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Sweet winter squash recipes for the holidays

Sweet and nutty in flavor, winter squash radiates brilliant color and provides a delicious bevy of nutrients. High in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and fiber, the many types of winter squash – butternut, acorn, and buttercup, just to name a few – give you many mouthwatering options for holiday fare. They are especially divine when transformed into a sweet, dessert-like dish. Here are three winter squash recipes to add to your holiday menus as wow-worthy side-dishes or daring desserts.

Butttercup Creme Brulee

Butternut Squash with Streusel Topping

Serves 4 to 6

A sweet side-dish or dessert, streusel-topped butternut squash will be a memorable part of any holiday meal. For an extra-rich treat, drizzle with heavy cream before serving.

For the squash:
2 small butternut squash, cut into large pieces, seeds removed
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or more to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup milk

For the streusel:
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and butter a 13×9 baking dish. Place squash in dish and brush with vegetable oil or butter. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until fork tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh into a food processor with pumpkin pie spice, eggs, butter and milk. Pulse until well combined – mixture does not have to be smooth.

2. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, rub streusel ingredients together until well combined. Transfer squash mixture to a 9-inch square baking dish and top with streusel. Bake for 40 minutes or until streusel is lightly browned and squash is bubbly. Serve warm.

Candied Acorn Squash

Serves 4

Succulent slices of candied acorn squash make a beautiful and sweet side-dish for holiday meals. Paired with ricotta cheese, they make a delectable snack. You can even eat them like dessert with a scoop of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

1 large acorn squash
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 13×9-inch baking dish. Trim ends from squash and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Use a paring knife to remove peel. Place slices in dish and cover with orange juice.

2. Cover dish with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until just fork tender. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter, orange peel and salt and pour over squash rings.

3. Bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, basting every 5 minutes, until acorn squash is tender and glazed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Butttercup Creme Brulee

Serves 4

Buttercup squash is a turban-shaped dark green squash with yellow to orange flesh. It adds texture and flavor to this seductive brulee. Pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash can be substituted, if buttercups are unavailable.

1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttercup squash puree*
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. and butter four (6-ounce) custard cups or ramekins. Place a large rack in a deep baking dish or roasting pan and put a kettle or pot of water on the stove to boil.

2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a low boil and immediately remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, brown sugar and salt until sugar is incorporated.

2. Gradually pour hot cream into egg mixture and mix until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour cream mixture through a sieve or cheesecloth into a large bowl. Stir in buttercup squash and spices until smooth.

3. Ladle squash mixture custard cups or ramekins and place them on the rack in the larger baking dish or roasting pan. Pour boiling water into dish or pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard cups or ramekins. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 1 hour or until custard is set. Bake longer or shorter, if necessary.

4. Transfer custard cups or ramekins to a second wire rack to cool. Cool completely then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and blot custards with a paper towel to remove any moisture.

5. Sprinkle tops with granulated sugar and use a blow-torch to melt and caramelize the sugar. If you don’t have a blowtorch, set custard cups or ramekins on a baking sheet and broil for 1 minute or until sugar melts and turns bubbly – be sure to not scorch. Serve immediately.

*To cook buttercup squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut it into large pieces and scoop seeds out with a spoon. Place squash in a baking dish and brush with vegetable oil or butter. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until flesh is very tender. Scoop flesh from the hard skin and puree in a blender or food processor.

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