Archive for October, 2008

winter squash dip

anyone who knows me knows how obsessed i am with autumn and winter. in fact, one of the first memories my husband has of me is seeing this strange girl walking around our sunny san diego college campus during winter all bundled up in a winter coat and scarf–there’s always a scarf on, november to march. you see, it’s not that i can’t handle a slight breeze in the air; i can. in fact, i pray really hard every day for that slight breeze to turn into a huge gust–preferably with snow. but living in coastal southern california that’s just not bound to happen–sleet, maybe, but soft, beautiful, powdery snow? not exactly. so when we DO receive even the slightest hint of a chill in the air, i squeal with delight and bundle myself up…all in celebration of winter. oh Cold, how i love you so.

needless to say, i love autumn and winter. all the yummy seasonal food is one of the main reasons of this, and topping my favorite food list is winter squash. i have to admit, when i walked into henry’s a month ago and saw their autumn squash display in the middle of the store, an audible squeak left my mouth as i gasped in delight–and almost nearly ran into the flyer stand. and topping the list of squash is butternut squash–just ask my husband how passionate i am about butternut squash…in fact, i truly believe that spring and summer exist for the sole purpose of allowing the orange tint of my skin to fade back into my normal pasty white (yes, believe it or not, my skin tone can actually fade; i never knew that was possible). oh butternut squash, how i love you so. (hmm, i love a lot of things “so”…)



1 kabocha squash, small butternut squash, or 2 c. pumpkin puree

4 oz. neufchatel cheese, softened

1/2 c. fat-free sour cream

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 T. honey

pinch salt

nutmeg, to taste

cinnamon, to taste

cayenne, to taste

chili powder, to taste



1) preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2)  (for step-by-step instructions with photos, see here.)  cut squash in half from top to bottom. scoop out seeds and strings. place in glass pan cut side down. add a little bit of water into the pan so squash doesn’t stick to bottom and to give the meat a bit of moisture while it roasts. bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.

3) remove squash from oven. allow to cool for about 5 minutes, or until you can touch it without burning your little fingers.

4) scoop out cooked meat with a spoon and place into a small mixing bowl. 

5) add remaining ingredients. (note: i didn’t put measurements for the spices because i feel like everyones taste buds are different. so add to taste, remembering that it’s better to add a little bit at a time rather than too much, because you can always add more spice but can never take it back out. also, if you prefer it to be sweet only and not spicy, feel free to eliminate the cayenne and chili powders. i added it in there because my husband and i like sweet and spicy mixtures, and like to have a little kick on the back of our tongues when we eat. but i promise you won’t be disappointed if you keep it in there. just add a bit to taste but not enough to make you breath fire out of your mouth.) 

6) blend with an electric hand mixer until smooth. serve and enjoy!


we ate this with pieces of fresh pita bread (from our local farmers market, yum!) and with apple slices. but i’m sure it would taste just as good with pita chips, carrot sticks, graham cracker pieces, etc. i even contemplated spreading it on a slice of pumpkin bread like pumpkin butter.

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i admit it: chili is one of my favorite foods. just the thought of it brings back nostalgic memories of the chili cook-offs my childhood church used to hold every year. so it’s only fitting that this should be my first post.  that and i don’t know a man who doesn’t like chili–and my husband is about as manly as they come (minus that whole classical guitarist thing; but i do believe he balances that out by being a licensed pyrotechnician, right?….RIGHT???). he falls in love with me all over again when he puts one bite of this in his mouth.



1 1/2 c. dry beans (+ water for soaking)*

6 c. water

2 c. chopped onion

3 anaheim peppers, seeds and veins removed

1 jalepeno, with seeds (or, if you don’t like much heat, deveined and seeded. but don’t skip the jalepeno; trust me, with the seeds taken out, it’s not hot at all. come on, be daring. you can always drink milk afterwards if it’s too hot)

1/4 lb. ground beef (this can be omitted for a vegetarian option, or subbed for black beans)

pinch or two salt

2 large tomatoes, diced (or 1/2-3/4 c. salsa or enchilada sauce)

2 tsp. salt

2 T. worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

2 T. brown sugar (or 1 T. blackstrap molasses…i heart molasses)

1-2 tsp. honey (if using molasses, omit the honey)

1 T. chili powder

3 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. cayenne powder

1/2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. ground mustard

1 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

shredded cheddar & sour cream, for garnish



1) place dry beans in a medium mixing bowl. fill with water, at least three-times the amount of beans. (i usually fill almost to the brim, just to be on the safe side.) soak overnight, or for at least 6-8 hours. drain. **

2) place beans in a dutch oven, along with water, onions, and pepper. bring to boil, then reduce to simmer & cover.

(you never want to boil beans because apparently it breaks their skins. you also never want to put salt in simmering beans, as that slows the cooking process down. click here for a great website from Whole Foods for more tips on cooking dry beans.) simmer for 2 hours, being careful to not remove the lid from the pot.

3) towards end of simmering, cook ground beef in skillet.


sprinkle with pinch or two of salt. once browned, drain.


4) add browned beef and remaining ingredients to bean pot.

return to simmer and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.

5) to serve, garnish with with sour cream and shredded cheddar. (i find that sour cream is great for cutting down on the spiciness of food.)


*1 1/2 cups of dry pink beans = 3 cups soaked pink beans. i’m pretty sure black beans swell the same; pinto beans, in my experience, seem to swell more but i haven’t actually measured it out. so the aforementioned conversion was my experience with pink beans

**i realize that sometimes it’s hard to plan dinner 8 hours (or more) ahead of time. what i like to do when i soak beans is to soak a huge batch at one time, take what i need for the recipe i’m making, then freeze the rest for future. OR you can go one step further and simmer the big batch of beans with onions and peppers, then freeze that. (just make sure to label which batches are soaked and which are simmered! i’ve made the mistake of not labeling, and believe you me, there was a lot of poking that was involved…and poking frozen beans isn’t exactly conclusive.)

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