Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Butternut Squash: Fill Me Up, Butternut Baby!

Image courtesy of reclaimyourself.wordpress.com
Yesterday marked my 4 year anniversary of living in NYC. It's a big deal that I've lasted this long because...

1) I didn't have a plan. Within three weeks of deciding to move, I was on a one-way flight to the Big Apple.
2) I had only $2,000 to my name at the time.
3) I knew only 2 people in the entire city.
4) I didn't have a job or any particularly hopeful job leads.
5) I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My very first job in NYC was in this building.
It's actually a miracle that I've survived this long. The first week, I happened to strike up a conversation on the subway with an older gentleman and guess what? He became my first NYC boss. I worked on Wall Street, literally right across the street from the apartment where I was crashing with a friend. I literally walked 10 feet for my interview, and I was offered the job within three weeks of moving to the city - right about the time that my bank account needed a  major miracle. I started working soon thereafter, found an apartment in Chelsea to call my own and have since lived in 12 different places (in keeping with my gypsy reputation).

What does this story have to do with butternut squash? Not much, other than the fact that I long for the days when I had a car to transport butternut squash home from the market. Those things are heavy! Pre-2008, I would have picked out my squash, thrown it in the trunk and cruised home pain-free. No such luck now, but hello, arm muscles! I just couldn't pass that squash up. It was the newest crop to hit the market and I just had to have some!

Butternut squash is a winter squash and while it looks like a vegetable, it's actually a fruit - a large, pear-shaped, golden yellow colored fruit. It has a nutty flavor, reminiscent of pumpkin. The American Indians used to call it 'the apple of God' because it's seeds were believed to increase fertility.

While the thought of a bunch of little Lauren's running around is nothing short of frightening, I can definitely get behind butternut squash's nutrition benefits...

CANCER FIGHTER - Butternut squash is packed with antioxidants that help fight cancer-causing free radicals.

BIRTH DEFECT DEFENDER - Folate's good for everyone, but pregnant women need it especially to prevent brain and spinal cord birth defects.

ELECTROLYTE REPLENISHER - The potassium content in butternut squash helps your body maintain proper fluid balance. Not only that, it also helps with muscle development, blood pressure, proper cellular functions and bone health. Not bad for one little mineral alone.

IMMUNE BOOSTER - Just 1 cup of butternut squash supplies almost 50% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which means you will be well on your way to a strong immune system and healthy tissue!

BEAUTY ENHANCER - Butternut squash gets its color from beta carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. Just 1 cup of butternut squash supplies almost 300% of your DV. Vitamin A ensures that you have strong eyes, beautiful skin and healthy mucous membranes.

Not to mention, butternut squash is virtually fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free! Can I get a 'Hallelujah! Amen!'?

I am obsessed with the site Naturally Ella, so of course, I went straight to her to find a lip-smackin' delicious butternut squash recipe. With no further ado, Twice Baked Butternut Squash (see recipe for exact measurements).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Find a squash that feels heavy for its weight - no bruises or discolorations.
After viewing the video tutorial below on how to properly cut a butternut squash without drawing blood, cut the
squash in half and scoop out the squash seeds.
Like so.
Fill a baking pan with 1/2" of water and place the squash inside (cut side down). Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes
until tender (mine took almost 60 minutes, but you can do this the day before serving to speed things up).
While the squash is baking, dice the shallots, grab a medium saucepan and saute them in a bit of olive oil until soft.
Add the quinoa and water to the shallot mixture, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 12-15 minutes
until the water is absorbed and your quinoa is nice and fluffy like above.
When your squash is cooked, remove it from the pan and scoop the insides into a mixing bowl (leave a 1/4"-1/2" edge).
Add the gorgonzola cheese, leaving some extra for the topping.
Now add the cooked quinoa and mix everything together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Scoop the mixture back into the squash shells. Make sure you drain the water out of your baking pan first!
Sprinkle the tops with the extra gorgonzola.
Bake 10-15 minutes more on 400 degrees until the cheese has melted and the tops start to brown.
This dish goes great with roasted chicken and asparagus! Look at that beauty!

Please, for your own safety (and for the safety of your children), watch this video before approaching your squash with a butcher's knife.

Here are a few more recipes to try...

Image courtesy of smittenkitchen.com

Image courtesy of simplyrecipes.com

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