Benefits of Butternut Squash

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Benefits of Butternut Squash

Not that we don’t love summer squash, but the health benefits of fall squash far out weighs their summer cousins. Butternut squash is one of the best examples. The unusually shaped hourglass yellow-beige gourd has a bright very dense flesh that can be used in many ways.

Want to boost your immune system? Choose butternut squash…1 cup contains about one third of your daily amount of vitamin C. The butternut squash, which is also high in fiber, is a fantastic food for your heart!! Are you struggling with your energy levels or at risk for type 2 diabetes? Then butternut squash is an excellent choice for blood sugar regulation.

The butternut squash’s tangerine color clearly indicates butternut’s best health perk. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. The very high levels of beta-carotene in butternut squash provide a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration. A 1-cup serving gives you nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.

Give these recipes a try with your purchase of Butternut Squash, available now at your local produce market!

Butternut Squash Pilaf

2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, halved and seeded

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup instant brown rice

1 3/4 cups water, or 1 14-ounce can vegetable broth

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup chopped celery

2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1 teaspoon salt

Pinch of cinnamon

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Grate the squash through the large holes of a box grater. Heat oil in a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly colored, 10 to 12 minutes. Combine 2 tablespoons water and tomato paste in a small bowl and stir it into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat. Add the squash, in batches if necessary, and stir until it has reduced in volume enough so that you can cover the pan.

Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 1 3/4 cups water (or broth) and wine, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, stirring once or twice, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Add celery, oregano, salt, cinnamon and pepper; gently stir to combine. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8, each serving contains: Calories 152, Fat 6g, Carbohydrates 21g, Protein 2g, Fiber 4g, Sodium 302mg.

Butternut Squash Gratin

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 8 cups)

2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

2 1/2 cups low-fat milk

1 1/2 cups fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs or 1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese

Position racks in upper and lower third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Toss squash in a large bowl with 1 tablespoon oil until well coated. Divide between 2 baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Roast, stirring once and rotating the pans top to bottom about halfway through, until tender and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add flour, salt and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add milk and continue to stir, scraping up any browned bits. Cook, stirring, until the sauce bubbles and thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. When the squash is done, remove from the oven. Preheat the broiler.

Transfer half the squash to a 2-quart, broiler-safe baking dish. Spread half the sauce over the squash. Add the remaining squash and top with the remaining sauce.

Combine breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl (skip this step if you are topping with cheese).

Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture (or cheese) over the gratin. Place under the broiler and broil, watching closely, until the gratin is bubbling and beginning to brown on top, 1 to 5 minutes, depending on your broiler. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8, each serving contains: Calories 169, Fat 6g, Cholesterol 4 mg, Carbohydrates 24 g, Protein 5g, Fiber 5g, Sodium 307 mg.

Bean and Butternut Tacos with Green Salsa

Salsa

8 ounces tomatillos or green tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, unpeeled

1 jalapeño pepper

1/4 cup sliced white onion

1/2 ripe avocado, diced

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Tacos

4 cups diced (1/2-inch) peeled butternut squash

3-4 small dried red chiles

2 cloves garlic, unpeeled, smashed and left whole

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 cups cooked black beans

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Freshly ground pepper to taste

8 6-inch corn tortillas

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/2 cup finely shredded and chopped red or green cabbage

8 teaspoons crumbled queso fresco, or feta cheese

To prepare salsa: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well. Cook the tomatillos in the boiling water until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Toast garlic cloves, jalapeño and onion in a dry medium skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until browned, fragrant and soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, peel the garlic. Remove the jalapeño stem and remove seeds if desired. Combine the tomatillos, garlic, jalapeño, onion and avocado in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper. Set aside for topping the tacos.

To prepare tacos: Preheat oven to 400°F. Put squash in a medium bowl and, using kitchen shears, finely snip chiles to taste into small pieces (seeds and all) into the bowl. Add garlic, oil, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt and cumin; toss to coat. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until soft and beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Peel and finely chop the garlic when cool enough to handle; stir into the squash.

Meanwhile, combine beans in a small saucepan with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt, ground cumin, chili powder and pepper. Heat over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes.

Warm tortillas one at a time in a dry large cast-iron (or similar heavy) skillet (or just the plain ol’ microwave) over medium heat until soft and pliable. Wrap in a clean towel to keep warm as you go. Spoon 1/4 cup of the warm beans into each tortilla; divide the roasted squash evenly among the tacos and top each with cilantro, cabbage, 1/2 cup of the salsa and cheese. (Refrigerate the remaining 1/2 cup salsa for up to 2 days.)

Serves 4, each serving contains: Calories 406; Fat 9g, Cholesterol 3mg, Carbohydrates 70g, Protein 13g, Fiber 13g, Sodium 517 mg.