Butternut squash stuffed with lean ground beef travels well to any potluck. The squash's creamy orange flesh, when seasoned with ginger and nutmeg, tastes like pumpkin or sweet potatoes, yet it is equally good with curry powder, cumin and peppercorns or oregano, basil and garlic. Due to the high moisture content in butternut squash, lean ground beef works better than higher-fat hamburger when using it as stuffing. Buttermilk or beef stock turns leftovers into delicious soup in minutes.
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Butternut squash stuffed with 85-percent-lean ground beef provides almost 26 mg of protein, 59 mg of calcium, 570 mg potassium, 15 mg vitamin C, 19 mg folate, nearly 83 mg choline and more than 11,000 IU of vitamin A per 100-g serving. Folate helps synthesize DNA and RNA, prevents neural-tube defects and low birth weight, and forms heme, which transports iron in the blood. Choline aids liver metabolism and makes nutrient transport more effective.
Splitting the Squash
Microwaving a whole butternut squash for three minutes softens it and makes it easier to split. Poke holes in the skin in several places first. If you do not want to microwave the squash, first cut a small piece off one side of the squash to make a flat surface. Split it by pushing the point of a sharpened chef's knife into the skin and striking the end of the knife with a mallet.
Lean ground beef adds less moisture to stuffed butternut squash, preventing mushiness. Surprisingly, hamburger with a 30-percent fat content has almost one-third less cholesterol than 85-percent-lean ground beef, a fact that flies in the face of conventional nutritional wisdom.
If you bake or grill the squash before you stuff it, the reduced moisture content and caramelizing of the flesh makes the squash more flavorful. Spray it with cooking spray, brush it with melted butter or oil, or cover it with bacon strips before baking or grilling it. Once you stuff the squash with ground beef, bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until a meat thermometer stuck in the center of the meat registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
To grill squash, you need a bed of white-hot coals. Place the stuffed butternut squash filled-side down on a sheet of foil, then fold the sides over to make a tightly sealed packet. Turn the packet flat-side up, and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes before you flip it over. After another 10 minutes, stick a meat thermometer into the ground meat. Remove the stuffed butternut squash when the thermometer registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
To keep the squash from sticking to the bottom of the slow cooker, cover the bottom with quartered onions, garlic cloves and chunks of root vegetables. Red onions impart a sweet flavor, while yellow or white onions provide a sharper, spicier taste. Peel and crush the garlic cloves before scattering them evenly among the onion chunks.
The squash needs to lie cut-side-up on top of the other vegetables in your slow cooker. Add no more than 2 cups of liquid to the cooker. Beer, beef stock, red wine or brandy add flavor without overwhelming the squash. Cook on high for two hours before inserting a meat thermometer into the ground meat. Once it registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit, serve the stuffed squash.