If you like recipes that meet your checklist of hearty, healthy, and delicious, this is it. Featuring seasonal food superstars, including butternut squash, apples, and cranberries, your senses of sight, smell, and taste are in for a pleasing palate sensation.
There’s something about seasonable fall and winter flavors. For me, it’s similar to the feeling of a cozy, warm blanket wrapped around you on a chilly evening. Inviting, fragrant, and flavorful, this good-for-you comfort food side dish is ideal for family get-togethers.
Comfort food and “nutrient-rich” usually don’t go together. But in this recipe, each ingredient tastefully coexists while providing various nutrients to boot.
Basics about butternut squash
The headliner of this recipe is butternut squash. This winter squash is shaped like an elongated pear, is a member of the cucurbitaceous family. Squash goes back a long ways, 10,000 years ago, to its origin in Mexico and Central America. In fact, the word “squash” comes from the Native American word askutasquash, which means uncooked or eaten raw.
Unsure of what butternut squash tastes like? If you like the taste of sweet potatoes or carrots, you’ll like butternut squash, too.
Health wise, butternut squash is a winner. One cup is packed with more than 100 percent of your daily needs of vitamin A and nearly 40 percent of vitamin C. It’s also good for hydration as one cup is approximately 87 percent water.
The star nutrients in butternut squash are vitamin A (a fat-soluble vitamin) and beta-carotene, a pigment found in plants. Beta carotene is also an antioxidant that protects your body from damaging molecules called free radicals. Over time, damage from free radicals can lead to numerous chronic illnesses. Research has found that eating foods packed with antioxidants help boost immune function and may lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin A is well-known for promoting good eye health such as protecting eyes from ultraviolet rays. Vitamin A also protects eyes from night blindness and age-related eye decline. Besides eye health, vitamin A also supports bone health and a healthy immune system, and may lower risk of certain cancers and risk of acne.
On to the recipe
Now that you know the healthy benefits of butternut squash, let’s talk about how to go about putting this recipe together.
If you prefer to use a substitute for butternut squash, I would recommend acorn squash or buttercup squash. Buttercup squash, you may ask? Yes, there is such a thing. The main difference between butternut and buttercup squash is that buttercup tends to be a bit drier and butternut is moister. Both have a natural sweet and nutty flavor. However, butternut is a little bit sweeter in taste than buttercup.
If dried cranberries are not a favorite, consider using raisins or dried cherries or leave out altogether.
Use apples meant for baking such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonathans, Winesap, Braeburn, or Rome Beauty.
Baked Butternut Squash with Apples and Cranberries
Serves 4; serving size 1/2 cup.
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
- 2 cups apples, peeled and cored, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Peel and cube both the squash and apples into bite sized cubes.
- Combine squash and apples cubes, olive oil, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, and salt in a large bowl.
- Toss ingredients to coat squash and apples until well mixed.
- Spread mixture evenly onto a metal baking pan sprayed with cooking oil.
- Bake in oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until squash is soft.
Notes: Store leftovers in refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to two days. Reheat in microwave or serve cold.
Nutrition per serving: Calories, 164; total fat, 4 grams; saturated fat, 2 grams; cholesterol, 0 milligrams; carbohydrates, 30 grams; fiber, 5 grams; protein, 2 grams; sodium, 285 milligrams.
Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook and The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook,. Visit her website at www.eatwelltobewellrd.com.