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

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

This recipe is the result of an impulsive purchase of fair trade, organic arborio rice, the huge sage bush planted on the east side of our house, a baby butternut squash from our garden and not enough leftovers for lunch.

Don’t ask me what possessed me to buy the rice or make this for lunch, because I really couldn’t tell you – except maybe that I love risotto and haven’t made it for, well, years.  But when I saw I was going to have to cook something for our lunch to go with the leftover lamb chops from our dinner the night before, I realized I not only had all of the ingredients for risotto (we’d just canned a huge batch of chicken broth the previous week), but all the ingredients for a butternut squash risotto.

So I made this.

And it was incredibly good.

A northern Italian specialty dating as far back as the Renaissance, risotto is traditionally served as a primo piatto (first course) after the antipasto, although in the U.S. it’s usually served as a side, or even a main course. It is made from a high-starch, short-grain rice, such as arborio; the risotto becomes exceptionally creamy as the liquid is gradually stirred into the dish.

This is not a quick recipe, although it’s quite simple; it just requires a lot of attention in the way of stirring, to make sure the liquid – in this case, a good homemade chicken broth – is absorbed so the rice doesn’t become gummy or unevenly cooked.  You don’t have to actually stand over it and tend it non-stop, especially if you’re doing other things to get the meal on the table, but it’s good to make sure it’s well-stirred every half-minute or so.

It’s important to make sure the butternut squash is cut into small cubes, since the liquid added to the rice is also needed to cook that, as well – if cut too large, the rice will cook before the squash is done. (If you’re worried about it, you can parboil the cubed squash for a minute or two in advance, but if cut to a 1/4″ dice, it shouldn’t be a problem.)  You also don’t want to overcook the rice; it should be al dente, so begin tasting it after about 18 to 20 minutes or so.  A mushy risotto is a sad, sad thing.

All in all, this was a plate of creamy, rich, autumnal yumminess, and I was not in the least bit sorry we ate the whole darn pan for lunch (and which also explains why I don’t make it very often).

Note:  This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth or stock in place of the chicken broth.  If you wish to omit the wine, which adds necessary acidity to counterbalance the richness of the butter and cheese, substitute with 2 or 3 tablespoons of a good quality white wine vinegar.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto. Winter squash makes a great addition to this autumn-inspired rice dish, which is finished with chopped fresh sage.

Click image to enlarge

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
[i]Serves 6 as a side dish, or 3 as a main course[/i]
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the chicken stock in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep hot.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the onion and squash and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent. Stir in the rice and garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
  3. Stir the wine into the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Begin adding the hot chicken stock a half-cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue stirring the stock into the mixture, a half-cup at a time, until the rice and squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir the cheese and sage into the rice; season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 336 calories, 11.1g total fat, 29.8mg cholesterol, 481.1mg sodium, 488.4mg potassium, 42.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 6.2g sugar, 12.4g protein

Venison Butternut Squash Chili

I am branching out in the chili department.

Once, I’d have scoffed at making or eating any chili other than Texas-Style Chili, but these days I’ve discovered a taste for kinds that aren’t quite so…traditional.  I’ve got a lovely chili recipe in the cookbook that uses, of all things, dark chocolate (I was surprised at how delicious it is), and I’ve even given into Cincinnati-Style Chili as of late.  So maybe it’s not a huge surprise when I decided to make chili with some of the stew meat from our deer that I threw some butternut squash and cinnamon into it.

Next thing you know I’ll be making a pork chili verde.  Which actually sounds pretty good.  Hmmmm…

At any rate, we were very pleased with this chili – cooking the butternut squash in the chili for the entire two hours gave it a rich, silky texture (without making it sweet) and the cinnamon lent it a bit of an exotic flavor that countered the smokiness of the the chili powders and paprika quite well.  All in all, it was a delicious and satisfying chili that went very well with an updated – and much better – version of my Savory Almond Flour Muffins (going in the cookbook) on a cold winter’s night last week.

No venison?  Beef stew meat will work just fine.  But keep in mind that because venison is so lean, it keeps the calorie content of this dish pretty low, especially for a chili, so use venison if you can.

Oh – and it’s Whole30 to boot.

Venison Butternut Squash Chili

Venison Butternut Squash Chili

Serves: 4
  • 2 tablespoons lard or ghee
  • 1 pound venison stew meat, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 large jalapeno chiles, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade
  • 6 ounces [url href=”” target=”_blank”]tomato paste[/url]
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  1. Heat the lard or ghee in a large, enameled Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the venison to the pan and brown the meat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the onion, poblano and jalapenos; continue cooking for another 5 minutes, or until the onion and peppers begin to soften.
  2. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili powders, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the beef stock and taste. Season as needed with salt
  3. and pepper, then stir in the butternut squash.
  4. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the venison is just about fork tender. Remove the lid and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes more. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 317 calories, 10.7g total fat, 26.5mg cholesterol, 568.7mg sodium, 1318.5mg potassium, 26.6g carbohydrates, 5.6g fiber, 10.5g sugar, 33g protein


Winter Squash Fritters

And here it is, Tuesday.  We’re just 9 days shy of Beloved’s favorite holiday, Thanksgiving (“You get to eat too much, drink too much, watch football and you don’t have to buy anyone a present.”).  I still have no idea what I’m cooking, beyond the turkey, which is pretty unusual for me.  Maybe I’ll just say, “To hell with it” and serve roasted turkey and fermented cranberry orange chutney.  If you want anything else, cook it yourself.

Oh, you know that won’t happen.  I’ll keep you updated on what I decide to serve, if I can ever muster some enthusiasm and make up my mind.

Anyhoo.  I’ve been having a bit of a “side dish” dilemma, mostly centered around our stockpile of winter squashes in the basement.  There are quite a few acorn and sweet dumpling squashes down there, and they’re usually the last to be eaten.  This is mostly due to the fact that almost every recipe you come across calling for one or the other consists of roasting and/or stuffing – once in awhile, you can find a soup recipe, but there are other squashes, such as hubbard and butternut, that are much more suitable for soup.

At any rate, the evening I made the World’s Moistest Chicken, I also roasted a sweet dumpling squash, just to use one; I had a vague idea about mashing it with some ghee or coconut oil, salt and pepper and just serving it that way.  Then I thought, “I could make it a nice puree if I put it in the food processor.”  The next thing I knew, I was mixing it up with a bunch of stuff and pan-frying it in ghee.

And so I present to you:  Winter Squash Fritters.  Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, with some added crunch from the onion and celery.  Beloved gobbled them up, and I have to admit I enjoyed them quite a bit, too.  They’d also make a great breakfast or brunch side dish, and are just lovely topped with my friend Alex’s Kirby Ketchup.

Note:  You can make these Whole30 compliant by substituting the potato flour with about half the amount of coconut flour.

Winter Squash Fritter
Winter Squash Fritter
Winter Squash Fritters

Serves: 8
  • 3 cups roasted winter squash, such as acorn or sweet dumpling
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tablespoons potato flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup ghee or clarified butter
  1. Puree the roasted squash in a food processor blender until smooth; scrape into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Whisk the beaten eggs into the squash, then stir in the remaining ingredients except the ghee until well-blended.
  3. Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water added to the pan sizzles. Working in batches, pour the fritter batter by 1/4 cupfuls into the skillet and fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Allow to drain briefly on paper towels and serve immediately.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 183 calories, 10.1g total fat, 61.8mg cholesterol, 382.6mg sodium, 501.5mg potassium, 20.7g carbohydrates, 5.2g fiber, <1g sugar, 3g protein


Honey Roasted Butternut Squash

I will be SO glad when this damn election is over with, I cannot even begin to tell you.

And that’s enough of that.

I didn’t post last Friday or yesterday when it’s been my habit for, well, forever to post 5 days a week, but I just don’t have much to say right now.  Well, that’s not true – I have things to say (I certainly don’t live in a vacuum) but none of it is really fit for this venue.  Lots and lots of unbloggable going on these days.

Ah, well.

At any rate, the cooking hasn’t stopped, I’m happy to report; I’m not sure it ever will, unless the day comes I can’t stand in front of the stove and wield a spatula.  Last night I made another pork shoulder in the slow cooker – this one with apples instead of peaches (holy cow, it was good) – some sautèed zucchini, and this.

It was Fall on a plate, y’all.

This was a really nice preparation of butternut squash, and a great alternative to roasting it whole or mashing it.  The cubes caramelized beautifully, and it was – rather surprisingly – not overly sweet at all.  It must have been the addition of the fresh sage, kosher sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

All in all, an easy and delicious dish for Autumn that would go well with chicken or beef, too.

Honey Roasted Butternut Squash
Honey Roasted Butternut Squash
Honey Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves: 4
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ghee or butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a shallow-rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the squash, melted ghee or butter, honey and sage until the squash is evenly coated. Spread on the prepared baking sheet; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the squash for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until it is tender and caramelized. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed, before serving.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 114 calories, 4.5g total fat, 11.5mg cholesterol, 5.5mg sodium, 408mg potassium, 19.9g carbohydrates, 2.3g fiber, 9g sugar, 1.2g protein