Posts made in March 9th, 2012

beer and butternut squash mac and cheese


Posted on Mar 9, 2012 in Food

I think some foods are sacred.

I’m a big fan of health-ifying recipes, but some foods are just not meant to be touched by the hand of a calorie counter. Chili dogs. Shamrock shakes. Bisquick biscuits. And yes, the perfect grilled cheese. I think healthy eating is all about moderation and part of that moderation is honoring the perfectness that is the unhealthy, fat-filled, caloric glory of certain comfort foods on occasion.

Macaroni and cheese used to be one of those foods.

The only previous BTHR macaroni and cheese recipe is a traditional one that includes both bacon and brie. It’s amazing, but definitely not the kind of macaroni and cheese you eat everyday. Which was fine by me. I’d much rather indulge in a brie-filled mac and cheese dish occasionally instead of suffering through the sacrilege that is most of the “healthy” mac and cheese recipes out there.

That is, until Babyface read me the new menu at one of our favorite restaurants. One of the menu items was a macaroni and cheese made with my favorite beer in the whole wide world, Upland Wheat. The light bulb went on and for the first time, I thought I might be able to make a healthy mac and cheese recipe and balance out the healthiness thanks to the addition of booze. Win!

So I got to Googling for healthy mac and cheese recipes, and it seemed that using butternut squash as the base for the cheese sauce was the way to go. The boiled squash turns creamy and smooth once it is run through the blender (much like it does in soup) and serves as a mild and nutty base for a small amount of cheese. Plus, it’s the right color. And we all eat with our eyes, so having the brightly yellow, creamy mac was important.

We were totally bowled over by how decadent and interesting the end result was. Instead of tasting healthy, it tasted creamy, comforting and cheesy. The beer was a light, but noticeable, flavor in the background that made it more addictive with each bite. And at only 300 calories per serving, we will be making it over and over again. It’s a great feeling knowing that with each serving of mac and cheese, you area also getting a ton of Vitamin A thanks to the butternut squash. Vitamin A is vital to keeping our vision healthy and helps us see better in low-light situations.

Beer and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

by Cassie Johnston

Total Time: 60 minutes

Makes: 16 servings

Inspired by: Upland Brewpub

Adapted from: Cooking Light


  • 2-12 ounce packages whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 1 bottle wheat beer
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup 0% Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups shredded gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare two 9 x 9 baking dishes by spraying them liberally with cooking spray.
  2. Cook elbow macaroni according to package directions, omitting fat and salt. Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine squash, beer, garlic, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is very tender, about 25 minutes. The mixture may begin to separate, this is fine.
  4. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, or a standard blender with the steam vent removed, blend squash mixture together until very smooth and creamy. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in yogurt, gruyère, pecorino romano, and butter until cheeses are melted. Add in elbow macaroni and stir until well-coated. The mixture will be very soupy. Divide the mixture evenly between the two prepared baking dishes. Set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together panko and parmesan. Sprinkle evenly over top of both dishes.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and crunchy and sauce is thickened.



What foods are sacred in your book?

confessions of a weight loss waffler


Posted on Mar 9, 2012 in Fitness


I’m a waffler. A flip-flopper. A terrible decision-maker.

I can take the simplest, most asinine choices and twist them, turn them and overthink them until I have no idea which way is up. I had a 30 minute conversation with a co-worker the other day where I changed my philosophical position no less than 10 times. Not because I was trying to conform, but because I really couldn’t figure out where I stood. I’ve never been good at trusting my gut and instead have to think through every possibility and that leads me down a path of flip-flopping. I’m also a second-guesser. So anytime I start thinking, “Oh, this is definitely what I believe” another voice pops up and say, “WHAT THE WHAT? You don’t believe that!”

I should really get that checked out.

And large decisions? Forget those. I normally just blabber random gibberish until Babyface finally says, “I think we should do this and here is why.” and then we do. You should see me whenever we make big purchases. Total panic. I rock back and forth. I question every minuscule detail. I regress to a three-year-old. It’s not pretty.


One part of my life this quirky personality trait constant ravages is weight loss. I am the ultimate weight loss flip-flopper. Yes, I want to lose weight. No I’m happy where I am. Yes, I want to lose weight but I’m happy where I am. No, I don’t want to lose weight but I’m not happy where I am. No, it isn’t about the number. Yes, it’s all about the numbers. I just want to be strong. I just want to be fast. I just want to be thin. I just want to be a single-digit size.

You know yo-yo dieting? Well, I don’t do that. But I am an expert at yo-yo decision-making. I’m sure you’ve seen no less than a hundred different, conflicting posts here on BTHR documenting my various stances on weight loss.

When we last left this, I had completely abandoned the scale and decided I was really stoked with how I looked and felt. Which makes what I’m about to tell you, probably a little surprising. Confession time: I’ve been losing weight. On purpose.

I know. You’re probably clicking the little “x” in the corner of your browser and mumbling under your breath about how annoying and fickle I am. I’m annoyed by me, too. Why can’t I just figure out what makes me happy and stick with it? To most people, it’s a simple question. Lose weight or not? But for some reason, for me, I just cannot decide.

This didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a catalyst for this current foray into calorie counting. It came out of sore knees.

I’m a big believer that you can be healthy at any size, but I also believe that carrying too much weight can cause some negative side effects. After dropping 50 pounds, I noticed a lot less aches and pains throughout my joints. I thought all was good, until I started walking long distances, and with those longer distances, a new kind of unexplained knee pain. I got new shoes. I’m strengthening my muscles. I’m stretching. I’m refueling well. But even with all of that, my knees ache. And after one particularly bad walk, I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s that there is too much weight on them.”

And while my knees hurting might be the spark, I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason. For a while now, I feel like I might be justifying my weight. I think there is a fine line between being confident in your body and delusional. And I wonder if I’ve been a bit delusional. Convincing myself that I’m healthy because I’m healthier. Healthier than I was. Smaller than I was. Fitter than I was. Which is all true. Comparatively to where I was a few years ago, I’m a whole new girl, but am I the girl I want to be yet? I’m not sure.

There’s that pesky flip-flopper again.

The truth is, I talk a big game about being happy with who I am and where I am with my body, but often wonder how much of that talk is trying to convince myself. The lady doth protest too much. After all, even with the abandonment of the scale, I still secretly wished the pounds would melt away. I once had a doctor tell me that based on my height and frame, she’d consider me at a healthy weight if I was around 200 pounds. This was a progressive doctor, who didn’t subscribe to BMI numbers and height weight charts. But even she believed that my magic number was lower than where I am now. I’ve hovered 15-30 pounds away from that point for 18 months. And all through my various positions on weight loss through that year and a half, I’ve always imagined I’d eventually get to that weight. I imagined the 195-200 range to be the promised land for me and I’ve always wondered what it would be like to get there.

The interesting part is, I feel like I’m betraying a part of who I am (and who this blog is) by desiring to lose more weight. I’ve sold myself (to you guys and to me) as a person that is healthy and happy at 225 pounds. And I am. But there is also a growing part of me that thinks that I might be healthier and happier with a few less pounds. But even with that that motivation, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m selling out in a metaphorical sense. Selling out to the pressures to be thin. Selling out to the pressures “look” healthy. Selling out to the medical ideal of what is healthy.

Because, the truth is, I want to be out of the BMI “Obese” category, even though I personally believe the BMI system is a load of poo. I also want to never have to worry if a store will have my size even though I think store sizes are an obnoxious way to measure health. I want people to look at me and think, “Wow, she looks healthy.” even though I know that smaller doesn’t mean healthier. As obnoxious, superficial and inane as those reasons are, they are all there. And have been since day one.

So take that as you will. Maybe this the start of another chapter in my weight loss journey. Maybe this is me just being fickle. Maybe this is me succumbing to society pressure. Maybe in a week, you’ll see another post saying, “PSYCH! I like my weight! Weight loss is evil.” Maybe  Probably, regardless, I’ll look back at this whole journey in a few years and think, “Gosh, you were so foolish.”

When I first started losing weight almost five years ago, I thought the process was a straight line. You go from point A (your starting weight) to point B (your goal weight) in a set amount of time and then move on with life. But I’ve realized over the past five years that the line is more squiggly than the country road I grew up on. You lose a good amount and then you gain some back and then maybe you lose a lot more and then you gain some back and then you may decide you are happy and then you decide you aren’t. No one ever tells you that if you are doing it right, chances are, it’s not just a one time thing. It’s a long, roller coaster of a journey that hopefully, eventually, lands you at your healthy and happy weight, whatever that may be.

So you may ask what’s changing around here? Well not much. You may have noticed over the past few months an uptick in the healthy, clean and lightened-up recipes. That’ll stay the same. You’ll probably see less bacon (but maybe not) and maybe healthier ways to make cheese and chocolate stretch a little further. I honestly feel like my eating is pretty clean, I just need to keep an eye on portion control and make sure I continue to hit my exercise goals. Just as long as I’m tracking my food and consistently exercising, I’ve never had any problem dropping pounds. You’ll probably see a few more posts talking about weight loss and all that goes along with it, but I highly doubt this will turn into a weight loss blog. That’s not my bag.

My apologies for being the worst decision maker on the planet.

Are you actively trying to lose weight?