butternut squash & blue cheese spread

Call me basic, but this girl loves some squash.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

In my humble opinion, squash should be celebrated year round – not just autumn, when it’s in season and oh-so-plentiful. Typically, I try to shop seasonally {helps with keeping my food local, costs down, etc.} but squash somehow always finds a way into my cart, shopping trip after shopping trip. It’s a versatile vegetable; salads, main dishes, soup and chili {yes, even in the spring and summer!}…I never find myself tiring of it. Good thing the hubs doesn’t either, otherwise we might have a bit of a problem.

But back to the recipe, lest I get further swept up in preaching my love for squash…

This is definitely a new, and fun, twist on a squash dish. As I mentioned above, none of us are strangers to using said vegetable in all sorts of dishes. But when racking my brain for an autumnal dish to bring on a trip, I thought “why not do something squash-based?” and sure enough, the internet didn’t let me down.  This dip is seriously delicious, and seriously addicting.

Roasted butternut squash meets up with its herbacious friends in a warm, creamy spread. It is bursting with tangy blue cheese, but not so heavy that it leaves you feeling like you need a nap after just a few bites. In fact, the lot of us polished this entire dish off in one sitting, and trust me – not a single one of us felt bad about it. You can scale back on the cheese if you’d like, but I highly suggest leaving it all in. I served it with toasted whole wheat naan bread, rather than chips; they were a bit sturdier, and the nutty flavor of the naan complemented the dip so nicely.

I could easily see this as a spread on sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, dolloped onto a vegetable-based soup or stew…the possibilities are endless! And it can be prepared ahead of time, too; just assemble the dish until the step before you bake it {seal tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to heat through}. You’ll be the star of the party with this one. Truth.

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Butternut Squash & Blue Cheese Spread {recipe adapted, slightly, from How Sweet It Is}

Squash lovers, meet your new dip addiction. Blended until creamy and smooth, lusciously rich…perfect for any get-together, and sure to please even the pickiest of palettes! The flavor combinations are out of this world. 

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash

3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

pinch grated nutmeg

10 ounces crumbled blue cheese {I used a reduced-fat version, but full-fat would be fine as well}

1 Tbsp. EACH of these dried herbs: oregano, basil, parsley, sage

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Toss the squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Toss and bake for 15 minutes more, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

Add the squash {and any olive oil drippings} into the bowl of a food processor along with the nutmeg, dried herbs, and half of the blue cheese crumbles. Blend until completely smooth, and transfer to an oven-proof dish.**

Cover with remaining blue cheese crumbles, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until warmed through. Stir to incorporate melted cheese on top.

Drizzle with additional olive oil, if desired, and fresh cracked pepper. Serve immediately with your dipper of choice.

butternut squash goat cheese dip I howsweeteats.com

*images courtesy of How Sweet It Is*

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butternut squash enchilada casserole

This is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and deliciousness…all layered up into one glorious casserole.

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For me, it’s simply impossible to not get excited about a dish when it has so many colors, flavors and textures. I happened upon a large stash of butternut squash not too long ago, and rather than going my usual course of roasting {for a side dish} or pureeing {soup style}, I knew I had to try something different. In the past, I’ve had great success incorporating it into mac-&-cheese recipes, but it just didn’t feel right. With unseasonably warm weather, I was craving something hearty but not heavy, light but full of flavor.

I set about searching for the perfect casserole, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for what I’m sharing today, I knew I had found a winner. This casserole is the perfect one to start for your season of autumnal flavors – you’re still using fresh produce {corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions} but starting to introduce the flavors of fall; creamy beans, luscious squash and bolder spices.

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This dish is more or less a one-pot wonder; very little preparation is required, too! I like to roast the squash ahead of time {say, the night before I plan on making it} so that it is ready and waiting for me and not the other way around. Simply prep, assemble, bake and voila! – dinner is served.

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Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health}

An unusual but delicious option to use up an overabundance of butternut squash, this casserole is a dream for any lover of Mexican-style cuisine! Not to mention, it’s a great way to pack in a vegetable punch.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

1/2 a large red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 {15-ounce} can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of corn

2 cups salsa

6 large tortillas, quartered

1-1/2 cups shredded cheese {optional}

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin until evenly distributed. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large non-stick skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add in the corn and red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and oregano. Transfer to bowl and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Into the same bowl as your sauteed vegetables, add in the diced green chilis, drained black beans, and one cup of the salsa. Toss gently to combine.

Spray a glass baking dish, and begin to assemble the casserole. Spread 1/3 cup of the remaining salsa along the bottom, then cover with a layer of tortillas. Tops with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables and then 1/2 cup of cheese.

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Layer two more tortillas on top of the vegetables, then top with 1/3 cup of salsa, then another 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Lastly, layer two more tortillas, the last 1/3 cup of salsa and the last 1/3 of the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Top with sliced avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Enjoy!

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**don’t feel limited to the ingredients listed out here – use what you have on hand! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also think that, should it fancy you, a bit of seasoned taco meat {be it chicken, beef, bison, etc.} would make a wonderful addition**

chicken “noodle” casserole

This is classic comfort food right here. I don’t know about y’all, but I am a casserole freak. Ever since I was a little girl, casserole was among the top favorites for me. On our birthdays, my mom always let us pick what we wanted for dinner that night. It was always, always, a no-brainer for me.

Chicken.Noodle.Casserole.

And we’re talking old-school, Campbell’s Soup based casserole. This is not fancy, frilly food by any means. And honestly, I think that is what makes food special. It’s the memory that food evokes, not the expensive ingredients or crazy cookware.

Since I’ve gotten older, chicken noodle casserole still remains a favorite of mine. But as you all know by now, my food brain tends to work in crazy, albeit kooky ways sometimes. And I’m fully okay with that! At this point, I’m sure you all area scratching your heads, thinking “Where is Alicia going with this?” Well, let’s dive in, shall we?

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What makes this casserole so different is the ingredients that go in here. As I’ve talked about here, I discovered spaghetti squash a few years ago, and it made me rethink pasta. I absolutely love using this wondrous gourd in all sorts of “traditional” pasta dishes. And I’ll tell you what, it works fabulously! Once cooked, spaghetti squash takes on a – you guessed it – spaghetti-like texture. I love it. And in a direct comparison to pasta, it totally wins out in the nutritional sense too. Less carbs, more vitamins….what this means for me is that I can enjoy a lot more of the dish and not worry about feeling weighed down or sluggish after it. #winning

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The other star of this dish is the sauce that holds it together. Tofu! Can you believe it? Super protein packed, and it takes on the flavor of whatever you add to it. In this case, we’ll be going heavy on the herbs that pair well with the chicken. I first tried this sauce for my in-laws. When I told them the base of the sauce was tofu, they was amazed. And not to mention, they both loved it.

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This is one crazy casserole. A new, healthier twist on a classic. I promise, y’all won’t be disappointed.

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Chicken “Noodle” Casserole {original recipe, serves 2 with leftover sauce and squash}

…this can easily be doubled!

1 large spaghetti squash, pre-cooked and shredded*

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

olive oil, to drizzle in the pan
1 large onion, finely diced
2-3 large garlic cloves

1 pack (14 ounces) firm tofu
1/2 C low sodium chicken stock (I like Kitchen Basics)
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 C bread crumbs
1/2 C fresh grated Parmesan cheese

salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, with the rack in the middle of the oven.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and drizzle with olive oil. With clean hands, place chicken breasts in, coating each sides with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

While chicken is cooking, preheat a large nonstick skillet. Drizzle with olive oil, and set to medium heat. Dice the onions and mince the garlic, and add to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook until onions are translucent. Once at that stage, cut the heat and move to a cool space on the stovetop.

Drain the excess liquid off the tofu, and cut into cubes (don’t worry about it being precise, this is just to help with the processing). Add to the food processor, along with the sauteed onions and garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, and chicken stock. Pulse until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides. You want it to have a smooth, silky consistency – similar to a bechemel sauce.

Grease your baking dish (in this case, I used two large ramekins for individual servings. If you don’t have these, an 8×8 or 9×9 glass casserole dish works great for this amount). Spoon a small amount of sauce into the bottom, spreading to coat. Next, layer in the half the chicken (a quarter in each dish), then some of the shredded spaghetti squash. Top with the sauce. Repeat the layering process – the remaining chicken, spaghetti squash, and sauce. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the dish(es). I then like to drizzle a little olive oil on top – it makes for a good crunch!

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the casserole is golden brown on top and bubbly. Serve immediately, ideally with crusty bread for dipping and a glass of white wine.

*to cook the spaghetti squash – preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and place in a casserole dish. Cook for 60-65 minutes, or until you can insert a fork in without resistance. Let cool, the shred with a fork…making “spaghetti” like strands…and store in the fridge in an airtight container. I like to do this the night before, to help reduce cooking time.