Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Paleo Southern Summer Squash Casserole

In the south, women will put just about anything in a casserole. I guess the idea is that they can hide veggies and protein in a creamy, cheesy sauce and trick their families into eating something healthy. The only problem in that theory is that doesn't really make for a healthy dinner just because it contains some vegetables and some bland chicken breasts. But I get the idea of eating vegetables with a sauce to make it seem more friendly to someone who isn't used to eating fresh vegetables.

A popular southern casserole in the summer is a yellow squash casserole. The basic recipe calls for the cook to boil yellow onions and yellow squash until cooked, and then combine the mushy vegetables with sour cream, heavy cream, a couple of eggs, and about TWO cups of shredded cheddar cheese. The casserole is topped with crushed butter crackers, and baked for about 45 minutes. More filler than vegetables! I don't particularly care for this dish, but everybody and their mom knows how to make this dish in the south. I actually don't care for squash, more because of the texture than the taste. But in the summer it is so affordable, and I need to find a way to eat it.

So let's remix it this creamy mess, paleo style! Instead of boiling the poor vegetables to death, let's saute them in bacon grease, and combine them with a paleo friendly, dairy free sauce, and top them with a gluten and grain free substitute that is just as crunchy and satisfying as any cracker crumb! Are you ready for this? Because it is way better than the original!

Paleo Southern Summer Squash Casserole
Serves 4-6


5 strips of good quality bacon (I used a nice peppered bacon)
4 yellow summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
1 large Vidallia Onion*, juilienned
1/4 cup of small diced organic red bell pepper
1/4 cup of small diced organic green bell pepper
3 teaspoons of Sea Salt, divided
Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons of organic granulated garlic

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, soaked
1 1/2 cups of stock, either homemade (preferably) or a good quality, organic, MSG-free low sodium store bought version

For the topping:
1/2 a bag of plain pork rinds, pulsed into crumbs to measure 1/3 cup
1/3 a cup of raw slivered almonds, pulsed into crumbs as well
*I used a mini food processor for this, but I pulsed each separately. Alternately, you could crush the pork rinds in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, and then finely chop the almonds with a knife.

1. First start with the sauce. To soak the cashews, simply cover them with hot water in the morning and allow them to soak for at least four hours, but you may soak them overnight if you wish. By soaking the cashews, you are not only softening them, but also allowing some of the potentially gut-irritating proteins to partially break down, making them easier to digest. You can read more about this process here.
2. After the cashews have soaked, drain them in a collander and rinse them with cold water.
3. Place the cashews in a blender (a normal blender will do, I don't have a super fancy one) and add the stock. Blend for at least 5 minutes until completely smooth. Set the sauce aside. (If you wish, you can do this step the day before and store the plain sauce in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the casserole the next day.)

Next you need to cook the vegetables for the casserole.
1. Cut up the 5 strips of bacon using a pair of kitchen shears into bite size pieces. Brown the bacon in a large skillet. Once cooked, remove the pieces to a plate temporarily, but leave the grease in the sautee pan.
2. Add the squash and onions, season with 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook over medium high heat for about 15 minutes, until the squash and onions have softened and started to caramelize.
3. At this point, add the bacon back in as well as the red and green bell peppers, stir to combine, and turn off the heat.
4. Add in the sauce. You may not need all of the cashew gravy, so start with half, and add more if you need more sauce to coat all the vegetables. Once you have added all the sauce you need, add the rest of the salt, granulated garlic, and as much fresh pepper as you wish.
5. Pour into a small casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes at 350.
6. Combine the pulsed almonds and pork rinds, and sprinkle over the top of the casserole evenly. Increase the oven temperature to 400 and bake for another 20 minutes until the casserole is bubbling and the topping is browned.

Allow casserole to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

A few notes:
*A Vidallia onion is a sweet, white onion grown in a south Georgia town called Vidallia. This type of onion is usually in season in the summer in the South, but if you cannot find it, just use a large sweet yellow or white onion. A red onion would not lend the same flavor profile.
*When selecting pork rinds, make sure you read the label! Sometimes even plain or 'original' pork rinds can contain sugar, maltodextrin, or any number of chemical flavors. Look for a label that says only "pork skins and salt."

Even though this casserole serves 4-6, it did not last long in my house of 2! I don't usually like squash, like I said, but in this dish, it is so incredibly rich and savory that I literally licked my bowl clean with my finger! This dish was inspired by The Urban Poser's Green Bean Casserole, which I have made for holidays before to great reviews! Even non-paleo eaters ate her casserole without knowing any better. I suspect you could serve this squash to them as well and they would never suspect it is dairy and gluten free. I highly suggest you check out her recipe and add it to your holiday tradition.

I hope you all enjoy my rendition of this southern staple!


  1. I just made this and tasted a bit before I put it in the oven. It is going to be delicious!!! I did have a question though, I have about 1/2 the cashew gravy left. Do you have any other recipes or ideas on how to use it up? Thanks for a great paleo comfort recipe!

    1. You can use it to thicken any sauce you want! I've used it for gravy for steak with mushrooms and onions


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