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

photo 1

  • 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.

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!

Cheese Enchilada Casserole

Jason and I love tacos and enchiladas. While the real Mexican food from an authentic restaurant is obviously as good as it gets, we rarely eat out, so our home-made variety usually suffices. This recipe turned out delicious and was very easy to make. It could be prepared ahead of time, so when you get home you just need to pop it in the oven.

Cheese Enchilada Casserole

Recipe from EatingWell.Com
Serves 4-6


  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/3 cup sliced onions
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup taco sauce (such as Ortega)
  • 1/4 cup shredded Mozzarella


  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Arrange 3 tortillas in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spread half of cheese mixture over tortillas. Repeat procedure with 3 tortillas and remaining cheese mixture; top with remaining tortillas.
  3. Pour taco sauce over tortillas; sprinkle with Monetary Jack cheese. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until cheese melts. 

A Mexican Twist on Lasagna

The other day I asked Jason what he would like for dinner, because I was out of ideas at the time. He said lasagna and then it came to me; make a lasagna with Mexican-based ingredients. Jason sounded a little skeptical, but went with it, like he usually does. The result – AMAZING! Jason finished off 4 slices easily and wanted t more…he decided to stop since he knew we had delicious chocolate candies from my parents that we would have later for dessert.

This is slightly different than lasagna because it has minimal cheese. Jason and I don’t like ricotta and I didn’t feel like grating cheese when I prepared this in the morning. The only cheese is on the top, but it still tastes great!

Mexican Lasagna
-8 to 10 whole wheat lasagna noodles (depending on your pan size – you will need enough to make 2 layers)
-20 oz container of ground turkey
-1 large onion
-1 can black beans (if fresh, make sure they are soaked, rinsed, and boiled already)
-1 cup of frozen corn
-Jar of spaghetti sauce
-Jar of Salsa
-Mozzarella cheese
-Mild cheddar cheese


  1. In a large pot, bring about 10-12 cups of salted* water to a boil (if you cover the pot it will boil faster since less heat is escaping). Place 3-4 lasagna noodles in the pot and boil for 4-6 minutes, or until slightly soft. Remove from the pot and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Watch out…they are VERY hot! Place on a dish towel to cool. Repeat the process.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the ground turkey. Once fully cooked, add the onion. Since ground turkey is lean and there is little fat that come off of it, I like to just cook the onion in the fat that is there instead of going through the extra steps just to swap out a few grams of saturated fat for unsaturated fat (normally you would need to drain and rinse the meat, set in a separate bowl, wipe out the pan, add oil, heat oil, and then add the onion – this saves me 5 minutes!). Cook the onion for 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave the skillet on the burner. Add the frozen corn (still frozen). The heat from the pan will thaw the corn. Once thawed. Add the black beans.
  3. Spray a 13 X 9″ baking pan. Add one layer of noodles to cover the bottom. Top with half of the meat and vegetable mixture. In a back-and-forth motion, top with about 1/3 cup of spaghetti sauce and 1/3 cup of salsa. I didn’t measure when I did, so add as much as you think is needed. Top with the rest of the noodles. Top those with the rest of the meat and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce and work into the meat mixture using a spatula or spoon.
  4. At this point you have two options: you can place the lasagna in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before you bake it, or you can bake it right away.
  5. Once you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 400F. Don’t add the cheese yet!
  6. Bake for 30 minutes in the center rack.
  7. Remove from the oven and top the lasagna with your choice of cheese. We used about 1/3 of a block of mozzarella and 1/3 of a block of mild cheddar.
  8. Place back in the oven on the center rack and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

*salted water – many people say that you salt water to make it boil faster. This is incorrect. When you add salt to water it raises the boiling point, so the water will take longer to boil, but will boil at a temperature higher than normal. In turn, this makes your food cook faster. Think about this – this is why they use salt on ice outside; it 

lowers the freezing point, causing the ice to melt at 32F and below!

Spanish Rice

At my bridal shower, my bridesmaids had the coolest idea…since they know I love to cook, they had each person attending bring a recipe for me to try out on Jason. One of them was for Spanish Rice from my Aunt Diane.

I made a few modifications, such as using fresh parsley instead of dried and using whole grain rice instead of white rice. Overall, the recipe is good. The only thing Jason suggests is more spice, and I agree. I would probably add some cumin and chili powder.

◦ 1 pound ground meat, browned
◦ 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
◦ 16 oz can stewed tomatoes
◦ 1/4 cup onion, diced
◦ ¾ ketchup
◦ 2 tbsp fresh parsley
◦ 1/8 tsp black pepper
◦ 1 cup Brown rice (uncooked)
◦ 2 cups water

Mix all ingredients together in a pan; cover and simmer for 3/4 of an hour to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Steak Fajitas

Sorry about the fuzzy picture…my camera didn’t want to work right. Jason and I love using Jerk seasoning and pineapple with meats and vegetables. Here is something we threw together the other night.

1 can of diced pineapple in its own juices
4 oz steaks (as many as you’d like)*
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
½ onion of your choice (we used Vidalia), diced
Jerk Seasoning
Olive oil
Sour cream
Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
2 freezer bags (the size depends on how many steaks you have)

*you can use a tougher cut if you want to save money, because this recipe marinates overnight, allowing the acid in the pineapple to tenderize the meat.


  1. The day before you plan to eat prepare the marinade; pour the juice from the can of pineapples into a freezer bag that is big enough for your steaks to all fit and not be too crammed (the more surface area each steak has with the marinade, the more tender it will become). Put the pineapple in a storage container and store in the refrigerator until tomorrow. Rub the steaks with the Jerk Seasoning and place them in the bags. Remember, Jerk seasoning has some kick, so if you don’t like spice, don’t over do it! Place that bag in another freezer bag to prevent leaking. Keep in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. The next day, discard the marinade and grill the steaks. Once done, cut steaks into strips.
  3. While the steaks are being grilled (if someone else is helping you prepare dinner) or shortly before or after they are grilled, heat oil in a small frying pan. Once warm, add the onions and peppers and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Then add the pineapple and sauté for 2-3 more minutes. Season with Jerk seasoning (again, don’t over do it if you don’t like a little spice).
  4. Warm tortillas for a few seconds before serving. Serve pineapple mixture and steaks with sour cream and cheese.