Butternut squash + chicken pasta

With Halloween just around the corner, do you have pumpkin on the brain? I certainly do! Although today’s ‘beauty eats’ dish does not use pumpkin as an ingredient, it does feature a close cousin – the butternut squash. Last week, Divya from Flavour Fiesta and I were brainstorming over lunch in Yorkville, and we had the most delicious butternut squash ravioli. I suppose it’s no surprise where we got our inspiration from!

Doesn’t that pasta look like a hearty meal? Made with butternut squash, roasted red pepper, tomatoes and herbed chicken, it’s a comforting weeknight dinner that takes under 30 minutes to make.
You might ask now, how can I make something with butternut squash in less than 30 minutes? Well, the trick is to use frozen squash! I really do enjoy eating squash in the fall, but I’m not big on preparing it at home since it does take some time with all the chopping, roasting and pureeing. It’s so much easier with frozen squash and that way I can enjoy it more often! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying frozen vegetables as they are usually harvested at their nutritional peak. It’s such a time saver!
As for the actual pasta, we used kamut pasta for this dish. It’s very similar in flavour to whole wheat pasta, but it has a slightly nuttier taste. Plus it has more protein and minerals than whole wheat. For those of you who aren’t familiar with kamut, it’s a strain of wheat that is said to be an “ancient” form of wheat. It’s produced organically and is not genetically modified, making it a good alternative to regular wheat. It used to be available at just health food stores, but it’s slowly making its way to your local supermarkets. Try it out the next time you’re shopping for pasta!

This recipe has a number of herbs to balance out the sweetness of the butternut squash. Rosemary, oregano and basil also add some skin-friendly anti-oxidants. Finally, a pasta dish you can feel good about eating!

serves 5-6

2.5 cups uncooked kamut or whole wheat penne
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp dried basil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp paprika
½ tsp dried oregano
2 cups cooked butternut squash, pureed
1 roasted red pepper (I used jarred), chopped
½ cup strained tomatoes
½ cup low-sodium chicken stock
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp buttermilk
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 385 degrees. While the oven preheats, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Mix the chicken with 1 tbsp oil, rosemary, basil, salt and pepper and transfer to a baking pan. Cover the pan with foil and cook for 20 minutes.
Note: The chicken will not brown if you use this method, but it will remain moist and juicy. If you prefer to cook on the stovetop, that works too! Just be careful that it doesn’t overcook and dry out.
Step 2: While the chicken is cooking, prepare the pasta sauce. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion in 1 tbsp oil on medium heat until golden. Add the garlic, paprika and oregano and stir for 30 seconds. Add the roasted red pepper, butternut squash, strained tomatoes and stock and cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Once done, blend well using an electric blender and add salt to taste. Return to the saucepan for Step 3.
Step 3: Once the chicken is cooked through, add it to the pasta sauce and cook on low for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the buttermilk, lemon juice and freshly cracked pepper.
Step 4: Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box until al dente and strain.
Step 5: Serve the pasta with a generous helping of sauce and chicken. Top off with parmesan cheese if desired.

Don’t you love consuming fruits that are in season? Hearty fruits can be the ultimate comfort food and they will keep your skin in tiptop shape to withstand the dry, bitter cold that lies ahead. Here are this week’s ingredient highlights:

Butternut Squash: If I had to pick my favourite fall fruit for skin health, it would be this one (and yes, butternut squash is a fruit)! Like many other fruits, butternut squash is rich in Vitamin C, excels in the carotenoid department (meaning that it provides excellent antioxidant activity) and it boasts anti-inflammatory benefits. But unlike most fruits, butternut squash contains omega 3’s – essential fatty acids necessary for supple and healthy complexions!

Roasted Red Pepper: Carotenoids for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties? Check. Vitamin E for cell repair? Check. Vitamin C for collagen stimulation? Check. Low in fat? Check. Talk about a no-brainer ‘beauty eats’ ingredient!

Tomatoes: Contains the free-radical scavenging lycopene, which can protect the skin against photo-damage and environmental pollutants. It’s no wonder the beauty industry has been latching onto tomatoes as the new ‘fountain of youth’.

Buttermilk: Buttermilk is another smart way to incorporate probiotics into your diet. If you are suffering from acne or skin sensitivities, probiotics may be your new BFF. Ah yes, and it also contains less fat than regular milk, but is still rich in potassium, vitamin B12, calcium and riboflavin. It is now possible to have buttery smooth complexions!

Let us know how it goes – leave a comment!


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