By that I mean that I become easily and intensely enamored with things, which will consume my life for a period of time (anywhere from a couple of days to years at a time), until I either finish with or become deeply sick of them. For example, I recently spent an entire week trying to teach myself how to fishtail braid my hair. And if we’re looking into my past (terrifying), let’s just say that the summer I discovered 24 had a seriously detrimental effect on my social life, and to this day, I can’t even look at a Juicy jumpsuit. My freakish love of “young adult” novel series has also posed some productivity problems over the years. Truth.
Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure this behavioral trait is genetic, since my brother went through a rather intense World of Warcraft phase, my sister buys into almost every new health trend, and my dad only eats at the same two restaurants whenever he comes to New York. Oh, and my mom is obsessed with shopping. At least I’m not alone.
For better or worse, my obsessive tendencies are most pronounced when it comes to food. I have briefly touched upon my life-threatening childhood grilled cheese addiction, but there was also the plain ham sandwich phase, a less than flattering high school attachment to Chinese chicken and broccoli, and of course, the “Entenmann’s year.” I now find all of these things repulsive.
(I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect…I still eat grilled cheese on the reg.)
Since becoming super domestic and spending the majority of my days in the kitchen, I find myself going through phases where I’m head-over-heels for a specific ingredient and use it in almost everything I make. I try to keep my ingredient obsessions in check when it comes to this blog because I recognize that just as my roommate didn’t want to watch 6 episodes of Friday Night Lights every evening last spring, some of you may not enjoy reading 17 posts in a row about the joys of cauliflower or adding Sriracha to 99% of the things you eat.
For the past few months, I’ve been in the throws of a passionate love affair with butternut squash. Not gonna lie, peeling a butternut squash is a bitch and a half, so I tend to just buy the pre-cut cubes in bulk at my market, and then add them to whatever other ingredients I happen to have on hand. I’ve been throwing butternut squash in all of my salads, using it to make chili, soups and risotto, and simply eating big bowls of it roasted and doused in Sriracha. I’m 100% guaranteed to become disgusted by it at some point, but until that day comes, I’m going to continue shamelessly indulging my butternut habit until I find my next obsession.
Am I proud of my obsessive tendencies? No, not usually. But in the words of the incredibly eloquent Paula Deen, “I is what I is.” So, when I checked my calendar and realized that Food Network’s Fall Fest ingredient of the week was winter squash, I had the urge to yell “SANTA!!!!” in response to this early Christmas present. Picking a butternut squash recipe to share was on the trickier side (so many options!), but I finally settled on a recent favorite: Chipotle Pork Tenderloin and Butternut Squash Tacos.
These tacos are off the chain, people. Spicy chipotle-laced pork topped with tender roasted butternut squash, fresh cilantro and crumbled queso fresco is an unexpected, yet genius combo. The gentle sweetness of the cinnamon-spiced squash perfectly balances the heat from the pork, queso lends the requisite salt factor, and the cilantro brightens everything up. It’s taco heaven. Plus, these bad boys are actually good for you. Pork tenderloin is an excellent source of lean protein, and butternut squash is packed with fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. Glorious.
I’m also incredibly pleased to inform you that these tacos are a breeze to make. Just throw all of the ingredients for the pork in a pot and let them simmer away for an hour on the stove. Roast your squash during the last portion of the pork’s cooking time, and boom, you’re done. It’s that easy. If need be, the pork can be made in advance, since it reheats remarkably well.
To those of you who are slightly weirded out by the thought of eating tacos during the holiday season, don’t be. These bad boys are awesomely hearty and satisfying cold-weather comfort food. The Dude and I crushed them while decorating our tree last night, and it made for an epic holiday fiesta. Feliz Navidad, amigos!
Chipotle Pork Tenderloin and Butternut Squash Tacos: (Serves 3-4)
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ large yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped (If you’re not into spicy, you can seed your chipotle pepper, or only use ½ a pepper.)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the chipotle can
1 lime, juiced
1½ tablespoons honey
¾ cup tomato puree
¾ cup low-sodium chicken stock
3 cups cubed butternut squash (¾-inch cubes)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
8 small flour or corn tortillas
For garnish: (optional)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Preparing your Chipotle Pork Tenderloin and Butternut Squash Tacos:
-In a medium bowl, combine the salt, ground cumin and chipotle chili powder. Add the pork tenderloin pieces and toss, making sure each piece is well coated in the spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate the pork while you prepare your sauce. (You can also leave your spice rubbed pork in the fridge over night if you happen to be a planner.)
-In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes until the onions become translucent and the garlic is fragrant. (Be careful not to burn the garlic, people!)
-Place the cubed butternut squash in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the cinnamon and toss to coat.
-20 minutes before your pork is done (so after 40 minutes of cooking…just wanted to help you with the math), transfer the butternut squash to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until the cubes are very tender.
-Top each tortilla with your chipotle pork and butternut squash. Garnish with fresh cilantro, a generous sprinkling of queso fresco, and fresh lime wedges. Enjoy your winter fiesta, friends!
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