Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Happy…middle of September?  How the heck did THAT happen??

Before we know it, Autumn will be upon us.  In fact, it’s coming early from what I can see – we already have trees turning on our street (much to Darling Daughter’s dismay).

While I do NOT look forward to winter, I generally enjoy fall.  It’s a gorgeous season up here in northeast Ohio and the crisp temperatures are an invigorating excuse to wear my didn’t-exist-until-I-moved-North cool weather wardrobe.

Because, let’s face it, it’s cold for all of about 3 days in the middle of February down in Texas.

It’s also an opportunity to start tuning up for cold-weather cooking, which is (according to at least one of my readers) my forte.  I won’t deny it; I love casseroles and stews and braises and other hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare.

This particular recipe is a new favorite.  Ooooohhh, myyyyyyyy.

While the butternut squash Beloved planted earlier in the season didn’t take at all (this is not true of the one that has sprung up spontaneously in another garden – I guess the compost didn’t get hot enough again this year), the spaghetti squash is doing just fine.  We’ve already picked a couple, and I made this with the very first one Beloved harvested.

Fortunately, the harvest of this squash coincided with the last of the summer sweet corn we picked up at the farmer’s market.  When I finally decided what I was going to do with this particular one – I didn’t want it to involve a pasta sauce – I soaked and cooked some black beans, as well as a pound of Meat for Tacos. After that I made a fresh salsa with some red onion, a hillbilly tomato and a jalapeno, all from our garden, along with some cilantro from the CSA.  Once I’d roasted the squash, all that was left was to shred some cheese and assemble the whole thing and bake it in the oven.

It. Was. AMAZING.  This is comfort food, folks – delicious, satisfying and quite healthful comfort food.  The servings are also quite generous, and the leftovers keep well in the refrigerator, if they’re well-covered.  It really reheats beautifully – Beloved and I shared one stuffed squash half the night I made it, and finished off the other half for lunch the next day.  It was every bit as good (if not a little bit better, as dishes like this tend to be).

This would also be awesome topped with a good, homemade guacamole.

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. Healthy and creative, this Mexican-inspired casserole is a great way to jazz up this versatile winter squash.

Click the image to enlarge

Mexican-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 4
  • 1 large spaghetti squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 pound [url href=”” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url]
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup fresh tomato salsa
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Halve the spaghetti squash and scrape out the seeds from the center. Rub both halves with olive oil and place them, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork; remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  3. While the squash is roasting, prepare the [url href=”” target=”_blank”]Meat for Tacos[/url].
  4. Once cooled enough to handle, shred the meat of the squash into a large mixing bowl with a fork, leaving the shells intact. Season lightly with salt and pepper; stir in the beans, corn, taco meat, red onion and half the cheese until thoroughly combined. Spoon the mixture back into the squash shells and top with the remaining cheese. Return to the foil-lined baking sheet.
  5. Reduce the heat to 350 F and return the stuffed squash halves to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Allow the stuffed squash to rest for 5 or so minutes before cutting each half in two. Top with the salsa and serve.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 584 calories, 36.4g total fat, 95.4mg cholesterol, 1076.6mg sodium, 1024.3mg potassium, 37.1g carbohydrates, 6.9g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 30.9g protein

Winter Squash Casserole

It’s funny, where you can find inspiration for a dish.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the little “ticker” over on the right-hand side of the screen on Facebook fascinates me.  I’ll often click on it just to see the photo or status someone on my friends list “likes” or see the post or status they’re commenting on.  I’ve found some hilarious and infuriating things over there – and, occasionally, something instructive.

Such was the case last weekend when I clicked on something that looked like a recipe by my friend Barbara, a professional chef who owns the blog Tigers and Strawberries.  (She hasn’t blogged for quite some time, but has left the blog up – which is a great thing; it is a marvelous resource of recipes and cooking knowledge.)  In fact, that’s exactly what it was – a simple recipe on one of her friend’s post about discovering delicata squash.

And, like all of Barbara’s recipes, it looked marvelous.  Right away I sent her a private message saying I planned to make the dish soon (I made it the next night, as a matter of fact) and asking if I could post the recipe here when I did.  Gracious as always, her reply was, “Go for it.”

So here it is.

And it is every bit as marvelous as I had anticipated.

Barbara gave no real measurements – it was just a list of ingredients and general instructions for the dish – so I had to sort of wing it when it came to proportions.  We had a fairly large butternut squash that we’d just pulled out of our garden, so I used that, along with two Fuji apples because they are delicious and hold up fairly well to cooking.  The only other ingredients were 2 parts almond butter to one part maple syrup, dried cranberries and slivered almonds.

Since the almond butter I used was an all-natural butter with no added salt or sugar, I ended up reversing the proportions of that and the maple syrup (which turned out to be a good thing once I saw the calorie content of a serving).  On a whim, I also added raisins along with the dried cranberries and I had no slivered almonds, so I used chopped pecans instead.

I also didn’t realize when I began that it was going to make a HUGE amount, but that’s okay – it is so very, very good that we’ve eaten the leftovers every day this week for lunch (and there is still some left in the fridge that we’ll probably polish off today).  In fact, it’s so good that Beloved is campaigning for it to be part of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I may very well accommodate him.

This would work well with just about any kind of winter squash, and Barbara says you can use sweet potatoes if you prefer.  She also says this would make a great dessert, and if you use sweet potatoes, I’d have to agree.

Note:  This dish is vegetarian as written; if you sub the butter with olive oil or palm oil shortening for greasing the pan, it will become vegan – and dairy-free – as well.

Winter Squash Casserole. This delicious and simple casserole is perfect for a chilly autumn day - or your holiday table.

Click the image to enlarge

Winter Squash Casserole
Serves: 12
  • 3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 2 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter and maple syrup until well-blended. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except the salt and pepper. Pour the almond butter mixture over the contents of the bowl and toss to coat all of the pieces of squash and apple evenly. Add the seasonings and stir to combine.
  4. Pour the squash mixture into the buttered baking dish and spread out evenly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash and apples are tender. Remove the foil and return to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the top of the casserole begins to brown.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 425 calories, 13.2g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 343.5mg sodium, 426.3mg potassium, 77.5g carbohydrates, 6.6g fiber, 26.5g sugar, 3.8g protein

Tuna Casserole

You have spoken, and today’s recipe is Tuna Casserole.

An incredibly delicious, grain and casein-free tuna casserole (you can make it completely dairy free by subbing the ghee with coconut oil).

The Young One wouldn’t touch it, but that didn’t surprise me – he won’t eat traditional tuna noodle casserole, either, so he got a bacon and cheese omelet.  Beloved and I ate it, though, and we LOVED it.  Better yet, there were plenty of leftovers the next day for lunch, and this reheats very, very well.

The casserole could easily be modified in lots of ways – use steamed or roasted spaghetti squash instead of the grated cauliflower, and just about any combination of vegetables you like.  If you’re okay with dairy, you can use whole milk instead of the combination of water and coconut and almond milks and by all means, throw in a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, although the casserole is just fine without it.  It would also be quite good with leftover chicken or turkey in place of the tuna.

Note:  I thickened the sauce with a combination of tapioca and potato flour and I think that works much better for gravies and white sauce than tapioca flour alone.  If you’re avoiding white potatoes all together, just use 1/4 cup of tapioca flour; it should still be fine.

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large celery stalk diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups grated cauliflower
  • 2 six-ounce cans water-packed tuna, drained
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon potato flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine the tablespoon melted ghee with the almond flour in a small bowl until the mixture is crumbly and set aside.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat and cook the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender-crisp, another 5 minutes. Stir in the tuna and cauliflower; remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons ghee in a large saucepan over medium-heat. Stir in the tapioca and potato flours, creating a roux, and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the water, coconut milk and almond milk; increase the heat slightly and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the sauce evenly over the tuna/vegetable mixture in the skillet; sprinkle the almond flour crumble over the surface. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the casserole is browned and bubbly.
  5. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 453 calories, 35g total fat, 59.4mg cholesterol, 791.7mg sodium, 959.9mg potassium, 19.5g carbohydrates, 4.9g fiber, 5g sugar, 18.9g protein

Parsnip-Sweet Potato Casserole

As predicted, it took a couple of days for the insomnia to pass, hence the photo yesterday of the beautiful buck that wandered into our back yard Monday afternoon, before deciding to eat our strawberry patch.  The deer are abundant here in the ‘burbs – we saw five in the small field behind our neighbor’s house last night coming home from work.  This makes Beloved a little nervous, since he has plans to expand our back yard vegetable garden in the spring.

At any rate, after two nights in a row of futilely trying NOT to be awake, I finally slept last night, so you won’t be subjected to too much incoherence for the rest of the week.  I know you’re relieved…I know I am.

Moving forward.

Today’s recipe is what I served with the Venison Steak Diane this past weekend, and it was the perfect side dish, in my not-so-humble opinion.  My love for parsnips and Japanese sweet potatoes is well-documented on this blog – they are two of my absolutely favorite vegetables – and since we were fortunate enough to find them both at the winter farmer’s market last week, I decided to see if they could be prepared together in some way.

And by golly, they can:  they make a lovely casserole, very similar to the Summer Squash Casserole I posted in August.  This version is every bit as delicious, every bit as suitable for the season, and was a delectable accompaniment to the rich and savory venison.

And it’s Whole30 complaint, to boot.

Parsnip-Sweet Potato Casserole

Parsnip-Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves: 6
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
  • 2 large Japanese sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the almond flour with the 1 tablespoon of melted ghee until the mixture is”crumbly” and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the onions and garlic in the ghee or olive oil over low heat until the onions are soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, parsnips, chicken stock, coconut milk, thyme, and salt and pepper; bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Taste; add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a shallow casserole or gratin dish in which the vegetables fit in just one layer. Sprinkle the almond meal mixture evenly over the top of the casserole. Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes or until all the remaining liquid has been absorbed and the topping is nice and brown.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 257 calories, 11.5g total fat, 6.3mg cholesterol, 440.5mg sodium, 683.8mg potassium, 34.9g carbohydrates, 6.4g fiber, 8.3g sugar, 4g protein

Sweet and Spicy Cottage Pie

It’s Monday, all you Real Food Foodies, so link up your recipes that can be made ahead!

We had a wild and wooly weekend; Friday afternoon we left work early to go watch our side of beef be cut up.  It was really fascinating and fun, too – we got to pick out exactly how we wanted each part cut as it was being done; as a result, we got some cuts you don’t normally see (more about that on Friday).  Saturday, The Young One hosted 6 of his friends for his 17th birthday; I made fondue (more about that later this week) and they stayed over for the night.  Sunday morning, I made breakfast burritos for all of them and by dinner time, The Young One had developed a bad cold (two of his guests were sniffling, sneezing and coughing…sigh).  I was going to make beef version of osso bucco for dinner, but ended up making this instead.

The last time I posted a shepherd’s pie recipe, one of my readers informed me that because it was made with beef, it was technically a cottage pie – shepherd’s pie should be made with lamb or mutton (sheep, of course).  But whatever you choose to call it, shepherd’s or cottage pies are wonderfully warm, comforting and delicious.  And because they can be assembled and refrigerated or frozen, then reheated, they are a perfect choice for a make ahead meal (they also tend to be one of those dishes that tastes better, reheated, the next day).

The filling in this particular pie can be as spicy as you like; I made ours pretty spicy to offset the sweetness of the Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  It was really, really good and I’m looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today.  This recipe also makes quite a bit, so you could make and serve half of it one night, then freeze the other half for a dinner later on.

Sweet and Spicy Cottage Pie
Sweet and Spicy Cottage Pie
Serves: 10
  • 2 pounds ground beef, preferably grass-fed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 4 cups kale, stems removed and torn into pieces
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash steak seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 recipe [url href=”″ target=”_blank”]Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes[/url]
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Begin browning the ground beef in a large, heavy, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. As the meat cooks, add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and steak seasoning to the pan. Once the ground beef is cooked through and the onion is soft, add the tomato sauce, carrots and celery to the skillet; taste and season with salt, pepper and cayenne.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes, then stir in the kale and cook until the greens are wilted. Carefully spread the Vanilla Mashed Potatoes evenly over the top over the meat mixture. At this point, the dish can be covered and refrigerated or frozen.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned (if baking later, bring the dish to room temperature before baking). Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 440 calories, 25g total fat, 80.2mg cholesterol, 706.6mg sodium, 1159.5mg potassium, 33.9g carbohydrates, 6.1g fiber, 10.3g sugar, 20.5g protein.

If you make the Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes without any butter (coconut oil is a good option), this recipe is Whole30 compliant.

PLEASE – post recipes with whole, real food ingredients only. Dairy, sprouted grains and legumes and natural sweeteners are allowed, but recipes containing processed or refined ingredients or vegetable oils will be removed.  Don’t forget to link back to this post! Thanks for your cooperation.