Month: October 2014

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas

IMG_1551When Fall weather rolls around, I always try different dishes with acorn/butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin etc.  This meatless version of the popular Enchilada dish is packed with healthy ingredients.  Butternut squash has a ton of health benefits; it’s low in fat, loaded with fiber, rich in antioxidants, vitamin C and beta-carotene, just to name a few. Combine that with black beans which are super high in fiber and protein and you have one healthy dish which is not only satisfying, it tastes awesome too! Make sure you rinse the black beans as the canned version is laden with sodium.  If you have the extra time of course, you could soak the beans overnight.  With the winter weather approaching there’s just so much out there that could be considered “comfort foods” and this dish was quite a hit in my kitchen this week.  It definitely has some heat and seasonings that mimic an authentic Mexican dish.  Although the ingredients are many, and the enchilada sauce is made separately, you could definitely take some short-cuts and go for the canned version.  So without further descriptions and stories, let’s get on with the recipe. 

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas


  • 1 cup red enchilada sauce (homemade or canned) – see below for homemade recipe
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut 1/2 inch-dice
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (I omitted this, as it had enough heat)
  • 10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 8 medium low-carb wholewheat flour tortillas
  • 1 cup reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped scallions, for garnish
  • reduced-fat sour cream, for serving (optional) 


  1. Preheat the oven to 400deg F.  Place 1/4 cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish.  (See below for making home-made enchilada sauce.)
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet.  Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add cubed butternut, Rotel tomatoes, black beans, water, cilantro, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, about 30-50 minutes. 
  5. To assemble – place about a generous 1/3 cup filling in the center of each tortilla and roll, place on baking dish seam side down. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese and bake, covered with foil until hot and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.  Top with scallions and eat with sour cream if desired. 

Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 garlic clove minced
  • 1-2 tbsp chipotle chilis in adobe sauce 
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin 
  • 3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper


In a medium saucepan, spray oil and sauté garlic. Add chipotle chiles, chili powder, cumin, chicken broth, tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.  To assemble, place about a generous 1/3 cup filling in the center of each tortilla and roll, place on the baking dish seam side down. Repeat with the remaining filling. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese and bake, covered with foil until hot and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Top with scallions and eat with sour cream if desired. 

So here is what the finished dish looked like.  I served it with a side salad, and it was immediately satisfying, and comforting.  I hope you’ll give it a try.  You are bound to enjoy this dish and make it again and again. 

I’m bringing this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday, can’t wait to see what everyone else brings to the party.  Thanks to co-hosts, Margy and Jhuls for keeping the party in check.  

Start your engines………..Chili Cook off!


You might say when Fall rolls around, it is a good time for chili, and a Chili Cook Off certainly fit the bill at our friends, Angela & Owen’s Annual Chili event.  Each of the competitors prepare their own brand of chili at home and bring it to the host’s home to share, compete and enjoy. It is known that chili originated in Texas around 1967, I suspect with the Hispanic influences and the pungency of the chillies, this soon became an American favorite.

 In Owen’s words,
“The chili cook-off was inspired by a similar event I attended in San Francisco about seven years ago. I was in town visiting a friend who was all encompassed with his latest chili recipe. I helped with the recipe and was invited over to the event. This cook-off was a much grander affair, which had been going on for ~15 years since the host’s college days. Attendees came from across the country to compete and I thought that was incredible. Approximately 20 chilis were available for tasting and the grand prize was a golden trivet. When I informed Angela of this story, we were determined to host our own cook-off. While ours is smaller in scale, we are hoping to eventually get up into the 10 chili region with competition between our closest friends. We also love the idea of a traveling trophy with inscriptions of past champions. While derived from another event, we are trying to make Chili con Compton our own”.

We are still enjoying some gorgeous Fall weather here in the Mid-Atlantic region of the USA and the day of the event was brilliant with gorgeous sunshine, fall colors, leaves swaying in the wind, children trampling through the fallen leaves and a smell of chili in the air.  What could be better! 

We were the first to arrive with our contribution and were greeted by our hosts putting on the finishing touches to their hard work.   The covered porch leading to the backyard was just the right spot to host this annual event.  The burners were warming nicely, and when each guest arrived, they made up a clever name for their dish and handed it in. Just above the window were 2 red trivets, these were prizes for the People’s Choice Award and a floating trophy for the Judges’ Chili Champ  Award  (seen below.)IMG_1582


Here are a few of the chili contributions, some had real fiery heat like the” Walker Texas Ranger,” others were unusual like the “Good Goat Almighty” featuring what else…… but yummy goat, still others had some Fall veggies like butternut squash added to the mix.  We all got to sample an array of wonderful chili dishes.  Although I did not win the Chili Champ trophy awarded by the judges, I did walk away with the People’s Choice Award, and won a trivet.  The Walker Texas Ranger won the trophy. To accompany the chili, we also had some great variations of cornbread, biscuits, cheddar and jalapeno muffins and good old homemade mac and cheese.  What a combination of great comfort foods for a beautiful Fall Day. 


With the heat of the chili and a slight nip in the air towards dusk, this outdoor fire pit kept us toasty warm through the night. 

My contribution to the Chilli Cook-off was the “3 C’s chilli” – chipotle, cinnamon and cocoa.  Adding some butternut squash gave it an element of Fall color and taste.  The chipotle chili powder and whole chipotles in adobe sauce, added smokiness and packed a mean punch to this recipe, whilst the addition of cinnamon and cocoa gave it a nice surprise.  I adapted this recipe from a fellow blogger’s site, Bourbon & Brown Sugar.  You can click on her webpage and find more wonderful recipes here.

Chipotle Cinnamon Chili with a touch of Cocoa

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1-2hrs
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion (medium or large), diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chipotle chili powder (less if you don’t like it fiery hot)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle in adobe sauce 
  • 2 heaping teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 – 14oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 can kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained 
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 rashers of turkey bacon chopped
  • 2 celery stalks cleaned and cubed
  • 1 green pepper diced 


Toss the onion, garlic, butternut squash, celery, green pepper, and chopped turkey bacon with two tablespoons olive oil.  Spread on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until it begins to brown slightly.

When you have about 15 minutes left on roasting the veggies, start the rest of the chili.  Coat the bottom of a dutch oven with a bit of olive oil, add the ground beef and cook until brown, breaking up the meat as it cooks.  Drain off excess fat, add the beef stock and worcestershire sauce, cooking for a few minutes until much of the liquid is absorbed by the meat.  Add the roasted veggies to the beef.  Add the chipotle chili powder, cumin, chipotle in adobe sauce and cocoa powder and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add tomatoes and cinnamon stick.  Bring to the boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer for 2 or more hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, green onions and chopped cilantro if desired.  

I’m bringing this chili to Angie’s  infamous Fiesta Friday party. There’s a birthday in the house, so there will be extra pop and cheer! Happy Birthday Angie, our dedicated Fiesta Friday hostess.  I can’t wait to present my dish and see who all will be contributing this week.  Thanks to our co-hosts Suzanne and Sue for taking us all on.   


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On one of my most recent trips to England to visit family, I took a side trip to Cornwall in the south-west of England.  Blessed with the wildest coastline and breathtakingly beautiful beaches, it did not disappoint.  When Patti, and her husband Julian invited us to stay a few days, I set out with my sister in tow, to discover a part of England that I had always wanted to visit.  The five and a half hour train ride from Reading to Penzance did not seem that long.  I love train journeys myself, chatting with fellow-travellers, sipping wine in the club car, the ability to move up and down the aisles and you get there pretty refreshed and ready to explore, unlike plane rides that leave you weary.  Our wonderful hosts Patti and Julian were on the platform to meet us, and before you knew it, we were sitting in their gorgeous hall sipping tea, scoffing scones and enjoying endless laughter and conversation.  Just a mention here on how Patti, and I met.  Some years back, Bert and I were vacationing in the South of France with some friends.  Over lunch one day in a quaint restaurant, we couldn’t help but hear British accents from just across our table.  It was Patti and Julian, we exchanged pleasantries over the course of lunch, then bumped into them again when exploring the next day and decided to grab a drink and get better acquainted.  Patti and I have stayed in touch since then, and with the introduction of Facebook, we’ve kept up with each other’s lives and travels ever since.  It was just fabulous taking it a step further and getting to know them even better with a trip to Penzance.  We hope they will reciprocate someday.

Their house is absolutely majestic, built around early 1892 (Late Victorian into Edwardian times), they designed and implemented many of the changes themselves.  The stained glass window in the front entrance was designed by Patti herself – the black, heavy front door is the original door from the 1800’s – the mantlepiece over the fireplace is also original.  The house is roomy, airy, modern, yet maintains some of the old charm.  When they asked if we wanted to see a view from the tower, we were pretty intrigued.  They led us up the second floor, then onto the third, and right at the very top, where a narrow set of stairs led to the tower.  The views overlooking the English Channel were beautiful.  There was a built in seat all around the windows which offered various views, Patti made the  “nautical themed” cushions that covered the built in seats;  this was such a beautiful spot in the house.  Just loved the kitchen too, sis and I decided to take it over one evening and cook the hosts an Indian dinner, which was very much appreciated.  It was such a delight working in a kitchen where the hosts had it all, fueled of course by lots of great wines.  Patti is a fabulous cook and enjoys cooking and entertaining as well.  

Penzance is steeped in history yet provides all the facilities of modern life.  In Cornwall, there are ancient monuments and historic sites, dramatic beaches, cliffs, fishing villages  and stunning landscape.  

The next day found us visiting Trebah Gardens, a sub-tropical paradise, with a coastal backdrop.  The 45 minute drive to Trebah was just gorgeous, the country roads winding around had me dizzy.  Folks in England maneuver these narrow roads with relative ease, I was pretty impressed with Julian behind the wheel.  Trebah  Gardens allow visitors year round access and offer amazing vistas during any season.  The hydrangeas were in season on our visit and I could not get enough of them.  The pale blues, pinks and soft white hues dominated the landscape.  Hydrangeas happen to be my favorite flower, so I’ll let my camera do the talking. :)

The picture of the beach below depicts Trebah’s link with the United States of America.  In 1944, the beach was used as an embarkation point for a regiment of 7,500 of the 29th US Infantry Division for the assault landing on Omaha beach, part of the D -Day Landings.  The boathouse was open and offered refreshments, ice cream, coffee and tea.  We took an ice cream break and continued exploring this rambling paradise. 

The following day had us exploring St. Ives, a seaside town north of Penzance.  It is a popular holiday destination purported to have received The Best UK Seaside Town from the British Travel Awards in 2010 and 2011.  It truly was beautiful, we were fortunate to have enjoyed sunny, warm days on our 4 days in Cornwall and this day was just right for beachy weather.  I always enjoyed the traditional Cornish Pasty when I lived in England, (known to be the national dish in Cornwall).  It is a baked pastry filled with uncooked meat and vegetables, it is then folded, crimped and baked to perfection.  The result is a raised semi-circular pastry.  (See picture of a cornish pasty shop below).  

I would be remiss if I had not mentioned Mousehole (pronounced Mowzel) before I end this post.  We met up with Julian after our visit to St. Ives and meandered through this wee fishing village which is a very popular tourist destination in Cornwall.  A small and very safe beach is located in a sheltered part of the harbor.  It is very popular with families, and there were literally a lot of young children around, with safe bathing at their feet.  One of the guide books states “There are very few places that can be found in the United Kingdom that have retained their original character and charm in the way that the tiny fishing village of Mousehole has”.  Dylan Thomas described Mousehole as “the loveliest village in England” and I have to agree. 

So we bid farewell to Patti & Julian, our warm, witty and wonderful friends from Penzance, Cornwall.  We hope that they will visit us someday, I feel pretty certain they will as they love to travel.  Cheers!