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Sage Derby and Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sage Derby butternut squash grilled cheese

Creamy Sage Derby cheddar cheese and butternut squash, topped with wilted spinach and caramelized onions, make this warm and satisfying grown-up grilled cheese a fall favorite. Use a semi-dense bread. You’ll need it to soak up all these rich flavors.

I’m prone to wandering. When I was young, my mind wandered… a lot. Just ask my grade school teachers. I was usually thinking about something I wanted to draw or create. As an adult, my wandering continues – through parks, along trails, in libraries and museums, and at grocery stores.

A trip to the grocery store is more than just shopping for me. It’s a creative jam session. I’m inspired by whatever looks delicious and fresh, or by something that reminds me of a recipe I saw on a blog that I’ve been meaning to make. I’ll think about applying a favorite technique to a new food (can I smoke this?), or a new skill I want to acquire (I’ve been meaning to learn how to make a great hollandaise sauce so I can make Eggs Benedict for Noah.)

Quite often, it’s about discovering new foods. In the case of this Sage Derby Grilled Cheese, it was inspired by a new cheese. Our local Harvest Market has a darn respectable cheese section. They frequently offer samples (the 5-year cheddar we tried yesterday was excellent), and they have a small basket of “lonely cuts.” These are usually smaller or odd-sized pieces of cheese, of all types, and they are perfect when you want to try something new. A few weeks ago, I picked up some Sage Derby, and as soon as I tried it, I wanted to put it in a grilled cheese.

Sage Derby is an English cheddar originating from Derbyshire. It is a semi-hard, aged artisan cheddar, infused with sage and sometimes colored with other vegetable ingredients. It has an attractive marbled curd and would make a standout addition to a holiday cheese board.

Because the flavor of sage is so strongly associated with fall, I wanted to add some rich flavors to this sandwich. We’ve been having a lot of fun with our OXO Spiralizer (affiliate link), and I thought it would be a great way to create thinly-sliced butternut squash rounds to add to the sandwich. I’m always a fan of caramelized onions, especially with grilled cheese. And wilted spinach is so nutritious and flavorful that I thought it would bring a nice freshness to the sandwich and break up all that richness.

I’ve been on vacation this week, and finally got around to making this sandwich. I also baked challah bread two days ago, and that homemade loaf made all the difference in the quality of this sandwich. I would recommend challah if you want to use it. A semi-dense whole grain bread would also work. I would definitely go for something more substantial than sandwich bread for this one, because the toppings are soft and rich. You need something to soak up all that juiciness.

sage derby butternut squash grilled cheese

There are a few components to this dish, but you can prep the onions and the spinach in the same pan while you roast the squash, so there’s not a lot of mess involved. I used a separate pan to grill up the sandwiches, but you could rinse the pan you used for onions and spinach and use it to grill your sandwiches.

I enjoyed this sandwich so much, I am making it again for lunch today. It’s that good. I hope you enjoy it too.

Sage Derby and Butternut Squash Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Creamy Sage Derby cheddar cheese and butternut squash, topped with wilted spinach and caramelized onions, make this warm and satisfying grown-up grilled cheese a fall favorite. Use a semi-dense bread. You'll need it to soak up all these rich flavors.

Course Main Course
Servings 2 sandwiches
Author Rachel


  • 1/2 butternut squash
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter divided
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves packed
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste
  • 4 slices challah bread, or other semi-dense bread
  • 3 oz Sage Derby cheddar cheese thinly sliced


Roast the Squash

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Cut off the narrow top portion of the butternut squash. Cut off the stem end, peel it, and slice it thinly in rounds (or use a spiralizer.) Arrange squash rounds in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.

  3. Roast in oven for 12 minutes, or until squash is tender but not mushy. Remove from oven and set aside.

Caramelize the Onions

  1. In a wide skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add sliced onions, season with a bit of salt, and stir to coat with butter. Let sit for a minute or two, then stir periodically until the onions are lightly browned and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. If the onions begin to stick and burn, reduce the heat a bit, or add a small amount of water to help deglaze the pan.

  2. Remove onions from pan and set aside.

Wilt the Spinach

  1. Return pan to heat and add 1/2 tablespoon butter. Add spinach leaves and season lightly with salt and fresh pepper. Toss leaves briefly until spinach leaves are wilted completely. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Assemble the Sandwich

  1. Place a skillet over medium-low heat. Spread remaining butter on one side of the four slices of bread. Place bread butter side down in skillet to grill. Top each slice of bread with a layer of Sage Derby cheese.

  2. For each sandwich, top one side of the bread with half of the butternut squash slices, and the other half with a layer of caramelized onions, and a layer of spinach. (You might have some onions left over.)

  3. Grill open-faced until bread is golden brown and toasted. Put sandwich together, slice in half, and serve.


Three Sisters Breakfast Bowls with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Three Sisters Breakfast Bowl with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash - view recipe at birdseedkitchen.com

Hominy is an ingredient that you don’t hear about often, unless you are making a Mexican dish like pozole, or you want to make your own Corn Nuts. (Yes, you can. This could be dangerous.)

Hominy, also called as nixtamal, is made from field corn that has been treated by a process called nixtamalization. Field corn is cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution (usually a dilute solution of calcium hydroxide know as limewater), washed, and then canned or dried.

Is hominy nutritious? The alkaline soaking solution in which hominy is process gives it a substantially higher calcium content than maize or corn. The nixtamalization process also makes the grain’s niacin more easily absorbed by the body. Hominy is also a whole grain, containing about 4 grams of dietary fiber per cup. I would treat it like any other starch or grain in a balanced diet.

I’ve been working on solutions for nutritious breakfasts which are pre-cooked, pre-prepped, or grab-and-go. In the past, we’ve relied on frozen burritos and breakfast biscuits, but I am a big fan of a homemade breakfast – and the small frozen meals were not cutting it for my pre-teen’s growing appetite. He gets on the bus just after 7 am, and needs a hearty breakfast to keep him going through first-hour gym class, until his late lunch period. And so, the first in what I hope is a series of breakfast bowls was born.

These bowls feature the “three sisters” – corn, beans, and squash – the three main agricultural crops of Native Americans in North America. This bowl has quite a few components, but the stovetop prep can be done while the squash is roasting. I prepped the squash first, using the bulbous ends of two butternut squashes, left over from recent spiralizings. To make the squash easier to peel, prick it a few times with the tip of a knife and microwave it for one minute.

The chorizo I use is from our local meat shop, Old Time Meat and Deli. It’s not a truly authentic chorizo, but I like it for what it is: leaner and milder than its more authentic counterparts. Once browned and crumbled it in the pan, drain it on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil. Then, use those delicious browned bits left over in the pan to add flavor to the black beans, with the help of a tablespoon of water for deglazing.

After the beans, give your pan a rinse, heat it on the stove to dry it out, add oil, and sauté the hominy. It has a tendency to pop in the pan, so if you have a mesh splatter shield, you might want to keep it handy. I blotted mine lightly with a paper towel after thoroughly draining it to cut down on spattering.

The remaining components – cilantro, avocado, and scrambled eggs – come together quickly. Next time I make these bowls, I might swap the scrambled eggs for a runny fried egg.

Whether you go fried or scrambled, let me know what you think of these bowls! They were liked by everyone in my house, and I look forward to creating more bowls soon.

Three Sisters Breakfast Bowl with Black Beans, Hominy, and Roasted Butternut Squash

Course Breakfast
Servings 4


  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 tbsp canola oil divided
  • 1/2 tsp Penzey's Southwest Seasoning see note below for substitution
  • 1 pound chorizo
  • 1 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 29 oz can hominy drained and patted dry
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6-8 grinds white pepper
  • 1 avocado peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp red onion, minced optional, for garnish
  • 4 lime wedges optional, for garnish
  • sliced jalapeño rings optional, for garnish
  • hot sauce optional


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Peel and seed butternut squash. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes. On a baking sheet, toss squash with 1 tbsp canola oil, spread out evenly, and season with Southwest Seasoning. (Note: if you don't have Penzey's Southwest Seasoning, you can substitute chili powder, salt, and black pepper.) Roast squash for 25-30 minutes, until fork-tender.

  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, brown and crumble chorizo. When thoroughly cooked, remove from pan and drain on paper towels. 

  4. Return pan to heat. Add rinsed and drained black beans, along with 1 tbsp water. Season with a little salt and black pepper. Stir gently, scraping up any browned bits of chorizo. Cook until nearly all water has been evaporated. Remove from pan and set aside.

  5. Clean the skillet, and return to the stove over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp canola oil and heat until nearly shimmering. Add hominy. Sauté, seasoning with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

  6. In a non-stick pan over medium heat, melt butter. In a bowl, thoroughly whisk 6 eggs together with 1/4 tsp salt and 6-8 grinds of white pepper. Add eggs to pan, and stir frequently until fluffy and cooked to your preference.

Assembling the Bowls

  1. Arrange squash, beans, and hominy in 4 bowls. Top with eggs and chorizo. Garnish with slices of avocado, chopped cilantro, red onion, jalapeño rings, and a lime wedge.

  2. If making meal prep bowls, store garnishes in small, separate containers. Microwave the bowl for about 2 minutes, add garnishes, and serve.