretty much over. Actually, that’s something my dad has always said. The way he puts it is “Once it hits October the year is gone” and isn’t that so true? The holiday season never seems long enough for me.
Ha, I’m still planning to do everything I can to make my gang sick of pumpkin spice and everything nice before the season is over. I just adore autumn and harvest time flavors and I spend the whole year wanting them. Even with my opposite season problems I’m loving the nostalgic tastes and smell that I’ve been taking advantage of.
One of the things I love to use during the season are all of the different squashes. I think I’ve mentioned this quite a few times but we don’t have regular pumpkins here in Chile. At least, not like the ones I’m used to from growing up in the States. However, there are different varieties here that work fine in replacing traditional pumpkin or butternut squash in recipes.
A few years ago I tried adding pumpkin into a cheese sauce for the first time and was so surprised by how much I loved the final result. It serves multiple purposes because you’re adding good hidden veggies that no one will know about, it adds a slight sweetness to your sauce that is just so comforting and perfect this time of year, and in my case the color helps create the visual of a cheddar sauce when you use white cheddar instead of yellow. That’s another thing that’s rarely seen here, the dark gold-colored cheddar cheese. I honestly prefer white cheddar personally, but when we first moved here and I was trying to recreate classic mac and cheese using pumpkin puree was my lifesaver. It was awesome.
On a more serious note, I’m continuing to realize that in life there are days where you just can’t, you know what I mean? Do you ever have moments of feeling like, “Where did my user’s manual go the day I got brought into this mess?” As dangerous as it would be, I sometimes feel like it would be enlightening and helpful if people could read each others minds just long enough to realize that everyone has their own struggles.
In fact, it’s typically the best poker faces and cleanest façades that are hiding the biggest messes underneath. I’m just trying to say that I think it’s refreshing to hear someone admit that they don’t have it all together. Guys, I don’t have it all together. That’s not always a bad thing though because it’s when we are the most lost the we learn to put our trust in God. I’m really trying to learn that right now and I’m willing to bet you could be too. You may not know what you’re tomorrow holds but you can know the One who holds your tomorrow. Regardless of your faith or situation in life I just wanted to say that to you because when I started this blog I wanted it to be about more than just sharing the food and I still feel that way.
On the other hand I, of course, love the part of getting to share all my recipe with you too and this pasta is one that I really think you’ll love. It’s simple, delicious, and everyone in my family ate it (which says a lot because there are some really picky eaters in my house.). I’d love to hear feedback if you decide to try it!
- 4 boneless chicken breasts*
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 16 ounces (or 450g) penne pasta noodles, cooked al dente and drained
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, pureed**
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated swiss cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup additional parmesan
- 1/2 cup crispy bacon bits
- 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook on both sides, flipping once, until just cooked through , about 5-6 minutes on each side. Set aside and cover to keep warm. (If using rotisserie chicken you can skip this step.)
- Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the onions, peppers and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Add the squash puree and stir constantly for about 1 minute until darkened, then remove pan from heat and scrape the contents into a separate bowl or plate and set aside for a moment.
- Now melt the butter in the skillet and whisk together the milk and flour in a measuring glass or cup until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pan and stir constantly to combine with butter then continue stirring until it starts to thicken. Pour in the broth and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and paprika, then bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and add the yogurt( or sour cream) and cheeses and stir until evenly melted into the sauce.
- Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces and add it to the sauce along with the veggie mixture and stir until evenly heated through. Now add the pasta and gently fold into sauce until evenly combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper and serve hot. If desired top with extra parmesan, toasted pepitas, and bacon bits.
*For the chicken breasts you can use skin on or choose skinless. Another alternative is to replace the breasts with the meat from one cooked rotisserie chicken **To cook the squash for a puree you can choose to either roast or boil it. Pumpkin puree can be substituted as well.