Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I was born on Thanksgiving day. Growing up, my mom used to call me her “little Butterball.” I’ve always loved Thanksgiving in its modern form– an autumnal day of thanks, where family and friends gather to eat great food, spend quality time together, and watch a few football games. It’s a grand American tradition that I look forward to all year long.
Of course, the deeper history of Thanksgiving isn’t quite as cozy or romantic as we view it now. The first Thanksgiving was actually a 3-day political meeting between the English colonists and the Native American Wampanoag tribe. While this meeting did include feasting, it was not remotely similar to the Thanksgiving dinners we enjoy today… and sadly, the peace between the colonists and the Native Americans did not last. I’ll be covering the deeper history and culinary roots of the holiday on The History Kitchen in the coming weeks, including some historical recipes to shed light on what Thanksgiving was like hundreds of years ago.
Here in my kitchen, I thought it would be fun to develop some dairy-free healthy side dishes to add to the holiday mix. Thanksgiving is an awesome opportunity to indulge, but I hate that heavy feeling that I’m left with after the meal. The sides I’ll be sharing are a bit lighter than the traditional fare– no butter, no cream, yet rich with flavor. Kosher cooks will be able to serve these dairy free sides with a turkey dinner. You won’t miss the dairy, and you definitely won’t miss the calories. They’re also vegan friendly… bonus!
In today’s recipe, I roasted butternut squash to add natural sweetness and flavor to a dairy-free squash puree. The roasted butternut squash caramelizes in the oven and releases its natural sugar, so you only need a touch of maple syrup to sweeten the puree. A little coconut milk adds creaminess and richness to the mix, while cozy pumpkin pie-like seasonings round out the flavor. Cayenne adds just a hint of heat, which takes this puree from good to “I can’t stop eating this” amazing. It’s a healthier alternative to traditional sweet potatoes, which are usually covered with brown sugar and marshmallows. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweet potatoes, and will definitely serve them at Thanksgiving this year. That said, I will probably serve this puree alongside the potatoes as an option for people who are watching their waistline. It’s so easy to make, why not add it to the holiday menu? Heck, why not eat it all season long? It’s healthy and simple enough to add into your regular meal rotation!
For more detailed roasting instructions, or to learn how to roast peeled, pre-cubed squash for this recipe, click here. You’ll also find instructions for roasting the butternut squash seeds, which are every bit as tasty as pumpkin seeds (in fact, I think I might like them even more). Enjoy!
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Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Puree
- 3 1/2 lbs butternut squash
- 1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- Pinch allspice
- Pinch nutmeg
- Pinch cayenne
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off the stem and bottom ends off of the squash so that both ends are flat.
- Set the squash down on the widest flat end on a smooth, solid surface. Use a heavy chef’s knife to cut the squash from top to bottom, slicing it in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon. Reserve them for roasting, if desired.
- Brush the cut surfaces of the squash with olive oil.
- Place the squash halves cut side down onto a baking sheet. Roast the squash for about 1 hour, turning the baking sheet once halfway through cooking, till the squash is very soft and tender all the way through and the skin is browning and blistered. Start checking for doneness around 45 minutes; smaller squash will cook faster.
- When the squash is roasted, scoop the flesh out of the skin and put it in a food processor.
- Add the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and spices.
- Puree for 2-3 minutes till smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste and blend again.
- Serve warm.
Other Great Recipe Ideas:
The Pioneer Woman: Pumpkin Soup
Simply Recipes: Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake
Kalyn’s Kitchen: Agave and Balsamic Glazed Roasted Buttercup Squash
Steamy Kitchen: Pumpkin Mashed Potatoes
Closet Cooking: Butternut Squash Carbonara