The holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year. Who doesn't love spending time with loved ones while enjoying the spirit of the season? One of the most enjoyable aspects for me is sharing a nice holiday meal with family and friends, but with holiday obligations adding to our already busy lives, who has time to prepare a full holiday meal, much less eat it?

Well, I'm a big believer in the importance of families making time to sit down and eat together. There is always a way to find the time, and it's important enough to warrant our best effort. After all, there is a growing body of evidence that supports the value of family meals, and it sends the message to your children that spending quality time together is important to you.

While the option of simply picking up prepared food at a store or restaurant is tempting, it is possible to save a little money and prepare an easy take away meal that your hosts will not only appreciate, but your kids can help you, as well. The beauty of this meal is that it can be prepared in advance and simply heated up at meal time.

Butternut Squash Quesadilla with Southwestern Black Bean Salad

Being from California, I am partial to food with a little Mexican influence, and the vegetarian approach is a nice complement to the multitude of meat dishes that are common during the holidays.

For the beans, you can use one bag of dried or two cans. Soak the dried beans overnight. The next day, drain and add fresh water with 1/2 Tbs of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour until beans are tender. One bag is enough for two quesadillas, one black bean salad, and the black bean dip.


  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups cheese, Monterey Jack or cheddar
  • 1/2 cup of cooked black beans
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • flour tortillas (I like whole wheat)

Toss the squash with a little olive oil and salt, and spread on baking pan. Place under the broiler and cook for 5-7 minutes, until they get slightly charred. With a spatula, move the squash around and broil again for even cooking.

Layer cheese onto a tortilla, then add a generous layer of cooked squash. On top of that, sprinkle beans and onion (if using), then slices of avocado. Lightly salt and then add another layer of cheese. Place the other tortilla on top.

If you have a microwave, cook for one minute on high to melt cheese and hold the quesadilla together. This makes it easier to handle but is not critical. Place quesadilla under the broiler and cook until it browns and slightly blisters, being careful not to burn it. Flip it over and do the same on the other side.

You can eat it right away, or let it cool and wrap it up and take it with you. Re-heat by either microwaving for a minute on each side, or place in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes, or heat on a large skillet at your final destination. Serve with black bean dip, sour cream, or salsa.

Southwestern Black Bean Salad

  • 2 cups of cooked beans
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup corn, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • juice from one lime
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and keep cool. Mix well before eating.

Black Bean Dip

  • 1 bag of tortilla chips
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup milk or rice/soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/3 cup of cheese, optional

In a sauce pan, sauté onions and peppers until tender. Add beans, salt and milk and blend until smooth with chunks. If using cheese, add and place back on heat until melted. Keep cool and warm up before eating.

All of these dishes can be made the night before and kept in the fridge until meal time. For re-heating, you can use your microwave, oven, or stove top. Simply warm up and enjoy with family and friends.

One avocado is enough to make two quesadillas, and there will plenty of squash left over.