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Easy Butternut Squash ‘sabzi’ (Indian veg. preparation) and how to plan your weekly menu when life is crazy

February 23, 2011
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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:

Serves 2


  • 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

25 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2011 1:29 pm

    mmmm…this looks good! my husband have been trying to cut out meat from our diets during the weekdays just to be healthier and I have been running out of things to make even though there are so many different sabzis and all! I will have to try this out. Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • February 23, 2011 1:44 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Nadia! Hope you’re better now after your illness. Over the last year, I’ve managed to prepare veg food and seafood (barring shrimp) on most days of the month. We do only about 2 lbs of chicken a month. Its a transition that took some time but we got there ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. February 23, 2011 5:29 pm

    What a fabulous idea! Replacing potatoes with butternut squash is an awesome substitution, and healthier too. Thanks for the lovely recipe my friend! And the tips.

    I’m glad that you are finally feeling better!

    • February 24, 2011 12:09 pm

      Glad you like the recipe Ameena. Yes moving to healthier Indian recipes is quite the quest I’m on. I’m happy that moms like you appreciate the tips.

  3. February 23, 2011 6:56 pm

    This looks amazing – you know how I love butternut squash! I made a mexican version of the same kind of thing – squash roasted with oil, garlic & chipotle puree, and we eat that with tortillas…but I’m definitely going to have to try this version soon!

    • February 24, 2011 12:05 pm

      Yes I had tried your mexican version for a veggie dinner I had planned. Remember, I had emailed you about it? I had made it with sweet potatoes then. It was so yum! Too bad I didn’t take pics then or get a chance to make it again to blog about it…

  4. February 24, 2011 4:15 am

    A beautiful blog and a spirited blogger.
    Enjoyed reading your posts!
    This my first visit to your blog and I must say I love it. I love the enthusiasm, the spirit of adventure that exudes from each of your post.


    I like the photos too Ms. Photographer ๐Ÿ™‚

    • February 24, 2011 12:07 pm

      So glad you found my blog and enjoy it, Anita ๐Ÿ™‚ You have quite a spunky blog yourself! Can’t wait to spend more time on it. Hope to see you around here again!

  5. February 25, 2011 9:55 am

    Hi Sabera,
    I’ve been following your blog for quite some time. As has been for several food blogs, Farida Harianawala told me about your blog too. I totally and absolutely relate to your post. I graduate in three weeks from my program. And for the last 2 years – I’ve planned my meals the way you mentioned. Prepare the menu on Friday or Saturday, do the grocery, and cook on Sunday afternoon. What I’ve noticed is cooking 5-6 dishes is fairly quick if you plan out your cooking and chop common things like onions, ginger, etc for all dishes at once. It’s healthy too. And after a long day of work and school, all you want is food when you are home!! It’s during finals week that either the hubby does stuff or we rely on good ol’ frozen food from the store! And quarter/ semester breaks are times for me to experiment with foods that need elaborate prep work or are time consuming.
    Good luck with school! It’s not easy, but believe in yourself. It helps

  6. February 26, 2011 10:01 am

    This looks great. Thanks for stopping by my site so i could find yours

  7. March 1, 2011 6:16 pm

    Did WordPress just eat my coment? In any case, I was saying I love these tips. I’ve never contemplated an almost cooked daal. It’s just genius. We also do a breakfast for dinner every other week or so. Nothing like pancakes to end the day ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. March 2, 2011 3:36 pm

    Some great tips there.I am pretty bad at planning meals so no matter how much effort I put I am thown off the gear at the last moment ๐Ÿ™‚ Your sabzi looks yum.I am nt a big fan of butternut-find it sweet but wud love to try your way with some other squash.

  9. March 7, 2011 12:09 am

    Enjoyed your post and all those ideas are perfect . In fact when I was in bangalore, before I got married and move to US and took the role of a homemaker, I used to cook alternate days and certain weeks I used to cook only twice but it used to be enough to feed me the whole week. Some weeks I used to cook half and then just before serving myself I would do a retouch and voila !! Glad to find your blog and stay warm.

  10. March 6, 2012 10:27 am

    May I know if I can omit the Amchur? Will it have a big effect on the taste?
    I’m not sure if I can find it here.

  11. October 10, 2012 5:42 pm

    Nice dish! Ive just made a sabzi myself. Happy cooking, lee

  12. SunIcarus permalink
    December 18, 2012 10:10 pm

    Found and made butternut squash using your recipe. Extremly delicious and healthy as well. Thank you

  13. January 23, 2013 8:09 pm

    I wasn’t in the mood for butternut squash soup, so I searched the internet, found and made this dish. Excellent. Thank you.

  14. February 8, 2013 7:27 pm

    Tried the recipe to surprise my husband… He loved it!
    i have been wanting to try new vegetables apart from the usual beans, etc… It is gonna be my new party favorite!

    Thanks a ton! Loved your blog..

  15. June 8, 2014 11:11 am

    So what can I replace amchur powder with if I can’t find it in my local speciality store?

  16. Sonia permalink
    October 19, 2016 12:03 pm

    loved your article ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š where do you get those in India? and, what do you call them here ??

  17. September 15, 2017 5:49 pm

    What means 1 tsp cumin & coriander powder?

  18. Pinkie Pamnani permalink
    December 12, 2018 1:59 pm

    Hi there,
    By accident I landed on your blog – great work! Thanks for sharing your ideas. I’m a vegan and like yourself a very busy individual. I like to economize on daily food, in the sense – that I prefer to make food at home – so that’s its wholesome, and easily can provide multiple meals by cooking for a couple hours every couple days. Not to mention, its much healthier and definitely more hygienic (and cheaper). You must have graduated with flying colors. Congratulations! Getting back to Butter Nut Squash – I’ve been using it in place of potatoes in Pav Bhaji but never tried anything “solo” with BNS. Your recipe sound wonderful – I’ll definitely try it out tonight. PS: I’ve always thought of having a blog of my own but I’m intimidated with all the details and innovative ideas that I would need to share.

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