Sweet and Spicy Acorn Squash

acorn-squash-serve-300x251Fall is the perfect season to dive into exploring the delights of squash. For one thing, squash is in season and this means it is cheap. This is important because squash is fairly heavy. For another thing, squash just makes it feel festive. People decorate their homes with them, that’s how festive they are. We are not here to decorate my friends, we are here to eat. Let’s get started.

Okay, one more aside first. Whether you love it or hate it, “Pumpkin Pie Spice” is frequently used with squash. So frequently, that you might just be sick of it. If you are not a fan of the pumpkin pie spice, you may even think you do not like squash because it is almost always seasoned this way. If you think you do not like squash, please give this recipe a chance because it is not that same old flavor combination.

Ingredients

1 acorn squash

1 orange/ 2 Tablespoons orange juice

Salt

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

ground pepper

cayenne pepper

Directions

First, slice your acorn squash in half vertically and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.

acorn squash sliced

You are going to take a knife and slash the squash inside.

acorn squash scored

You will cut both vertically and horizontally making a checkerboard pattern. These grooves in the flesh of the squash will allow the seasoning to penetrate and flavor your squash at a deeper level.

Squeeze orange juice into each half of the squash. Then sprinkle salt over both halves.

acorn squash orange

Place the squash in a baking dish and bake at 400° F for 30 minutes.

acorn squash baking dish

While the squash is baking, prepare the glaze. Simmer butter, syrup, brown sugar, black pepper (to taste), and cayenne (to taste) in a small saucepan over medium heat.

Cook for about three minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved and the glaze is smooth.

Remove the squash from the oven and pour or spoon out any remaining liquid. Generously brush on the glaze over each half of the squash. Return it to the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. Spoon or brush the collected glaze up around the edges before serving.

The squash can be served just as it is or it can be scooped out and served from a dish. I prefer serving the halves because they just add a little bit of ambiance!

acorn squash serve

To see the original video recipe, visit Chef John over at Food Wishes.

Fresh and Frugal: Homemade Baked Beans

Back in college I would buy cans of baked beans at less than 50 cents a piece. This was an inexpensive yet filling side dish or even main course (hey, it was college, I wasn’t at my prime of culinary experience). After a few years out in the work force, my husband and I realized we could throw caution to the wind and spend a dollar!!! on the “fancy” baked beans. You know the kind I mean. They boast brown sugar and bacon or maple flavor on the can. We tried those and thought they were amazing. Best baked beans ever, we thought. Eventually, several more years down the line, we started making things from scratch. While beans were certainly not the top of the list, we meandered our way around to them. I’ve got to tell you, you will never look at a can of baked beans the same way again. We recently bought a can of “fancy” beans for a camping trip and were quite surprised to find that we had once considered them the best of the best. So, if you want to keep buying baked beans in cans, do NOT make this recipe! If you want a truly delicious side dish that is fairly inexpensive (depending on how much bacon costs), then you should definitely make these beans!

baked beans homemade

Ingredients

1 pound of dried great northern or navy beans

1 onion, diced

½ lb bacon diced

¼ cup molasses

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup brown sugar

salt, pepper, and ground mustard to taste

baked beans ingredients

Directions

Start by soaking your beans overnight. We have tried shortcuts for this and have not had much success with getting nice soft beans. My best recommendation is to soak them overnight.

baked beans soak

Drain and rinse the beans and then pour them into a large pot or dutch oven with 8 cups of fresh water. Boil them for 1-2 hours until they are soft and beginning to split open.

baked beans stove

My helper is comfy and content riding along in our Lillebaby carrier. Good thing, because this part takes about 1.5 hours!

Drain the beans, reserving about a cup of the liquid.

In a large casserole (we use a 9×13 dish), combine beans, reserved liquid, onion, bacon, molasses, maple syrup, brown sugar, and seasonings. You can substitute syrup for the molasses or molasses for the syrup, but we have found a combination of both gives the best flavor. Stir until it is well combined.

baked beans in pan

You’re going to want to stir this up.

baked beans stir

Ready to be covered with foil and baked!

Bake, covered with foil, at 300° F for 2 ½ hours. If there is too much liquid after about 2 hours, remove the foil and bake uncovered for the last half hour.

baked beans complete

Serve it up and enjoy. Remember, once you try this, you will not want to go back to cans!

Fresh and Frugal: Crockpot Refried Beans

Crockpot refried beans

Alright, I know that a can of refried beans is not very expensive. Also, most of them don’t have too many weird ingredients either. So why make homemade refried beans? My reasons are simple: 1) because you can, 2) you get to control all the variables such as texture and flavor, and 3) a can of refried beans is incredibly similar to dog food in appearance. Besides, this recipe is so easy, you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with cans in the first place.

Okay, let’s gather our ingredients. This is a basic recipe so there are not many. To add more flavor, you can increase the cumin or add some taco seasoning. To add more spiciness, add some cayenne pepper. It is also possible to add some bacon or salt pork if you think that sounds delicious. Start with this simple recipe and add what sounds good to you!

Ingredients

1 pound of pinto beans

1 small onion

2-3 cloves of garlic

1 Tablespoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

A lot of water

Refried Beans ingredients

Put your dry beans into the crockpot. I wasn’t sure if this would work without soaking the beans overnight, but it did! One less step, yay!

Refried beans dry

Dice the onion and garlic (this doesn’t have to be a fantastic job if you plan to use a blender later but if you plan to mash the beans by hand, don’t leave any giant chunks) and dump them on top of the beans. Sprinkle in the cumin, salt, pepper, and any other ingredients you’ve chosen to add.

Refried beans dry ingredients

Add water. You want it to fully cover the beans and then some. I used 7 cups. Remember, the beans haven’t soaked at all and they are going to suck up a LOT of water.

Give everything a good stir and then set your slowcooker on low for 6 hours.

When the 6 hours has elapsed, you want to make sure the beans are fully cooked (no one likes crunchy refried beans). One way to tell if they are done is to look for splitting. Cooked beans will start to split. Another way is to put a bean in your mouth and chew it: crunchy=not done, soft=done.

Refried beans cooked

Now you need to mash the beans, otherwise you won’t have refried beans, you’ll just have beans. You can use a blender, a food processor, a big ol’ spoon, or my personal preference, an immersion blender. Smash or blend to your own texture preference. Some people love a chunky refried bean, but I prefer mine a little more on the smooth side. That’s the great thing about a homemade recipe: you decide how chunky you like it, not the masher at the canning factory.

refried beans blender

Done! All that’s left is to wrap it up and enjoy a delicious burrito!

Refried beans burrito

Southern Carolina Family