Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Butternut Squash Tacos! This is no BS.

Family Friends often inspire the greatest dishes. These tacos were inspired by some of the best damn tacos I've ever had. Though like so many delicious dishes, the Carmola tacos are filled with seasoned chicken and then fried in oil. I'll admit I have dreams about those tacos, and someday I will make them the traditional way. Unfortunately fried in oil usually isn't in the same sentence as super healthy for you.

Recently I was talking to a Erin Carmola, one of the Carmola clan, and we starting reminiscing about how good her parents tacos are, and if we could brainstorm how to make them healthier. She suggested ground turkey, but I am pretty sure that isn't vegetarian. She also suggested trying to focus on the spicing of the dish to make up for the lack of frying. For filling I knew I wanted to use seasonal ingredients, hence the butternut squash. Black beans are just plain ole good for you tasty beans. They've got all kinds of good stuff like fiber, protein and manganese, click on the link to read more.

In general, store bought taco seasoning is ridiculously high in sodium and other highly processed chemicals. I found a few recipes online for DIY taco seasoning which was super easy to make and most people should have these spices laying around the kitchen already.
So were these healthier tacos a success? Absolutely! Unless of course you have had the Carmola tacos, because they were just NOT as good. But for a quick healthy vegetarian taco they were all I could ask for. Definitely will be a staple at my house from now on. The squash and black beans were perfect together and the seasoning was flavorful without taking over the whole dish. Also I think anyone would eat these, the flavors are simple but dead on. Plus with your own seasoning, people can add more or less depending on preference.

As far as the recipe below, I did my best to give correct measurements but a lot of it is just common sense. Hopefully everyone knows how to make a taco. In terms of seasonings, I add less so I can still taste the vegetables, but adding more is fine, especially since it's homemade. Also it's another reason to make guacamole, which I could eat by the spoonful. And did.

Butternut Squash Tacos
Adapted from my brain

Getting ready to roast
The Deal: Serves 4 plenty
1 large (2 1/2 lbs) butternut squash, peeled and diced into 2 inch cubes
1 can black beans (organic is best because it has the lowest sodium content)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for brushing
12 tortillas (choose ones you like)
A good dash of salt and pepper

Taco Seasoning: 
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp sea salt (you can also use seasoned salt)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
Dash of cayenne (add more or less depending on preference)
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Suggested Toppings: grated cheddar, salsa, Guacamole, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro

The Deal:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place squash on a large baking sheet with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss with your hands being sure the squash is evenly coated. Bake for 15-20 minutes, taking out and tossing once to ensure even browning. Remove when golden brown and soft.

2. While your squash is baking make your seasoning. Mix all the taco seasoning ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Drain black beans and place in a pot over medium heat to warm up. Once warm, remove from heat and crush with a potato masher. Just enough so it forms a paste, which makes it easier to spread. Add a good teaspoon of the taco seasoning, and then add more to taste.

3. Place baked squash in a bowl and mash to make a paste. Add a teaspoon of taco seasoning and then adjust to taste. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add a tortilla and heat on both sides until tortilla is soft and warm, 1-2 minutes. Remove and place on plate. Add a heaping spoonful of squash, then beans and spread evenly on one side. Fold in half to form a taco. Lightly brush the outside with oil and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake tacos for 10-15 minutes, flipping once half way through to ensure even browning. Remove when golden brown and serve warm.
Place on the table with cheese, guacamole, salsa, lettuce, tomato, etc and let people add toppings as desired.

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