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3 Ways to Cook Butternut Squash

By Erin O'Donnell
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Butternut squash is low in calories (just 41 in a half-cup serving) and a good source of filling fiber. It's also chock full of yellow- and orange-hued antioxidants known as carotenoids.

These nutrient powerhouses may help protect against heart disease and cancer, says American Institute for Cancer Research dietitian Alice Bender.

Carotenoids include beta-carotene, which the body changes to vitamin A, a nutrient that supports the immune system. Other carotenoids in butternut squash are lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration.

One cup of butternut squash has more than four times the recommended daily value of vitamin A.

Butternut squash is the most widely grown winter squash. Its sweet flavor appeals to kids and works well in pastas, soups, and stews.

Bender suspects that some cooks are intimidated by the strange shape and hard skin. "It looks daunting, but it's very easy to prepare," she says. "You just need a good knife."

Cut the squash in half, and scrape out the seeds. Then bake it, cut side down, until soft. Scoop out the flesh, or remove the rind with a vegetable peeler, and cut the squash flesh into cubes.

Try butternut squash in these three recipes:

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Currant Bake

This side dish pairs well with pork or roast chicken, but it might as well be dessert, given the delectable way the squash and apples caramelize while roasting. It features five-spice powder, a Chinese cooking staple found in large grocery stores and ethnic markets.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

            2 large butternut squashes (totaling 3 or 4 pounds)

            2 Tbsp canola oil

            1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice

            5 apples, Granny Smith or McIntosh

            1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

            1/3 cup maple syrup

            1/3 cup raisins or currants

            1/3 cup pecans (optional)

            1/4 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Peel, seed, and cut squash into cubes; place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss squash with canola oil and spice. Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet or sheet pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Core apples, remove peels if desired, and cut into cubes. Place apple pieces in a large bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and maple syrup; pour over apples.
  6. Combine apples with squash, and toss gently. Return squash with apples to baking sheet, and bake 5-10 minutes until cooked through and tender.
  7. Remove apples and squash from oven, and place in a serving dish. Add raisins, pecans, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Per serving (does not include pecans): 221 calories, 2 g protein, 46 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 104 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%

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