How nice to be back home after almost three weeks on the road!
Although we thoroughly enjoy traveling and loved every aspect of our recent visit with family in London as well as a getaway to Provence, it’s wonderful to stand on good old U.S. soil, sleep in our own bed and, for me, to start cooking again in my little Carolina kitchen!
I do have to admit though, I had a bit of a reality shock not long after getting back.
It was an uneventful return trip from London on Tuesday, and in the days following, we experienced the usual adjustment to a different time zone. Slowly, it seemed, we were getting back on track. However, a realization that I needed to speed things up a bit came on Thursday afternoon, when I took my mother-in-law grocery shopping.
“Why in the world, is the grocery store so busy on a weekday afternoon?” I thought. We normally beat the rush hour craziness by shopping during the mid afternoon hours, but this day, things were different. People were rushing here and there and it seemed that every aisle was bustling with customers of all ages and lots of shopping-cart-traffic-jams. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Then I happened to look in their carts. Turkeys. Lots of turkeys. Turkeys in almost every cart. Big turkeys, little turkeys and all sizes in between! “Oh my gosh!”, I thought, as reality sunk in. Being out of the country for the first three weeks of November, I’d hardly given Thanksgiving a thought. Suddenly, I realized the beloved American holiday was imminently approaching. Yikes!
So I’ve changed gears and started thinking in “Thanksgiving mode”. We won’t be having a huge crowd for dinner on Thursday, probably 9 all together, but I’m planning what I’ll serve and making to-do lists. I’ll have some wonderful help – my daughter-in-law, Lindsay is famous for her delicious Stuffing Muffins, fabulous Bacon Wrapped, Roasted Green Bean Bundles and the most amazing Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie you’ve every had the pleasure of meeting, so we’ll be working as a team. (Lindsay, are you okay with this deal?)
I’ll be in charge of the turkey, potatoes, dinner rolls and vegetables. I like to serve at least two veggie sides and have fun each year coming up with new ideas. Last year it was these Honey Maple Roasted Carrots.
This year I was inspired by some beautiful butternut squash I found on sale at the market. I decided a new flavor combination would be fun, so I combined melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup with a touch of curry and a dash of cinnamon. I diced my squash fairly small, combining it with the sweet, warm-spiced brown sugar mixture, then roasted it in a super hot oven till tender and glazed.
The beauty of this dish is that it can be prepared ahead. After the delicious squash comes out of the oven you can transfer it right to the dish you plan serve it on and let it cool. Then just cover it with plastic wrap and stash it in the fridge. Remove the dish about an hour ahead and simply re-warm it in the microwave for a few minutes before serving. (I’d recommend 50% power for 3-5 minutes, depending on your microwave and of course, check to make sure your serving dish is microwave-safe.)
As you can probably see, I love to add a sprinkle of pomegranate arils (seeds) to my veggies at this time of the year – they’re cheap and add a beautiful, gourmet touch. If you’re intimidated by the thought of de-seeding a pomegranate, no worries, I’ve got you covered! I used to steer clear of poms, as the whole process of removing the arils seemed so complicated. Then several years ago, I discovered an easy-peasy technique that blew my mind. It seemed too good to be true, but it wasn’t! With my cameraman at my side we put together a photo tutorial – The Easy Way to Remove Pomegranate Seeds – so you could enjoy pomegranates now as much as we do!
I bet you still have a bit of grocery shopping to do before Thanksgiving, right? While you’re there, throw a nice big butternut squash in your cart, some fresh rosemary and parsley – and a pomegranate too!
Whether you’ve been asked to bring a side, or you’re in charge of cooking the whole meal, this easy and delicious Roasted Brown Sugar-Curry Butternut Squash will be sure to bring rave reviews at any holiday table!
P.S. Do you think I’m really that patient to spend the time dicing the butternut squash so small and uniform? Well, thank you!
But to be honest, I’m really not – at all! I have a secret little kitchen helper that I use to dice up a mess of apples, carrots, onions, celery, cucumbers, potatoes or butternut squash in minutes. It’s one of my favorite kitchen gadgets ever and I’m forever pulling it out to make preparing soups, salads and sides so much quicker. Scott always laughs when he hears the “bam!, bam!, bam!” noise that it makes. He knows though, that there’s probably something yummy in the making.
I used to think this chopper didn’t work for super hard veggies like winter squash, but I’ve found it to be an amazing little workhorse as long as I don’t try to dice slices of veggies that are larger than the cutting screen (been there, done that!)
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- 1 large (about 3 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced in to ½″ pieces*
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon mild curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 475˚F. Line two sheet pans with heavy duty foil for easy clean up. (Don't try to do it on one, as the squash will tend to cook and get mushy rather than roast and glaze.) Drizzle each pan lightly with oil. Spread oil to coat with a paper towel.
- Combine melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, curry powder, cinnamon, salt and a generous grind of black pepper in a large bowl. Stir to thoroughly coat squash with the butter mixture.
- Divide the the diced squash between the two pans and spread out in a single layer. Scrape any remaining butter mixture over the squash in the two pans.
- Place the two pans on a middle and upper rack in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, then remove and stir to redistribute. Return pans to oven on opposite racks. Roast for another 8-10 minutes or until golden and tender. Watch carefully towards the end to avoid burning.
- Remove from oven and transfer with a flat spatula to a serving platter or bowl. If serving right away, sprinkle with pomegranate arils, rosemary and parsley.
- If making in advance, do not add the pomegranate arils or herbs. Instead, allow to cool, then cover and store in refrigerator. Remove from refrigerator about an hour ahead and warm in microwave for a few minutes just before serving (I recommend 3-5 minutes, or until hot, on 50% power level. How long it takes will depend on your microwave). Then sprinkle with pomegranate arils and herbs. Enjoy!
You can buy butternut squash already peeled and diced, but the pieces are usually fairly large and not uniform. This prepared squash will work just fine, but won't look as pretty. If you choose to purchase a whole squash and prepare it yourself, here are a few tips:
1.) Place whole squash in the microwave and cook on high power for 2 minutes (for a large squash). This will not cook the squash, but will make it much easier to peel and cut as it softens it slightly.
2.) Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer skin. (It's crazy, but I've found in England, where my daughter lives, the skin is much more tender and doesn't have to be peeled although, for this dish, it will look prettier peeled.) I really like this peeler. It's simple and inexpensive, but works great.
3.) Once the squash is peeled, slice it, crosswise into ½-inch slices and then dice the slices. I like to take a thin slice off of the side of the squash before I start slice so the squash won't roll around as I slice.
4.) I have a secret little kitchen helper that I use to dice a butternut squash in minutes. It's one of my favorite kitchen gadgets. I used to think this chopper didn't work for super hard veggies like winter squash but I've found it to be an amazing little workhorse as long as I don't try to dice pieces of veggies that are larger than the cutting screen (yup, been there, done that!)