Wheatless Wednesday – Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

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Craving rich and creamy but not the calories?  Would you believe me if I told you that coconut milk is a good diet food? Coconut Milk has gotten a bad reputation for it’s high saturated fat content but that doesn’t mean it will make you gain weight. Research has shown that not having enough fat can make  you fat. Crazy, right?  The trick is to eat healthy fats like coconut milk and avocado.  Fats help us feel satiated so we eat less and feel full longer. In addition, the fats in coconut milk and oil may actually increase our metabolism which increases our bodies’ use of calories. Coconut milk also provides nutrients that support our immune systems and heart health as well as giving us pretty hair and skin, and it tastes delicious too. Win-Win!

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Nothing hits the spot on a chilly day like a piping hot bowl of creamy soup.  This soup gets it’s creaminess from coconut milk (you knew that was coming), which also adds a subtle  but delicious flavor when combined with roasted butternut squash, ginger and red curry paste. I also love using winter squash because each is hiding a little treasure trove inside, their seed stache.  Pumpkin seeds get all of the attention, but they aren’t the only squash seeds that can be roasted. Other winter squash seeds like butternut,  squash or spaghetti squash can also be roasted.  So next time you’re roasting squash, roast the seeds as well and use them as a garnish or as a tasty and nutritious little snack.  I roasted mine with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, curry, cayenne pepper and salt but you can use any spices you enjoy. You’ll be addicted!

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I also dry toasted unsweetened shredded coconut until it was golden and aromatic to use as a second topping.  All I can say is, Wow!  I have to admit to going back for more…

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TIPS:  I think roasting the squash in the skin gives it a richer flavor and it is much easier than peeling it since the skin is so tough, however, if you are pressed for time, you can peel the squash, cut it into chunks (or even buy it from the store pre-cut into cubes which is not a crime) and add it to the onion, garlic mixture along with the vegetable broth.  Then follow the recipe from there.  You will notice that my CSA squash is the size of a three month old baby!  Normally I can fit both halves in the same pan but this behemoth squash required two pans.  Don’t skip the step of roasting the seeds.  You won’t be disappointed! In fact, you’ll wish there were more…

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COCONUT CURRY BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP 

1 large butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 Tbsn freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsn Red Curry paste (or curry powder)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp salt (if needed)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

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  • Preheat over to 400°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until very tender. The squash should have a creamy texture. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the peel using a spoon.

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  • While the squash is cooking toast the coconut in a small pan over medium high heat, stirring constantly until golden brown, 3-5 minutes.  Put in a small serving dish and let cool.

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  • Pick through seeds, if using, and remove any stringy bits.  Rinse and dry with paper towels.  Let air dry in a single layer on a baking dish.  Once the squash has finished cooking, lower the oven to 300 and roast seeds by following the directions below.

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  • In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook until aromatic.

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  • Stir in the vegetable broth, coconut milk and squash. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary.

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  • Puree soup with a hand mixer or in a food processor until silky smooth.  You may have to do it in batches.

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  • Serve garnished with toasted coconut and roasted squash seeds.

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: medium
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1 large butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
1 Tbsn freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsn Thai Red Curry paste, more if you like it hotter
4 cups vegetable broth
1 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
1 tsp salt (if needed)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)

  • Preheat over to 400°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until very tender. The squash should have a creamy texture. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the peel using a spoon.
  • While the squash is cooking toast the coconut in a small pan over medium high heat, stirring constantly until golden brown, 3-5 minutes.  Put in a small serving dish and let cool.
  • Pick through seeds, if using, and remove any stringy bits.  Rinse and dry with paper towels.  Let air dry in a single layer on a baking dish.  Once the squash has finished cooking, lower the oven to 300 and roast seeds by following the directions below.
  • In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook until aromatic.
  • Stir in the vegetable broth, coconut milk and squash. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary.
  • Puree soup with a hand mixer or in a food processor until silky smooth.  You may have to do it in batches.
  • Serve garnished with toasted coconut and roasted squash seeds.

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

  • Servings: 1 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup raw squash seeds
1 Tbsn oil (olive, coconut or avocado)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

  • Separate the seeds from the pulp, place in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Spread them out in an even layer to air dry. Seeds roast better when they are completely dry.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Drizzle seeds with oil and sprinkle with spices.  Toss to combine and spread in a single layer on a glass baking dish or a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until seeds are golden brown. If seeds aren’t browning, increase oven temperature to 325 or 350 degrees but check every few minutes.

Roasted Butternut Squash, New Potatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Wilted Tomatoes

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Fall officially begins tomorrow so time to start thinking about sweaters and boots.  Here in California we are literally just thinking about it but soon cold weather will be a reality, and with it hopefully some much needed rain.  Along with cooler temperatures comes more lovely squashes, root vegetables and the last of the tomatoes from the garden.  I absolutely love a colorful plate and make an effort to Eat the Rainbow which is not only gorgeous but also more nutritious in that a colorful variety provides a wider range of nutrients.  Go bold!  The brighter the color the bigger the bounty. For those of you with picky eaters at home there is even a downloadable game Eat the Rainbow Challenge which might encourage your kids to go beyond carrot sticks and apple slices.  Here is the rundown from Every Day Health of just what that beautiful color can do for you.

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Red. In fruits and vegetables, red is usually a sign of vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin C. Typically, red produce are also high in manganese and fiber. Choose red bell peppers, tomatoes, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, rhubarb, pomegranates, and beets. Red apples also contain quercetin, a compound that seems to fight colds, the flu, and allergies. Tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit are loaded with lycopene, a compound that appears to have cancer-fighting properties

Yellow. Banana is probably the first yellow fruit that comes to mind — and it delivers potassium and fiber. You will also find potassium and fiber plus manganese, vitamin A, and magnesium in other yellow produce, such as spaghetti squash, summer squash, and yellow bell peppers.

Black Rice Squash cut raw

Orange. Just a shade away from red, orange in fruits and vegetables signifies a similar vitamin and mineral profile. You’ll get vitamins C, A, and B6, potassium, and fiber in choices such as butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, oranges, pumpkins, orange peppers, nectarines, and peaches.

Green. Dark leafy greens are packed with nutrients — this group offers far more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce. A favorite dark leafy green is spinach because of its rich lutein content, which aids eyesight, and folate, which supports cell reproduction. Broccoli and asparagus also contain these compounds.

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Blue. Think blue, and you’re most likely picturing a bowl of blueberries, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. They are also loaded with fiber and make an incredibly versatile addition to your diet

Purple. This group includes vegetables like red onions and eggplant, and fruits such as blackberries, Concord grapes, currants, and plums. Purple indicates the presence of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect blood vessels and preserve healthy skin. You can also find vitamin A and flavonoids in purple vegetables like radicchio, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, and purple carrots.

White. White may not be much of a color, but white vegetables, such as cauliflower, rutabagas, and parsnips, still shine with vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, K, and folate, and they contain fiber. Don’t forget onions and garlic, which have a compound called allicin that seems to protect the heart and blood vessels from damage.
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For Meatless Monday this week, I roasted butternut squash, purple, pink and white baby potatoes, artichoke hearts and assorted small tomatoes from my garden.  This is a really easy and quick dinner to prepare, ready in a half hour, and almost any root vegetable, like carrots, turnips or parsnips that you might have on hand can be added.  I happen to really love the small purple potatoes.  They add an interesting color and their flavor is more defined than a white potato.  Just slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp.  Remove the peel and dice into medium cubes. Cut potatoes in half (or quarters if larger). Place potatoes and squash in a large baking dish and toss with oil and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and fresh herbs and bake another 10 minutes or until squash and potatoes are fork tender and the tomatoes are ‘wilted’. Splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over the top of the cooked vegetables, if desired, and gently stir to combine.

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Serve topped with crumbled feta, if desired, or cool and serve warm or cold over a bed of fresh mixed lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

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  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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2-3 cups new potatoes
1 small butternut squash (2-3 cups cubed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 cups artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1-2 cups assorted small and/or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh herbs, thyme or oregano
1 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup feta (optional)

  • Cut butternut squash in half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp.  Remove the peel and dice into medium cubes.
  • Cut potatoes in half (or quarters if larger)
  • Place potatoes and squash in a large baking dish and toss with oil
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and fresh herbs and bake another 10 minutes or until squash and potatoes are fork tender.  Add balsamic vinegar, if desired, and gently stir to combine.
  • Serve warm topped with crumbled feta, if desired, or cool and serve over a bed of fresh mixed lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

 

Meatless Monday-Warm Lentil Salad with Roasted Squash & Shaved Brussels Sprouts

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Is it really still winter?  You would never know it by the sun shining outside on this beautiful morning. (Sorry my East Coast friends…)  I’m still hoping for more than four days of rain before I will admit to Spring. Days are still short though,so there isl a chill to the air by dinnertime calling for hearty dishes to fill the belly.   Winter vegetables like gorgeous butternut squash and Brussels sprouts are abundant and so delicious!  Each one of these dishes is great on its own but combine them with lentils and you’ve got a winner.

I am pretty passionate about lentils.  They come in many colors and sizes and I love them all.  Brown and red lentils are great in soups and stews but my absolute favorite is the French green lentil (Le Puy) which is considered the top dog in the lentil world.  Lentils are actually named for their lens shape (Lens culinaris) and green lentils maintain this shape when cooked which is why they don’t get mushy.   Green lentils are delicious  and can transform a salad or side dish into a protein packed meal.   Lentils have the third highest amount of protein of any legume or nut (after soybeans and hemp) and contain dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, including iron. For this recipe I added roasted red pepper which gives the lentils a distinctive flavor.  Roasting peppers is very easy but in a pinch you can also buy them in jars already roasted.  They can be roasted in the oven on high heat, on your grill or over an open flame on your stove.  I just put the whole pepper on the lowest rack in my oven while preheating it for the squash and turned it every 5 minutes or so to char on all four sides.  Then let it cool in a paper bag and the skin slips off really easily.  Tossing the lentils in vinaigrette is the final touch and gives you a chance to add fresh herbs and spices.

Butternut squash is another versatile and nutrient rich food.  It can be roasted, mashed, stuffed, pureed and baked into muffins and casseroles.  My favorite way to prepare squash is very simple, drizzled with olive oil and roasted with salt and pepper.  Sometimes I splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over it before cooking to intensify the gorgeous orange color and bring out its natural sweetness.

My husband loves Brussels sprouts and I am always looking for new ways to prepare them. Right now they are in season so its a good time to add them into your diet if you haven’t already.   Brussels sprouts are another food powerhouse, in the cruciferous family like broccoli and kale. They contain sulforaphane which is believed to have anticancer properties and indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair and is thought to block the growth of cancer cells.  Boiling Brussels sprouts somewhat lessens their cancer fighting potency (probably the good stuff gets thrown out with the water) but roasting and sautéing does not.  (Wikipedia)  In this dish, I have paired them with sliced shallots, garlic and toasted pumpkin seeds for a tasty and pretty dish.

Warm Lentil Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup green lentils
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper or  4 oz jar roasted red peppers
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 shallot, finely diced
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tbsn red wine vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsn crumbled feta(optional)
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  • Roast whole red pepper in a hot oven or over an open flame turning to char all four sides.  Put in a paper bag and let cool.  Remove peel and seeds.  Cut into small dice.

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  • Saute shallot and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil.  Add vegetable broth and lentils and  simmer lentils 15 or 20 minutes, or until just soft but not mushy. Set aside with lid off to stop the cooking process.
  •  To make vinaigrette, combine red wine vinegar, balsamic, 2 tablespoons olive oil,, garlic, mustard and cumin in a medium bowl with a fork or whisk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Place the lentils, peppers and cilantro in a medium bowl.
  •  Toss with vinaigrette and top with feta if desired.

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Cumin and Balsamic

1 butternut squash
2 Tbsn olive oil
1-2 Tbsn balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
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  • Peel and seed squash.  Sometimes this is easier if you cut it in half and then crosswise in  half again. Cut into 1 inch dice.
  • Place in a glass pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  • Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, stirring several times, until soft.

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Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Shallot Saute

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 3/4 pounds brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
12 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts or pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Thinly slice brussels sprouts into circles.  Easiest done with a food processor or mandolin. Don’t worry if you end up with some loose pieces.
  • Roast pine nuts or pepitas in a small dry pan for several minutes until they turn golden.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Saute shallots in butter and olive oil in large pan over medium heat.  about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  • Increase heat to medium high and add brussels sprouts, sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.
  • Add pine nuts and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

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