Butternut Squash: Creamy and Versatile!

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Sorry summertime squash, the health benefits of fall-harvest squashes such as the savory butternut squash far outweigh those of its’ summer cousins. Check out the multitude of health benefits then over to the Farmer’s Market and pick up some to try!

Butternut Squash is low in fat, and delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It also provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems. The folate content adds yet another boost to its heart-healthy reputation and helps guard against brain and spinal-cord-related birth defects such as spina bifida.

Squash is somewhat light orange in color which gives a hint to another noteworthy benefit. The color signals an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids, shown to protect against heart disease. In particular, the gourd boasts very high levels of beta-carotene (which your body automatically converts to vitamin A), identified as a deterrent against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, as well as a supporter of healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns. What’s more, with only a 1-cup serving, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of antioxidant-rich vitamin C.

Research reveals that butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects because of its high antioxidant content. Incorporating more of this hearty winter staple into your diet could help reduce risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

Chicken, Wild Rice, and Butternut Squash Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked wild rice, 3 cups cooked
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ pounds skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed, about 5 cups
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain off any excess cooking liquid and set aside.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9×13 inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced chicken and sauté until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside, about 6 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
  4. With a paper towel, carefully wipe the skillet clean. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium. Add the diced squash, onions, salt, and pepper. Sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender but still retains a slight firmness, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the thyme, cranberries, reserved chicken, rice, and ¼ cup Parmesan.
  5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ Parmesan cheese. Bake 5 additional minutes, until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with additional chopped fresh thyme and serve warm.

Perfect for Fall, Stuffed Butternut Squash with Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 2 medium butternut squash, about 2 ½ pounds each
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ¾ cup quinoa
  • 1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Zest of 1 orange, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1/3 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 425°F. Halve the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, then arrange the halves on a baking tray, cut sides up. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 45-55 minutes, just until the squash is fork tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.

While the squash is baking, place the broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer for 12 minutes, until most of the broth is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium. Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic, oregano, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook 30 additional seconds until fragrant. Stir in the chickpeas, orange zest, orange juice, cooked quinoa, and cranberries.

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving a ½ inch thick border around the sides and a ¾ inch border along the bottom. Reserve the flesh for another use (or you can just combine with the rest of the filling, the squash will be super full). Stuff the kale, quinoa filling into the squash halves, then return to the oven. Bake at 375°F until hot, about 10 additional minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and serve warm.

Serves 4.

Butternut Squash and Pulled Pork Tacos

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos
  • 2 tablespoons jalapeno juice
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Corn tortillas, for serving

Directions

  1. Arrange the squash around the edges of a 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt.
  2. Season the pork with the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt and black pepper. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cinnamon, olive oil, jalapenos, and jalapeno juice to form a paste. Rub all over the pork. Place the pork in the center of the slow cooker (it may overlap with the squash). Top with the onion and garlic. Pour the orange juice and red wine vinegar over the top.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours (the actual cook time may vary based on your slow cooker). Once the meat is tender and cooked through, remove from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Shred the pork, then transfer to a large bowl, along with any of the rub that may have come off during shredding. With a slotted spoon, remove the squash and onions from the slow cooker and place in the bowl with the pork. Toss to combine.
  4. To serve:  warm the tortillas in the microwave, covered with a damp paper towel. Fill, then garnish with cilantro, fresh lime juice, and cheese.

Serves 6.