Fall flavors and seasonal produce are my go-to's lately.
I love butternut squash, in particular, and I'm always trying to find different but simple ways to cook it, adding some of the other seasonal staples. Cranberries are sweet and tart at the same time and are the perfect pair for the sweet and buttery taste of the butternut squash. Adding some sage leaves just gives it the perfect final touch and makes these bowls a super comforting meal on a cold day when you just feel like having something special for lunch or dinner.
I also added some walnuts that gave this whole dish a nutty and warm flavor. I love nuts and I always try to incorporate them into my daily meals as a source of healthy fats. They are a great complement for our daily diet, as long as we do some portion control not to have too much calories just from nut intake.
Nuts are high in natural antioxidants, like polyphenols which may protect cells and LDL cholesterol from damage. They can also help reduce inflammation and and are high in fiber which are all great benefits for such mighty tiny little things! I love all kinds of nuts but I'm particularly fond of walnuts, pecans and almonds.
When I make a smoothie bowl for breakfast, for example, I always make sure to top it with seeds and nuts and also some freshly cut fruit and a drizzle of honey - it's a perfect way to start the day and I have a nice serving of healthy fats and nutrients from the fruit too. I use almond or coconut milk since I gave up dairy after realizing how inflammatory it was to me. When I have something else for breakfast I always find a way to incorporate nuts in, at least, one of my daily meals and I must say that I can't even imagine my daily diet without them!
As for my kids, my oldest also loves nuts and usually adds them to his oatmeal with honey, in the morning. My youngest is still not on the nut wagon but she'll get there, eventually! I always like my kids to try everything I cook so they can experience a wide range of flavors and textures and sometimes what they don't like one week becomes their favorite thing the next one!
Talk about ever changing tastes!
One of my goals as a mom of two young children is to teach them how to eat healthy and to make healthy choices. As long as they have the basic notions I believe they'll grow up with the right mindset and, hopefully, will become responsible adults who care about what they feed their bodies.
As for this recipe, the kids are not too fond of butternut squash so mom and dad had these amazing little lunch treats all for themselves! And what a treat that was!
1 small butternut squash
1/2 cup dried cranberries (look for the natural ones, with no added ingredients/sugar)
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup halves walnuts
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp all spice (all natural)
1 - Start by preheating the oven to 450 F.
2 - Peel the butternut squash, cutting it in half and then, after removing the seeds, dice it in small size chunks.
3 - Add the squash pieces to a large bowl where you'll be mixing all the other ingredients.
4 - Add all the other ingredients to the bowl: the cranberries, walnuts and the sage leaves roughly chopped. Season with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and all spice.
5 - Mix everything together and lastly add the olive oil, giving a very good mix after that to incorporate all the ingredients.
6 - Fill a greased baking tray with the butternut squash mix - I used two medium sized souffle bowls which also work perfectly if you're going to make this as single serve meals. I just brushed the inside of the bowls with a bit of olive oil and added the butternut squash mix.
7 - Take the butternut squash filled bowls to the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. Check every 5 minutes after the first 20 so you can adjust the baking time to your own oven - times can vary a bit depending on the oven you have.
8 - After the cooking time has finished and the butternut squash has a beautiful brown color on top , turn the oven off and remove the bowls from the oven.
I had one of these amazing Fall festive cups for lunch, with a perfectly fried organic pasture raised egg on top - the creaminess of the egg yolk was the scrumptious final touch over the brown and toasted butternut squash! Just forgot to take a picture of the said amazing egg!
These squash bowls can also be made with other roasted vegetables. Just play with your favorites and add some different spices to make different combinations for the whole family.
This is a dish that reheats very well so you can easily fit in into your Sunday meal prep and use it during the week to build your weekly menu: add some of your favorite proteins or have it has a breakfast bowl just by adding one or two fried eggs! Just check the post I tagged above, about meal prep, to get an idea about how simple your week meals can get if you start meal prepping over the weekend!
As for me, this is a perfect side dish that allows me to make a whole meal out of it too and that is one of the advantages of thinking about versatile meals - being able to switch the menu with a few staples is what allows me to keep my sanity on busy weeknights!