Monday, November 3, 2008

Joys of Butternut Squash

My mother-in-law left me a boat-load of butternut squash and it looks like I will be freezing quite a bit. I love butternut squash soup! Here's what I found out about freezing Winter Squash:

Choose firm, well-shaped squash that are heavy for their size and have a hard, tough skin. Do not choose those that have sunken or moldy spots. Avoid squash with cuts or punctures in the skin. Also, slight variations in skin color do not affect flavor. A tender rind indicates immaturity, which is a sign of poor quality in winter squash varieties.

1. Cut off the ends of the squash to stabalize it for cutting. Then, with it sitting on its bottom, take a vegetable peeler or paring knive and remove the peeling from all around the squash. (If it is extremely difficult to remove the peel, microwave the squash for about 3 minutes and it will be much easier to peel).

2. Cut squash into half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon. It can now be further cut into smaller chunks for cooking (and then freezing.) I think 2-cups would be a good size to freeze at one time since I like making soup, so I'm going with 2-cup size freezer bags or freezer containers.


A few ideas from my Weight Watchers program..........


Weight Watchers
* 3 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray
* 1 pound(s) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, long “neck” cut into sixteen 3/4-inch-thick sticks*
* 1 tsp table salt, or to taste
* 1/2 tsp chili powder, or to taste (optional)

* Preheat oven to 450ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

* Arrange squash fries on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and chili powder; liberally coat with cooking spray.

* Roast, turning once, until desired crispness, about 14 to 18 minutes. Yields 4 fries per serving.


* *Start with a large squash. You will end up using about 1 lb of squash and have the “bulb” of the squash left over.

Any hard winter squash will work in this recipe.

POINTS® Value: 1
Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 10 min
Cooking Time: 18 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

A great alternative to deep-fried potatoes. These fries are slightly sweet, slightly spicy and oven-baked for a nice roasted flavor.


Weight Watchers

* 1 spray(s) cooking spray
* 1/2 pound(s) sweet potato(es), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
* 2 pound(s) acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (OR butternut squash OR a combo of both squash)
* 2 tsp canola oil
* 1 tbsp unpacked brown sugar
* 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
* 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

* Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.

* Place sweet potatoes and squash in prepared pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; toss to coat mixture well.

* Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yields about 1/2 cup per serving.

POINTS® Value: 2
Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 35 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

Weight Watchers

* 1 1/2 tbsp ginger root, grated
* 1 medium leek(s), white part only, coarsely chopped
* 4 3/4 oz frozen apple juice concentrate (undiluted), about 1/2 cup
* 3 large apple(s), Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
* 3 pound(s) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in chunks (about 1 large squash)*
* 4 cup(s) canned veggie broth, divided**
* 1/2 tsp table salt
* 1/2 tsp black pepper
* 1/2 cup(s) fat-free half and half

* Combine ginger, leek and apple juice concentrate in a large pot; cover and simmer until leeks are tender, about 10 minutes. Add apples, squash and 1 cup of broth; cover and simmer until very tender, about 1 hour.

* Purée soup in pot using a hand-held immersion blender. Or purée soup in a blender in small batches (be careful not to splatter hot liquid) and return puréed soup to pot.

* Add remaining 3 cups of broth, salt and pepper; simmer until heated through, about 10 minutes. Stir in half and half and serve. Yields about 1 cup per serving.


* *Partially cooking a hard-shell squash makes it easier to peel. Pierce the gourd in several places with a fork, microwave on HIGH for 6 to 10 minutes, depending on size, and then peel.

**If you prefer your soup on the thicker side, do not add all of the broth.

POINTS® Value: 3
Servings: 10
Preparation Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 90 min
Level of Difficulty: Moderate

This soup highlights some of fall's best ingredients: fresh apples and sugar-sweet squash. It's delicious made with pears instead of apples, too.

And last, but not least......

Weight Watchers
* 3 pound(s) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes
* 2 medium onion(s), peeled and quartered
* 29 oz canned vegetable broth
* 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
* 1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
* 1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
* 1/4 cup(s) fat-free sour cream
* 1 medium scallion(s), thinly sliced, for garnish

* Preheat oven to 425ºF. Place squash and onion in a large baking dish. Pour in broth and bake, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. (Don't worry if some of the pieces get a bit browned — this will add to the roasted flavor of the soup.)

* Remove from oven and let vegetables cool for about 15 minutes; puree in batches in a blender or food processor.

* In a small skillet, toast curry powder over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes (be careful not to burn it); stir into pureed soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with sour cream and scallions.

Yields about 3/4 cup of soup and 2 teaspoons of sour cream per serving.

POINTS® Value: 3
Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 60 min
Level of Difficulty: Easy

Curry and butternut squash pair beautifully in this easy-to-make soup. For added flavor, mix in a handful of peeled garlic cloves when you roast the vegetables.

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