Something about fall makes me think about gourds, squash and of course, PUMPKINS! Besides pumpkins however, there also is an abundance of other squash and with the availability through the roof September through November I start to incorporate them into my dishes more frequently. As my favorite fall squash and often forgotten orange fleshed vegetable, I figured I would offer up Butternut Squash Chili as a great starting off point to trying this useful gourd! If you haven’t already cooked with other squash, I also recently tried a pumpkin carrot cake muffin recipe and a delicious yogurt zucchini bread that I include below but mostly we are going to focus on the butternut today! We are usually all about pumpkins during this time, but give butternut squash a chance!
First off lets talk about the mighty gourd – pumpkins, butternut, and spaghetti are all types of squash! Zucchini is a squash too, along with patty pans, and so are many types of gourds. They all have similar growing styles – spread out leafy vines, have some flowers, then slowly the blooms change into some sort of vegetable with a spot at the bottom where the flower once was and the vine hardening at the top to create a (sometimes prickly) stem. With most squash, they have a decent shelf life, these spherical treasures last well into the winter months so you can nab one now and keep it until you are in a veggie pinch! If you have family or a neighbor that grows zucchini like I did growing up, you may have tried zucchini bread or other zucchini dishes! Despite a large portion of the ingredients being a vegetable, zucchini bread has little to no nutritional value but is delish! I am not a fan of zucchini in any other form however, it tends to get soggy and slimy so I haven’t enjoyed it much over the years. I basically stayed away from most squash (unless it was in bread form) until I was an adult.
When I had kids, one of their favorite baby foods was the jar of Gerber butternut squash. Since it is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium; and vitamin A. (thanks wikipedia) I looked for a squash figuring I could make it myself (of course). I bought one and called my dad (this is a common theme for many of my food origins – my mom and dad are a constant source of cooking knowledge). He told me to cut it in half and stick it in the microwave. After it was in there for almost 10 minutes (those things are thick!) it did work! I also tried steaming the squash and I was able to mash it and make my own baby food a few times! Ultimately, once I discovered that butternut squash cubed in a crock pot became soft enough for baby food, I searched recipes on how to incorporate it into family meals so I could just share with my babes. Years later and I have started cooking with the squash in other ways too. More to come on that!
Let’s talk about cutting up a butternut squash, its slippery, orange and it isn’t a big deal!
A quick note on prepping the squash for roasting or chili. I have seen a few different ways of doing this but I like to peel it first, and once all the hard flesh is removed, chop off the stem and the very bottom. You only need a few cups of squash for the chili recipe so dont worry if you have left over! The above picture is WHAT’S LEFT after I already added 2 cups into the crock pot. I cut just above the rounded end and cube up the top. The rounded part has the seeds in it, and you can cut it half and de-seed with a spoon just like a pumpkin the chop it into cubes as well!
Back to fall. Fall is for stick to your bones comfort food as the weather turns from warm to a chill in the air. Chili in a crock pot is one of my favorite fall recipes and I make it every year! My favorite part about this chili is it is full of vitamins and fiber and you can add whichever meat you want or add no meat so you can choose to pair with a protein later! You can also just eat it as is – a great meatless meal! A good chili to me always has tomatoes, chili powder (duh) and some sort of bean and all of those flavors go well with butternut squash! I have made quite a few meat chili’s but I feel like my most successful chili is the below recipe – and the versatility of adding a protein later makes it even more useful! I also get a little nuts and put it in omelets too – think of a chili egg hash.
In addition to freshly chopped onions and other veggies, I have a secret ingredient – frozen garlic cloves from Trader Joe’s! They pop right out of the container like little ice cubes and you can keep them in your freezer for whenever you need a clove or two for your meal! They also offer ginger in this way so I add a cube of that as well and most of the other ingredients you should have in your home. If you don’t already have bay leaves – get a bottle and you will periodically grab a leaf for an inedible flavor kick. Bay leaves are funny since they a great for soups and stews but you always pull it out once the meal is cooked so it isn’t accidentally chewed up – it isn’t toxic obviously but even after cooking for hours it is still very hard and could get stuck in your throat!
Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili
- 1 butternut squash ½-1 inch cubes (or about 2 cups worth)
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 2-4 garlic cloves, (frozen cubes from TJs or freshly cut)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 frozen cube of fresh ginger)
- Black Pepper to taste – about 1/4 teaspoon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 regular cans black beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups softened black beans
- 1 large can diced tomatoes or 2 cans regular or fire roasted tomatoes (include the liquid of whichever you choose)
- 2 cups vegetable broth or one box of broth
Here is the crock pot stirred once everything has been added in. It seems easy enough and that’s because it is! Set it on low for 6 hours and you are done with prep! I don’t have a insta-pot but I imagine this could be magical in one, let me know if you try it!
Once its done, you can add some onions, cheese, or greek yogurt on top of the bowl or maybe add some zing with a few red pepper flakes – let cool a bit and enjoy! Even my kids like it and you can add some macaroni noodles for chili mac!
Roasted Butternut Squash
Got a butternut squash and don’t feel like chili or have a HALF A SQUASH left over since you bought one too big? Just cube it, toss in olive oil OR coconut oil (your choice of cooking oil really) and add a seasoning to roast in the oven! You can throw a piece of parchment paper down and clean up is a breeze too! I like to toss the cubes with the oil and give a good coating of cinnamon and ginger and a add little pinch of salt! If you are grilling you can also throw all of this deliciousness in foil for some packet goodness. Another great combination is sage, salt and pepper for a bit more of a savory vibe. Otherwise, just seasoning salt will do the trick and you are set! As I mentioned above, I like to peel the entire squash all at once, chop it up and put about 2 cups in chili and the rest in a container for easy roasting later. If you aren’t into cubes, you can always cut a squash in half, remove the seeds, and roast it face down after you hit it with a bit of oil and seasonings (parchment paper is a great idea here too). Once the flesh is soft in the thickest part, you can let it cool a bit, scoop it out on your plate and enjoy!
Other Squash + Bread = Magic
Zucchini has so many recipes and once shredded can be very versatile! I prefer a food processor for my major shredding tasks, but you can also roll up your sleeves and use a cheese grate. Once shredded, zucchini is often very soaking wet, so wrapping in a towel and hanging over the side of a sink to allow some of the moisture to come out is a great method of keeping your zucchini baked goods from getting too soggy!
Pumpkin is surprisingly easy to get from actual pumpkins if you haven’t tried it, so save the canned version for when you can’t get fresh! I am referring to pie pumpkins that you can find at any grocery store or even most hardware stores. They literally have a sticker on them that says PIE – so you know you are getting the right one. Last year, my mom roasted some and gave me a gallon of pumpkin. A GALLON of it! So I made a few pumpkin things – pumpkin pancakes, bread, and also – PUMPKIN CARROT MUFFINS! Think of moist carrot cake + pumpkin! So back to HOW you “make” it. Just cut it half and put it cut side down on a pan. Cook it at 350* F for about 40 minutes and you will be able to slice the scoop the meat of the pumpkin out and save it for your recipes!
Here are my two favorite squash bread/muffin recipes. Both I found and used from le world wide web.
Let me know if you make either of these! I have a zucchini I need to shred right now so it will be soon in this house!
So there you have it! Use your squash people! Got an interesting recipe? Share it with me so I can try it! I have another recipe coming – since I haven’t made pork loin in a while and I have a TON of apples and a bunch of leftover raw butternut squash – next week’s meal plan will be written up for another fall squash crock pot fave!