I started a compost pile in my yard last year. Nothing fancy, just a place where I could toss all my cuttings from fresh veggies, fruits and eggshells. One year later, I was blessed with volunteer vines of butternut squash, and now that they've ripened, I'm jumping for joy. Who knew that some kind of afterthought — tossing seeds and skin into a pile in my side yard — would gift me with some of the best, most healthful squashes?
The only downside to fall squash is peeling them without losing a finger. If you go online and Google something like "best way to peel butternut squash," you'll find numerous suggestions, all of which begin with a sharp knife. The easiest way I've found is to cut off the ends, then get a good vegetable peeler to peel the skin away. Again, fall squashes are hard as diamonds, so you'll need that sharp knife once more to cut the squash into pieces.
If you haven't been blessed with butternut squash in your garden, forget the above instructions and read my lips: Head straight to the store and buy it already peeled, cut and diced. You'll find it in the freezer sections of most grocery stores. It's so much easier to open a bag than peel a butternut squash.
Whatever method you choose — by the bag or from the garden — butternut squash is one of the most healthful members of the squash family with manganese, vitamins E and B6, folate, niacin and other nutrients, and there are so many ways to enjoy its benefits. One of my favorites is a one-pot wonder: butternut squash with black beans and tortilla strips topped with cheese in a skillet. It's like a creamy enchilada that's a good vegetarian meal unless you want to add some chicken for more protein, although you'll get plenty from the black beans.
One-Pot Skillet Squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
3 cups peeled butternut squash, 1/2-inch diced (fresh or frozen)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 yellow corn tortillas, cut into thick strips
1 (15 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded colby Jack or cheddar, divided
Greek yogurt or sour cream and guacamole or avocado slices, for serving, if desired
Add olive oil to a large cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet, and place over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and jalapeno, and cook 3-5 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add cubed squash, cumin and chili powder, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is slightly tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes.
Add the black beans, tortilla pieces and enchilada sauce, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low, and sprinkle in 1/2 cup of cheese. Stir again, and simmer for a few minutes.
Turn on oven broiler to high. Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup of cheese (or more if you'd like) over the top of the enchilada mixture, and place in oven under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts. Remove from oven, and garnish with sour cream, guacamole or avocado slices. Serve immediately.
October is National Pasta Month, and Carrabba's is celebrating by offering a new pasta on Mondays through the end of the month. Here's what's still in store:
* Through Sunday, try the Mezzaluna Carrabba. It's made with half-moon ravioli with chicken, ricotta, parmesan and romano cheeses with mushrooms and peas in a creamy Alfredo sauce.
* Oct. 23-29, enjoy Pasta Toscana with chicken. It's a dish of fettuccine, spinach and mushrooms tossed in a roasted garlic cream sauce with grilled chicken. Yum yum!
Chattanooga's Carrabba's is at 2040 Hamilton Place Blvd.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org or annebraly.com.