Healthy Cooking: Squashing another veggie into the dinner rotation


If my kids held a vegetable popularity contest, the winner would be broccoli. Now, broccoli would also be the lone contestant, because it’s the one vegetable my people will touch. Also, the world would be ending and/or the Wi-Fi would be down, because those are the only conditions upon which my children will willingly work together.

The point is, my family eats a lot of broccoli, and I’m awfully bored with the cruciferous beasts. So I devoted a week to produce experimentation, henceforth referred to as The Time Mom Made Us Eat New Stuff. And I realized that even non-veggie lovers love veggies when they’re dressed up as carbohydrates.

Regular readers will remember my springtime ode to cauliflower rice, which is simply cauli chopped up cute and rice-sized. What I discovered during my produce cook-off is that you can also rice raw sweet potatoes, carrots and virtually any lower-moisture veg. (Skip the cukes and tomatoes this time.) Garnish them like you would any ol’ carb, with heart-healthy olive oil if you’re trying to be good, butter and salt if you’re not. Then feel smug about checking another item off your five-a-day list.

Butternut squash is packed full of vitamins A and C and delivers more potassium than a banana. But I am embarrassingly intimidated by the thought of preparing it. My knife blade jumps out of my hand when I’m trying to slice lengthwise through the hard exterior, which is why I consider squash to be armed and dangerous. Also, butternut squash halves take about an hour to bake in the oven, or approximately 59 minutes longer than I have to get dinner on the table. But ricing the squash neatly solves both concerns.

When you rice butternut squash, you only have to cut through the hard outer layer once. Make a single, horizontal cut through the neck, or skinniest part of the squash. Use your trusty not-stabby vegetable peeler to slice away the rest of the skin. Then it’s easy-peasy to cut the butternut squash flesh into cubes. If you’re prepping your squash in advance, you can stop right here and refrigerate your cubes in a sealed container for up to four days. When you’re ready to transform it into rice, pulse the cubes in a food processor fitted with the S-blade. Now you’re just a quick saute away from a sweet, nutritious serving of vegetables that look as comforting as they taste. If time allows, add a little vegetable or chicken broth to the skillet. Your squash will fluff up, like the most flavorful risotto you’ve ever enjoyed.

Butternut squash is sweet, so consider serving it with pork tenderloin medallions. Pork tenderloin is a delightful source of lean protein, and is a favorite in my healthy cooking homestead because it cooks in minutes. You can also pair your risotto with peppery shrimp, sage-seasoned chicken, hearty cooked white beans, or savory sauteed mushrooms. And if a little broccoli appears on the plate as well, that’s just a second serving of vegetable love.


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