In my pre-pandemic life, I lived in a house with four roommates. And the benefits were myriad: I always had someone to watch TV with or to motivate me to go to the gym; I had built-in friends to share jokes and pranks and venting sessions.

But when COVID-19 became serious, one by one my roommates decided to leave the Twin Cities to shelter-in-place with their families. While I’m definitely lonely in our once-bustling house, one silver-lining has been all the food that was left behind and that I suddenly “inherited,” which has also meant that I now make fewer trips to the grocery store.

A well-stocked fridge with ingredients that I didn’t purchase for myself seemed like a ripe opportunity for culinary discovery. Unfortunately, by the time I had a couple of hours – and the motivation – to film, I had eaten the perishable items that I originally envisioned as the stars of a creative masterpiece.

Instead, I decided to cook something new (to me) that could also inspire others to rethink how to use the same ingredients they might be stockpiling.

After some internet sleuthing and some problem-solving, I put together an unconventional, vegetarian take on tacos using squash as the foundation.

In the spirit of inspiring you to experiment with random ingredients in your refrigerator or cupboard, I share my own make-shift recipe. The best part? There are no rules and you can swap out ingredients as you like.

What are you waiting for? Time to go hunting around your fridge!

Spaghetti Butternut Squash Tacos

½ red onion
1 bell pepper
1 butternut squash
1 cup of black beans
⅓ cup of corn
½ lime or lime juice
Red pepper flakes
Shredded cheese
Tortilla Chips

1. Heat your oven to 350°F. Poke holes in your squash and cut in half lengthwise. Pour a half cup of water in your baking dish and place the squash inside, cut-sides down. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until tender.
2. While the squash is baking, prepare the filling. Slice onion and bell pepper, and add to olive oil on a skillet over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Add beans and corn and cook for 1 more minute.
3. Scoop out cooked squash and add it to the filling on the skillet. May I recommend waiting until the squash has cooled? I didn’t – and that wasn’t the hottest idea.
4. Add red pepper flakes, lime juice, salt. Cook for 1 minute.
5. Fill squash halves with mixture, add toppings such as cheese, avocado, salsa and chips.

Most importantly, enjoy!


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.


Want to make more recipes during your at-home quarantine? Our web series, Relish, explores the intersection of food and culture – and each episode features a recipe you can try making in the comforts of your own kitchen. Chef Yia Vang visits Minnesota chefs to learn about the dishes they love most – and there are 12 episodes, which should keep you busy and very, very full.

You know what would pair beautifully with these squash tacos? Jose Alarcon’s mole verde, a recipe that comes right from his memories of his mother’s cooking. 

When you’ve finished feasting on squash tacos, how about Scandinavian waffles from the one-and-only Waffle Queen, herself, Stine Aasland. You can smother them in just about anything from your pantry, and they’re perfect for a little cozy time at home.