Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spicy Vegan Butternut Squash And Red Lentil Dahl With Cauliflower And Whole Grain Pasta

Mash dahl and squash with a potato masher to retain chunkiness.

A Last Fling with Winter Squash

It’s almost spring and soon it will become harder to find winter squash but before that happens, let’s have one more fling! Although summer squash is delicious and low in calories, it is mostly water and doesn’t pack the nutritional punch that winter squash does.

The deep orange flesh of a butternut squash is indicative of its high beta carotene content. The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A which is important for healthy vision, growth and development, healthy skin and proper immune function. People with night blindness, dry and scaly skin or who have more frequent infections are often deficient in vitamin A.

Butternut squash is also a very good source of potassium which is important for bone health and is critical in maintaining the proper functioning of the heart, nervous system and the regulation of blood pressure. A good amount of manganese is also found in this winter squash which supports amino acid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as bone health, blood sugar balance and energy production. Butternut squash is also high in fiber and vitamin C.

This spicy soup recipe makes a hearty vegetarian meal. I served it at a dinner party last night along with a salad and some mini corn muffins. Although most of the guests were not vegetarian, no one missed the meat. Its heartiness and high protein content comes from the red lentils and whole grain pasta shells. The squash, cauliflower, red lentils and whole grains also contribute to the 10 grams of heart healthy fiber per serving which also makes it a filling dish.

The “heat” or spicy flavor comes from an old favorite I learned about at the University of Texas – Rotel tomatoes. I recently rediscovered them in a nearby grocery store. I shunned them for many years because I associated them with their famous but extremely unhealthy Velveeta cheese “Queso Dip” recipe which packed 1,410 calories, 99 grams of fat, 64 grams of saturated fat and 8,020 mg of sodium. But I threw the baby out with the bath water when actually the Rotel tomatoes themselves have no fat and are low in calories with only 50 calories in an entire 10 ounce can. They also have an abundance of lycopene from the tomatoes which is said to help lower the risk of prostate cancer. Although Rotel tomatoes are high in sodium, you can use it to flavor your soup if you are careful not to add too much additional salt. If you can't find them, just use a can of diced tomatoes with a fresh jalapeno.


Spicy Butternut Squash and Dahl

[makes 6 servings]
2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups of vegetable broth 
4 ½ cups of diced butternut squash
1 cup of dahl (dried red lentils), rinsed well
1 can of Rotel tomatoes (or a 14.5 can of diced tomato and a jalapeno)

1 teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of ground coriander
½ can of low fat coconut milk
½ head of cauliflower cut into small flowerets
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice

½ teaspoon of salt (more or less to taste)
6 ounces (dry) of whole wheat shell pasta cooked according to directions

In a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven, heat olive oil and sauté onions until soft (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and cook an additional minute or two. 

Add the broth, butternut squash, dahl, Rotel tomatoes, cumin and coriander and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  
After the soup cooks for 30 minutes and the dahl is soft, mash the squash and dahl in the pot with a potato masher (some might wish to puree but I like the resulting chunkiness of the soup and to be able to see the red streaks of the tomato). 
Stir in the coconut milk and the cauliflower flowerets and simmer for another 10 minutes or until they are just soft but not mushy. 
Add the fresh lime juice, add salt to taste. 
Right before serving, stir in the cooked pasta shells, and enjoy.

Per serving: 340 calories, 5.7 g fat, .3 g saturated fat, 13.6 g protein, 60.5 g carbohydrates and 10 g of fiber.

No comments: