Thursday, March 1

How To: Butternut Squash [for Breakfast!]

I guess you could say I'm on a winter squash kick. I posted about Spaghetti squash a little over a week ago, and here I am about to tell you all about Butternut squash. I think I am just so excited to [finally] be cooking and eating this stuff on a regular basis, and I want to get all I can before spring rolls around and the season for these is over until autumn!

One of the reasons I am so excited about winter squash is because it is so satisfying. Roast some in the oven with a little bit of coconut oil and pumpkin pie spices, drizzle the top with a touch of maple syrup if you like, and you're going to check the clock because you'll think you just arrived at dessert!

It isn't difficult to go from this:

to this:
Paired with mango chicken sausage for breakfast, and you'll be more than satisfied

Let me show you what to do, and you'll have some sweet golden nuggets to dive into in no time!

What you need:

one whole butternut squash
OR a great shortcut: a bag or two of peeled, cubed squash from grocery store (such as Trader Joe's)
coconut oil

optional though highly recommended: 
pumpkin pie spice
maple syrup
[minimally processed, gluten free, MSG free, nitrite free] mango or apple chicken sausage (also found at Trader Joe's, other stores)

What you do:

First, let me say that it seems safer to me when wielding a chef's knife, to be cutting something softer than a raw squash. So I start out by poking holes into the [rinsed and dried] squash, about three in a row every inch or two around the the gourd. Then I cook it on high in the microwave for five to ten minutes. This will make the skin more tender. Wait until it stops steaming and hissing before removing it, and use oven mitts to protect your hands from the heat.

Next, you want to peel the skin off the squash. Use your best veggie peeler and go to town. In some spots you may be able to just peel it off by hand. Once you see beautiful bright orange all around, cut it in half and remove the strings and seeds. Cut it into fourths, even eighths if that works for you. 

Here's my squash, peeled and cleaned, ready to dice

Then, working your way around the pieces, dice it all into cubes, as uniform in size as possible. Put the cubes into a Corningware type baking dish. I used a tart pan this time - no rigid rules here:

Get a big spoonful of coconut oil and put little pats all over the squash, like you would with pats of butter on a pie. (Oh dear. Why did I bring up pie? Moving forward quickly...) 
Sprinkle your spices on top of everything.

Pour a little bit of water into the dish. 1/4 to 1/2 cup water works well. You can always check it once it's cooked for a bit, and add more as needed. I find that most cooking and food is gracious to you as the cook :)

(If you haven't figured it out yet, I'll tell you now - I am not a scientific, precise cook. Use your best judgement with all my vague directions. I believe this way of cooking will build your culinary confidence and help you learn to trust your own judgment and palette.)

Put the baking dish of prepared squash into a preheated 350 degree oven, and check after twenty minutes. Give everything a gentle stir and continue to cook until the cubes are softened, steaming, and smell delicious!
Pull the dish out of the oven and let cool for a minute or two. Spoon some onto your plate, and if you like, drizzle a teaspoon of maple syrup on top.

Your plate may look something like this:

A sunny looking dish for a cold winter morning

This baked squash experience was several days ago. Today I used the shortcut method with Trader Joe's bagged, butternut cubes and the microwave:

I gave the squash cubes a good rinse (even though the package says they are pre-washed, it seemed like a good idea to freshen them up). I added the coconut oil, spices and water just the same as when baking, and even put it all in the same baking dish.
I microwaved it on full power for fifteen minutes, stopping every five minutes to check and stir. After the last segment of five minutes, I left the dish in the microwave for another five minutes to steam everything some more.

I heated up (nearly burnt, actually...) a mango chicken sausage and had that with my "shortcut squash" today for a brunch time meal. Everything was delicious. The flavors all went together nicely, and I have to say I'd pick that meal over a typical dessert! YUM!

Humble brunch today, with an almond milk latte ;)

So, what do you think? The season for whole winter squash is winding down. Will you get out there, hunt down a squash and try this? If you do, I'm sure you'll be hooked and next fall you'll be so excited when the squash appear again :)

If you have any tips for cooking squash or favorite seasonings to prepare it with, share with us by leaving a comment below.

Happy March, everyone!