Easy Butternut Squash ‘sabzi’ (Indian veg. preparation) and how to plan your weekly menu when life is crazy
First off – let me apologize for being away for over 2 weeks. Life has been particularly insane since my last post. First, I fell ill with viral cough, cold & fever. Two big packets of Earl Grey tea, a large jar of honey, multiple pots of chicken soup and a bottle of vitamin C supplements later, I finally nursed myself back to health in a week, only to be violently bombarded with the miracle that is Economics Analysis. I’m now moving to the topic of Graduate school. Don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with the details but oh my #$%@*&^%!!! lord! Like… how am I supposed to study all those complicated graphs and formulae in order for me to get a decent grade and not shame my family, my community and not to mention myself?! In this regard, only God can help (and copious amounts of studying).
What I’ve also been struggling with, is trying to make home-cooked meals every day and minimize eating out. I have classes in the evenings, which means I get home way past dinner time. I have to have something ready and prepared for my husband and myself for dinner on nights I have class, so we don’t eat out. Fortunately for me, the skills I learned while managing a household the last 2 years really really help.
Some guidelines that help me get healthy meals on the table and save tons of money are:
1. Plan a menu and micro-manage your grocery list
This is really easy to do when you take a little bit of time to get organized. I have a Google doc. that is a laundry list of all the possible dishes me and my husband like. Every week, I simply refer to that file and randomly choose 6-7 items to prepare that week. Then, I make my grocery list based on the week’s menu. At the grocery store, I only buy what I need. Packs of loaf cake, deals on chips and interesting breads all look tempting but sticking to the grocery list makes sure we eat healthy and minimizes snacking and leftovers.
Personally for me, planning a grocery list beforehand helps me to look for coupons as well.
2. Prepare 2 dishes or more at a time
If you know your schedule for the next few days is going to be crazy and you’ll get home starving and ready to eat almost anything, make 2-3 dishes at a go when you have the time to avoid eating out. Again, having a menu and the necessary groceries help you to prepare a few dishes in under 2 hours.
3.Partially prepare some foods beforehand and stock up on ‘emergency’ food items
- Stock up on ‘emergency’ food items like canned low-sodium soups, shaved turkey breast and whole grain bread to make a quick soup and sandwich meal just in case you don’t have anything prepared.
- Store foods like ready cut Tilapia fish that cooks in only 10-15 minutes. Serve with a salad.
- Partially prepare a lentil like yellow or black lentil in the pressure cooker. It helps you whip up a quick dal in under 20 minutes. Boil any lentil in the pressure cooker until fully cooked and store in airtight containers. Then, when you’re pressed for time, simply follow the recipe like in this earlier post. While the dal is being prepared, cook some rice in a rice cooker, or serve the dal with store-bought frozen parathas.
And now to the recipe for Butternut Squash ‘sabzi’.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a sabzi is a generic Hindi word for any vegetable preparation that is eaten with Rotis or Parathas (Indian flatbread). The Buttternut Squash is not available in India, but my sister, who is much more of an experimental cook than I am, prepared the vegetable in an Indian style. I have used her recipe to make this dish. The result is a really yummy, sweet-n-spicy dish that goes really well with Indian flatbread and as a side with the humble dal-chawal alike.
I had also mentioned this recipe on the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market Radio show, where I was invited to talk about Indian cooking last Fall. Here’s how you make it:
- 1 small Butternut squash, peeled, cleaned and cut in 1.5 inch cubes
- 1 large shallot or 1 medium red onion, medium sliced
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp black mustard seeds
- 2 sliced green chilies
- 1/4 tsp dried mango powder (amchur)
- 2-3 curry leaves (optional)
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp Cumin & Coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- Light sprinkling of salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the Butternut squash cubes with the sliced onions in it. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and toss with your hands. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and lightly crunchy on the outside and the onions are caramelized.
- Prepare the spice mix in the mean time: mix the chili, turmeric, cumin, coriander and amchur powders in a bowl.
- Once the squash is cooked, heat the remaining olive oil in a medium cooking pot. When the oil is hot add the mustard seeds. Stand back the seeds will splutter. Then turn the heat down and add the curry leaves and sliced green chillies. Add the roasted butternut squash and onions and then add the spice mix. Mix well and adjust salt or any spices if necessary. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and serve hot with naan or roti