I have a better understanding, and much more gratitude to my parents who managed to put actual warm dinner on the table all the nights of my young life. They were hardly every overly fancy and they often involved a fish stick with a carefully drawn line of ketchup thankyouverymuch. There were some nights (and gosh this memory came at me in a flash) we’d have something called CTOT – short for (oh god) Creamed Tuna On Toast.
If you lived in the Wilson household you were welcomed to a dinner of pale skim milk gravy, oh just barely seasoned with a can of tuna stirred in. It was served over… whole grain toast- so help me god. It’s proof positive that you can make something from really very little AND you can put just about anything in a milk gravy and pour it over toast.
Also… let the record reflect that I was super stoked to eat CTOT. I don’t know. I do not know.
Why that food memory flashed through my mind I’m not sure. I was thinking about all the effort that goes into throwing dinner together. How much of a hodge-podge is often is. How we’re all doing our best on any given evening.
Today’s offering is a testament to hodge-podge dinner endeavors. This may be a bit more earnest and ambitious, but the offering is to grab an acorn squash (or really any seasonal gourds you find pleasing), stuff them with a mix of sautéed savory bits, and bake until the squash is softened and the insides and bubbling and crisp.
My ‘recipe’ in heaping handfuls is detailed below but you’re welcome to use whatever you have on hand – even if that includes a can of tuna.
I made this recipe with 4 acorn squash – you know, to feed my small army.
Here’s what else is involved:
- 2 Italian sausages, uncased and browned well
- onion and garlic
- a few handfuls of chopped mushrooms, sautéed to buttery brown
- fresh herbs, salt and pepper
- torn, stale bread
- chicken stock for moisture
- gruyere cheese because duh.
Layer everything into a big saute pan. Start by browning the sausage. Add the onions and garlic. Add the mushrooms.
We’re cooking everything down in layers, see?
Add the greens. Throw in the bread. Give it all a good toss.
Start to preheat the oven because we’re on our way.
Deglaze the mega-pan with stock or wine, working any glorious brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
The liquid will help soften the bread and moisten all of the ingredients.
Generously sprinkle cheese and herbs. Toss easy.
Pile each squash with filling. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cover the entire pan with foil and bake until the squash is fork tender.
Look at these hunks! On half an acorn squash per person for the most hearty and satisfying dinner.
But these are mere suggestions – the invitation is to stuff your squash with whatever is lingering in your fridge. Grab a meat (or extra mushrooms), grab onion and garlic, add a green, add a carb, add a cheese – you’re good to go!Print
Stuffed Acorn Squash
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- 3–4 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for topping the squash
- 2 Italian sausage links (about 1/2 pound)
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped (about a heaping 1/2 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaping cup chopped mushrooms
- 3 handfuls of kale leaves, coarsely chopped
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- a few tablespoons of fresh herbs like thyme and oregano and parsley, plus more for topping
- 1–2 cups torn stale bread pieces
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
- Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm oil. Add the uncased sausage and cook, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes . The sausage doesn’t have to be cooked through completely.
- Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions become translucent and the garlic fragrant, about 4 minutes.
- Add the mushrooms and cook until some of the water begins to escape and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add the kale and stir until just wilted. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the bread chunks.
- Stir in the chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Stir in the cheese and herbs.
- Place acorns cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Stuff each acorn with filling. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the tray with foil and place in the oven.
- Bake for 25 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees F, remove foil an bake for 10-15 more minutes. Test doneness of squash with a sharp knife. You’ll want to knife to meet to resistance – that’s cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Leftovers can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated. Reheat in a low oven for 15 minutes.
Team chipped beef on toast! It’s still my go-to comfort food. We also did the tuna variety. I haven’t made that in years. It is time!
Joey Diana Gates
At Gramma’s it was bologne on Wonder bread, with Miracle Whip. Oh, and a glass of Kool Aid. No wonder I went on a health food life journey at 21 :). Thanks for all the amazing recipes.
Hi Joy –
Please see Step 8 in your recipe – I am guessing you meant to have the reader cover the baking tray with FOIL, not plastic wrap, before placing in oven. Plastic wrap in the oven is going to be a toxic disaster. #gotyourback
A favorite snack growing up in my family was a slice of Oscar Meyer bologna on a plate, cut into a grid pattern with a perfect chocolate chip-shaped dollop of ketchup on every piece. The dollop HAD to be perfect and on every piece. We also ate pickles wrapped in salami and slices of Kraft singles on white bread with mayonnaise. Thinking of this as an adult I both cringe and get nostalgic. Thanks for eliciting such memories!
One of my FAVORITE dinners my Dad would make was creamed eggs on toast. Simple white sauce with a little mustard power and sliced hard boiled eggs. The best
Shannon K Sullivan
We called this Hangover Helper, for those mornings after….
We also ate CTOT. My children are adults now and consider this comfort food.
Oh my gosh. I’m so glad to know it wasn’t just my family!
Not gonna lie, I STILL love CTOT (on whole grain toast), although I hardly ever make it anymore. I especially like it with frozen peas stirred in.
My stepdad used to make us ‘Chicken Surprise’, which was canned Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup with chunks of boiled chicken in it, served over brown rice.
We liked it at first, but after having it once a week for years, we were SOOOOOOO over it. Man, I don’t miss it now, but I do think fondly of my sweet stepdad and the unselfish way he would get a warm meal on the table for us even though he despised cooking.
Molly M Staggs
Same as Suzy above. Chipped beef gravy over toast, but my favorite was leftover gravy (from Sunday roast) over toast. Somehow elicits warm, cozy feelings even now!
This sounds delicious – I make something very similar for a pasta dish – I’m def. going stuff my squash this weekend – it will be a nice treat after all that turkey….Thanks Also – I think you mean to “cover tray will FOIL” not plastic wrap as noted in step #8.
Looks yummy! But please note you say cover with plastic wrap before baking. Thinking you mean foil?
Absolutely! Gosh! So sorry – all fixed up!
Gruyere, duh, indeed. My mom did the same, and while I can’t say we ever had line-drawn ketchup, we ate this thing called “hamburger and rice” that was no, not hamburger helper, but this other concoction my mom made up but unlike you with the CTOT, I hated it and would dread it when it appeared on our table. Mom did pretty well otherwise. On the note of hob-nobbing together something edible in my daily adult life, last week I had kimchi nachos three nights in a row. Hey, we do what we can sometimes, right?
I feel like kimchi nachos three nights in a row is WINNING!! (I had potato chips and trader Joe’s onion dip for lunch last week.)
As a member of a 7 child family we ate a lot of Creamed Chip beef on toast. My mom dressed it up wit hard boiled eggs and crumbled bacon, wow what a treat!
I think you mean aluminum foil in Step 8…..!!! Sounds delish!!!