Tuesday was my beloved husband’s birthday. He was….well, it really doesn’t matter how old he is, right?! Especially since we’re not celebrating birthday’s this year. We’ve decided that we’ve both reached that age when birthdays are no longer a fun day, but just one more sore reminder of how old we’re both getting. Plus, in these times of economic crisis the only thing we really want is more money in our bank account, so not celebrating in a major way seems to be the best gift of all.
Anyway, I always like to do something special for my beloved on his birthday, even if it’s just baking an unexpected treat for him. He’s not really into desserts much, at least not cakes and cookies so he never asks for a birthday cake. But after all these years of marriage, I know that he does love a good custard and pudding and as it’s fall around these parts I knew just the recipe to help him forget that he was turning another year older.
Butternut Squash Pudding. How much better than that does it get? I know for me, those three little words automatically conger up images of glorious maples in full color, crisp autumn mornings, pumpkins and mums, bountiful harvest of grains and winter veggies. Ah, fall. My favorite season of them all! Have I mentioned to y’all that I love fall? If not, that’s a tragedy. No matter how much I like spring and summer, fall is my most favorite season of them all. But that’s not what I wanted to post about. I’ve got to work on my attention span a little bit.
Sam and I first discovered the joys of butternut squash pudding several years ago when we first started Weight Watchers. I am a dessert hound, and at one of the meetings there was a simple magazine style cookbook on the table – All Things Sweet – of course, there was no way I was gonna let a diet dessert cookbook slip away from me, so I bought it before I ever cracked it open. And I’ll tell ya, of all the WW cookbooks I have accumulated over the years, that is still my go-to cookbook when I want a lovely and tasty diet dessert. Those two words together just sound like such an oxymoron, don’t you think – diet desserts – ha, is there such a thing? It almost makes me want to laugh out loud. Anyway…would someone please take it upon themselves to keep me focused today??
I’ve tweaked and fiddled with this recipe for years, and every time I make it, it always tastes great. It’s good for you (full of vitamins from the squash), low fat (I know, is there really such a thing as low fat pudding that tastes good??? But it’s really true), smells divine, and it has a spectacularly rich autumn color. If you’re a pumpkin or squash fan, I urge you to give this recipe a shot. We often eat it instead of pumpkin pie during the holidays and we don’t feel as guilty about over indulging since it’s a diet dessert (snicker…diet dessert….I just crack myself up).
Butternut Squash Pudding (adapted from the recipe Creamy Buttercup Pudding)
1 (1.5 pound) butternut squash (you could use your favorite winter squash if you don’t like butternut)
1 1/2 cups skim milk
splash of vanilla
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves OR 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 large egg
few packets of artificial sweetener (optional)
1. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise, seed and place cut side down in a baking dish. Add about 1/2 inch of water and microwave on high power for 8 minutes, or until fork tender when pierced. You may need to add more water during this process. If you don’t have a microwave, you can roast the squash in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender. Allow the squash to cool for at least 20 minutes before you try to move onto the next steps.
2. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender. You should have between 1-2 cups of squash (I never measure it – just eyeball it). Pulse a few times to break squash down and get it fairly smooth.
3. Add in milk, vanilla, brown sugar, spices (again, I never measure here – I just go by what smells right, so you might want to use the premixed pumpkin pie spice if you’re not comfortable with mixing your own) and cornstarch. Pulse or blend until the mixture is smooth. Add in the egg and blend until completely incorporated.
4. Pour the pudding mixture into a 2 quart microwave safe dish and microwave on high power for about 8-12 minutes, gently whisking the pudding every 90 seconds. You will see the pudding begin to thicken as it cooks. Just keep cooking and whisking until it reaches your desired thickness – but it should be pretty thick, otherwise it will get a bit loose as it sets and cools.
(Side note: At the end of the cooking time, I always give it a little taste, just to make sure it’s sweet enough. If its not as sweet as I want it to be, I sprinkle in some artificial sweetener until its where I like it. Sometimes I want it more on the savory side so I leave it alone, other times I want it sweeter – this is a matter of preference and an optional step.)
5. You can spoon the cooked pudding mixture into dessert dishes, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, or you can serve it warm with whipped topping or ice cream for a delightful autumn treat.