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Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

winter-squash-stuffed-shells

I am a huge fan of all things winter squash (as you’ve probably figured out), making this recipe, a winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto, one of my absolute favorite December lunches.  This has everything I most love about the fall and winter: the slightly sweet squash, salty cheese, pasta, and pesto made with kale, spinach and walnuts.  Since there is a small chance that there might be a little bit of snow in this part of the PNW tomorrow, this comfort food just seems perfect.

I used a combination of red kuri (my favorite) and the rest of the pumpkin puree I’d frozen earlier in the fall.  Fortunately, I still have one more pie pumpkin in the garage – I figure we still have a few more months of cold weather and might need to make some more pumpkin bread.  I also used a bit of the sage that is still growing out in the herb bed.

The pesto consists of both kale and spinach – really, you could use just about any combination of greens.  I also used walnuts, because it’s what I had on hand.  Pesto can be made out of any combination of herb or green, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan or other hard cheese.  I love to try out different combinations.  I also have started hand chopping my pesto – I think it helps the herbs or greens retain their integrity and not get mushy like they might in a food processor.  The taste is a lot closer to pesto I had in Rome many years ago, so I enjoy it for the nostalgic value, as well.

All together, the winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto takes about forty minutes to make, and most of that time is hands off while it bakes.  It’s well worth the time.  It also makes a great freezer meal – making it very appealing for lunch.  Since it’s vegetarian, it would also make a great main dish for the holiday festivities for vegetarian friends and family.

winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Ingredients

    For the shells:
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or similar winter squash puree
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 + 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 box of large pasta shells
  • For the pesto
  • 1 cup tightly packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water in a medium saucepan to a boil. Add the shells and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.
  3. In the meantime, combine the squash puree, the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, the sage, and the pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse under cold water. When the shells are cool enough to handle, stuff each with about 2 tablespoons of the squash and cheese mixture. Place the shells in a single layer in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese gets lightly browned on top.
  5. While the shells are baking, prepare the pesto. Put the greens, the walnuts, the garlic, and the parmesan in the middle of a cutting board and gently chop until the ingredients are finely diced and combined. Put the pesto in a small bowl and add the olive oil, gently combining.
  6. Serve the stuffed shells with the pesto and enjoy!
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This post has been linked to Tinned Tomatoes: Meatless Monday.  Check out her great posts!

Kale Persimmon Salad with Black Garlic Dressing

Kale Persimmon Salad with Black Garlic Dressing

Kale Persimmon Salad with Black Garlic Dressing

After days of indulging in holiday foods for Thanksgiving, it’s time for me to get back to salads for lunch, like this Kale Persimmon Salad with Black Garlic Dressing.  One of the many great things about living in this part of the PNW is that the climate is mild enough a winter garden is possible.  This year, we have a small pot of winter lettuce, some spinach, a few cauliflower, and some lacinato kale growing.  I have to say though, I much prefer lacinato kale’s alternative name: dinosaur kale.  I can completely see this leafy green with its bumpy foliage being munched on by dinosaurs in prehistoric times.

Here’s what mine is looking like right now:

lacinato-kale

I’ll admit that the winter garden veggies don’t grow as fast as their summer counterparts, but there’s still something lovely about going out this close to December and harvesting greens for a salad, which is exactly what I did to make this kale persimmon salad with black garlic dressing.

I’m also still mildly obsessed with black garlic, so couldn’t resist seeing how it would pair with some balsamic vinegar in a dressing.  The combination is absolutely yummy, especially with the sweet counterpart of the persimmon and the crunch of the chopped almonds.

kale-persimmon-salad-with-stacked-persimmons

Kale Persimmon Salad with Black Garlic Dressing

Ingredients

    For the Salad
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 2 fuyu persimmons
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • For the Dressing
  • 1 large black garlic clove (or 3 small ones)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Smash the black garlic into a paste. Add the black garlic paste, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper into a jar and close with a lid. Shake until combined.
  2. Tear or cut the kale into ribbons. Dress with two to three tablespoons of the dressing and work the dressing into the kale with your hands. This softens up the kale considerably. Chop the persimmon into a small dice and add to the kale/dressing mixture. Top with the almonds and enjoy!
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Red Kuri Squash Risotto

Red Kuri Squash Risotto

After a  holiday break and several days of leftover turkey breast for lunch and dinner, I’m well ready to go back to work on Monday and enjoy this red kuri squash risotto for lunch.  The break was wonderful – I spent a lot of time cooking (no surprise there) and some time working on the blog, reading, and putting up Christmas decorations.  I also feel like I did somewhere around 100 loads of dishes – but that might be a slight exaggeration!

I am definitely ready for a recipe with winter squash again.  I’ve been saving the red kuri squash risotto recipe for a week when I know I want something warm and cozy at lunch.  It will also be sweet relief when I’m catching up on emails and projects on Monday.  Red kuri squash lends such a subtle squash flavor.  I roasted the squash using the easy technique I also use for pumpkins (see the recipe here).  The roasted squash left me with two cups – I used one cup for the red kuri squash risotto and froze the other cup for later use.  This risotto also freezes really well, making it a perfect make-ahead lunch.  Here’s to a productive week ahead with great lunch!

red kuri squash risotto

Red Kuri Squash Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup cooking sherry, white wine, or dry Vermouth
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup red Kuri squash puree
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. Leave it simmering.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the minced shallot and cook until the shallot is fragrant. Add the Arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add the sherry, white wine, or Vermouth and cook over low heat until it is absorbed.
  3. Add 1 cup of the simmering chicken stock to the rice and stir off and on until the stock is absorbed. Continue to add 1 cup at a time, stirring and simmering, until all the stock is incorporated or until the arborio rice is to your preferred level of doneness. Take the risotto off heat and add the Parmesan cheese and red Kuri squash puree, stirring to incorporate.
  4. Serve with a a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
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Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish is a spicy sweet recipe that can do dual duty as a relish for a turkey sandwich or can dress up a cheese and crackers as a holiday appetizer.  This is my homage to my dual roots: the poblano representing the Southwest where I lived for years and the cranberries my adopted PNW home.

I never gave much thought to where cranberries came from before I moved to Oregon, when I first saw a cranberry bog along the coast.  It turns out that  seven percent of the cranberries produced in the US come from Oregon from the southern coastal region.  I bought my first Oregon cranberries seven years ago from a local farm – the first time I’ve ever bought unpackaged cranberries by the pound.  This resulted in bags of frozen cranberries and lots of cranberry related preserves.

I found cranberries from Oregon this year at New Seasons, which is a PNW natural foods chain.   Rather than going crazy and buying more cranberries than I can possibly use in a season, I bought just enough for cranberry sauce and cranberry poblano pepper relish, with a little to set aside in the freezer for baking later in December.

If you are looking for a last minute Thanksgiving recipe to use up excess cranberries, this cranberry poblano pepper relish is perfect and pairs very well with leftover turkey on a sandwich.  It is also worth pinning for use in December for an easy appetizer when paired with cream cheese or brie and crackers.

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

cranberry-relish

Cranberry Poblano Pepper Relish

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 poblano pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
4 teaspoons brown sugar

Chop the cranberries and poblano pepper finely.  (Alternatively, process both in a food processor to chop finely).  Add the lime, cumin, coriander and brown sugar and combine.  Enjoy!

 

 

Lentil and Delicata Squash Bowl

Lentil and Delicata Squash Bowl

lentil-and-delicata-squash-bowl

This is the weekend before the Thanksgiving food storm here in the US.  You might be (like I am) getting ready to grocery shop and start the pre-cooking process to get ready for the upcoming Thursday feast.  You might be preparing to test out a cream gravy with sausage recipe and getting ready to  buy up dozens of eggs to make pumpkin pies, Black Friday brunch, and fruitcake.  You might be contemplating making marshmallows and gingerbread as a prelude to the next big holiday, because let’s face it: Thanksgiving is the gateway holiday to all manners of foodie sin.  Seriously – how great is that?

But just in case you need a little break between the turkey and the Christmas ham, you might re-purpose some of the seasonal veggies you have lying around and make this Lentil and Delicata Squash Bowl.  Beluga lentils are cute, tiny lentils that cook quickly and have a nutritional punch.  Delicata squash is just wonderful – largely because you don’t have to peel it and can roast it up in no time at all.

I’m linking this recipe up to My Legume Love Affair #101, courtesy of Briciole and Lisa’s Kitchen and encourage you to take a look at the other legume recipes that are being added. Susan, of  The Well Seasoned Cook started My Legume Love Affair and I encourage you to check out her page.

fall-lentil-bowl-undressed

Lentil and Delicata Squash Bowl

Serves 4

1 cup beluga lentils
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 Delicata squash
2 parsnips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup almonds
2 avocados
4 hard boiled eggs

Tahini Dressing
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Pinch of salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the lentils and salt, cover, and turn the heat down to a simmer.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils are soft and water is absorbed.  Set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the squash and parsnips.  Cut the squash into 1/2 inch slices and de-seed each slice.  Cut the parsnips into cubes.  Put the squash and parsnip cubes in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast for 50-60 minutes, flipping the squash and parsnip cubes once so both sides get golden brown.

Make the tahini dressing by combining the tahini, water, lemon, salt and pepper in a small bowl or jar.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.

To assemble the bowls, split the lentils between four bowls.  Divide the squash, parsnips, avocado, almonds, and hard-boiled eggs between each.  Spoon the tahini dressing over the top and enjoy!

 

my-legume-love-affair

Apple Cider Sangria

Apple Cider Sangria

I decided I needed to get on the apple cider train earlier rather than later this year.  I’ve been very intrigued with the idea of making sangria with something other than wine – like hard cider.  We also had a bag of apples that needed to get used up and I just didn’t have time this week to be creative.  Apple cider sangria was clearly the answer.

I’m also moderately obsessed with Wild Turkey’s American Honey Whiskey.  I’m not sure how I ended up with this in the liquor cabinet but I’m thinking it was because I needed it for a recipe for barbecue sauce this summer and all the other whiskeys were more expensive than I was willing to pay.  Or I hadn’t had coffee yet, started making crockpot barbecued ribs and realized I didn’t have any whiskey and this is what I ended up grabbing at the liquor store.  If the latter is the case, the moral of that story is either to always check your recipe before you do your week’s shopping or never buy booze first thing in the morning.  Whatever the story is, I really like this whiskey – it’s sweet, making it completely unnecessary to add a sweetener to any drink it’s used in.  It also has that smokey whiskey bite that I’m a fan of.

Back to the sangria – I used a hard cider that had a hint of ginger in it, which was a nice touch for this apple cider sangria.  Serve this with a hearty stew or a dish with wild mushrooms and watch the leaves fall.

apple-cider-sangria-with-cider-bottle

two-apple-cider-sangrias

apple-cider-sangria-with-caraffe-and-apples

Apple Cider Sangria

Serves 4

1 bottle hard cider
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup honey whiskey or similar
2 apples, sliced into 8 slices each

Combine all the ingredients in a carafe or pitcher.  Refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavor fully develop.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Date Bread

Pumpkin Date Bread

The October/November pick for the Cook the Books Club was Jessica Soffer’s Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots.

book

I had very mixed feelings about this book.  It was well written enough for me to stay engaged and read it to the end, largely because I connected to the main character, Lorca, though throughout the book, I really, really found myself disliking her mother and her absolutely blase disregard for her daughter’s desperate need for her love.  Full disclosure here – in another not too long ago life, I worked very closely with populations of both adults and young adults who were highly at-risk and often engaged in very risky behaviors, of which self-mutilation was often the least of it.  I think that’s why I struggled with this book so much – I know that it takes a lot of perseverance for someone to save themselves and few get so lucky to find a Victoria, the other main character and a former restaurant owner, to help them.

Ok – now that that’s out there…the book was a feast of good food.  After all, the entire focus is on how food can bring those who are desperately lonely together, and that particular theme resonates for me.  I left the book with the feeling that food could transform Lorca’s life and make her into a resilient adult and that made me happy.  It also made me happy to go flipping back through the book when I was done and think about what inspired me.  I finally landed on a variation of date bread, because of this line of Victoria’s: “‘Date bread,’ I said. ‘From my country.’ Oldest trick in the book: bake something to make guests feel at home.”  It is November, after all, and I’ve been in a baking mood.  My pumpkin date bread relies on the flavors of the season with a good dose of pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree.  The dates give it an extra punch of sweetness.  It’s dense and chewy and goes really well with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

This is also pretty easy to put together and makes a generous two loafs – perfect for having a loaf to eat now and one to freeze for later.  Last, but not least, this is a low-fat pumpkin date bread, which gets much of its moist texture from unsweetened apple sauce and Greek yogurt.

full-loaf-pumpkin-date-bread

pumpkin-date-bread

 

Pumpkin Date Bread
Makes 2 loaves

3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15 ounce can)
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup chopped dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients, from the flour through the white sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Combine the wet ingredients, from the pumpkin puree through the eggs in a small bowl and mix to incorporate all the ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just enough to incorporate all the dry ingredients.  Add the dates.

Divide the batter between two bread pans that have either been buttered or that are lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a knife or skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Enjoy!

 

Many thanks to Cook the Books Club – I’ve had so much fun developing recipes based on the last two challenges.  I’m looking forward to more reading and cooking in the future!

cookthebooks

I’ve also linked up with this month’s tea time treat challenge, which is all about comfort food (and what’s more comforting that fresh bread?).  Check out the wonderful hosts of Tea Time Treats:  Lavender and Lovage, Travels for Taste and Jo’s Kitchen. Lavender and Lovage is hosting this month, so be sure to check out all the recipes for Tea Time Treats here.

Tea Time Treats
Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries are one of my new fall obsessions.  I’m always trying new ways of using up the winter squash that I so diligently buy too much of and have to figure out how to use up before spring shows up again.  Coupling that with a desire to eat healthier, I thought using at least one of the winter squash I’ve gotten stashed in the garage as a side dish to my lunches this week would be a good idea.  I started out thinking I’d use the red Kuri squash, but honestly, I’m currently hoarding that one for the perfect recipe and squash fries just aren’t it, so I used the last of my honey nut squashes instead.  The advantage of using something like a honey nut or butternut squash for this is that they are pretty easy to peel and slice and you won’t be in danger of a major knife accident.

Smoked paprika is my other new fall obsession.  I love the dark red color it lends to food and the very smoky and peppery taste.  I’ve been using it to flavor everything, from soup to baked chicken to these smoked paprika winter squash fries.  I’m eyeing several of the other squashes that are currently on the shelf to make even more of these.  They are a great accompaniment to the mini baked “fried” green cherry tomato recipe I posted earlier this week, especially if you make po boys with the tomatoes.  These would also be lovely served with a homemade ketchup, especially if you have any green tomato ketchup sitting around.

Baked Winter Squash Fries

Smoked Paprika Winter Squash Fries
1 whole winter squash, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the squash into sticks or wedges.  Place in a bowl and add the smoked paprika, salt and olive oil.  Combine.  Turn out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the fries half way through.

Enjoy!

Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce

My new fall motto is when the garden leaves you with hundreds of green cherry tomatoes at the end of the season, make them into something wonderful: Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce.  Somewhere around the end of June last year, Clay and I were at the Vancouver Farmer’s Market and I was looking for one more tomato (I’d already planted three) and preferably an heirloom variety.  We found a plant that was looking a bit beat up, but it was an heirloom cherry tomato and I decided I’d chance it and see how it would do.  It was a champion grower, rapidly taking over the space vacated by the cucumber plant the dog pulled up, smothering the lemon thyme that was on the cucumber plant pot and then tangling itself up with the chard in the pot on the other side.  It developed hundreds (no exaggeration here) of cherry tomatoes and then it felt like the tomato decided to just be done.  The green tomatoes just sat there…and sat there…and sat there, staying quite green for months.  Toward the end of August, the tomato sort of woke up and a few of those green tomatoes turned a lovely bronzy shade of red.  By that time, I had been assaulted by the hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes from the Sweet 100 vine and I was kind of over tomatoes.  We harvested a few more though and dutifully ate them on salads and on sandwiches.

Meanwhile, there were still many, many green cherry tomatoes on that vine.  I’d look at them and say “soon – I’ll get to you soon.”  September was a busy month and started the glut of winter squash.  October came and I cleaned out all the other tomato plants, but left the behemoth plant where it was.  Finally, yesterday, at the very end of October, I got around to harvesting both a few ripe cherry tomatoes from that plant and a whole bowl-full of green cherry tomatoes.  There are still more out there, but I think I’ve given up.  (I type that and then start fantasizing about all the other things I could do with green tomatoes, so maybe I’ll harvest the rest this weekend after all.)

From late August on, I’d been creating a recipe in my mind – mini baked “fried” green tomatoes.  My resolve to try this out was strengthened by my trips to the South this year – I had some really amazing fried green tomatoes in both New Orleans and Atlanta.  I’d originally had in mind that I would make these baked “fried” green tomatoes to go on a salad, so the remoulade was conceived more as a salad dressing than as a dipping sauce.  However, while I did create the salad, I also decided to use my leftover tomatoes for a po boy, and the remoulade was thick enough to use for the sandwich.  I could also just as easily sit and eat these as a snack and dip them in the remoulade and not feel guilty about it, as the remoulade has a base of Greek yogurt rather than mayonnaise.

baked-fried-green-tomato-salad baked-green-cherry-tomato-po-boy

On the left: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a salad (which was lunch on Monday)
On the right: mini baked “fried” green tomatoes on a Po Boy

If your garden is over for the season and you don’t have any late hanger-on green tomatoes, pin this recipe for next year.  It’s worth it.

baked-fried-green-cherry-tomato-with-remoulade

Mini Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce
Serves 4 – 8 (depending on use)

Baked “Fried” Green Tomatoes
20 green cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds
½ cup flour
2 eggs
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
Olive oil to grease baking sheet

Remoulade Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Siracha or hot sauce (or to taste)

For the baked “fried” tomatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.

Sprinkle the salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper over the cut tomatoes.  Put the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in three separate shallow dishes.  Add Siracha or hot sauce to the eggs and beat them until they are fluffy.  Dredge tomato slices in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs.  Do this with all the tomato slices (these are so small, I found it easier to do this to five or six tomato slices at a time).  Place the coated tomato slices on the baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, flipping the tomatoes about half-way through the baking time.

For the Remoulade
Combine all ingredients for the remoulade in a jar.  Close tightly and shake vigorously (or use a whisk and stir until all ingredients are combined).

Enjoy!

 

Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla

Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla

If you are looking for a quick snack to accompany the Black Garlic Tomato Soup from yesterday, look no further than these Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadillas.  I’m starting the process of using up the winter squash I’m hoarding – I mean, storing – for the winter.  I roasted one of the honey nut squash from Trader Joe’s for this recipe.  These squash look like a small butternut squash, but the flesh is a darker orange.

My tip for roasting winter squash is to cook them whole – I posted a tutorial on how to do this with a pumpkin a few weeks ago, but it works for any winter squash.  I have been puncturing a few wholes in the squash before I put it in the oven, mostly because I’ve had a few small potatoes burst in the oven in our rental and don’t want to risk it with a much larger squash.

The quesadillas are great to serve with a soup for lunch.  They can easily be heated up in the microwave and are quick to make the night before.

black-garlic-tomato-soup-and-black-bean-squash-quesadilla

Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadilla with Black Garlic Soup

black-bean-winter-squash-quesadilla

Black Bean and Winter Squash Quesadillas
Serves 4

1 small winter squash, roasted (or 1 cup of already prepared winter squash puree from a larger squash)
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 tortillas
4 slices of cheese (Monterey Jack or similar)

Spread several tablespoons of the winter squash puree on half of a quesadilla.  Spread 1/4 cup of the black beans on top and then layer with a slice of cheese.  Fold the tortilla in half over the squash, beans and cheese.  Cook in a preheated skillet, flipping once to ensure both sides are golden brown.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Enjoy!

 

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