Fall Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cranberry Curry with Apple Quinoa

Every November, a heap of pretty butternut squashes lie untouched on my kitchen counter like forgotten children. As the seasons’ colors change from autumn orange to holiday red, they sit – ignored – until finally, I toss them into our compost heap.

In a flurry of October excitement, with the fresh outlook that only autumn brings me, I buy the squashes with the best of intentions. In the store gazing at the abundant gourds – so symbolic of fall’s arrival – I envision myself cooking away the weekends without a care in the world: butternut soup, butternut gnocchi, butternut ravioli – the scent of butter and sage wafting through the house, the exotic sounds of Spanish guitar playing over Alexa’s speaker. So much potential. 

But each weekend brings a longer to-do list that never makes space for my ambitious from-scratch kitchen plans. After a few rushed dinners, I tire of Instant Pot butternut squash soup. Not knowing what else to make with them, the squashes rot and – with a pang of guilt that reminds me I shouldn’t buy what I can’t use – into the compost I throw them. (Can you tell meal planning and organization aren’t my forte?)

Between grocery store trips and CSA hauls, I’ve had three butternut squashes sitting on my counter for the past couple weeks. This year, though – I was determined to use them. In my quest to waste less, I decided I needed to give butternut squash a makeover and come up with something new to do with them – something new to my family at least. Something fresh. But fast. 

That’s where this recipe comes in. For the past few years, the now-tattered and food-splattered pages of Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s Flavor Bible has given me a lot of creative ideas when I’m not sure what to do with the ingredients in my kitchen. The book includes an alphabetical listing of almost any food you can think of followed by a list of ingredients and flavors that pair well with that food. Page and Dornenburg also suggest “flavor affinities” – triads of fitting ingredients – for each food (think “sage + pasta + walnuts”). 

I have no affiliations with the Flavor Bible and did not receive any financial compensation for recommending it. I just honestly LOVE this book and believe it could help anyone who likes to come up with their own recipes. Sometimes if I have a few foods left in the fridge, and I’m not sure what to do with them, I look each one up and see which flavor affinities they share in common, so this book has also helped me waste less.

To come up with this recipe, I used Flavor Bible to research spices and seasonings that butternut squash and cranberries share in common. The result was a delicious blend of fall flavors that my family gobbled up:

Fall Butternut Squash, Kale, and Cranberry Saute with Apple Quinoa


Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Saute Ingredients: 

1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium butternut squash, cubed

1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 apple, diced

5 chicken thighs

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 c fresh cranberries

2 c fresh kale, chopped

1/2 c apple juice

1/4 c water

a handful of fresh sage leaves

1 tsp onion powder

1 tbs curry powder

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 tbs butter

Instant Pot quinoa ingredients:

1 tbs butter

1 c quinoa, rinsed

1 c apple juice

1/2 c water

2 tsp bouillon powder (or the appropriate amount for 1 c of water, depending on the brand. I used Orrington Farms Broth Base & Seasoning, Chicken Flavored)

Add quinoa ingredients to Instant Pot. Set Instant Pot to ‘manual high pressure’ for 1 minute. Use a 10-minute release. (If you don’t have an Instant Pot, follow stovetop instructions on your quinoa package. Adjust the liquid amount accordingly.) 

While quinoa is cooking, add olive oil to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When pan is hot, add butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is beginning to soften (about 10 minutes). 

Add ginger and garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring to keep the garlic from burning. 

Add diced apple and cook for another minute or two. Remove squash mixture from pan and set aside.

Sear chicken thighs until browned on each side, about 4 minutes per side. Add Worcestershire sauce and salt and cook for an additional minute. 

Add apple juice and water to pan, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. 

Once mixture comes to a boil, add the black pepper, fresh cranberries, onion powder, curry powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add butternut mixture back to pan.

Simmer for about six minutes, or until butternut squash is tender. Add sage leaves. butter, and kale and simmer until chicken thighs are cooked through to 165 degrees F and kale is wilted. 

Serve over quinoa. Enjoy!

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