2014-09-26 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Have fun with versatile winter squash
By Connie Wendell
Special to the Post

Back in the day, all we did with winter squash was boil it, bake it and eat it. And preparing squash that way is delicious, I do it all the time. But, if you want to have some fun, try different recipes, they are delish and so very good for you. I have included a few of my favorites.

Give ‘em a try and see if you don’t have some fun, too.

Quinoa-stuffed squash

4 (1 pound each) golden nugget squashes; cooking spray; 2 (4 ounce) links turkey Italian sausage, casings removed; ½ cup finely chopped carrot; ½ cup finely chopped onion; 2 garlic cloves;, minced; ½ cup water; 2 cups cooked quinoa; 2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley; ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme; ¼ teaspoon kosher salt; ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; and ¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded 2 percent percent reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese.

Cut the top quarter of each squash; reserve tops. Discard seeds. Arrange squashes, cut sides down in 2 (11 x 7-inch) baking dishes.

Fill each dish with 1-inch water; microwave 1 dish at high for 15 minutes. Remove dish, repeat with remaining dish. Cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add sausage, sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon.

Add carrot, onion and garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in ½ cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook eight minutes or until carrot is tender.

Combine sausage, carrot mixture, quinoa, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir in ½ cup cheese. Stuff about 1 cup quinoa mixture in each squash, and top each squash with 1 tablespoon cheese.

Arrange stuffed squashes in a broiler safe baking dish and place tops in dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler to high. Broil squashes 4 minutes or until cheese is golden.

Serves four.

Roasted butternut squash and shallot soup

4 cups (1-inch) cubed, peeled butternut squash (about 1½ pounds); 1 tablespoon olive oil; ¼ teaspoon salt; 4 large shallots, peeled and halved; 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced; 2 ½ cups fat-free, reduced sodium chicken broth; and 2 tablespoons (1-inch slices) fresh chives, cracked black pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine squash, olive oil, salt, shallots and ginger in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.

Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.

Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatter). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.

Serves six.

Spaghetti squash with tomato-basil sauce

1 (3 pound) spaghetti squash; cooking spray; 1 tablespoon olive oil; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt added diced tomatoes; 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes; ½ cup chopped fresh basil, divided; and 6 tablespoons shredded pecorino Romano cheese.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds, discard. Place squash halves, cut sides down on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until tender.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in basil.

Cool squash at room temperature for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Scrape inside of squash with a fork to remove spaghetti-like strands to measure about 5 cups. Divide squash evenly among six plates; top each serving with about 1/3 cup sauce and 1 tablespoon cheese. Top with remaining basil.

Serves six.

I hope you enjoy these fun-filled recipes. Until next time, keep Cooking on purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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