Butternut squash (it’s actually known as a butternut pumpkin in Australia and New Zealand) is available beginning in the fall and lasting through the winter. Of all the winter squash choices, butternut squash is hands down my favourite and babies tend to agree with me.
It tastes delicious roasted, which brings out the natural sugars and rich flavour, and can be served with a little olive oil and garlic on its own or diced in soups or a salad topping. A staple in my freezer is a rich flavourful butternut squash soup – its creamy texture makes it feel like a cream soup without the fat and calories of a cream-based soup.
You can get a lot of bang for your buck with butternut squash. The butternut variety typically weighs 2 to 5 pounds, and is 8 to 13 inches long. As with a pumpkin, butternut squash contains seeds, which can easily be scooped out with a spoon (unlike pumpkin seeds, those of the butternut squash are not typically cooked and eaten).
As the name would indicate, butternut squash is known for its sweet, nutty flavour. The bright golden flesh is often compared in appearance and taste to a sweet potato. The more orange the flesh inside, the sweeter the squash usually tastes.
Butternut squash provides a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, and is also rich in potassium, fibre and folate. The beta-carotene found in butternut squash makes it an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which may help protect against factors that lead to heart attack and stroke, and can lessen the symptoms associated with asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. For diabetics, these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics can also assist in the regulation of blood sugar levels and may help in the prevention of diabetic heart disease.
Meanwhile, lower blood pressure is the benefit of good potassium intake, and high-fibre foods are touted for their ability to lower the risk of colon cancer.
Not only is butternut squash rich in vitamins and fibre, it’s also a low-calorie and low-fat food, averaging about 80 calories and one gram of fat for one cup of cooked, mashed squash. And though it’s compared to sweet potato in terms of colour and sweet flavour, butternut squash is not a starchy root vegetable and has approximately 18 grams of carbohydrates for the one mashed cup serving compared to the roughly 50 grams found in sweet potatoes.
How to Select and Use
Look for a smooth and firm skinned squash. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 2 months.
Oh the possibilities! Once butternut squash is cooked, it can be used for a variety of purposes including as a purée or soft finger food, in muffins, puréed into soups, or cubed for use in pasta dishes, casseroles and soups. It’s even great eaten on its own as a delicious side dish!
How to Prep
For roasting, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a heavy sharp knife, cut the squash lengthwise in half. Scrape out seeds and fibrous strings and discard.
Place squash in a baking pan, cut-side down. Pour water into the pan, bringing the water level up to ¼ inch up the sides of the squash.
Roast until tender with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes depending on the size. Let cool.
Scoop out flesh and purée in the food processor until smooth. Add breast milk, water or formula to thin squash purée until desired consistency is reached. Liquid measurements in squash typically work on a 1:3 ratio, equivalent to 1 cup of cooked flesh purées with 1/3 cup of liquid.
Tip: If you ever add too much liquid, thicken with a little rice cereal!
How to Serve Squash to Baby
For younger babies
Save one cup of cooking water, drain squash and purée in the food processor, adding water gradually until a desired consistency is reached.
How to store: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days. Considering an entire squash can produce a fair amount of baby food, you will want to consider filling ice-cube trays to freeze. Once frozen, pop out cubes and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
For the advanced baby
Now that baby is a wee bit older and looking for more texture or complex flavours, simply add a little couscous, quinoa or brown rice with a pinch of cinnamon to the purée.
Bite-sized pieces also work great with squash. Instead of roasting whole, peel and dice squash before roasting. You can create soft and tasty bite-sized pieces perfect for self-feeding.
Quick Tip: If you are in a hurry, boiling is the quickest way to prep a purée. Follow prep instructions, peel and dice into 1” cubes. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes until a knife can easily pierce.