You butternut miss out on winter squash season!


Winter squash is a wonderful, healthy and affordable option this time of year.

For those cutting out pasta or reducing carbohydrates, there is a great spaghetti squash recipe with a speedy marinara. Love complex flavors? Try acorn squash stuffed with couscous, pecans, cinnamon, apples and cranberries. To warm up on a cold day, cook some velvety butternut squash pear soup. And don’t miss this divine butternut squash gratin, which is worthy of a holiday dinner. Enjoy!

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Makes 2 servings.

1 acorn squash
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (10-ounce) package plain couscous or 2 cups cooked wild rice blend
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
2 chicken sausage links, sliced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Wash acorn squash, cut it in half and remove the seeds. Fill each cavity with 1 tablespoon brown sugar and butter.

Place on microwave-safe dish and microwave for 9-13 minutes, until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Set aside.

Cook couscous according to package directions.

In a frying pan, heat oil and cook onion, apple and chicken sausage until slightly tender (about 5 minutes). Fluff couscous and add it to sausage mixture. Add dried cranberries, nuts and cilantro and toss. Stuff mixture into acorn squash halves. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Note: I like to add an extra dash of cinnamon!

Butternut Squash Gratin

Butternut Squash Gratin

Makes 6 servings.

Butter for pan
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and thinly sliced (about 1/8-inch thick)
Salt and pepper
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 cups heavy cream
Caramelized onions (see recipe below)

Heat oven to 375.

Add a layer of squash to the bottom of a buttered 9×9 baking pan; season with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Repeat until all squash has been used, adding the most amount of cheese to the top. Pour heavy cream over squash. Top with caramelized onions. Bake 25-35 minutes, until squash is tender. Serve immediately.

Caramelized Onions

2 large red onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper

In a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat, heat olive oil and butter. When hot, add onions. Cook 25-30 minutes, stirring frequently. If oil absorbs, add water — a few tablespoons at a time — to keep onions from burning. When onions are almost done, add brown sugar and stir. Add salt and pepper.

Note: You will not use all the onions for the Butternut Squash Gratin, but they are so delicious, and leftovers freeze well.

Spaghetti Squash with Quick Goat Cheese Marinara

The sauce in this dish comes together in 10 minutes, but the squash takes a long time to cook. One option is to cook the squash on a Sunday, and then whip up the sauce during the week when you need a quick dinner.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Spaghetti Squash with Quick Goat Cheese Marinara

1 large spaghetti squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 cups marinara sauce
1/2 cup jarred roasted red bell peppers
4 ounces plain goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Fresh basil for garnish (optional)

For the squash: Heat oven to 400. Cut squash in half lengthwise, discard the seeds and divide olive oil between the two halves. Add generous amount of salt and pepper to each. Fill baking dish with 1/8 inch of water, and add squash, cut side up. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until tender. Remove squash and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before handling.

When squash is cool, use a fork to shred insides. It will come apart like pasta.

For the sauce: Heat marinara in a medium pot. Place jarred red bell peppers in food processor and process into small pieces. Add peppers to the sauce, along with goat cheese and Italian seasoning. When goat cheese melts through, the sauce is ready. Serve sauce over shredded squash.

Note: It can be challenging finding fresh basil this time of year, but it makes a wonderful garnish.

Butternut Squash Pear Soup

Butternut Squash Pear Soup

This smooth soup, based on a dish I had in Spain, is a simple recipe in which the squash shines. Pears should be semi-ripe — sweet but firm enough to peel.

Makes 4 servings.

3 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
4 1/3 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 Bartlett pears, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Green onion for garnish (optional)
Rustic bread for serving (optional)

In a soup pot, fry bacon until crisp; set aside on a towel to dry. Add olive oil to pot. When oil is hot, add onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add squash, pears and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are fork-tender. Turn off heat and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, fill blender or food processor halfway with mixture (not more or the steam will build up) and puree. Repeat until all soup has been pureed. Warm soup on the stove, top it with crumbled bacon and green onion and serve with rustic bread.