Do you have a go-to restaurant where you frequent when you just don’t have the spoons (more on spoon theory here) or the energy or right mental health state to cook a meal? Mine is a local Toronto chain that is amazing. Fresh. They have delicious vegan and vegetarian food. I honestly go there a few times a month because it is right down the street and I enjoy it so much. I usually order the exact same dish each time – the squash tacos. There is something about the textures and flavours that is just so appealing and that I crave constantly. It’s one of my comfort foods. A few weeks ago, I was thinking about going to eat some but also considering that I needed to eat out less for financial reasons. I thought – what if I could recreate the squash tacos on my own? This past weekend, I got to work. It is a relatively simple recipe and took me about 1.5 hours to make. But I’m a slow cook.
The process of cooking and creating the dish was so therapeutic for your mental health. A little while ago, I wrote about cooking therapy in my blog post with my Winter Vegetable Layer Cake recipe. I’ll try not to repeat myself but I just really cannot stress how much cooking improves my mood, even for just a few hours. It’s a great distress tolerance activity. Making the squash tacos took a lot of concentration so I couldn’t focus on my negative or anxious thoughts. The creative aspect of figuring out the recipe helped challenge my mind and expand it. Cooking and baking also stimulates the senses which increases feel-good endorphins.
I will warn you though – as someone with a mental illness, the cooking process was a bit exhausting. Cooking takes a lot of energy and strength, something I don’t always have. However, it is so worth it. First of all, the energy expended led to a few days of good meals for me and my partner. It also boosted my self-esteem because I was proud of myself for accomplishing this task and because he could not stop telling me how yummy the squash tacos were. This totally increased my confidence.
I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and have missed a lot of work lately due to a major depressive episode that won’t seem to go away. I’ve been feeling a lot of self-hatred and worries due to this, but finding small ways to be productive like through cooking has been really satisfying and has boosted my mental health. It also feels really good to know that I am playing an active role in nourishing myself and in my self-care.
Without further ado, here is the squash taco recipe and photos from the process.
Butternut Squash Tacos : Recipe
1 larger butternut squash
1/2 cup flour
1 cup or more of Panko bread crumbs
SAUCE: (adapted from this Epicurious recipe)
4 jalapenos (stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped)
the juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded kale
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 red onion diced
as much as you want of crumbled goat cheese
A package of miniature tortillas
- Prepare the toppings: Shred kale to a size of your liking and set aside in a bowl. Dice your tomatoes and set aside in a separate bowls. Dice your onions and again, set aside in a separate bowl. Use a spoon to help you crumble your goat cheese and again, set aside in a bowl.
- Prepare the sauce: Pulse jalapeños, garlic, lime juice, and salt in a blender or food processor until puréed. Add oil and blend until smooth. Add cilantro and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated.
- Prepare the squash: Peel and cube the butternut squash and set aside. Put flour, eggs and panko crumbs in three separate bowls. Coat each piece of squash first in flour, then egg, then panko crumbs and set aside. The panko crumbs might start to get sticky so you might need to freshen up your bowl with a new heapful. Pour vegetable oil in a large pan (1/4 cup or more) and fry each piece of squash for three minutes on one side and three minutes on the other. Set aside on a large plate or in a bowl.
- Prepare the tacos: Set your table with all of the toppings laid out. Lay out the kale first on the tortilla and then place 1-3 pieces of squash, depending on size. Add your other toppings to your desire and drizzle on sauce. And voila, you are done! YUMMY! Make sure to eat the tacos with squash WARM for the best taste! This is a great meal that is easily re-heatable,