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Nutritional side dish, seasonal centerpiece

One of the first meals of fall that rules at our house is baked squash.

I recently picked up a couple of fresh squash at the farmer’s market and made baked squash for dinner one evening with stuffed meatloaf. The vitamin-rich seasoned squash is an excellent side dish.

A tip I have used for years is to bake fresh squash until half done, remove the seeds and place the split squash into a freezer bag for future meals. When ready to use, continue baking in the microwave or oven. It’s a great way to savor the flavor of squash when squash season is over.

Butternut Squash

1 large squash

2 tablespoons butter (if desired, add more butter)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour a little water into a baking dish. Place 1 whole squash in the dish and bake for 1 hour or more, until a fork poked into the neck goes in and comes out easily. Remove from the oven, cut in half and remove the seeds. Scoop the baked squash from the peeling and put into a baking dish. Add the butter, salt and pepper. I also like to add brown sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Stuffed Gourmet Meatloaf

Servings: 6

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 egg

3 to 4 tablespoons water

1 6-ounce box chicken flavored stuffing mix

Salt and pepper to taste

3/4 teaspoon granulated garlic


8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


Ketchup to your liking

Mix ground beef, chopped onion, egg, water, stuffing mix, salt, pepper and garlic all together in a bowl. Mix well and pat flat all ingredients on a flat surface. Mix together the filling ingredients except the cheddar cheese in a separate bowl. Spread over flattened meat mixture. Spread one cup of shredded cheddar cheese on top of cream cheese mixture. Wrap the edges of the meat mixture around the cheese filling until the cheese mixture is completely covered with the meat. Place shaped meat into a loaf pan; cover the top of the meat mixture with ketchup and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until done.

Quick Southwestern Dip

16 ounce can refried beans

8 ounce package cream cheese

2 large tomatoes, chopped

1/2 package dried taco seasoning

6 ounces  prepared avocado dip

4-ounce can chopped ripe olives

1 small onion chopped fine

4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chilies

Layer ingredients in a 9-by-13-inch dish in the order given. Chill for several hours. Serve with tortilla chips.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: When baking, follow the directions; when cooking, go by your own taste.

GARY’S TIP: Use a paintbrush to dust in hard-to-reach door jambs, etc.