280. Baked Butternut Apples – Thanksgiving 2013

Baked Butternut Apples | Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving | Ann Ning Learning How

Thanksgiving is almost here!  Well, it’s a month away, so don’t panic if you haven’t started planning.  The one time I hosted Thanksgiving (kind of) I foolishly waited until Thanksgiving Eve to do the bulk of my shopping.  Yeah.  That didn’t work out so well.   These days I have some dietary preferences I didn’t back then, so I’m going to post some allergy-friendly dishes you can prepare for your Thanksgiving Feast if you’re so inclined.

Ruthie made squash ‘n apples a few weeks ago.  I think she learned it from her mom.  They were SO good, and such a nice side dish for our dinner.  I love butternut squash but I have never relished the squash-cutting process, although I’ve heard that cutting a butternut squash is easier than cutting, say, an acorn squash.  Let’s not go there. In fact, let’s not go anywhere with a knife.  I can’t bear to be near anyone using a knife, and I am squeamish about handling anything other than my serrated butter spatula, so I’m content to pay a little extra for some ready-cubed butternut squash.  Trader Joe’s sells it in bags, and Wegman’s has nice 1 lb boxes.  Well worth the moolah, in my book.

Some onions would be nice in here if you’re into onions.  I’m thinking of when Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions the dish “apples and onions” in Farmer Boy (I think).  The notion of apples ‘n onions (e.g. served with pork chops), always fascinated me. I am Asian, so this sort of thing is strangely exotic even though it’s home-cooking, plain-food sort of fare.  Well, this dish is very plain indeed – I just added apple juice (use cider if you have it) to amp up the apple flavor.  Don’t wait for Thanksgiving – make this tonight!

Baked Butternut Apples

Preheat oven to 350, grease a large baking dish

  • 1 lb butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 green apple, cubed (e.g. Granny Smith)
  • ¼ c apple juice or apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  • salt and pepper


Toss everything and season with salt ‘n pepper.  Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes.

231. Shepherd’s Pie for the family

Shepherd's Pie | 2 options for the family | Ann Ning Learning How

I really had to sell the idea of Shepherd’s Pie to Hannah. I wasn’t planning to make two completely separate versions, but I immediately recognized the desirability of a dish my children would actually eat, and proposed a “BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger” SP. She was on board once she heard the word “bacon,” although the “BBQ cheeseburger” parts didn’t hurt, either. Josh was upstairs at the time so he only got to taste the final product, not influence its creation.

It was a hit. And if your eating regimen permits, I think the “kid” version is actually highly favored by adults, too. We were all fans at the dinner table that night – although I have to put in a good word for my “grown-up” Butternut Bacon and Mushroom version. You cook the bacon, mushrooms, and meat with red wine, so I felt that it might be more appropriate for more mature palettes. The butternut squash topping was colorful and delicious – and I was free to enjoy the whole thing since I made it dairy free.

It turned out to be quite easy to make two versions, especially bc my sister took care of mashing the potatoes. I think she just scrubbed, forked and microwaved 2 spuds and I didn’t see what else she added during the mashing process. I would suggest butter, buttermilk or Greek yogurt. Whatever she did, though, it was well received.

This fed 3 adults and 2 children with leftovers. I made one square dish (around 8×8 or 9×9) plus a smaller square for the kids.

Butternut Bacon Mushroom Shepherd's Pie |Dairy Free | Ann Ning Learning How

For the Parents: Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Bacon

Dairy Free

2 packs of butternut squash (I used the pre-cut packs from Trader Joe’s – sorry, I can’t remember the oz count. But they only sell one size.)

¾ cup savory cashew cream (I added apple cider vinegar, all-seasoning, salt & pepper, Worcestershire sauce)

½ cup of water

1 spoon of soy butter

Microwave the squash for around 7 minutes. Puree everything and set aside.

For the filling: ¾ c red wine + add’l splash of wine and Worcestishire

Bacon BBQ Cheeseburger Shepherd's Pie | Ann Ning Learning How

For the Kids: Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburger

The parents might want to eat this, too.

2-3 white potatoes, mashed

2 handfuls of shredded cheese for sprinkling

For the filling: 2 Tbsp. BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s), add’l splash of BBQ sauce

Mash the potatoes, adding whatever you usually add, e.g. butter, buttermilk, Greek yogurt – set aside.

For both:

2 lbs ground meat (I used beef and turkey)

1 8oz packet of mushrooms, sliced

½ an onion, diced (I used the Ninja to dice mine then pureed the squash in the same pitcher. If you like onions you might want to add a spoonful into your squash)

6 slices of bacon, cut into little pieces.

1.5-2 c peas

I split the fillings into 2 pans – one for the wine and one for the BBQ. Saute the onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper. Add the bacon and fry it all up! When the bacon is reasonably cooked add the ¾ cup red wine or the 2 Tbsp BBQ sauce. Fry it all up some more. Add the meat and brown it all, seasoning with more salt and pepper. Add in the additional splash of BBQ sauce or the splash of wine/Worcestershire. Stir to combine everything and brown the meat some more. When everything is almost cooked, add in the peas. Finish off the cooking – remember, you’re going to bake this once assembled, so you needn’t cook everything to death right now.

Grease 2 pans – I used small squares. Pile the filling in the bottom. Top with squash or potatoes. For the cheeseburger version, layer it so it’s meat on the bottom, a handful of cheese, the potatoes, and then more cheese. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.