What’s Cooking Wednesday: Baked Butternut Squash

2013 soybeans, landscape

Butternut squash receives much less fanfare than it’s botanical cousin, the preeminent and ever-popular pumpkin. And while pumpkin will like remain king of fall flavors for the foreseeable future, one taste of this baked squash recipe just might cause you to rethink your palate priorities.

My freshman year of college, I took my roommate to my parent’s house for a home-cooked meal and baked butternut squash was on the menu. In my roommate’s words it ‘made her believe in the possibilities of squash,’ a vegetable she had never previously liked.

This recipe for baked squash came from my grandmother and is a perennial fall favorite for my family. The combination of squash, apples, sugar and spices make for a delicious side dish almost good enough to be called dessert and one that pairs particularly well with pork.

One warning: this is one dish that doesn’t taste as good as leftovers, so only make what you plan to have eaten….not that eating all of it should be a problem!

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Baked Butternut Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 -2 medium apples
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With a knife, cut the neck off of the butternut squash. Cut off the top and peel. Cut into slices about 1″ thick. Peel the bottom and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1″ slices/pieces.
  3. Arrange all your slices into a glass baking dish.
  4. Core, peel & slice your apple into rings. Arrange on top of the squash pieces.
  5. In a saucepan, melt the butter. Once melted, stir in brown sugar, cinnamon & flour.
  6. Immediately pour the sauce over the apples & squash.
  7. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until squash is fork tender.
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What’s Cooking Wednesday: Homemade Applesauce

vegetables

Today’s recipe is so simple I hesitate to even call it a recipe: 2 ingredients & a little time are all it takes to make delicious homemade applesauce.

My parents have 6 apples trees, so growing up we had an abundant supply of apples and fresh applesauce was frequently on the menu in the fall and winter.

Applesauce is a great way to use some apples that may be a little past their prime – ones that are bruised or starting to wrinkle. You probably won’t see anything like that in the apples you buy at the store, but at an orchard you can probably buy what they call “seconds.”

Seconds are apples that are less than perfect visually – maybe not be ones you want to slice & eat fresh, but they are good for cooking & baking…including homemade applesauce! Of course you could use the better looking apples, too. You will just pay a little more for them because they’re pretty.

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Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium apples
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Peel and chop your apples using your preferred method. I just use a knife for a small number – but you could use a fancy crank peeler or even chop your apples in a food processor.
  2. Pour 1/4 cup of water in a medium sauce pan
  3. Add your chopped apples & cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until apples chunks are soft (my small batch of 5 apples took about 30 minutes, a larger batch would take longer).
  4. Remove from heat & mash with a potato masher. You can also run it through a blender for smoother applesauce. I like mine “rustic” & slightly chunky.
  5. Serve warm or cold. Add cinnamon if desired. You could also add sugar, but I think the fruit is sweet enough all by itself.
  6. Store in the refrigerator. Can also be frozen for later.

5 apples = about 1 cup of applesauce

Tips:

  • Apple Varieties: sweet varieties like Yellow Delicious, Jonathon’s & Galas make good applesauce. I would avoid some of the tarter varieties like Red Delicious & Granny Smith.
  • You can really use as many apples as you want, just use a bigger pan. You will only need 1/4 cup of water even for a large batch. The water just keeps the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pan until they start to cook down and release some juices.

The Friday Five: Pumpkins!

soybeans, landscape

Looking for the perfect pumpkin for your front step? Or maybe some mums to fill out your fall flower bed? Central Illinois has plenty to offer!

pumpkinsAfter all, when it comes to pumpkins – Illinois is the cream of the crop! Illinois farmers grow 80-85% of the world’s supply of processing pumpkins (used to make canned pumpkin puree & pie filling) and the majority of those are grown right here in the central part of the state.

Check out a few upcoming opportunities to visit the country, experience a little taste of agriculture and maybe pick up a pumpkin:

  1.  Explore local farm history with the 2015 McLean County Barn Tour Sat., Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring interesting barns, antique farm equipment and more. The self-guided tour and begins at the Chenoa United Methodist Church and is sponsored by McLean County Barn Keepers.
  2. Rader Family Farms opens this weekend (Sept. 12). Located just west of Normal (look for the pumpkin topped silo), Rader’s offers plenty of pumpkins, a corn maze, kid-friendly activities, food & special events throughout the season.
  3. Also this weekend, you can head south for the Route 10 Farm Crawl Sun., Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities at Mariah’s Mums & More, Timberview Alpaca FarmWagon Wheel Pumpkin Farm near Clinton, Illinois.
  4. For more pumpkin treats and festival fun, head to the Pumpkin Capital of the World for the Morton Pumpkin Festival Sept. 16-19, 2015. Sample the savory and the sweet with everything from pumpkin chili to pumpkin donuts & ice cream.
  5. And if apples are what you’re after, check out Country Mist Apple Farm near Heyworth, Curtis Orchard near Champaign or Tanner’s Orchard north of Peoria.

Just remember when you venture out into the country, watch out for farm equipment! Harvest is just beginning for corn & soybeans, so be alert for slow moving vehicles on the roads. Slow down, pass with caution & be safe!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate Fall?