How was your Thanksgiving? I hope it was wonderful! I went home to visit my family and had a blissfully lazy week filled with broccoli rice casserole and pumpkin pie.
Today I’m back and ready to introduce a new series! I want to eat more veggies and expand my horizons beyond the usual corn and broccoli, so each Monday I’ll be featuring a different veggie as part of a new series called The Weekly Slice. I’ll be sharing some fun facts and health benefits of the featured veggie, as well as how I used it. This week’s featured veggie is . . . wait for it . . . butternut squash! (Well, it’s technically a fruit, but roll with me, ok?)
Like I said before, butternut squash is actually technically a fruit because it contains seeds. It comes from the gourd family, which includes pumpkins, melons, and cucumber, and can be used as a substitute for pumpkin in recipes. Select the squash that is heavy for its size with matte skin, and store in a dark, cool, well-ventilated place (not the fridge) for up to 3 months. Cut squash keeps up to a week wrapped in the fridge (source). I had a terrible time cutting it, but check out this tutorial and maybe you’ll have better luck (I didn’t even bother peeling, and you don’t need to if you plan on roasting). Butternut squash tastes very similar to sweet potatoes, but not quite as sweet, and it truly lives up to its name — it has a buttery texture and melts in your mouth.
- Low-fat for heart health
- High fiber to aid digestion and help you feel full for longer
- Potassium for bone health
- Vitamin B6 to aid in the function of the nervous and immune systems
- Folate to boost heart health and guard against brain and spinal-cord related birth defects
- Carotenoids to protect against heart disease
- Beta-carotene to deter against breast cancer and age-related macular degeneration, also supports healthy lung development in fetuses and newborns
- One-cup serving provides nearly half the recommended daily dose of vitamin C
- May have anti-inflammatory affects, reducing the risk of inflammation-related disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma
(Source) So basically, butternut squash is a multi-tasking powerhouse for your body. Hooray! It’s especially good for those with a family history of heart disease.
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
I absolutely love risotto. It’s so creamy and comforting with such a rich flavor — like a grown-up version of mac and cheese! A lot of people find it intimidating, but I promise, it’s more babysitting than anything else.
This recipe was born out of what I had in the fridge. I’m sure it would be just as tasty with plain risotto and just roasted butternut squash, so feel free to experiment with what you have.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped or made into a paste
- 1 medium onion, yellow or white (1/2 diced, 1/2 chopped into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 cup arborio or medium-grain rice
- 1/2 cup white wine (I used riesling)
- 3 cups liquid, preferably vegetable or chicken stock (I used 2 cups vegetable stock, 1 cup water, and added a little riesling for extra flavor)
- 1/2 of a butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 pound white button mushrooms (I used half a bag of pre-sliced white button, but feel free to use whole, just cut off the stems first)
- 1-2 cups fresh spinach (this is all I had, but you can definitely use more)
- 1 wedge Laughing Cow Swiss (The traditional recipe calls for 1 tablespoon butter and 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, but I use Laughing Cow for creaminess and cheesiness without the fat and calories. You can also experiment with different Laughing Cow flavors — I also like the Garlic & Herb.)
- Italian seasoning
- Combine butternut squash, mushrooms, and the 1/2 onion chopped into 1-inch pieces in a bowl. Add olive oil, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.
- Cover a baking sheet in foil and spread out the vegetables in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes at 450°. Turn the vegetables halfway through cooking. Brush with olive oil if they are starting to look a little dry.
- Place 3 cups liquid in a pan and bring to a boil (cover for faster boiling), then reduce to a simmer (medium to medium-high heat).
- In a large skillet, add butter and saute 2 cloves garlic. After a few minutes, add the other 1/2 onion diced and saute until translucent. Add rice and toast until the edges turn translucent.
- Add wine, stir, spread the rice evenly throughout the pan, then let it sit.
- When most of the liquid is gone, add 1/2 cup of your liquid and repeat. Repeat until you’ve used all liquid. (This is the babysitting part. The best way to check if it needs more liquid is to pull back a portion with your spoon. If the rice stays in place, add more liquid.)
- In another skillet, saute the remaining clove of garlic in a little bit of olive oil. After a few minutes, add the spinach and some Italian seasoning and cook until wilted.
- When the risotto is finished, add the wedge of Laughing Cow, stir until melted, then stir in the wilted spinach.
- Top risotto with roasted vegetables (and a sprinkling of goat cheese if you like!) and enjoy!
For the Kitchen-Challenged (and anyone else who’s afraid of risotto)
You MUST check out Alton Brown’s risotto how-to video. I’ve tried to explain as best as I could, but it really helps to see the method at work, at least for me.
What do you think? Are you willing to give butternut squash a try? How about risotto? Or are you already a butternut squash-eating risotto-cooking fool? What veggies should I add to my list to try?