Weeknight Cooking with Butternut Squash
A common misconception about cooking with kids is that together you must set aside a Really Special Saturday to make “kid food”: Pancakes. Cookies. Scrambled eggs. The truth is, every meal presents itself with endless opportunities to invite kids of all ages into the kitchen. The results are gratifying – your kids are much more likely to eat the food they’ve helped prepare. Academic skills, like math, science, geography, and reading comprehension, are naturally reinforced when cooking. Fundamental life skills are fostered. And together, you’ll discover the kitchen is an ideal place to make meaningful memories as a family.
Jennifer Tyler Lee agrees. Throughout her new book, The 52 New Foods Challenge, which brilliantly urges families to cook and eat one new food each week of the year, you’ll find the sidebar “Cook Together”. This section offers tips and advice for beginner and expert kid-chefs. Writing from her own experience, Jennifer acknowledges cooking with kids initially takes a little longer, and is a little messier, but will ultimately “make your life easier” and develop “resiliency and creativity” in both kids and adults.
I love butternut squash, and was really excited to see it as a “15 pointer” new food in the fall chapter of 52 New Foods. Earlier this fall some leftover butternut squash caught my eye at 6:30am when I was packing my daughter’s lunchbox, so I threw some into her quesadilla. Because 6:30 is always a good time to sample quesadillas, and because surely they’d go well with coffee, I sliced myself a piece and packed up the rest. They were good. Very, very good. And that afternoon my daughter raved about the “sweet cheese” quesadillas. Eager to curb my craving, a few weeks later we created a more deliberate version of squash and tortillas, and these enchiladas were born. Here’s how my kids, ages 2 and 4, helped me in the kitchen last night:
- Scooping the seeds out of the squash with an ice cream scoop.
- Painting olive oil onto the squash before it was roasted.
- Seasoning the squash with salt and pepper.
- Scooping to remove the soft flesh from the skin.
- Mashing the squash with a small potato masher.
- Chopping mushrooms with a plastic knife.
- Measuring frozen corn and spices.
- (They also whisked salad dressing and counted 25 raisins and a few too many sunflower seeds into our salad bowl.)
My 4 year old definitely could have helped dip the tortillas in sauce, fill them with veggies, and roll them into the baking dish. But Daddy came home and their kitchen attention wained. Which emphasizes the point – kids don’t need to be involved in every step of every recipe to give them ownership in making it. When we sat down to dinner, my kids were proud of their roles and quick to tell Daddy the various ways they had helped in the kitchen. They told him how the squash had impressively morphed from a hard, pumpkin-like veggie into a sweet and soft one. They boasted about the nutrients that were making them stronger: Vitamins A and C in the squash, and Vitamin D in the mushrooms. They showed off their strong mashing muscles and adept knife skills. And then they had seconds.
Butternut Squash & Mushroom Enchiladas
1 butternut squash
1 + 1 tbsp olive oil
16 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen corn
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
6-8 flour tortillas or 8-10 corn tortillas
10 oz. jar salsa verde
½ cup + sour cream (optional)
1 ½ cups Monterey Jack or Mexican blend cheese, shredded
Small bunch of cilantro, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Cut the squash down the middle lengthwise. Use an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds.
- Place squash on a baking sheet flesh side up. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast squash until soft, about 1 hour.
- When the squash has cooled, use an ice cream scoop to remove flesh and transfer to a bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan. Add mushrooms and corn. Stir in garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and sauté until mushrooms are soft, about 10 minutes.
- To make the enchilada sauce less spicy for kids, mix the salsa verde with sour cream in a small bowl. You can also skip this step and use the salsa as-is.
- Lightly coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with salsa. Pour ½ cup of the salsa onto a plate. Coat both sides of the first tortilla with sauce.
- Spread a heaping scoop of butternut squash down the center of the tortilla. Top with mushroom and corn mix. Sprinkle in a little cheese. Roll up lengthwise and place tortilla seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
- Top tortillas with remaining salsa and shredded cheese.
- Bake at 400° until cheese has melted, about 20 minutes.
- Garnish with sliced avocado, Cotija cheese, or sour cream, if desired.
- Make this recipe gluten free by using corn tortillas.
- Substitute black beans for mushrooms, or use both!
- Add shredded chicken to make the dish heartier.
- You can also cube the squash, roast it, and skip the mashing step. This caramelizes the squash and offers a chunkier texture inside the enchilada.
- If you’re short on time, make a stove-top quesadilla with the same ingredients. Dip slices into into salsa verde.
Raddish is a cooking club for kids! Created with a mission of bringing families together in the kitchen and at the table, our monthly thematic cooking kits take the guesswork out of cooking with kids while creating delicious kitchen memories along the way. Raddish is designed by a team of educators and chefs who believe the kitchen classroom is the tastiest place to learn. Join our membership today!