01/01/2011 10:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Squash It!

Hey, do you remember that episode of 90210 when everyone was "squashing the violence?" When I make squash, I mentally say "squash the violence!" and slap my hand on the end of my fist. I watched too much television, clearly. Now, I hardly watch any. I don't know about you but I've been finding TV just plain boring lately. *snooooze* Also, I'm too busy wrangling two kids under two. By the time the kids are in bed, I'm too brain-tired to focus on TV, and I'd rather do all the things I can't do when the kids are awake. Like write this (waaaaaaaaaaaay) overdue post on cooking with squash. I guess that was a long-winded lede. Sorry! On to the business of squash, which is something that I can cook even when I'm ready to crawl under the covers and call it a day.

It's winter. Have you noticed? There was a little blizzard last week, and we were happily housebound. This weather makes me crave squash. I can eat squash all year round but when winter is still new, the nippy air is still a novelty, and it gets dark at 4pm, there's nothing more comforting than sitting down to a plate full of warm, filling, aromatic squash. So, here are two recipes for you. (For the most, you can use any kind of squash in these recipes.)

Honey Heat Acorn Squash
{Note: I usually figure one acorn squash for every two people.}
Cut an acorn squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Place each half cut-side down and slice, using the ridges as a guide. If some slices seem too thick to you, just cut the slices in half. Peel the skin off each slice. (It's easier to do this after you bake it but I hate waiting for it to cool...). Place slices in a bowl, and toss with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Arrange slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees, until squash is soft and browned, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in that same bowl (or your serving bowl), add a few tablespoons of honey and a dash of red pepper flakes, or more, according to your own preference for spice. Transfer cooked squash immediately to the bowl, and toss in the honey mixture. The squash will break apart, that's okay! Serve while warm and dig in!

Butternut Squash with Israeli Cous Cous and Add-Ins
{Note: This recipe is incredibly versatile and open to many interpretations!}
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut a butternut squash down the middle, length-wise and scoop out seeds. Place squash halves cut-side down and peel the skin off. Slice off the ends of the squash, cut each half into strips, then chop those strips into cubes. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment, and bake in the oven until browned and soft, about 30-45 minutes. In the meantime, pull out a heavy-bottom pot and heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Dice a small onion, and mince a clove or two of garlic. Add to hot oil and saute until fragrant, then add one cup of israeli cous-cous. Stir and toast cous-cous for about 5 minutes. Add two cups of water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes over low heat, until all the liquid has evaporated. Transfer cous-cous to a large bowl, and add a bit of olive oil to keep the cous-cous from sticking-- stir to coat. Transfer cooked squash to bowl and toss together with the cous-cous. At this point, you can add in any complementary ingredients. Some suggestions: bacon (of course!), dried cranberries, or toasted nuts (such as walnut, hazelnut or pecans) would all be delicious!

My favorite thing about these recipes, besides their versatility, is their kid-friendliness. In our house, we feed our babies "regular people food" (aka Baby-Led Weaning, or BLW) from the beginning and squash is always a no-fail. For the baby, however, I omit the nuts (add them into individual dishes, perhaps) and go easy on the heat of the red pepper in the first recipe (I actually put aside some of the acorn squash for the kids, before tossing it with the honey mixture-- and remember, it is not advised for babies younger than a year to consume honey.)

Enjoy these wintry, blustery days while they last! I'll be back with some soup recipes for you.