I have a number of bad habits when it comes to shopping and cooking, and one of my top offenses is buying winter squashes that I don’t actually use.
They sit in my pantry, or next to some pumpkins on the dinner table, or in the potato bin, and they sit and sit and sit some more. I put off using them for so long that they start to dry out and become even harder to peel and chop. Some of the squashes are so hard that I worry about losing a finger when I do get around to it. That peeling and chopping — let’s be honest — is not that difficult in the first place, but it is a hassle.
That’s why I was excited when I was at Trader Joe’s last week and saw a package of butternut squash that was already peeled, seeded and chopped. (Costco sells a similar product.) The 12-ounce package cost $1.99, which is comparable to what a full butternut squash would cost without the prep work. You might get a little more of the squash meat out of one you prepare yourself, but 3/4 of a pound was plenty squash for the dish I had in mind.
A few days later, I squeezed two links of andouille sausage out of their casings and into a heavy-bottom pot. After crumbling and cooking the meat, I removed it and left some of the fat behind. Into the pot went some chopped onions and, in the two seconds it took for me to open the bag, the butternut squash. Add salt, pepper and a garlic spice blend. Stir. Cover. Stir again.
While the vegetables cooked, I boiled some farfalle pasta (aka bowtie, my favorite since childhood), and as the squash started to soften, I added the meat back to the pot to reheat for another minute or two. I put one scoop of pasta in a bowl with another scoop of the squash and andouille mixture on top, and a delicious weeknight dinner was ready.
I’ll be buying that packaged squash again.
On the other hand, I picked up some English muffins from Trader Joe’s that same day that had already molded by the morning of their “best by” date. Trader Joe’s is good at some things, but bread and baked goods are not one of those things.
We all have must-buy products at some stores that we won’t dare buy at others, like H-E-B’s cane sugar cola, and on the flip side, there are certain products that I’ll never buy at certain stores, like cereal at Sprouts. Sprouts, on the other hand, is where I buy almost all of my fresh cased sausage, like that andouille.
Tell us about some of your grocery must-buys and never-buys. You can post photos of them on social media with #Austin360Cooks or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I always love hearing from readers by phone, too: 512-912-2504
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