Butternut Squash, Cranberry, Farro Salad

I've talked to multiple clients who are intimidated by whole grains. Quinoa and rice? We seem to get that, but when you introduce kamut, amaranth, or farro, then I'm typically met with a blank stare. Think of it like this: whole grains are your blank canvas. You start with a whole grain base (most of which are interchangeable) and you build flavor from there.

Confidence with whole grains is important. Research shows that diets consisting of at least half of the grains as whole grains are shown to be protective against certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Also, whole grains are a good source of fiber which contributes to satiety and they're a great source of many antioxidants. 

I made a simple, back to basics recipe (#btobrecipes) using farro, an ancient wheat that's a good source of fiber and protein - both at about 8g per cup, cooked. Plus, the seasonal flavors of butternut squash and cranberries makes for an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving celebration.


1 medium butternut squash
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup dry farro plus 1 cup water for cooking
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme
(optional: 1 tbsp pure maple syrup)

Cook farro according to package directions. (I used Bob's Red Mill) Typical cooking instructions for farro: Rinse 1 cup farro and add to a saucepan with 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and then simmer until cooked, about 30 minutes. 

Makes 4-6 servings


While farro is cooking, preheat oven to 375F. Wash and peel butternut squash. Tip: Be sure your vegetable peeler is sharp. The skin on butternut squash is thick and tough. Cut squash and remove seeds. Dice and toss with cranberries and olive oil. Place mixture on a baking sheet and bake for 30 - 40 minutes. Squash should be soft enough to put a fork through, but not mushy. 

Drain excess water from farro and toss with squash mixture in a large bowl. Add thyme. Maple syrup is optional. This salad is best served warm or at room temperature.

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash with White Beans and Chard

Spaghetti squash is a versatile vegetable that makes its debut in the fall and winter months. It's a good source of fiber, is low in calories, and has a mild flavor making it an ideal substitute for pasta.

This recipe may seem overwhelming considering it takes over an hour to prepare, but before you move on to find something to make in a shorter amount of time then consider that the majority of this cook time is due to the time it takes to bake the squash. As soon as you walk in the door do this: preheat the oven, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and put in the oven to bake. Go about your evening for the next 45 minutes. Once cooked then the rest of the recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes. Sold?


1 medium spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 box crushed tomatoes
1 can low sodium cannellini beans, rinsed
4 large leaves of swiss chard (about half a bunch), chopped
1 bunch basil, chopped
1 cup mozzarella
2 tbsp shredded parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side up into a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until you can use a fork to scrape the spaghetti into noodles. Set noodles aside.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add shallot and saute until translucent. Add swiss chard and beans. Saute until chard wilts. Add tomatoes and spaghetti noodles. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. While filling is simmering, finely chop one bunch of basil.  

Add 1/3 of filling to the bottom of the baking dish surrounding the spaghetti boats. Split the remainder of the chard and bean filling between the two boats. Top with mozzarella, parmesan, and 1/2 chopped basil. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining half of the basil on top of the boats. 

Back to basics tip: opt for a jar of tomato basil marinara and eliminate the crushed tomatoes, shallot, and basil. 

Sweet and Spicy Baked Acorn Squash

As a dietitian, I talk to many clients who struggle to eat well on a regular basis. It's usually that the idea of cooking at home or spending a day meal prepping is simply overwhelming. And how could it not be when the expectation is to prepare complicated recipes with multiple ingredients or to take an entire Sunday afternoon to prep for the week ahead? I'm not saying there's anything wrong with either approach and if you're already doing that then great! Keep on truckin'. 

These "Back to Basics" recipes are for the people who avoid the kitchen, who don't want to prep a recipe with multiple ingredients, who avoid the Sunday afternoon meal prep, and in general just want to have a healthy diet without it taking over their life. 

Back to Basics recipes have two rules:

1. Less than 5 ingredients
2. Maximum of 3 dishes needed to prepare (goal: less to clean)


Acorn squash is a good source of vitamin C and potassium. 

1 acorn squash
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp olive or canola oil

Wash and cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and discard. Cut squash into wedges. This can be done by putting the cut half down on the board and cutting at an angle into the middle of the squash. 
Toss wedges in a bowl with oil and maple syrup. Add spices and toss to cover. 
Put squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until soft. 

Note: This recipe is best prepared when squash is in season. I bought this acorn squash at a local farmers market since fall is prime time for squash of many varieties.