Messy Cumin-Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce

It has been a sleepy day, a sleepy week. I find myself waking up two hours late, cutting off the alarm and pulling the covers over my head. The mornings are soft. The light is pearlescent grey. My husband curls up alongside me and we chat for what feels like sweet forever, mixed up amongst the duvet and the cotton sheets. I never want to leave this sacred, kind, loving space where the troubles of the world fall away.

The only thing that gets me out of bed is coffee and the promise of toast.

Our little home sits in a quiet nook of the city where the only sounds are the occasional swish of cars in the distance, the chittering of chickadees. I sip coffee in the morning looking out over the yard (which has gone brown and mossy in lots of places). I imagine sunny springtime, pink flowers spilling over every stoney ledge.

For now, blue mist hangs over the mountains. Rain hangs its sparkling coat on bare branches.

I fill my days with work, padding around the house in pajamas. I can go days without stepping out of the house. I sustain myself on never-ending cups of dandelion tea, berries, and almond-butter toast.

This is so laughably close to the stereotype of writers you always see in the movies. Living in a crusty robe with empty tea cups piled all over the windowsills. Manuscripts and notebooks piled everywhere. Drinking bourbon at 11am.

I’m sort of like that except without the crusty robe and the bourbon. Sub in a floaty silk kimono / plenty of nudity / kombucha at 11am.

This is what happens when you put a creative type in charge of organizing their life. It gets messy and unmotivated REAL FAST.

But something must be working because this southwestern-inspired cumin-roasted butternut squash with lentils and sunny red pepper cilantro sauce is pretty damn dreamy. And yes, it’s a big ol pile of messy goodness.

This dish was born out of a strong desire to be lazy AND accomplished at the same time.

So, technically it's very easy. There are a few different moving parts so some multi-tasking is required. But if you're a multi-tasking wizard like me, this whole meal is done in just over 30 minutes!

And don't be intimidated by the ingredients list! A lot of the listed ingredients are the same, but used in multiple areas (olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper).

The Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce is a lot like a romesco but with sunflower seeds instead of nuts and an enormous dose of cilantro. It's creamy, savory, tangy, garlicky and just damn delicious.

The cumin-rubbed roasted butternut squash gets tender and caramelized from browning and blistering under high heat.

The lentils get a pop of flavor from that Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce and an extra squeeze of lemon.

The kale salad is super basic, massaged with olive oil, lemon, salt + pep. A handful of tart dried cherries in the salad gives the whole dish a needed perkiness and extra dose of sweetness.

Sigh... yes I did it again I posted 1 recipe that's actually 4 recipes. 

This roasted butternut squash dish is pretty similar to my roasted asparagus with lentils and romesco from last Spring. But it's totally winterized and spiced with cumin and cilantro, giving it a bit more of a Southwestern flair.

This is a very messy plate of plant based goodness. I did my best to make it look presentable! But it's basically a huge sheet pan of melty, saucy, roasted good stuff. Aka the best type of food.

Also, holla if you went to any Womens March on Washington Rallies this past weekend! I went to a local one and it was awesome! 1200 people showed up in Charlottesville! #lovetrumpshate #pussypower

Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce

Created by Renee on January 23, 2017

You only need 8 ingredients for this creamy, sunflower seed based red pepper cilantro sauce! If you’re not into cilantro, fresh parsley or basil make good substitutes. NOTE: to simplify, roast the red pepper and garlic on the same sheet as the butternut squash.

  • Prep Time: 2m
  • Cook Time: 15m
  • Total Time: 17m
  • Serves: 4


  • 1 red pepper + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup packed fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt + pepper to taste (1/4 teaspoon each)


  1. Set the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the red pepper in half and remove the seeds and green top. Rub the red pepper with olive oil. Set the red pepper cut-side-down on the baking sheet along with the garlic cloves and roast for 15 minutes, until the pepper is blackening and the garlic is browning. Remove from the oven.
  2. To the bowl of a high powered blender, add the sunflower seeds, olive oil, water, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic cloves, cilantro, balsamic vinegar and smoked paprika. Blend until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon of each).

Messy Cumin-Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Kale

Created by Renee on January 23, 2017

Note: to keep this whole process under 30 minutes, roast the red pepper and garlic for the Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce alongside the squash. Get the lentils cooking while the squash roasts. Massage the kale and make the sauce while you’re waiting around for everything to cook. Then serve and enjoy!

  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 25m
  • Total Time: 30m
  • Serves: 4



  • 1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or melted coconut oil or melted ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, pounded roughly in a mortar


  • 1 cup black (beluga) lentils + 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro Sauce
  • handful cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Celtic sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste


  • 1 bunch dinosaur (lacinato) kale, stripped of stems and chopped roughly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt 
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened cherries
  • garnish: fresh cilantro, roasted unsalted sunflower seeds


Cumin-Roasted Butternut Squash

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set the halved butternut squash on the baking sheet face up and rub the cut side of the squash with olive oil, salt, black pepper and cumin. Set face down on the baking sheet. Roast the squash for a total of 25 minutes, or until the butternut squash skin is browning and bubbling. Test doneness by inserting a knife into the squash, you want it to be meltingly soft. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool 10 minutes or so before handling. Scoop out and discard the seeds.


  1. Add the lentils to a small sauce pot along with two cups of water or vegetable broth. Cook covered for 20-25 mins, until tender and the water has cooked off. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the cooked lentils. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the Sunny Red Pepper Cilantro sauce to the pot of lentils along with the chopped cilantro. Taste then adjust salt and pepper to your liking.


  1. For the kale, massage chopped kale w 1 tablespoon olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon + 1/4 teaspoon salt. Massage for 2-3 mins, to tenderize the leaves. Stir in the dried cherries.

To Put it All Together...

  1. To put it all together, pour about 1/2 of the sauce over your serving plate(s) in a swirl. Add the kale salad and butternut squash halves. Pour the rest of the sauce over the squash, then top each squash half with the lentils. Add more fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds to each squash half. Serve each half as a main course or slice into the squash to serve it as a side dish. Really, I eat this in one big mess, getting a bit of everything into each forkful for maximum flavor. Enjoy!