Thursday, November 18, 2010

Squash? What shall we do with it?

Let's talk about squash. There are so many different varieties. Not to mention they are packed with tons of fiber and protein and are extremely low in calories and fat. It seems like a wonder food, but there are so many types to get lost in. I had to get it figured out and provide you all with healthy recipes once I did figure out the difference.  Follow me below as we start with our squash adventure and I make a delicious Curried Squash and Mung Bean Soup and a Sawweet Spiced Squash Puree (this one has half the fat and is perfect for Thanksgiving).

In order to prepare for my taste test, I took three different kinds of squash and roasted them. Here's how I did that.

I cut them in half and scooped out the seeds and stringy stuff. If you want you can put all that good stuff into a compost pile. If you are like me and live in bear country-- I warn against that... You might get a hungry late night visitor... I'm not kidding.
Then add a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Then lined them all up on a baking sheet. Look how cute they all are!
And then because I couldn't do anything without them.. I took some red onion and garlic.
And diced them up.

And placed them in the hollow bowls of the squashes. Then I sprinkled a little rosemary in there too.
I just couldn't help it.

Then I threw them in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes. Then magic happened. Let me tell you. The smells that resulted and swirled through the house just about made me swoon. I was talking on the phone with my sister while they were roasting and I was trying to describe the smells. The best I could come up with was buttery, sweet, and just plain luscious. That's when she said.. "Well -- we'll just have to wait for smell-o-vision." And she is right on this one.

After I took them out of the oven  and allowed them to cool for a few minutes, I dove in fork first to taste test for you all. Here is what I came up with...

Butternut Squash
Soft, warm, velvety on my tough. Very sweet like honey..lots of moisture.. the wettest of the three. Very mild flavor and smooth flavor. And if I can pick favorites.. this one is my favorite by far! It tastes great in the SAWWEET Roasted Squash Puree recipe I have below.

Buttercup Squash
Sort of overly dry and almost crumbly. Thick and kind of chalky, but still sweet, just not as moist as I would have liked it. I would use this one in a soup or something so that you could add moisture to it. I wouldn't want to eat it just dry and if I did, I would need lots and lots of butter.. not really healthy that way though.It would be great to use in the Curried Squash and Mung bean soup recipe below.

Acorn Squash
This one was more we,  however not as moist as the butternut. It is very sweet with a little bit more of a nutty flavor. Would be great in the Curried Squash and Mung Bean Soup recipe I have below.

Curried Squash and Mug Bean Soup
3 cups water
1 cup mung beans
1 medium butternut squash
1/2 red onion; minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
1 cup skim milk
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. all spice
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. paprika

garnish (if desired):

bacon crumbles, chives, and Gorgonzola cheese

1. Heat 3 cups of water in a sauce pan until you reach a rolling boil. Place the mung beans in the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer and heat over low for 45-60 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. It's sort of like cooking rice.
2. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350 degrees and slice your butternut squash in half and pull out the seeds. In the whole place the minced red onion and garlic and spray the flesh with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake the squash for 45-60 minutes. Look now everything is happily cooking without you for the next hour. Now is the time to work out, clean house, or do what I like to do best... drive myself crazy trying to finish everything on my year long to do list in 60 minutes. Why to I torture myself so?
3. Now you can easily peel the outside from the squash once you have let it cool for a minute or so.
 4. Once the butternut squash has been cooked thoroughly you will be able to easily pierce the flesh with a fork. It will be pretty mushy and supple. Scoop the flesh into a food processor and add the sour cream, fat free half and half and chicken broth. 
 5. Pulse until smooth. Then add the garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, all spice, sesame oil, chili powder, and paprika. Continue pulsing. I also added a pinch more salt because I thought it needed some more brightness.

6. Transfer to a crock pot on low or a soup pot on the stove. Add the cooked mung beans and stir. Heat through for an additional 15-20 minutes.

Now what about garnishes. Why don't we top it with a little bacon?
And gorgonzola cheese?
And then what about a little bit of chive..
There that's much better..Delicious! 
Servings: 8

Nutritional Skinny (without garnish):

190.5 calories / 2.4 g fat / 35 g carbohydrates / 4.4 g fiber / 9.8 g protein

Saweeeet Spiced Squash 
1 medium squash
1/4 cup plain or Greek style yogurt
1/4 cup sugar free maple syrup
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp.  salt
1/4 cup walnuts; chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Half the acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes. The fleshy inside should easily be pierced with a fork. (Just like I showed above)
3. Scoop the inside flesh into a bowl and add the butter, cinnamon, and salt and mix until the squash is smooth and the spices are incorporated. You can use a food processor if you want or your mixer or of course you can do it manually with a masher (my preferred method--it's like therapy).

4. Place the walnuts in a dry saute pan and cook over medium heat to toast for 3-5 minutes. When they become fragrant you know they are done! Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top of the squash puree and serve immediately. You can also do this ahead of time and pop it in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. It is the perfect Thanksgiving side and goes great with roasted turkey.. 

Servings: 10

Nutritional Skinny:

78 calories / 2.2 g fat / 14.5 g carbohydrates / 3.6 g fiber / 6 g protein

Substituting the normal 1/4 cup of butter with yogurt saved us nearly 200 calories and 23 grams of fat!

Mental Health Benefits: Squash is one of those comforting foods for me in the winter. They are soft, warm, and nutty. Kind of like my cat Frankie. Okay, but seriously, they are also nutrient dense packed with Vitamins A and C and are packed with fiber and low in fat. They also have phytonutrients that have been shown to lower your risk of cell mutations (such as cancer).  All that being said, they are easy to roast and mash making these recipes easy to handle. Not to mention the therapeutic aroma of the baking is a mental health benefit in and of itself!

Stay tuned for more Thanksgiving recipes coming soon!

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