Edmonds Healthy Eating: Butternut squash casserole a fall favorite

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There is nothing more quintessential in seasonal cooking than butternut squash for autumn. Just like the first corn on the cob of the season in the summer, I look forward to the arrival of winter squashes in the fall. Butternut squash is one of the most popular and versatile of the winter squash family.
The nutrition and health benefits of butternut squash are plenty, and there are oodles of different ways you can enjoy it—baked, boiled or sautéed on its own, or added to stir frys and salads. It’s the perfect side dish to any entree and is the foundation for mouthwatering soups.
Butternut squash:
  • Helps decrease high blood pressure:  A one cup serving of butternut squash contains almost 500 mg of potassium, which can help decrease your blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in your diet.
  • Promotes regularity:  One cup of butternut squash contains almost 7 grams of fiber, which can help prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract by supporting healthy bacteria in the gut.
  • Improves eyesight: Butternut squash is literally loaded with vitamin A—one cup of squash has over 350 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is important for healthy eyesight. It’s a great source of zeaxanthin and lutein, two powerful antioxidants that can also protect your vision.
  • Keeps bones strong: Since it contains about 17 percent of your RDA of manganese, butternut squash can help your body maintain healthy bone structure, calcium absorption, and improve the mineral density of the spinal column. Meanwhile, vitamin C takes part in the production of collagen, which is important for building bone mass. Other minerals found in squash, such as iron, folate, and zinc, all contribute to bone health and protect against osteoporosis.
  • Protects your skin: Butternut squash also contains nearly half of your daily dose of vitamin C, which has been linked to healthier skin.
  • Boosts immune function: While vitamin C may not cure the common cold, it may help reduce your risk of developing further complications, such as a lung infection or pneumonia. It may also help protect you from other immune system deficiencies, such as cardiovascular disease.
  • Reduces inflammation: Because of its high antioxidant content, butternut squash may have anti-inflammatory effects, helping you to reduce your risk of inflammation-related disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
I hope you can enjoy this wonderful vegetable just in time for Halloween or save this recipe for your Thanksgiving meal. It will become a family favorite and you don’t have to tell them that is is healthy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Casserole

For the Roasted Squash:

1 medium/large (2 to 2 1/2 pounds) butternut squash
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups stemmed and finely chopped kale

For the Almond-Pepita Parmesan:

1/4 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin/pepita seeds
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Grease an extra-large casserole dish with oil and set aside.
Peel the squash. Thinly slice off the bottom and top and then slice through the middle lengthwise to make two halves. Remove seeds with a spoon. Chop the two halves into 1-inch chunks and place into the oiled casserole dish.

Add the minced garlic, parsley, oil and salt into the casserole dish and toss with squash until combined. Cover the casserole with foil and poke a few air holes into it.  NOTE: Do NOT add the kale yet.

Place the covered casserole dish in the oven and bake for about 45 to 50 minutes, until the squash is fork tender.

For the Parmesan: Place all of the Almond-Pepita Parmesan ingredients into a food processor and pulse together until coarsely ground. You can easily double this recipe and store the extra in the freezer.

Carefully remove the squash from the oven and reduce heat to 350°F. Remove the tinfoil (be careful as some steam might escape from the dish as you do). Stir the chopped kale into the squash until combined. Sprinkle all of the Parmesan over top of the squash. Bake for another 6 to 10 minutes, uncovered, until the nuts are lightly toasted and the kale has wilted. Watch closely so you don’t burn either the nuts or kale. Serve warm, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Leftovers will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for about 5 days. Although there might not be any leftovers!

Note: Feel free to use any nut or seed you prefer! I have used walnuts and pecans with great success.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Is there supposed to be Parmesan cheese in it? The topping says Parmesan but there was none listed in the ingredients. Or does the topping just taste like Parmesan?

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