Dec 7, 2012

Fall Butternut Squash Bake

These days I am all about one-dish meals. With a very active ten-month-old I am finding it quite difficult  to get a whole lot done in the kitchen! (Hence the sporadic blogging.) And, since it's fall, I'm loving making recipes that use fruits and vegetables available this time of year. Nourishing Traditions encourages the consumption of seasonal produce to take advantage of the varied fruits and vegetables and subsequent nutrients that come with these natural cycles. Due to our modern farming and transportation  abilities a variety of produce is available year-round, but i's best to try to base your meals on what is seasonal. God created these cycles for a reason. I believe the healthiest way to eat is by consuming food in the closest form to how God made it, which applies to the seasons as well. Plus seasonal stuff is typically cheaper and more rich in nutrients because it doesn't need extra help to grow during a time that it wouldn't naturally be growing on its own.

I got the idea for a butternut squash bake from a recent Taste of Home issue. I started out with the basic idea for a sausage and squash one-dish meal, and have tweaked and adjusted the recipe until I feel it's just about perfect! I brought it to a recent potluck where it was a big hit!

A few notes about the recipe:

This recipe is very flexible. Because butternut squash varies a lot in size, I have varied the amount of the ingrediants. The first number listed is for the lesser amount of squash. But you really can't ruin this recipe. Add and adjust the spices according to preference!

Butternut squash is the easiest to peal ("Easiest," ha! I hate pealing winter squash!), but acorn squash also works in this recipe. I would experiment with whatever kind of winter squash you have available.

This recipe can be paleo diet approved by omitting the cheese.

We usually eat this meal as a one-dish supper, but it would also be great, and go farther, with a light salad and some homemade bread. 

Feta cheese has the best flavor for this dish, but other kinds of cheese work fine too. Feta is saltier so keep that in mind before you you add any additional salt. Cheddar or mozzarella are good because they sort of bind the ingredients together and provide a delightful chewy texture.

The smaller squash with no sides would serve about 4, the larger amount with sides would probably serve 8-10.

I made this for a potluck recently. I baked it the day before, then put it in a crock pot in the fridge. To reheat I set the crock pot on "warm" and after a few hours it was piping hot and ready to serve. It tasted like it had just come out of the oven, but without tons of work that morning.

Fall Butternut Squash Bake

1/2 to 1 lb homemade turkey sausage, bulk turkey sausage, or bulk pork sausage*
1 large butternut squash, about 3 to 4 1/4 pounds, peeled, seeded and chopped in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, or about 3 small ones (tip: weigh the squash at the grocery store in the scales at the produce section)
2-3 green apples, cored and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces (not peeled)
1 medium or large onion, chopped
1 to 2 cups cheese such as feta, shredded cheddar or mozzarella, optional
2 to 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, optional
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste with more squash
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-2 teaspoon dried rosemary**
1 teaspoon fennel, optional (omit if using a sausage that already includes fennel)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chille powder, optional (omit if using hot sausage)

Brown the sausage over medium heat. Set aside.

Peel the squash and remove the seeds and membranes. Chop into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl. And the chopped apples, onions and cheese and browned sausage and stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle the oil and maple syrup over the squash mixture. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, and remaining spices over the squash mixture. Toss to coat evenly.

Spread the squash mixture on several baking sheets (with 1 inch lip), 9x13 inch pans, or for a lager quantity, 15x11 inch pans. Use enough pans so there's only one or two layers of squash. (This allows the moisture to evaporate so the squash and apples aren't mushy).

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until the edges of the apples and squash start to brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before dishing out of the pans.

*I've been doing more research on pork and some studies show that pork can be bad for you if not prepared by traditional/old fashioned curing or smoking methods (sometimes labeled as "uncured"). Stay tuned for my complete post on the topic of pork.

** Rub the rosemary between your fingers to break it apart a little before adding to the rest of the ingrediants. Fresh rosemary would probably be the very best, but it's expensive so I don't use it as much as I'd like. If you have it available I would add about 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary.

Preparation time: 25 minutes. Bake time: 30-40 minutes.
Servings: 4-8 (depending on the size of the squash).


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