If you live in Idaho, there is rarely a meal that doesn’t have meat and potatoes. It is kind of un-American if we don’t. Tofu is a swear word and corn is considered the vegetable of choice. However, I grew up in a family that tried and loved all kinds of different foods. Our family meals were well-rounded and still usually included meat, potatoes and a vegetable, but we often had unique ingredients that made those traditional favorites a bit non-traditional. I still cook like most of my country neighbors with meat, starch and veggies, but I enjoy mixing it up a bit with a perfect side dish for just about any main dish.

This acorn squash is a versatile dish. It can be made sweet or savory, and sometimes I will do one of each and then divide them up. This squash is usually available year-round and has a mild and nutty flavor that is perfect when married with steak, fish or even a casserole.

Acorn squash may seem a bit intimidating in the store, with its tough outer rind and unique shape, but it is simple to make and can be substituted for potatoes or a vegetable.

Belle’s Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar or 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic salt

Place squash cut side down on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high for about 9-10 minutes. Remove and place in a baking dish cut side up. Place 1 tablespoon of butter in each squash cavity, and then sprinkle with either the brown sugar or with the Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Place under broiler for about 4 minutes or until butter melts and squash starts to brown.

Brenda Stanley is the mother of five children, including two sets of twins, and a grandmother of three. She is a cookbook author and novelist. Her website is at talesofthedinnerbelle.com.