I can’t stop obsessing over fall colors.
I’m sure if you’ve read Monday’s post or follow me on Instagram, you know this. The red, orange, and gold leaves have become a visual obsession for me. I struggle to work at my desk because I just stare out the window at all the colorful leaves lining the sidewalks. I’ve been all about wearing my brown boots lately because they just match the leaves so perfectly. Even thinking about snow right now gives me anxiety because it means the end of the pretty, pretty colors.
The thought has occurred to me more than once that all I want to eat right now is a big plate of fall colors. No, I don’t want to eat leaves—I want to eat fall harvest foods in all the colors of the autumn rainbow. We all know that fall harvest foods are the best foods—squashes of all shades and shapes, apples, pumpkins, Brussel sprouts, pears, shallots, all of that delicious goodness. We’ve been eating easily a large squash per week and finally are near the end of the peck of apples we picked two weeks ago. It won’t be long soon before I try sneaking Brussel sprouts into our meals. I don’t know what I love more about these foods—the tastes or the vibrant colors.
We had a big, beautiful butternut squash serving as decoration on our dining table for a couple weeks before I decided its function shifted from aesthetic to culinary. What looks and taste more like a big bowl of autumn than butternut squash? The squash itself is so pleasantly golden-hued and gourd-shaped, the texture is so gloriously creamy, and the taste is somewhere between sweet and vegetable-y.
My first instinct is to cook it, puree it, and bury some pasta and cheese in it for some baked mac and cheese. I’ve already done this with acorn squash though, so my next thought moved on to lasagna, because I’m a runner and I live off of carbs. So I pureed up half of the butternut squash, layered it with whole wheat noodles, spinach, cheese, and bacon, and baked it. The lasagna bombed, though—apparently you do need to boil the noodles before baking them (an Italian grandmother I am not, except maybe when it comes to risotto). At least the lasagna salvaged fairly decently for lunch, but by no means was a repeatable or blog-worthy recipe.
Reeling from failed lasagna, my mind turned towards the comfort of baked goods. I almost pureed up the remaining half of the squash for some sweet treat (butternut squash cookies, anyone?) until I came to my senses. Why not just roast it, plain and simple? As I’ve professed before, roasting is my absolute favorite way to enjoy vegetables. Roasting is what sparked my obsession over butternut and acorn squashes, back three years ago when I brought some to my tiny apartment after visiting the local farmer’s market.
Sweet potatoes are my year-round favorite vegetable. I love to bake them whole and eat them with beans or an egg for lunch, roast them for salads, or slice them up and bake them into sweet potato fries. If not for my conflicting love of peanut butter and jelly on homemade bread, I would probably eat them for lunch every single day. I experience mild panic when I realize we’ve run out of sweet potatoes.
So roasting sweet potatoes and butternut squash together seemed like a perfectly logical way to feed my desire to eat a big bowl of autumn. Such vibrant orange and gold, especially once they begin to caramelize from the heat of the oven! Other than being a treat for the eyes, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash is super healthy, especially for runners. This combination of vegetables boasts antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese, vitamin K, and folate. Roasting them with just a bit of olive oil helps the body optimally absorb the vitamins. Plus they are filled to the brim with fiber, which combined with the warmth from roasting provides a dish that will keep you satisfied for hours.
We served ours with some steak for even more iron boost. I’m in the midst of peak week for my half marathon training right now and found myself craving red meat, spinach, sweet potatoes, and beans. Essentially, my body was telling me it needed more iron. Distance runners, especially women, are at risk for low iron levels; keeping your iron stores high by eating foods such as red meat and roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash will prevent fatigue and anemia.
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1/2 butternut squash (enough for 2-3 cups when cubed)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Chop the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes. Remove the seeds and skin from the butternut squash and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
- Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and sage and distribute on a roasting pan.
- Cook for 25 minutes in the oven, tossing a couple of times to prevent uneven cooking.