Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash

I realize that I often take for granted that other people have the same kitchen knowledge that I have which is just not the case. I’ve had a couple people ask me how to cook a butternut squash, so I figured I would address it here. It’s pretty easy and only requires minimal effort on your part. But first, let’s talk about how awesome squash is.

While the nutrient content of winter squash varies depending on the type, most of them are a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates, vitamin C, beta carotene, and fiber. A cup of cooked butternut squash has more potassium than a banana!  Plus, its high vitamin A and C content make it great for your skin and hair.

When squash is eaten with corn and beans, it is a nutritionally balanced meal as they contain complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, and all eight essential amino acids. Many Native Americans would grow these “Three Sisters” together because they also balanced one another in growth. Melissa Kruse-Peeples of Native Seeds explains this balance wonderfully:

“Corn provides tall stalks for the beans to climb so that they are not out-competed by sprawling squash vines. Beans provide nitrogen to fertilize the soil while also stabilizing the tall corn during heavy winds. Beans are nitrogen-fixers meaning they host rhizobia on their roots that can take nitrogen, a much needed plant nutrient, from the air and convert it into forms that can be absorbed by plant roots. The large leaves of squash plants shade the ground which helps retain soil moisture and prevent weeds.”

Winter squashes are well worth adding to your diet if they’re not already there! Now on to our roasting methods.

The absolute easiest way to oven roast your squash:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Cut it in half lengthwise
  • Scoop out the seeds
  • Either place squash directly on middle rack, cut side up, or place squash face down in a roasting pan with a small amount of water (this helps keep the squash from sticking)
  • Bake 30-45 minutes or until squash is super tender
  • Allow to cool enough to handle. Scoop squash out of shell with spoon.

If you bake face up, the squash will be a little drier and face down will hold in more moisture. The baking time can vary depending of the size of the squash, so be sure to check it after the first 30 minutes. This method will result in squash that has a mashed potato-like consistency.  I like using this for thickening soups (plus adding flavor and nutrients) or mixing with rice. It’s also tasty mixed in with pasta sauce and served with pasta or used as pizza sauce. You can bake acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkin the same way.

Also, my dogs are HUGE fans of this method. Juniper totally knows when I’m baking squash and waits, somewhat patiently, for it to be cool enough for me to give her some. My normally sweet-tempered dog will super growl if she thinks someone is trying to get in on her squash treat!

Okay, back to cooking squash. Another delicious roasting method:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Use peeler to peel skin off squash
  • Cut it in half lengthwise
  • Scoop out the seeds
  • Chop into about 1 inch cubes
  • Place directly onto baking sheet or first toss in a small amount of oil with seasoning
  • Bake for 20 minutes, stir or flip cubes
  • Bake 10 more minutes or until desired crunchiness is reached

This way results in almost tater tot like squash. Flipping the squash cubes gives them multiple crunchy sides. You could also cut the squash into long strips like French fries and have squash fries. If you are going to toss the cubes in oil, you really don’t need much- one tablespoon or less. And be sure to use an oil that withstands high heat, like sunflower oil. I used this method to add squash to my curry and to use it as a pizza topping. Really you can add them to most any recipe. They are crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. If you want them more crunchy, cut smaller cubes and adjust your baking times (like check them after 10 minutes).

Butternut squash has a nice smooth exterior that’s pretty easy to peel. If you want to use this method with a “bumpy” squash, like acorn, cut it in half before peeling. Remove seeds, and cut squash into wedges. You can then peel the wedges with a peeler or your knife.

Winter squash, more than just autumn decoration! Enjoy!

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Matching orange knife not required!
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My oil and spices. I used turmeric, paprika, fresh ground pepper, and sage.
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Pre-baking. Tip: make sure any small pieces are in the middle so they don’t burn.
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Post baking
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Delicious crunchy squash bits!
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Okay, so this is from last week, but I wanted to show you how great it works on a pizza this way!

 

For more information on Three Sisters gardens:

http://www.nativeseeds.org/learn/nss-blog/415-3sisters

For more information on butternut squash nutrition info:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/284479.php

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