Baked Butternut, S-T-R-E-T-C-H your meals and your budget!

This post is less of a specific recipe and more of an inspirational, budget-friendly writing. I hear SO OFTEN ‘eating healthy is too expensive’ (yes, I reply with the healthcare bill comparison of NOT eating well!).
The truth is, eating healthy OUT of your home may be expensive, but I am extremely frugal and find our average meal to be less than $3 per serving-and that’s averaging in the ‘fancy’ dishes! How is this possible?! LEFTOVERS are not readily discarded, they are expanded in my kitchen! I am known to freeze even 1/2 cup portions of rice for future soups or just a few stalks of asparagus. Sometimes our freezer becomes an exciting visit- figuring out which tiny portions will work well together. It is the JOY of knowing you are caring for your body and your finances along with having fun doing it that really satisfies the soul in creative cooking!
Often, when only bits and pieces of leftovers remain, (such as a cup of spaghetti sauce, small amounts of chili…or lentils…or…) I like to stretch those items into a full meal by adding some random bits of diced veggies; then I hollow out a squash and bake it all together for a satisfying meal!

This simple-preparation, with little ‘hands-on’ time, leads to a lovely presentation culminating in the perfect fall/winter dish.
For this particular recipe, I purchased a LARGE butternut squash from a local farmer. Due to it’s massive density, it needed to bake for about 90 minutes at 350 degrees F. Using a small or medium-sized butternut (or other squash variety) may reduce your baking time by as much as 30 minutes! Please check periodically from 45 minutes on, for doneness- by poking a fork into the middle of the thickest portion of your squash. When done, fork tines will easily slide into the squash.

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I have other ‘stuffed’ recipes on this site which also stretch your leftovers in a delicious way! Search for my stuffed zucchini or portobello caps-all excellent ways to use up bits of sauces, hummus, and even thick stews! This is a common fall meal we enjoy with various veggies and squash types: kabocha, acorn, spaghetti, butternut, or red kuri all work wonderfully!

*In an effort to reduce waste, save the portion of the squash you remove when hollowing for future meals such as curries, soups, or cube and freeze to add to smoothies. Also, consider roasting the removed seeds of large varieties with dried herbs as you would pumpkin seeds! If you’re really practical-use them to begin your next squash crop!

Recipe is listed for featured photo, but please take liberty to alter recipe with your compatible leftovers.

Step One: I halved the butternut squash and removed seeds. Using a strong metal spoon, I made a valley to fill with leftover chili, diced mushrooms, arugula, red onion, jalapeño, and walnuts (pecans would have been delicious here, too!). (If you do not have the strength to do this before baking, soften the squash in a microwave for just a couple of minutes (4-8 min., depending on size and variety).
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You’ll have to forgive the foil-lined sheet, this squash was too large to fit into any of my bakeware!

Then, I filled the squash cavities and drizzled with high quality olive oil, salt and pepper. Depending on your leftovers, your favorite hot sauce or pesto make great additions here as well! Add any herbs you may have and want to use up!
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After baking for one hour uncovered, I sprinkled the squash with our cashew cheese and covered with aluminum foil. This large squash required an extra 30 minutes of baking, but please check yours for softness randomly.
After allowing it to cool, I served it with a bed of arugula to bring out a peppery crunch!
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