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Butternut Squash Casserole

By Jessica Sanders

I love seasonal comfort food, especially in the fall and winter. There's nothing better than curling up in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot apple cider, or digging into something spiced and fragrant like warm apple pie or hot and gooey like macaroni and cheese (okay mac & cheese isn't really seasonal, but I'll think of any reason to eat it). Last week the temperatures dipped into the low 20s - hot comfort food was definitely needed. This butternut squash casserole from Ezra Poundcake is the perfect seasonal comfort food - it's a light and healthy meal full of veggies and seasonal squash goodness, and smells incredible, thanks to the onions, thyme, and pecans. For vegetarians it's a great main course when served with some whole wheat baguette and a salad, and for carnivores, adding some sausage or bacon or even eating this as a side dish with a meat course would be ideal. And big plus - lots of leftovers, which both The Mr. and I agreed tasted even better the next day.

I only made a few changes to this recipe, namely to cut down on a bit of fat. I used less butter and 1% milk - low-fat buttermilk would work great here, but it usually has 2% fat, so just be aware of that when you're choosing your milk. I've included  nutritional information for my version below. 

Butternut Squash Casserole


adapted from Ezra Poundcake

serves 8 as a main course

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices (about 6 cups)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk (or 1 cup 1% milk with 1 Tbsp lemon juice or vinegar added)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, toasted**
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted**
  • 6 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
  • about 12 ounces of baby spinach, washed and drained or patted dry
  • cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large stockpot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the squash to the water, return to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the baby spinach to the pot; cook for 1 minute more. Drain and set aside.
  3. In the same stockpot, melt the butter and oil. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat until translucent and soft, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the warm squash and spinach and the buttermilk, eggs, thyme, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, 1/8 cup pecans and 1 1/3 cups cheddar cheese. Mix gently with a wooden spoon or spatula until the ingredients are well combined.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly in the baking dish. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 cup pecans and the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

**If you need to toast your breadcrumbs and pecans, line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread the crumbs or pecans evenly in the pan (do the crumbs and pecans on separate pans). Bake in the middle of the oven for about 4-5 minutes, shake the pan around a bit to make sure everything gets toasted evenly, and then just keep an eye on things - you want the bread crumbs a nice golden brown. 

Nutritional info: calories: 278; fat: 13 grams; cholesterol: 77 mg; sodium: 364 mg; carbs: 29 grams; sugar: 6 grams; fiber: 4 grams; protein: 11 grams

 
I served this with a baguette that I sliced and then drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper and broiled for a minute or two, as well as a spinach salad. It was even better the next day - this is a great dish if you want leftovers.