Heather

Hi.

I'm Heather, a Registered Dietitian from Vancouver, Canada. Welcome to my blog. I'm so excited to share my favourite recipes and chat about nutrition with you! 

Sweet Curried Butternut Squash

Sweet Curried Butternut Squash

SERVES 6 (~1 cup servings)

Sweet squash pairs wonderfully with curry, and this dish is always a hit at potlucks and dinner parties. It's one of my go-tos for fall potlucks because I usually have all the ingredients on hand, so it doesn't take much thinking ahead (other than the cooking time).

 
Sweet Curried Butternut Squash.jpg
 

A lot of people tell me they like the idea of squash, but don't really know what to do with it - this is a good place to start! Squash is surprisingly versatile - it's a good healthy carbohydrate choice that's naturally sweet, but high in fiber and vitamins and minerals. 1 cup of cubed butternut squash packs in 6.6g of fiber, over 500mg of potassium, and enough Vitamin A to get your entire daily quota. Plus, it's grown in Canada and keeps for a long time in your cupboard, so stock up when you see a good price at the farmers market! Personally, I like to make a trip to my parent's garden and stock up - they grow the most amazing organic squash (and everything) - lucky me! I swear freshly picked organic squash is soooo much better than the stuff on the shelves at the store.

Sadly, we're getting to the end of squash season, so the last few squashes I've had haven't been the best. They're at their prime in fall and early winter, and while I'll miss this dish in the next little while I'll be looking forward to it again come squash season next fall! If you have a squash in your cupboard give this recipe a try before we say goodbye to winter squash until next year. In the mean time I think this recipe would work well with sweet potatoes too, but I haven't tried it before. If anyone out there gives it a go with sweet potatoes let me know how it is.

coconut oil squash

Use the good kind of coconut oil in this recipe - by that I mean the kind that actually tastes like coconut, because that's the point! Coconut is really popular right now, but is it the healthiest oil choice? I'm not convinced... See my word about coconut oil further down in this post for more info.

If you're looking for other ideas for cooking squash check out my curried butternut squash soup and my pumpkin chili (can be made with other squash). Both are vegan and equally delicious! Now, on with the good stuff:

Tools: 

  1. Good Large Chefs Knife
  2. Cutting Board
  3. Peeler
  4. Bar Pans or large baking sheets for roasting (also works well in a stone baking dish)
  5. Mixing bowl
  6. Small prep bowls

Ingredients: 

Sweet Curry Butternut Squash
  1. One large (3.5-4lb) butternut squash or other winter squash, or about 7 cups pre-cut cubed squash.
  2. 1 Tbsp good virgin coconut oil (I like Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil)
  3. 1.5 Tbsp yellow curry powder
  4. 2 Tbsp shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  5. 1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Peel and cube the squash, removing seeds. For more info on how to prep and cut a squash see my Curried Butternut Squash Soup post in my Soups Category. 
  3. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave or on the stovetop. (Tip: I put mine in a little glass bowl in top of the stove while the oven pre-heats. The heat it gives off melts the oil and I don't have to think about it!)
  4. Put the cubed squash into a large mixing bowl and add coconut oil and curry powder. Mix well, coating the squash cubes evenly with oil and curry. 
  5. Spread squash evenly onto baking sheets or into a large baking dish. (As usual, I prefer my stoneware bar pans - they roast veggies so well!)
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, remove from oven and stir, then roast for another 15 minutes. Roasting time will vary depending on the exact size of your squash cubes, your oven, and the kind of pans you use. 
  7. While the squash is cooking, mix the shredded coconut and brown sugar in a small glass prep bowl. Set aside. 
  8. You'll know the squash is done when the cubes are soft and easily pricked through with a fork, but not mushy. 
  9. Allow the squash to cool for about 5 minutes on the pans and then transfer to a dish for serving. Top with brown sugar and coconut mixture, or stir this mixture right into the squash. 

I've served my curry squash with honey dijon chicken and a nice big helping of greens. It pairs well with beef, fish, or pork entrees as well. Recipe for my honey dijon chicken is coming later :) 

 
Coconut Curry Squash 8.JPG
 

Nutrition information is all the way down at the bottom - keep on scrollin'!


A word on Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil, and all things coconut, have been touted as being amazingly healthy lately. I even have clients tell me they are supplementing their diets with pure coconut oil (adding it to smoothies, coffee, etc.) to help with weight loss. 

image from skillsyouneed.com

But is there merit to the hype? This image shows the different fat profiles of various oils. You'll notice that coconut has the biggest red line, meaning the most saturated fat content.

The recent hype about coconut is based on a couple of things:

1. Recent attention given to flaws in 1980's studies that linked saturated fat with heart disease; and

2. The fact that part of (note: not all of) the fat in coconut is MCT (medium chain fats) that are metabolized differently in our bodies.

Now, the next question is does any of this matter? Does the fact that there were some errors in the classic studies in the 80's mean that saturated fat is actually good for us, or that we should eat more of it? Well, the easy answer is no. The real answer is that diet is complicated and that no one food or nutrient is responsible for the state of our health and well-being.

I'm going to share a piece of a post by Helen from Food and Nonsense, one of my favourite blogs, because I think the way she puts it is hard to beat:

 
excerpt from Helen's post "Hysteria in the Headlines - is Saturated Fat Really Good for Us?"

excerpt from Helen's post "Hysteria in the Headlines - is Saturated Fat Really Good for Us?"

 

I do want to highlight her point about replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats. This is backed by good evidence. Studies have shown that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated ones in our diets lowers cardiovascular disease risk. This research is one of the reasons our dietary guidelines still say to limit saturated fats in our diets.  Here's the link to Helen's post on Saturated Fat. It's so well written and worth the read, as are all of her posts (I love the one about Bulletproof Coffee too)!

As for the MCT (medium chain fats) thing - it's important to note that only about half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is actually MCT. The rest is just regular old long-chain saturated fat, so the claims about MCTs only really don't apply to the oil as a whole. Yes, we absorb MCTs differently and yes, we burn them more easily for energy, but they still contribute energy (calories) to our diets. They are not calorie-free or a source of "instant energy", and contribute to overall calorie intake. Calories above what you need are still stored as fat, regardless of the source. Studies that have shown benefits with MCT oil have been done using pure MCT oil, not the combination of various saturated fats found in coconut oil. The other half of the fats in coconut oil are the kind that have been linked with higher LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.  MCT oil is particularly useful for people who have a difficult time absorbing fat from their diets, but there isn't enough evidence to actually confirm any health benefits in people who don't need to consume MCTs for this reason at this point. Because of this mix, the American Dietetic Association doesn't recommend consuming coconut oil at this time. Of course, the reality is that it's not as simple as consume or don't - so many other factors apply.  See this post from Eat Right Ontario for more info.

So after all of that, what's the bottom line?

Can coconut oil be part of a healthful diet? Yes, absolutely, but it's a fat like any other and should be used in moderation - buy the good stuff (virgin) and use it as the fat when you want to take advantage of the flavour it provides.

Should you go crazy and start adding coconut oil to everything, or using it as a substitute for butter and all other fats? No. It's an oil like any other, and there is still some evidence saying that replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats (like olive or canola oil) may have a positive impact on health. Also, oil is a dense source of calories - 1 Tbsp of coconut oil, like any other oil has 120 calories. It makes no sense that adding tablespoons of oil and extra calories to your diet will help you lose weight!


Nutrition:

Per ~ 1 cup cooked cubed squash

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Nutrition

Highlights:

  • You'll notice the fat in this recipe is all saturated - that's from the coconut (see my comments above). While the mono- and poly- unsaturated fats tend to have a better reputation for heart health, a little saturated fat is fine. Anything you cook at home is going to have far less fat than a similar dish at a restaurant, and with the flavourful oil a little goes a long way in this recipe.
  • I also find this dish doesn't need any salt, which means super low sodium!
  • Winter squash is naturally really high in Vitamin A and potassium. 
  • The program I used to analyze the recipe says 1 cup has only 3g of fiber, which seems on the low side to me. According to the USDA nutrient database 1 cup of cooked cubed butternut has 6.6g of fiber, so I'm thinking there's a little more hiding in here! By comparison 1 cup of cooked brown rice has about 3g of fiber and more than double the calories, so squash is looking like a great alternative.

 

Happy Cooking!

Stoneware Rectangular Baker Set

Stoneware Rectangular Baker Set

PS. Looking for some cooking inspiration? These beautiful stoneware bakers are a great addition to your kitchen collection! Stonware cooks most dishes so beautifully, and I love the colour and the nesting capability for storage. Click on the photo for more info/to shop :)

 

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