Hey there and welcome everyone to another installment of the Meal Plan. I hope everyone had a good week last week. It’s election day in Canada; a day when we Canadians cast our votes to choose our Member of Parliament and ultimately determine which party will be leading our government for the next session.  No matter what your political preference is, we can all agree that there are many delicious autumn foods available that we can look forward to trying. Today I’m going to take a look at  one of the most popular of the current seasonal foods: butternut squash.

Butternut squash, also known as butternut pumpkin, is a species of winter squash, though it is available all year round. The name winter squash refers instead to the long shelf life of certain species of fully matured squash, thus making them ideal foods for winter time. Butternut squash is distinguishable from other forms of squash by their badge colouring and their fruit shape, which is elongated the closer it grows to the vine, but ends in a large bulb. Their taste has been described as sweet and nutty, hence the name butternut.

Nutrition wise, butternut squash contain a number of essential nutrients. It has a high amount of Vitamins, including Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A is essential to improving and maintaining your vision, as well as fighting off eye infections. Vitamin C is used in fending off illnesses and improving your immune system. Butternut squash also has high levels of fiber, which is used by your body to aid in digestion, relieving constipation, and aiding in balancing blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Finally, this squash contains a high level of calcium, a mineral which is used in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth.

Thanks to its thin skin and unique flavour, butternut squash is a very popular food used in a variety of recipes. The most popular meal is butternut squash soup, but there are other ways to prepare a meal with butternut squash, such as this recipe for an amazing vegetarian lasagna from myrecipes.com

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Healthy Butternut Squash Lasagna

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/butternut-squash-lasagna-0

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cupschopped onion
  • 10 cupfresh spinach
  • ¾ cupshredded sharp provolone cheese
  • ½ cupchopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoonsalt
  • ½ teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
  • 2large eggs
  • 1 carton part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1carton fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 3 cupsdiced peeled butternut squash
  • 6 cupsSmoky Marinara sauce
  • 12oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 1 cupgrated fresh Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 1 ½ minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine provolone, parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheeses in a large bowl.
  • Place squash in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high 5 minutes or until tender.
  • Coat the bottom and sides of 2 (8-inch-square) baking dishes with cooking spray. Spread ½ cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of one prepared dish. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 ½ cups squash over cheese mixture; spread ¾ cup sauce over squash.
  • Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange 1 ½ cups onion mixture over cheese mixture; spread ¾ cup sauce over spinach mixture.
  • Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients in remaining pan. Cover each pan with foil.
  • Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.
  • To freeze unbaked lasagna: Prepare through Step 6. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
  • To prepare frozen unbaked lasagna: Thaw completely in refrigerator (about 24 hours). Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover lasagna with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly.
  • Makes 6 servings.

Butternut squash and pasta are a great combination that’s not only delicious but nutritious as well. Enjoy and remember, eating healthy is so simple with us!