Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

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Oh, butternut squash – how I love you. As a kid I never was served butternut squash. While I became more adventurous the older I got, something about squash didn’t appeal to me (probably the texture – I hate mushy food). After hearing my dietetic friends rave about butternut squash this and butternut squash that, I figured I had to break down and give it a chance. How had I been missing out on this heavenly food for so long?!? I was in love instantly. Then I added sage to it and I was in heaven. Ever since I have been making squash dishes a regular occurrence in our house. Since I don’t like mushy foods, I usually use the squash as a sauce or a component of the meal, but don’t often eat it plain. Since I’ve fallen in love with squash, our garden is always full of winter squash and sage plants.

This dish is a simple way to throw together a delicious casserole. Using squash as the sauce cuts out the sodium and sugar often added to other pasta sauces. You don’t need to bake it in the oven unless you choose to put the cheese on to (and who doesn’t love cheese, right?).

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Butternut Squash Pasta Bake


  • 1 cup dried whole grain pasta (8 ounces), prepare
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups cooked butternut squash*, cubed
  • Milk (amount needed will vary)
  • 1/8 cup dried sage or 1/4 cup fresh sage, diced
  • 1 package frozen spinach (10 ounces), thawed
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or other seeds
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion in olive oil. Add the vinegar and mix well. Continue to cook down to desired consistency. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor, place all of the squash. Pulse/process until desired consistency. Add milk to think the mixture if needed.
  4. Add the sage and pulse to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the spinach and pulse until combined. Add the onions and pulse until combined.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture over the pasta and mix well. Transfer to a the prepared dish.
  7. Top the dish with seeds and then shredded cheese.
  8. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

*Tip – preparing winter squash can be a pain. To save time, I dedicate 1 weekend day in the fall to prepare cups of squash. After they are cooked, I portion them into quart freezer bags, so they are ready to go when I need them. I usually portion 1/2 of the squash cubed and 1/2 of the squash already pureed or mashed up.


Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet

This was the first meal I made in the new year. Absolutely delicious. I had never thought to mix butternut squash with black beans, let alone put it in an enchilada skillet. Genius. I modified the recipe a bit, so to see the original over at ambitious kitchen, click here. I added ground beef from our cow to make this a little heartier. If you want a vegetarian dish, you can omit it all together (like the original recipe) or substitute TVP or tofu.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet
adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

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  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced, peeled butternut squash (from about a 2-lb. squash)*
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 ounces of lean ground beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno or equivalent amount of hot peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 – 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup reduced-fat colby jack or mexican cheese (or whatever you prefer), divided
  • cilantro and low-fat sour cream, for serving
  • Round corn tortilla chips, for serving
*To prepare the butternut squash, I think it is easiest to roast it in the oven. I do this every fall with all of my squash and then freeze the cooked squash to use in the winter.  Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. If you want you can peel the squash now, but I prefer to wait until after it is cooked. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds with a metal spoon (roast them if you want). I always find that the base of the squash cooks faster because of that hole, so I like to cut just above the base. You should now have 4 pieces of squash  – 2 half circles and 2 rectangular pieces. Place squash face down on the pan. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce the fleshy part of the squash (or when you touch the outside skin it feel soft). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. With a metal spoon, scoop out the base pieces and mash up in a bowl. Freeze this as a paste to use as a pasta sauce or in soup (or just as mashed squash). Peel the rectangular pieces of squash. The skin should come off pretty easily now. Chop the squash into 1/2″ size pieces. I freeze them in quart-size freezer bags.
  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat in large oven-proof skillet. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and ground beef. Cook until beef is browned all the way through. Add in green pepper and cook 2-3 minutes. Add cubed squash, black beans, cumin, and chili powder. Cook, stirring regularly to prevent the squash from becoming mushy. 
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle in 1 cup of cheese. Cover with a lid and let sit for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.
  3. Serve immediately. Top with sour cream and serve with corn tortilla chips.

Quinoa Casserole

Crock Pot Quinoa Casserole by a Year of Slow Cooking


  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 3 cups broth
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 sliced or chopped almonds
  • 1/3 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
  • handful of baby spinach
  • 1 cup baby tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
  • 1/2 block feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Rinse the quinoa in a fine strainer until the water runs clear. Dump it into 4-6 qt crockpot.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix it around. Add chicken or vegetable broth, the salt, and cinnamon. Stir in almonds and cranberries.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The quinoa is done when you can fluff it with a fork and it is tender. The liquid should be pretty well absorbed, similar to how you know rice is done.
  4. Fluff the quinoa with a fork, and add the baby tomatoes and feta cheese. Stir gingerly to mix. Add a large handful of baby spinach to the top of the crockpot, and close the lid. Cook on high for about 20 minutes, or until the spinach has wilted. Stir again to distribute the spinach.

Autumn Sausage Casserole

Autumn Sausage Casserole by A Year of Slow Cooking


  • 1 pound sausage
  • 1 large, or 2 small apples, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 cups already cooked long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 T dried parsley flakes
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth or water


  1. Use a 4 quart crockpot.
  2. Brown the sausage on the stove top.
  3. Dump all the ingredients into the crock, and stir well.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours.
  5. This will not stick together like a gloppy casserole; it has the consistency of fried rice. Use bowls to serve rather than plates.

A healthier twist on tater-tot casserole

The Kitchen Sink Recipes has delivered again (when does she not?). In the past I have tried to tweak my tater-tot casseroles to not include tater-tots and cut down on the salt and fat included in the traditional canned-soup and green bean recipe. Some of my attempts have turned out better than others, but this one definitely takes the cake. I basically followed her recipe but did make a few adjustments. To see her recipes, visit here site here. The recipe has a salt-free chicken stock-flavored slurry (fat-free white sauce),  which gives this dish the creamy texture without the fat and salt found in canned soup. Her recipe calls for some different vegetables than traditional tater-tot casserole. Since I was going for an authentic tater-tot casserole I opted for frozen green beans instead of the standard canned green beans that one would find in a traditional recipe. The last change is by far the most extreme – I opted for roasted potatoes instead of tater-tots. In the past, swapping potatoes for tots was never an equal substitution, but this time it seems we have a winner.

Tater-Tot (less) Casserole
By TheKitchenSinkRecipes (with changes)


  • 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (1/4-inch dice)
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound ground turkey (light or dark, or a mixture of the two)
  • 16 oz bag frozen french-style green beans
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Butter a large baking dish (a gratin dish or 9×13-inch pan) and set aside.
  2. Toss diced potatoes in 1 tablespoon of the oil and some salt and pepper, spread on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.  Reduce the oven heat to 350.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven.  Add the ground turkey, a small pinch of salt and pepper, and cook until the turkey is nearly cooked through.  Add the garlic, celery seed, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper; saute for a few minutes until softened. Add frozen green beans and saute until thawed.
  4. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock to the pan. Place the flour in a small bowl, and whisk in the milk. Add milk mixture to pan, stirring constantly. Gradually add remaining chicken stock; cook 8 minutes or until mixture thickens.
  5. Pour the turkey mixture into the buttered dish.  Top with the roasted potatoes and grated parmesan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Tortilla Fajita Bake

Oh, life is so busy right now. Today is my first day “off” since the start of the semester so it will be my catch-up day. But, I am a (wo)man of my word, so you will get your post for the week before I get down to business.

I can’t remember when I made this but I do remember it was good. I have made variations of it every few months for the past year. Jason always loves it and it is simple to make, so it is a win-win situation.

Tortilla Fajita Bake


  • Flour tortillas (I used white this time, but multi-grain are great because they can stand up to the juices)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 block of part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 3/4 pound lean ground turkey
  • Fajita seasoning packet
  • Salsa


  1. In a large skillet, brown ground turkey and onion. Add the seasoning packet and peppers once the meat is nearly done. Cook until peppers have only a little crunch left.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a casserole dish.
  3. Layer dish with tortilla shells
  4. Top the shells with thin, but complete layer of the meat mixture. Spread salsa over the meat mixture and top with half of the cheese. Layer with sells and follow with just the meat mixture. Top with shells and then top the shells with cheese.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven), or until the cheese is golden.

See you next week!

Potato-Greens Torta

This is Torta I made months ago and just got around to blogging about. Jason and I are very cheap and often shop at Aldi. One week a 10 pound bag of potatoes were on sale for $0.70. No, I didn’t put the decimal in the wrong spot – 70 cents for 10 pounds of potatoes! We couldn’t pass that deal up, so when I got home I got to cooking. I made over a gallon of potato soup (I will try to find the recipe and blog about it soon), some Pot Pie with potato added, and this recipe. I had never cooked lettuce before (the whole idea seemed odd but then I guess it is similar to cooking spinach), but I trusted that Cooking Light knew what they were talking about when they put together this recipe and I went for it. It turned out to be very good…even better with fresh Parmesan cheese on top 🙂

Potato and Green Totrta
Slightly modified from Cooking Light Magazine

– 1 1/2 pound potatoes, washed and cubed, but not peeled
– 3 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 TBSP canola oil
– 3 cloves of garlic
– 4 cups torn romaine
– 3 cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained
– 1 cup green onion, diced
– 1/2 cup skim milk
– 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
– 2 large eggs
– 3 TBSP bread crumbs
– cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375F and coat a 9″ square pan with cooking spray.
2. Cook potatoes over the stove using a steamer. Mash into a bowl.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and onion. Cook for 2 minutes. Add greens and cook until wilted.
4. Add cooked greens, milk, cheese, eggs, and salt to potatoes. Stir well. Press mixture into the greased pan and top with bread crumbs.
5. Bake at 375F for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Easy and Creamy Tuna Casserole

Jason loves tuna and as most of you could guess by recent blog posts, I do not. The recipes I usually make (Cheesy Tuna Casserole) seems a little heavy, so I wanted to make something lighter for Jason. This recipe does use a slurry for the white sauce instead of a roux and does not have any cheese in it. Jason said it was just as good as they cheesy casserole, so I think it is a winner.

Easy and Creamy Tuna Casserole

Serves 4-6

  • Penne Pasta (enough for 2-3 servings)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 Cans of Tuna
  • 2 Carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk of Celery, diced
  • Full Pea Pods, Diced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Parmesan Cream Sauce* (see below)

Parmesan Cream Sauce Ingredients

  • Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Black Pepper
  • Salad Supreme
  • Rosemary


  1. Boil Noodles
  2. Cook Veggies in a pan with 1 tbsp oil
  3. Add Tuna
  4. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice
  5. In a separate pan prepare the slurry
  1. Pour ½ cup of milk into a measuring cup and add 1 tbsp flour. Mix well. Add the remaining ½ cup milk and mix well. Add pepper, salad supreme, and rosemary. 
  2. Pour mixture into a pan and stir constantly over medium heat with a spatula until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese.
  • Pour Parmesan cream sauce over the veggies and mix well. Add the cooked and drained noodles to the mixture. Stir completely.
  • If desired, you could pour into a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and bake at 375 for 15 minutes, or until bread crumbs are browned.
  • Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

    This week will be a busy one! Yesterday I spent a few hours in the kitchen making all the meals for the week. I hope to blog some of them soon. There was a Black Bean and Corn Lasagna, Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil Rubbed Steaks with Blistered Red Potatoes, Boneless Pork Ribs with Sauteed Apples, and Carrot Cake. We had the steaks last night and they were delicious! I hope to blog these recipes later this week 🙂

    This is a recipe I made last week Tuesday in a rush so I could have some dinner after class. I prepped it by 2pm and then when I was home at 6pm I threw it in the oven. It turned over quite good. It was a little dry, so I added a little bit of an herb oil I made when I served it and then it was just perfect. 
    Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
    -Whole Wheat Rotini Pasta
    -2 chicken breasts, diced
    -2 tbsp Olive Oil
    -1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    – Breadcrumbs
    -4 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
    1. Prepare as much pasta as you would like in a medium sauce pan, as directed by the package. When finished, drain and set aside.
    2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil and add the diced chicken. 
    3. Once all sides of the chicken are white, add the remaining oil and broccoli. You can also add the balsamic vinegar. Sadly, the vinegar is acidic so it turns the broccoli and dull green-brown color. If I were cooking for appearance I would omit it all together, but I cook for taste.
    4. Cook the mixture until the chicken reaches 165F. 
    5. Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta. Stir to mix well.
    6. Heat the oven to 350F and spray a large casserole dish.
    7. Put the mixture into the casserole dish. Top with cheese and breadcrumbs.
    8. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the top is golden.

    Turkey and Rice with Tomato Pepper Sauce

    Turkey and Rice with Tomato Pepper Sauce

    (Modified from the Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites recipe for Stuffed Peppers)


    · 1.5 pounds of 93% lean ground turkey

    · 1 cup diced onions

    · 2 tbsp dried parsley

    · 2 tsp paprika

    · ½ tsp salt

    · ¼ tsp ground all-spice

    · 2 colored peppers (I used yellow and orange), chopped

    · 2 cups tomato sauce

    · 2 cups brown rice, cooked

    · ½ cup grated Parmesan


    1. Heat a large skilled to medium. Add the ground turkey and onion and cook for 3 minutes, breaking up the meat while you cook it. Add in the parsley, paprika, salt and all-spice and continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Add the chopped peppers and cook until the meat is browned.

    2. Add the pasta sauce and brown rice to the mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat for 3-5 more minutes.

    3. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese.

    *the original recipe is for stuffed peppers. Here is what you can do to make these stuffed:

    1. Heat the oven to 450F.
    2. Do not cut up the peppers but cook the rest of the mixture as directed. You will need at least 4 more peppers for this recipe. Cut off the tops of the peppers and discard the seeds and membrane. Do not throw out the top – reserve for later. Place peppers in the microwave for 2 minutes so they are still slightly crisp, but a little tender. Let cool.
    3. Place about ¾ cup of the cooked beef mixture into each pepper and place each pepper into a sprayed baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 more minutes, or until lightly browned. Garnish with the reserved pepper tops.