Skillet dinners are your stovetop’s answer to casseroles. In both cases, you prep it and (more or less) forget it—not too many pans to wash, not too many steps involved. And it’s ready in less than 45 minutes!
Roasting the squash in the oven and then adding it to the skillet gives it those roasty, toasty virtues I love. Quinoa, an earthy, tiny red, black or white seed is packed with protein and serves as the palette for the squash, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. When it all comes together with chili powder, cumin, and oregano in the skillet, I’m (virtually) jumping up and down with glee.
My prep is done in record time, and I’m not skimping on taste!
While dinner bakes and simmers, you have time to putter in the kitchen or take a minute to enjoy a cup of tea. Who doesn’t like a meal with built-in down time? Once your tea is done, you’ll have a filling, tasty vegetarian or vegan meal (if you skip the cheese). Now that’s a plan I can live with!
WHOLE, HALF, OR PRE-CUT BUTTERNUT SQUASH
You can buy whole, half, or pre-cubed frozen or fresh butternut squash. Whether you are a pre-cut or a whole food all the way kind of person, it’s important to know you need a pound of squash for this recipe.
- If you buy pre-cut bags or containers of squash, try to opt for fresh over frozen. The frozen squash can get kind of mushy.
- At my market, I can buy half a butternut squash. It saves time, and for my household of two, it’s perfect. I usually get about a pound of squash.
- If you can only find a large, whole butternut squash, don’t worry. The extra won’t go to waste. Use any extra squash to make one of these Top 10 Butternut Squash Recipes.
HOW TO CUT AND ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH
To tackle cutting the squash into small chunks, cut the round, bulbous end from the neck so you can work with one of two pieces at a time. Peel it if necessary, then cube it. Repeat with the bulbous end.
For detailed step-by-step instructions, check out our post on How to Cut a Butternut Squash.
To roast the cubes, douse them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at a high heat. This high-heat method gives you just enough time (15 to 20 minutes) to get going on the skillet ingredients.
WHAT’S THE BEST QUINOA?
While we think of it as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed from a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It is therefore gluten-free, packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.
There are three main kinds of quinoa: red, white, or black. They can be used interchangeably in the recipe.
While some brands say ‘pre-rinsed’ on the label, it’s best to stay on the safe side and take a few minutes to place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and run it under cool water for a minute or two. This removes the outer coating of saponin. While not harmful, this coating can impart a bitter taste.
SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
There are plenty of ways to vary this recipe. I’ve provided a few easy and simple swaps below.
- Don’t have red quinoa? Use whichever color you have on hand.
- Kidney beans or chickpeas could stand in for the black beans.
- If you want to make the beans from scratch, check out this post on How to Cook Dried Beans.
- You could use almonds or cashews to replace pepitas.
- Cotija is a salty, dry, and crumbly cheese. The best substitute to mimic its flavor and texture would be feta, but why limit yourself? Top the skillet with grated Monterey jack, cheddar, or Manchego, and pop the skillet in the oven for a few minutes to melt it.
- Vegans would, of course, skip the cheese, or use a vegan cheese alternative, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of flavor here with or without cheese!
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