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Versatile vegetable side dish can be dressed up or down

Recipe: Baked butternut squash casserole, plain or fancy

Orange casserole in a white dish on oven rack
Who needs marshmallows? Butternut squash's beautiful golden-orange color adds to the festive look of the Thanksgiving meal. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Butternut squash subs for sweet potatoes in this lighter (and potentially healthier) version of a classic fall casserole. I say “potentially” because, like sweet potato casserole, it depends on what you put on top. Loaded with a layer of toasted mini marshmallows, it’s hard to describe a casserole as “healthier.”

But that’s the beauty of this butternut dish; it doesn’t need a fancy topping to be appealing. It’s tasty plain and golden brown.

If you like pumpkin pie spice, add more than a half teaspoon, which gives just a hint of seasonal spiciness. Or use one or more of this handy spice mixture’s ingredients: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.
Baked butternut squash casserole
Makes 6 to 8 servings


Peeled and cubed butternut squash
Butternut squash is peeled, seeded and cubed for the recipe,
which requires just a few other ingredients.
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

¼ cup cream

1 egg, beaten

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup (½ stick) butter or margarine, melted and cooled

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or more if desired)


Steam squash until tender. Mash. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a 2-quart casserole dish; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together cream and beaten egg.

Mix together sugar and cornstarch. Add to cream mixture.

In a large bowl, combine mashed squash with melted butter. Fold in cream-cornstarch mixture.

Season to taste with salt and pumpkin pie spice.

Pour squash mixture into prepared casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees about 40 minutes, until top is golden brown and, when inserted, a thin-bladed knife comes out clean.

Serve warm.

Note: Add to the sweetness, texture or crunch with something extra on top. Possible toppings: Graham cracker crumbs, chopped walnuts or pecans, mini marshmallows. Sprinkle topping over casserole before baking with the exception of marshmallows. Add marshmallows in final 20 minutes of baking to avoid over-browning.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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