Thursday, November 6, 2014

Squash Fries


On my most recent trip home to see my family, my middle sister plucked 3 butternut squash from her garden for me to bring back to Ohio. I was certainly grateful, as the herd of deer (I'm not exaggerating!) that reside in my backyard chose to rip out every last one of my vining plants this year. Those pesky deer also ate everything else, including the hot peppers which they saved for very last. I hope that they got a wicked heartburn!  Quite the animal lover, aren't I?

But I digress, the point of this post is not to rant about my love-hate relationship with the wildlife in my backyard. Fun to watch, not so fun to deal with. Let's get back to the squash. Nearly every fall I make Cream of Butternut Soup, but with 3 squash in my possession, I wanted to explore some other preparations of this late season garden staple. I took my search to Pinterest and ended up making 3 separate recipes with the squash, 2 of them inspired by Pinterest and one an invention of my very own. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about how the other 2 recipes turned out.  Today I feature the simplest of those recipes, Butternut Squash Fries.

 I wanted to introduce squash into my kiddos diet in a way that I was sure they would eat...or at the very least try. My children don't eat french fries often. Mainly because, for them, fast food is a big treat or a necessity on a road trip. And even when we do hit a drive-thru, the fries are not their first priority. They are far more excited about the chance to order a beverage that isn't water, 100% fruit juice, or milk. I know, they are soooo deprived by their controlling, nutrition-conscious mom. They certainly don't get their ambivalent attitude towards fries from me. I happen to LOVE french fries. Unfortunately. Hey, I said "nutrition-conscious". Just because I am conscious of the fact that french fries are not super nutritious doesn't mean that I possess the self-control to completely eliminate them from my diet.  In fact, sometimes my choice of fast food restaurant is driven entirely by the type of fries that I am in the mood for.

While my children do not share my enthusiasm for the perfect batch of fries, I do know that they will eat fries. They are not a scary, new food for them to try. I theorized that disguising squash as fries would be a brilliant way to get them to try butternut squash. Plus, I already had Cheeseburger Soup on the menu for dinner on the night that I served these. I thought that these fries served alongside the soup might be a fun twist on the traditional "Cheeseburger and Fries" pairing. Here's how it came together:


  
I began with a butternut squash with a long neck. This made it easier for cutting fries. I made one initial cut, decapitating the long top of the squash from the rounded bottom, then I peeled both portions with my vegetable peeler. I removed the seeds from the bottom portion and put it into the fridge for use in the soup that I will feature in an upcoming post.


I sliced the top portion into "steak-fry like" sticks.


Then I drizzled them with olive oil and tossed to coat. In my haste, my drizzle turned into more of a pour. Next time, I think I will back off a bit on the oil. It may have prevented my fries from reaching their crispiest potential.


Then I gathered the spices: smoked paprika, garlic salt, and chili powder. I think parmesan cheese would have worked nicely here too.


I liberally sprinkled the spices on the fries and tossed them a bit to coat.


I decided to arrange them on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet (less mess!) to keep them up out of the oil and hopefully contribute to a "crisp" finished product. Next time I think that I'll bake them directly on the foil-lined baking sheet and possibly flip them 5-10 minutes before they finish baking. Pop them into a pre-heated 450 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes until tender in the middle and crispy on the outside. Then plate them and dig in!

 
It is my oldest daughter's habit to ask, "What's for dinner?" within minutes after I pick her up from school. On this day I answered, "Cheeseburger and fries." Eyebrows raised, she looked at me with a certain amount of (warranted) skepticism. "Really?" she asked.  "Yep," I answered.
 
When I served up dinner a few hours later, she confronted me, "You tricked us!"  True. I tricked them- into a healthy, delicious dinner. Guilty as charged. Please note from the picture above: That little hand grabbing for a fry? Yeah, that hand is attached to my 10 year old and she was happy to consume the healthier version of fries that had been placed before her.  
 
 
The baby liked them too. He took great joy in dipping the fries into the Cheeseburger Soup and exclaiming, "Mmmmm." I have to a agree. These fries were delicious!
 
Here is the recipe adapted from Busy in Brooklyn, original recipe found HERE.
 
 
Butternut Squash Fries
 

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