Spicy Butternut Squash Tacos with Caramelized Onions

On Saturday, we had a girls’ night at our place, so I was in the kitchen all afternoon stirring and cooking for the feast ahead. When this group of women get together I know two things: there will be much laughter, and we will eat VERY well. Both were true on Saturday, and by the end of the evening I was stuffed and feeling the food coma. I woke up this morning still feeling full and a little lethargic from all the food the night before.

We have to get a little creative cooking for this gang of feisty feminists – we’ve got me with my gluten-free lifestyle, and Kris who’s vegetarian. But is is a problem? – absolutely not! Even if the contestants on Top Chef seem completely stunned to have to cook a gluten-free or vegetarian meal, it’s certainly not a problem for our crew. I lose a little respect for chefs who show up to a competition without a stunning vegetarian or allergy-free menu in their back pocket – it’s not that hard!

For this gluten and meat free gathering, I focused on using up the three butternut squash that were hulking in the fridge. I wanted to go beyond the typical varieties of squash soup, and something heartier, and a little spicy. I decided to make some refried beans, and then roast the squash for tacos with homeade tortillas.

The tacos went over very well – there were groans of pleasure, and every single tortilla and bite of squash miraculously disappeared. The balance of the spicy chipotles with the sweet squash was perfect. I topped the tacos with Mexican cotija cheese, which is a bit like parmesan – a dry, hard cheese with a nice nuttiness and quite salty. In addition to the cheese, we topped the tacos with cilantro and oven caramelized onions. And I enjoyed the tacos so much, I did a re-run tonight, as I still had more squash in the fridge, and some leftover beans. If you love butternut squash, give this a try for a different way to utilize the bounty of autumn.

Butternut Squash Tacos
Serves 2

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
1 T olive oil
2 T chipotle en adobo puree
1/2 tsp salt

oven roasted caramelized onions
grated cotija cheese (use feta if you can’t get cotija where you live)

Serve with homeade tortillas (or store-bought) and beans.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil.
  2. Place the cubed squash in a large bowl, add the olive oil, chipotle puree and salt and toss to coat. Pour the squash onto the oiled sheet pan and spread the squash in one layer. Roast for 30 minutes, stir, and roast for 30 more minutes until the squash begins to caramelize.
  3. Serve the roasted squash with warm tortillas, cotija cheese, caramelized onions and cilantro.
  4. Caramelized Onions: To make the caramelized onions, slice two onions and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread onions on an oiled sheet pan, and roast at 350 degrees for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when a the onions begin to get a little bit crisp, and the onions taste sweet. Because the onions need to roast at a lower temperature, make these before you roast the squash.

Homeade tortillas: 55 cal/each 4″ tortilla
Roasted Squash: 114 cal per 3/4 cup serving

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Bacon Chipotle Vinaigrette

On our first day in Denver, my brother took us up to Boulder for the afternoon. We didn’t have any particular agenda in mind, just to wander Pearl street, and visit some of the wonderful shops there. After we’d wandered around and worked up an appetite, it was time for a late lunch.

Mike took us to his favorite brewpub, Mountain Sun. We’d been there before on our last visit and remembered it as a friendly, homey spot with good food, and good beer for the boys. I was a little more anxious on this visit, as my gluten sensitivity has become quite severe, and eating out can be a real challenge. Mountain Sun was packed when we arrived, as it was also the first day of Great American Beerfest, and the beer geeks were there supporting their favorite establishment and talking brew. But once we snagged a table, I was very pleasantly surprised with the care that our very busy server took to ensure that I would eat safely.

I ordered a spinach salad topped with roasted butternut squash with a warm bacon-chipotle vinaigrette, and topped with fresh feta cheese. It was amazing, and if I could have licked the plate I would have. I knew that when we arrived home, I’d have to make this salad soon, so that I’d have the recipe on file. I made a few changes – making it a bit meatier for Mark, and roasting the squash with a bit of bacon fat, herbs and some chipotle puree. I didn’t have any spinach (which would have been my preference), but we did have some beautiful romaine on hand from our farm share that fit the bill nicely. Next time you’re looking for a different twist on a dinner salad – give this one a try!

Spicy Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
Serves 2
700 cal per serving, 30g fat, 69g carbs, 38g protein, 6g fiber, 2000mg sodium, 680mg potassium

Half a butternut squash, peeled, cored, and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 strips bacon, cooked, chopped and fat reserved
2 tsp chipotle puree
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
4 cups of romaine lettuce, torn
1oz feta, crumbled
3oz cooked chicken breast, cubed (optional)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
olive oil spray for cookie sheet

1 T warm bacon fat
1 T champagne vinegar
1 T stone ground mustard
1-2 tsp chipotle puree, to taste
1/2 tsp maple syrup
salt to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 450, turn on the convection if you’ve got it. Meanwhile, slice the squash in half, lengthwise. Cover half with saran wrap and stash it in the fridge to cook another evening. Peel the half you’re going to use with a wide Y-shaped peeler, then scoop out the seeds and guts. Slice the squash lengthwise into 1/2″ wide slices, then cube the squash into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Toss the squash into a medium sized bowl, and pour 1tsp of bacon fat over the squash, and toss to coat. Add the rosemary and garlic, 1-2 tsp chipotle puree, salt, and stir to coat. Spray a sheet pan with olive oil, and pour the squash onto the sheet pan in one layer. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, and roast for 20 more minutes.
  3. While the squash is finishing roasting, make the dressing. Combine all the dressing ingredients (make sure the bacon fat is warm, so it’s liquid), and whisk. Taste, and adjust seasoning – if it’s too tart, add a bit of olive oil to smooth it out a bit.
  4. When the squash is done, and a bit carmelized at the edges, assemble the salad. Toss the greens with the dressing and pile the lettuce on the plates. Top with the bacon, feta, chicken and squash, then dig in!

Chipotle Butternut Soup

We arrived home from our Thanksgiving trek to Michigan on Sunday to a mostly bare fridge – my quest to work through our giant monthly farm share was apparently successful – all I have left is butternut squash, onions and sweet potatoes. After a weekend away, and being in the car for six hours, I was looking for something easy to cook up for weeknight dinners.

I settled on my old standby – butternut squash soup, but I was searching for new flavors to zip it up a bit. I had a jar of chipotles in adobo sauce that I had previously pureed, and since the spicy thai butternut soup went over so well a couple weeks ago, I thought that chipotles might work just as well as curry – and I was right. The finished soup has a lovely balance of spicy, smoky and sweet flavors, and now I’ve got a few meals in the bank for the week.

Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8
4 Weight Watchers points per serving

1 2lb butternut squash
1 acorn squash
1 small onion, minced
1 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 cups water
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
3 T maple syrup
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 T chipotle in adobo puree
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place face down on a cookie sheet. Roast for 60 minutes, or until squash is tender, and you can easily pierce the skin with a paring knife. Remove squash, and let cool. Scoop out the flesh, and place in a food processor, and process until smooth. You should have about 4-5 cups of puree.
  2. Heat a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Add butter and onions and saute until onion softens – 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add squash, stock, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Stir, and heat through. If soup is still very thick (mine was), begin adding water until the soup is just a tiny bit thicker than you would like it. Add the maple syrup, chipotle puree and smoked paprika, and stir to combine. Add milk, stir, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and if the soup is still too thick, add a bit more water.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with air popped popcorn.

Thai Curry Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

And now for my first recipe…and how fitting that this one is inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Closet Kitchen, and his recipe for Coconut Butternut Squash. I simply took his brilliant idea a step further and turned it into soup, and it turned out surprisingly well. Mark even declared “Why would you ever make normal butternut squash soup, when you could make this?” So I guess this is a keeper.

For the record, I still like my “normal” butternut soup – Wolfgang Puck makes some very delicious soup.

Thai Coconut Curry Butternut Soup

Serves 8
(5 Weight Watchers Points per serving)

Butternut Puree:
3lb butternut squash, peeled, cored, sliced in 1″ slices
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1Tb olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash slices on a oiled cookie sheet, toss with 1Tb olive oil and nutmeg. Roast for 30 minutes, flip slices, roast 30 more minutes, then remove from oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool. When the squash is cooled a bit, place in food processor and puree until smooth. Set aside. Puree can be made a day or two ahead of making the soup.

2Tb butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb fresh ginger, grated
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste
1/2 tsp cardamom, ground
6 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
2 Tb fish sauce (to taste)

chopped cilantro
air popped popcorn
lime wedges

Making the Soup:
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add butter and onion and saute for a few minutes until onions start to soften.

2. Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cardamom and red curry paste. Stir, cooking until fragrant – about 30 seconds.

3. Add butternut puree and stock, and heat until the soup comes to a bare simmer. Continue simmering for about 20 minutes, and add more curry if taste is too subtle, though beware that the spice level will increase when you eat the leftovers the next day. Season the soup with the fish sauce, to taste.

4. Pour soup into a food processor and puree until smooth, in several batches. Pour pureed soup into a new pot, and return to stove on low heat. Add the coconut milk, and stir until incorporated. Taste for seasoning, and adjust if necessary.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Serve with air popped popcorn, garnishing every lovely spoonful with a couple of kernels.