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The Dog Ate My Butternut Squash

When my daughter came home for spring break last week, I cooked up a storm.

It’s amazing how much maternal energy you can save up when your kids are away at school. I find I save enough to propel me through several cooking tasks I would otherwise be too crabby to undertake. Before Nora’s arrival, I made hummus, oatmeal cookies, Caesar salad dressing, and a veggie platter and I was still smiling when I was done. It was only when I got into the butternut squash (a favorite side dish of Nora’s) that my mood got gnarly, thanks to an ill-mannered dog named Oliver.

I adore my golden retriever. He has the sweetest personality of anyone in my family; he is never crabby. He loves humans, to a fault--he would happily welcome a burglar into our home—and he expresses anger rarely, and then only in a passive aggressive way. For example, he’ll bury my shoe in the back yard.

He is, however, an incorrigible counter-surfer. Strong and athletic, he can (and will) reach and consume any food that is left within striking distance. This can be quite annoying, especially if you have gone to the trouble of roasting butternut squash. When I allowing the squash to cool after roasting, Oliver polished off half of it while my back was ever-so-briefly turned. He showed no remorse, even after all the verbal abuse.

If I had not been powered by an urge to please my daughter, I’d have certainly bailed on the recipe. But I persisted, chopping and roasting yet another squash. The happy ending was that Oliver suffered no ill effects from eating all that fiber. And the best part? The smile on Nora’s face when she saw the finished product on the dinner table…

Butternut Squash Puree

1 butternut squash, about 2-2 ½ pounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 400º F.

2. Cut the squash in half crosswise. Cut the half with seeds in it in half and remove seeds. Cut the other half lengthwise into four parts. Rub all the squash pieces with olive oil, place them on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 30-35 minutes. Set the squash aside to cool slightly.

3. Peel the squash and place it in the bowl of your food processor. Add the cream and process until you have a puree. Taste the squash and correct the seasoning if necessary. Reheat slightly in the microwave or in a double boiler, and serve.

Variations: Before you roast the squash, sprinkle on ½ teaspoon of curry or chili powder.
If you like your squash sweeter, add a tablespoon of dark brown sugar before you puree. If you like it creamier, add a tablespoon of mascarpone cheese.

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