Making Good Use of The Butternut Squash Harvest

Fall is upon us, and that means winter squash harvest is kicking into high gear!  One of my all-time favorites is the Waltham Butternut Squash.  (a baby one is pictured here)

It’s a reliable producer that yields many rich, excellent tasting fruit.  I love to eat it as a substitute for sweet potatoes — roasted with a little butter and brown sugar.

Another one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is in a more savory side-dish, baked with cream, sage, and parmesan cheese.

This year, as we’ve been trying to save money by eating more of our own produce, I’ve been challenged to come up with new ways to use the different veggies that we grow.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about eating seasonally fresh produce, it’s that I’d better have more than one way to prepare each item.

Unlike produce which is available for year ’round purchase in the grocery store, our fruits and veggies have definite growing and harvesting seasons.  That means, even with succession planting, we can quickly become inundated with single cultivars, like butternut squash,  all at once.  While winter squashes are good keepers, and don’t have to be eaten right after they are harvested (butternut squash can be kept at room temperature for up to three months), because it is a prolific producer, I often harvest more than I can use at one time.  So, I’ve found that two recipes just don’t cut it anymore.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been scouring the internet for a variety of different recipes that make use of butternut squash.  I’ve made butternut squash bread, muffins, and cookies.

I’ve also experimented on my own to make a kid-friendly version of mac-n-cheese that I shared in another post.

So far, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried.  Who knew there were so many yummy possibilities when it came to this wonderful squash?

Then, last night, I tried out a new recipe for Butternut Squash Lasagna that I found on Mother Earth News.   It was simple to prepare, and -oh my goodness!- was it good!!!  Very rich and filling, it was a satisfying meal all on its own.  I paired it with a simple, rustic loaf of homemade buttermilk bread.  And left-overs?   — Even better the second time around!!!  Of all the recipes I’ve used butternut squash in so far, this is, hands-down, my favorite!  As for kid-friendly-ness?  Only one of my children refused to give it a legitimate try (I don’t consider washing a bite down with orange juice so you don’t have to taste it a legitimate try).  The others all loved it, though, and said it tasted “just like macaroni and cheese”.   (Is that the key to kid-friendly-ness?  Just make it taste like Macaroni and Cheese?) Unlike the one I made above, though, I think the flavors in the lasagna melded together a little better.  The only change I made to the recipe was using regular lasagna noodles (it’s all I had on hand), and, since I was out of milk, I used 2 cups of cream and two cups of water in place of the four cups of milk.  I used a generous amount of fresh-cracked pepper, making the taste a little more “grown-up” than my mac-n-cheese, which I really enjoyed.

This recipe is definitely a “keeper”!  In fact, I think it will be a wonderful addition to this year’s Thanksgiving meal — that is — if I can keep one or two squashes around until then!

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Butternut Mac and Cheese

Our kids are nearly all full-grown, but they still love mac ‘n cheese.  While I’ll allow them to occasionally lunch upon the popular box mix, I prefer to feed them a more wholesome, homemade version that’s made with real, quality – as opposed to neon-colored, powdered – cheese.  Last night, I upped the health, taste, and maturity factor a little by creating a new version of the classic, adored, comfort food.  This recipe  includes homegrown, organic butternut squash, parmesan cheese, and fresh sage  (it’s a great way to sneak more veggies into the diet!)

The butternut squash lends the dish its nice, familiar, orange color and a hint of sweetness while not intruding on its cheesy taste — you hardly even know it’s there, and that’s what we’re aiming for with picky kids, after all, isn’t it?

It’s a definite crowd-pleaser, and one I know I’ll be serving up whenever we’ve got some fresh, butternut squash on hand and a craving for mac ‘n cheese.

Here’s the recipe…

1 1/2  – 2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, cut into small cubes

1 cup heavy cream

3 fresh sage leaves

5 oz. grated, fresh parmesan cheese

16 oz. pasta (I used gemelli noodles.  Rotini or penne would work just as well.)

6 tbs. butter

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Toss squash with cream, sage, salt and pepper in a large baking dish.  Bake, covered, for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions.  Drain when finished cooking, return to pot and stir in butter ’til melted.

Stir the buttered pasta into the squash once both have finished cooking.  (Here you can control the texture of the squash, depending on how much mixing in you do).

Stir in half the cheese, then sprinkle the remainder on top and finish cooking, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven when finished, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Bon Apetite!