Butternut Squash Mexican Skillet
I am officially up to my ears in butternut squash.
Lately when I've collected my CSA I've been stocking up on these gems. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture; check out www.millerfarms.net if you missed hearing me brag about it in previous posts.
I'm able to store butternut squash for several months before they go bad, and because we just can't keep up with the quantity of produce we get with our CSA (great problem to have, right?), I've chosen to store a few of these so we have fresh produce in the dead of winter.
Lucky for me, when we ran out of zucchini and peppers yesterday I could pull one of the butt squash (as Ethan fondly calls them) and make a quick, yummy dish. For the non-meat-eater, this Butternut Squash Mexican Skillet is a great vegetarian source of protein.
In a world obsessed with protein, I sometimes feel that I stand alone in not fretting about it. Here's why: your body doesn't store extra protein. It uses what it needs for repairing cells and building muscle (which only happens if you're also exercising - just eating more protein won't do anything for muscle strength or tone), then breaks down the rest as energy (i.e. calories, similar to fat or carbs).
Let's back up.
Food is made of three major (macro)nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Your body uses each of these nutrients for a specific purpose. A tragedy (well, that's melodramatic, but you get the idea) of our culture is mixing up the intended purpose of each.
Carbs are your body's main energy source. Your muscles and your brain run on - and prefer to use - calories from carbs. That's right; our bodies are built to run on carbs.
Carbs come from starches and sweets. Not all are created equal - some are really good for you (fruits, legumes, starchy veggies, and whole grains that contain lots of fiber) and some are just empty calories (the sugar in the Salted Caramel Mocha that I'm drinking this morning).
Proteins are the building blocks for your body. They make up many different components of cells (like ribosomes), DNA, muscles, enzymes, hormones, and more. Protein is pretty important, but you really don't need all that much of it - about 10-20% of your daily calories should come from protein.
Animal sources of protein (like meat, milk, or eggs) are complete sources of protein - meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. Vegetarian sources of protein don't contain all of the essential amino acids (except soy, which does), so you need to eat complimentary proteins to get all of them. Grains compliment legumes, so pairing a grain in a meal with a legume will give you all nine of the essential amino acids. Here are a few examples of common complimentary proteins:
- Peanut butter on bread
- Beans and rice
- Lentils and naan
- Corn and black beans
Ah, fat. It's one of America's least favorite nutrients (although lately carbs have really been demonized), but it's one of my personal favorites. Fat has a whole slew of functions in the body: a structural component of cells, transporter of nutrients, storage form of energy, protection and warmth.
Let's be clear: too much fat isn't a good thing. But we do need fat to live! Just like carbs, there are healthy fats (mono- and -polyunsaturated from avocados, nuts, olive oil, etc.) and unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats from butter, lard, bacon, fatty meats, and partially hydrogenated oils).
From now through the end of the year, I'll be highlighting each of these macronutrients in an effort to help you better understand what your food is made of, how your body uses it, and how much of each that it needs.
For today, please join me in tasting this delicious fall Butternut Squash Mexican Skillet dish. Start by heating two tablespoons of canola oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. When shimmering, add diced onion and cook until translucent.
While onion cooks, peel, seed, and dice butternut squash. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and add to sauté pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes until butternut is soft enough to insert a fork. Season with 1 tsp. salt.
Drain and rinse two cans of black beans and add to squash. If you're really organized and have some already-cooked black beans in your freezer, add four cups of these instead of canned beans.
Add two cans of tomatoes, or about 4 medium fresh tomatoes if your garden is still producing. Stir together and then add two cups of frozen corn (hopefully you froze some sweet corn from the summer - this is the best!).
Add an additional 1/2 tsp. salt, a teaspoon of cumin, a tablespoon of cilantro, and two teaspoons chili powder. Stir to combine and cook until beans and tomatoes are heated through, about 10 minutes more. Gently stir every few minutes to prevent vegetables from burning.
Serve hot, topped with shredded cheese and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. This is really good wrapped up in a soft tortilla and eaten as a burrito. Yum.
Butternut Squash Mexican Skillet
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (about 6 cups)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil
- 2 (14.5 oz) cans black beans (or 2 cups)
- 1 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
- 2 c. frozen corn
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 Tbsp. cilantro
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. When shimmering, add diced onion and cook until translucent.
- While onion cooks, peel, seed, and dice butternut squash. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and add to sauté pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes until butternut is soft enough to insert a fork. Season with 1 tsp. salt.
- Drain and rinse black beans and add to squash along with tomatoes and corn.
- Add additional 1/2 tsp. salt, cumin, cilantro, and chili powder.
- Stir to combine and cook until beans and tomatoes are heated through, about 10 minutes more. Gently stir every few minutes to prevent vegetables from burning.
- Serve hot, topped with shredded cheese and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.
Serves 5 - Serving Size: 2 cups - Nutrients per serving: 448 calories -- 8g total fat -- 1g saturated fat -- 0mg cholesterol -- 755mg sodium -- 81g total carbohydrates -- 21g fiber -- 20g protein