Maple-Cider Roasted Butternut Squash with Fennel and Crisped Sage
It's officially winter in my part of the world - icy snow glitters in the sunlight and soft powdery mounds gather at the base of trees. Prints track across the yard; rabbits I think, and the frost-covered pond is still and quiet. Bundled up in burrows, trees and leafy dens, the animals only venture out to make last forays for the fall berries and nuts they stashed just days before. Purples, pinks and oranges make every morning a sherbet colored day break over a white world.
The new season is a harbinger of a new year; 2022 has begun and for many it is a time of recreation. For some, a new year may not mean much, but for a lot of Americans (1 in 4 according to an Economist/YouGov Poll on 12/23/2021), it's time for resolutions!
Sustainability Spotlight: "And what kind of resolution are people making? The most popular resolutions overall are to become healthier (sometimes through exercise), personal improvement or happiness, and the perennial favorite of losing weight. One in five of those making a New Year’s resolution this year have made each of those three categories their priority for the new year..." (YouGov.com).
Did you know that going vegan this Veganuary as your resolution can meet all three of the most popular resolutions? Sure! Vegan is healthier (more fruits and veggies is a given!), can lead to personal improvement and happiness (I literally haven't met one vegan that isn't thrilled with the mood boosts and how they feel in their own body after transitioning - must be all that good for you food), and of course can help you lose weight (see any stats on going vegan; I myself lost 10% of my body weight, and am stronger than I ever was before).
But aside from what veganism can do for you, can we make this Veganuary about what it does for the planet and your individual contributions to sustainability? Food packaging wastes are less on whole foods and vegetables (Note, skip the plastic at the store, go bagless or do reusable produce bags). Pollution is less on whole foods and vegetables (Less processing at a factory = less air, water and landfill wastes to get the food to you. Less animal containing ingredients reduce the pollution from concentrated animal feed operations which include odor, stormwater runoff, and air pollution (methane) to start).
Look, I'm a realist, people are innately selfish; it's evolution, all animals are, including humans, we can't help it at our core. Going vegan has to help you (see above), but what if I told you it helps you not just today, but for your future. And your children's future? Yeah, see, now I'm getting to the other core tenant of evolution, the need for humans to "carry on;" to have a future.
Seriously, it's that simple. To have a future on this planet (you know, the only planet that we have ever found that carries life as we know it), we must change. We must change for the better and we must change individually to aggregate that change for our survivability.
Start with 2022 giving vegan diets a try and start with this recipe because it's easy, delicious and nutritious! Happy Veganuary!!
1 extra large butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, and chunked - you want slightly large pieces here)
1/2 red onion (halved again and sliced thin with a mandoline - Level 2)
1 large fennel bulb (halved and sliced thin with a mandoline - Level 2)
5 garlic cloves (sliced thin with a mandoline - Level 1)
small handful fennel fronds (diced)
1 handful of fresh sage (whole leaves)
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp stone ground mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch of oregano
Optional Garnishes: Diced Red Onion & Fennel Fronds
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Add all Maple-Cider Vinaigrette ingredients to a large bowl; whisk to incorporate all ingredients.
All all other ingredients to the large bowl and stir thoroughly with your hands to incorporate all ingredients.
Add all ingredients to a 4-qt casserole dish (ensure that you have a tightly fitted lid for this casserole dish). You could most likely be able to use a regular dutch oven; however, I didn't test this method.
Top casserole dish with lid and roast at 375 degrees F for ~25 minutes.
Remove casserole dish (careful! this is very hot), remove lid, and stir all ingredients. Replace lid
Turn up heat to 425 degrees F, slide casserole dish back into the oven and roast for another ~25 minutes (Note: no need to wait for the temp to be just at temp; just crank it up and put the casserole dish in).
Remove dish from oven (careful! It's crazy hot now!) and set over a trivet to cool (you want the air to circulate). Remove lid (also very hot) so the veggies stop steaming.
Top with extra fennel fronds and diced red onion to brighten the dish.
Bonus NYE Meal Plan: Serve alongside a vegan "ham" and a great big salad (like my Warm Mushroom Panzanella Salad with Garlic-Mustard Vinaigrette). Finish the meal with V&V's Raw Cran-Berry Salad.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie