Rice is one of the most versatile of foods. It takes on whatever flavors you are in the mood to add to it, and becomes a warm, steaming bowl of nourishment that really hits the spot on a cold evening. In this post, I am sharing two autumn rice recipes, both similar in that they include diced butternut squash and walnuts, and different from each other in that one is a savory and one is subtly sweet. Both versions are full of flavor and comfort, and are great side dishes for an autumn meal.
The bright, beautiful colors in this meal reflect the wide variety of its nutrients and the vitality of its flavors. Roasted butternut squash, lightly spiced black beans, red cabbage, spinach, and feta cheese make up these healthy, easy, and tasty tacos. With this recipe, you can have a delicious lunch or dinner on the table in a little over a half an hour, and have all your nutritional bases covered. And you get to use that squash that you’ve been meaning to use for a few days!
At least that is how it often is with me when I bring home a squash. Sometimes it sits on the counter for a few days before I decide what to do with it. (Good thing they keep well!) But when I use it, I am always glad I did. And that is definitely the case with these butternut squash and black bean tacos. The delicately sweet flavor of the roasted squash goes so nicely with the black beans, cumin, and feta cheese, and the cabbage and spinach give it extra nutrition, color and texture.
What I also like about this recipe is that it is very simple and doesn’t require a big time commitment to make. While the squash is roasting, you can prepare everything else. It is a light, yet extremely nourishing meal. And if you want to add more filling elements, some shredded chicken or other meat would taste good in there, and some cooked rice would work too. And of course, I always like my tacos with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole on the side too!
It seems like it has been winter for a long time now, and this brightly colored meal is just what I need to boost my energy levels. This past week, I am finding it a challenge to find the balance between being informed about what is going on in the United States and not getting worn down from too much news. It seems like every hour there is another news item to digest and try to understand. Our country is going through a difficult and strange time, and sometimes I have to get my mind away from current events to focus on the duties, challenges, and joys of daily life. And food! We have to eat, no matter what is happening, and the better we eat, the better we are able to live our lives, act on what we believe in, and impact the world for the good.
So I hope you all have a great weekend, and stay warm! It is cold out there today, but at least the sun is shining, and that is a very welcome sight! I will leave you with a quote I came across today–“Be as a bird, who, halting in her flight on a limb too slight, feels it give way beneath her, yet sings knowing she has wings.” ~by Victor Hugo.
one medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups when diced)
one 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
one teaspoon of cumin powder
8 medium sized four tortilla shells
2 cups of red cabbage, finely chopped
2 cups of fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
feta cheese for sprinkling on top
salt and pepper to taste
Optional things for the side:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Carefully peel and dice the butternut squash. (A good sharp knife is really helpful for this part, and be careful peeling!) On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the diced squash with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. When the squash pieces are lightly and evenly coated with the oil, roast them in the oven for about 30 minutes, until tender, opening the oven about halfway through to flip the pieces over.
While the squash is roasting, get out a large mixing bowl. In the bowl, stir together the beans, one tablespoon of olive oil, and the cumin. Wash and chop the cabbage and the spinach and crumble the Feta. Wrap your tortilla shells in foil. about 10 minutes before the squash is done, place the foil-wrapped tortillas in the oven to warm them. Then about five minutes before the squash is done, pull out the baking sheet and add the bean mixture, stirring to combine. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast until the squash is tender and the beans are warmed through. Adjust the seasonings to taste after squash is done.
When everything is done, place a tortilla on a plate. Spoon the squash/bean mixture onto the tortilla. Top with the chopped cabbage and spinach. Sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Enjoy!
With savory thyme, mellow butternut squash, and warm melted cheese, this flatbread pizza is perfect for lunch, or for dinner alongside a salad or a hearty bowl of soup. It only takes about a half hour to make, so it is a great option when you are short on time, but want something warm and satisfying.
I tend to go overboard in the late fall when buying squash. The different colors and varieties all look so inviting, and I have so many plans and ideas for them. Then when winter comes, I still have a couple of squash sitting elegantly on the counter in a pretty still-life, waiting to be used. This flatbread pizza is a perfect way to use that squash before it’s too late, and it tastes so good, even the non-squash-lovers in your family will be surprised. The health benefits of squash are well-known, and we can all use some extra potassium, fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
The key is to cut the pieces of the squash small enough so they roast to tenderness while they are on the flatbread, thereby saving yourself that extra step of pre-roasting the squash before baking the pizza. The sliced onion and the thyme really add a beautiful flavor, and blend so well with the mildness of the squash. I like to use naan flatbread for these pizzas, which you can easily find at the grocery store. That makes them quick to make, because sometimes time is scarce.
Because our winter has been unusually mild so far, I was able to go out and find some thyme in our garden for this pizza. I am always pleasantly amazed at how good fresh herbs smell, and how each one has such a distinct flavor. I did a little research on thyme, since I like to add meaning to my food. According to many sources, thyme historically symbolizes courage. Greek soldiers used to bathe in water infused with thyme before battles, and medieval maidens embroidered thyme leaves on their knights’ cloaks for courage. Thyme was also placed under pillows at night to keep nightmares away.
Another prevalent theme regarding thyme is that according to northern European folklore, fairies were often found sleeping in beds of wild thyme. In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon, king of the fairies, tells where to find the queen of the fairies: “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,/ Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,/Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,/With sweet musk-roses and elegantine.” When my kids were younger, we used to go around the yard looking for fairy houses. Little did we know, there might have been one in our herb garden. 🙂
I hope you all have a great weekend, and happy holidays! And if you need a little extra courage one day, tuck a sprig of thyme in your pocket.I am taking this recipe over to Angie’ Fiesta Friday today, co-hosted this week by Caroline @ Caroline’s Cooking and Linda @ La Petite Paniere.
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 of an onion, sliced thinly (yellow sweet or red onion)
1-2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I use mozzarella and Parmesan, but sharp cheddar would work too)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and chop the butternut squash and slice the onion. Lightly spread olive oil onto the pieces of flatbread. Arrange the pieces of squash and slices of onion on the flatbreads. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Then sprinkle with the shredded cheese. Place the pizzas on a baking sheet, and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the cheese is melted. Serve alone as a light meal, or as a side dish with soup or salad. Enjoy!