Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese via Ari's Menu

Okay, maybe you think I’ve gone off the deep end. Maybe you haven’t been lucky enough to experience how awesome pumpkin can be in a savory dish? Or maybe you’re like my husband, and you hate pumpkin.

But guess what??? Steve loves this dish! I try to get him to sip my pumpkin coffee and he acts like I handed him wheat grass, but pumpkin mac and cheese, even he can get behind.

LOOK AT THE STEAM!!! *happy dance*

The texture of the pumpkin puree works so perfectly to make a creamy sauce with no butter. This mac and cheese is actually good for you, and super filling so, even if you’re like me and want to eat delicious things until you can’t even lift the fork anymore, you won’t need to eat too much. Promise πŸ˜‰

I made this for the first time last year with Jason.

I take my stirring very seriously.

Jason is good at following directions. I just yell commands at him “JASON STIR!”

This is what the mac and cheese looked like then vs now


I’ve actually made this many times since then because I love it sosoSO much. I figured it was time to update the photos :)

This is perfect for a Thanksgiving side, a fall dinner, or any time really (like, um, carb-o loading)!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

yield 4 servings

  • 8 oz uncooked whole grain penne, macaroni or other pasta (whole wheat, brown rice, etc.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated goat cheddar cheese (or reduced fat cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup goat brie cheese, rind removed, cut into cubes
  • pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together and heat pumpkin puree, garlic and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just starting to simmer.
  3. Reduce stove heat to low. Whisk in cheeses until fully melted.
  4. Stir in nutmeg and ground cloves. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir drained pasta into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined.

Mac Visits: Day 1


I don’t know about you, but I have had the most fantastic week! Work has been fairly light due to Spring break, and Tuesday night I got a visitor! My amazing friend Mac came all the way out from NYC to watch tons of episodes of Seinfeld hang out with me :)

Wednesday morning we tried to hit up the gym, but the very unhappy and rude front desk lady told Mac if he wanted to use a guest pass, he would have to pay $15 per day. Seriously??? Don’t most gyms offer buddy passed? She was so rude too. So instead, we drove down to the lake with the duckies and did a 3 mi run/walk. It was beautiful out, so I think we both ended up being pretty happy about taking our workout out doors.

After our run, we grabbed coffee, had some breakfast, did a little shopping and before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We went to Pita Jungle–one of my favs! Mac got the chipotle black bean burger.

Yummmm. I've had this before, and I love it!

And I had the broiled chicken salad.

Obviously I was a big fan.

Then we took some down time at my house before I had to head to work. Mac and Clemmie became BFFs.

“Love me.”

When I came home we had some Chicken “Pad” Thai.

Spaghetti squash in place of noodles is one of my favorite swaps ever.


Then we proceeded to watch Seinfeld until bedtime. We’re so crazy!

Weekend Recap

I miss the fancy camera. Waaaahhhh.

Happy Monday, friends! I’m flying high on about 4 hours of sleep. WHEEEEEEEE!!!!! To be honest, I haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep since Steve left for LA and I am simultaneously slap happy, grouchy, bitchy, and delirious. I also have a week filled with long days, and my extra grouchy time may or may not be quickly approaching (you’re welcome), so Jason and I basically decided this morning, that I should do the world a favor and just hide out in a cave for a while to avoid offending the masses. Unfortunately, that is entirely impossible, so I’m going to try to focus on the moments of slap happy ridiculousness, because those are the best part of exhaustion!

To be honest, aside from feeling like I want to take a week long nap, the past few days have been pretty fantastic. Saturday I had a super full work day, then Deann came over and we worked on some stuff for her wedding. I am pretty much the least crafty person on earth, but when it’s not super complicated, and I know exactly what to do, I actually find simple craft activities strangely therapeutic. I made us a delicious dinner of cornbread crusted chicken tenders with a creamy maple mustard dipping sauce and kale chips. You better believe that when the fancy camera is back, I will be recreating this because it was AMAZING and I can’t wait to share the recipe! I also made some more donuts for dessert. Let’s just say it’s a good thing Deann took most of the rest home because I probably would have eaten them all that night! Yum!!

Here is a crappy picture from my android. And now I want to eat more donuts.

Yesterday, I met Christina and Diana for my fav spin class! Linda kicked my butt, like usual, but I was especially excited to drip pools of sweat yesterday for some reason. Must be the week off from running ( :( )!

It was so awesome to finally meet Diana too! She is just as hilarious and awesome in person as on her blog, and it totally felt like working out with an old friend! I seriously can’t get over the awesome friendships I have made through blogging!

After spin, Christina came over for brunch. I made my own southwest version of Caitlin’s Spinach and Goat Cheese Cornbread Quiche.

I miss the fancy camera. Waaaahhhh.

It was probably the most delicious non dessert item I have made in a long time. Again, can’t wait to get some actually good pictures of it so I can post the recipe for my version!

This morning, even though I was super exhausted, when my alarm went off at 6 to go run, I was still pretty excited. I have been in quite a bit of pain lately–enough that I actually took KT’s advice to take a week off from running, so I was very anxious to get out there this morning! I got there early and did just under 2 miles on my own at a 9:20 average pace, then Jason arrived and mentioned that he was ready to move up to longer intervals! We had started using the Galloway method, running 3 min, walking 1 min. We were up to a 5:1 ratio, but today he wanted to move up to 1 mile intervals! You don’t have to ask me twice!!

Not only did Jason totally bump up his running time, but his overall pace improved and this was the first run where he had all negative splits!!! I am so proud!!! I never imagined I would be helping anyone with their running! I remember feeling shocked when people started to ask me for food and weight loss advice, but I just never in a million years expected to be pushing others to run and helping them train. I mean I’ve always been one to drag someone to a group fitness class, or suggest a gym date, but I just really can’t believe how much has changed in such a short amount of time!

There is honesty no better feeling than helping someone else achieve their goals. I mean, that’s the entire reason I blog in the first place, because I want to inspire others, and I hope that someday something I write makes a difference in even one person’s life, and that they are better because of me. That would honestly be the greatest gift. Sorry for being so cheesy! I’d like to say it’s temporary, but I was absolutely born this way and intend to stay cheesy and sentimental forever and ever. πŸ˜‰


Carbo Loading Cooking Fail

"Welcome to my house. I will obviously cook you delicious food. I write a blog about food and recipes so I promise I know how to cook!"

After a long afternoon at the race expo, I invited Kara, Nicole and Carolyn over for a pre race carbolicious dinner. Or so I thought. You see, I’m not actually a real cook. I make simple food. I can make delicious healthier versions of most staple dishes. I can get creative and even create recipes with desserts, but there are some things I should not cook. Apparently, gnocchi is one of them. First of all, delicate foods that require a soft touch and attention to detail are not my thing, but the recipe looked easy enough to I told them I would make sweet potato gnocchi.

"Welcome to my house. I will obviously cook you delicious food. I write a blog about food and recipes so I promise I know how to cook!"

Confession, I was super nervous to cook for Nicole anyway. Have you checked out her blog?! She is AMAZING! Her food is ridiculous and beautiful and she could seriously have her own bakery if she wanted! Me? I just got into cooking because I wanted to eat cheese burgers, but not be fat :) Obviously, it wasn’t long before I got down on my knees and begged asked her nicely for a hand.

"Oh good job Nicole, you just cook dinner and I will pose for pictures and pretend like I made it."

I should have known the recipe was fishy when I got the 3 lbs of sweet potatoes it called for, but then had to measure out 3.5 cups and was left with more than twice as much leftover sweet potato puree! Good thing sweet potatoes are pretty much tied with cilantro for my favorite food!

We did have fun with the whole process of getting the gnocchis in the water.

First, transfered the dough to a bag without spilling it all on the floor. This was my biggest success of the night.

This was the fun part. Minus the 3rd degree burns from the splashing boiling water. Sorry about that Nicole. You are welcome to be my guest any time.

Obviously I couldn't leave all the dangerous gnocchi dropping to her. That's just rude. Don't worry mom, I wore long sleeves!

At one point it even appeared that dinner might be awesome.

Not too bad yet, right?

But then it turned into something more like sweet potato mush. Nicole tried to save the dish, but it was a goner.

"Can I PLEASE just mush it all together?!?!?!"

Nicole was very anti mush, but finally when I proved that the dish was beyond real salvation, she caved.


Luckily, Steve grilled some seriously amazing chicken, and I didn’t have a total evening of failure.

Asparugus sprayed with olive oil + s&p baked at 400 for 20 minutes. A winner every time. Thanks for that, Heath!

And then there was this baby that I can’t wait to break into today!

Double chocolate peanut butter cheesecake brownies. I had to make Kara and myself a congratulations treat!

Luckily, the company was top notch and they all ate my weird sweet potato mush without complaint. Good friends, I tell ya. After dinner, we all called it a night pretty early because we all had early morning (4:40 for me!) wake up calls. I spent the next few minutes laying out everything I would need for the next morning.

Clothes, new sparkly green headband made by Nicole (LOVE IT!!!), spibelt, Gu, head phones, chapstick. Garmin and ipod were charging, and bib was in the car. Whoot.

Ready to not sleep :)

Boston Day 2/3: Cooking and Frog Pond


On Friday, after a fabulous day in Salem, we all headed back to Lisa and David’s to make a delicious dinner. There were more drinks

David did most of the cooking (he is like an actual cook), but I made the most simple and easy beer bread that ended up being super delicious also!

Self rising flour, beer and brown sugar. So easy.

I also whipped up a little cheese spread to go on top with some fat free cream cheese, cheddar, gouda, salt, pepper, garlic powder and cayenne powder. It was one of those happy moments when I just put things together and they come out delicious :)

While we waited on dinner to be ready, we hung out with my favorite dog niece Daisy!

When Lisa spent a month in Switzerland, I got to live with Daisy and it was so wonderful! I love her!!

Jason and I also baked some cookies.

They came out realllllly yummy, but we didn’t end up with any good pictures of them. Boooo. We spent the remainder of the night in eating, drinking and watching Crazy Stupid Love. I love that movie.

The next morning Jason was supposedΒ to go for a run for me, but stayed in bed, so I ventured out into the pouring rain all alone. I hope you’re feeling this guilt trip from your zoom, Jason. Actually, the rain wasn’t too bad, and I kind of got used to it. We don’t really have weather in Phoenix so it was a nice change. You know what else we don’t have? HILLS! Good lord. Hills are hard. I ended up doing 5K at a 9:13 average pace. By the time I got back I was soaking wet and I couldn’t even tell what was rain and what was sweat. I know, I’m gross. Sorry.

Finally everyone else was awake, we had some breakfast and headed into downtown Boston. We parked at some sort of park and ride and then took the subway. Steve takes awesome subway photos!

When we got out we walked around for a little bit, seeing some of the New Years Eve happenings that had already begun, like ice sculptures–cool! Def something you don’t see in AZ!

The next stop on our plan (we seriously planned out stops on a map because we’re awesome like that) was ice skating at Frog Pond! I hadn’t been ice skating since I was like 7 and even then it was at an empty indoor rink in Arizona. I had never even seenΒ an outdoor rink before! I have to admit, I was super nervous about it and when I realized we only had 2 hours before they closed, I was almost relieved because I didn’t know how long I would actually make it. I am super clumsy, and the idea of slipping and falling on some hard cold ice 2 weeks before PF Chang’s did not seem too appealing, so I started out very cautious…

"Ummm, it's cold and this is scary. One trip around the rink is enough, right?"

But I actually got the hang of it much faster than I anticipated!

"Okay, so I'm not dead yet...."

And before I knew it, I was having a blast! Turns out I really really enjoy ice skating!

"Wooohoooo!! This is awesome!"

We all did pretty well and had a really great time!

Jason was so speedy! I decided he was Nancy Kerrigan and I was Tanya harding because I totally wanted to take him out so that I could be the best!Nacho did really well too!

And Lisa can even look pretty while ice skating :)


I was so surprised at how much fun it was, and I even started to feel a little sweaty like I was getting a work out! Sweet!!! It ended up being probably my favorite thing we did while in Boston!