Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Curry

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My interest was piqued by David Tanis’ New York Times article, A Warming Curry for Fall— because this accomplished chef mentioned that he’d adapted a Madhur Jaffrey recipe. I find her recipes can be challenging, so I was thrilled at a Mr. Tanis modification.

This recipe was both heavenly and easy—one of the most delicious recipes I’ve made. Plus, it truly took only about 30 minutes (not including roasting time – and you can make it without roasting the butternut squash if you have 30 minutes max).

Not only that, but the resulting dinner is a great vegetarian option—not always my forte but one I am trying to tackle—and it was filling. And as I served with brown jasmine rice, it was even a decent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.

I read through the many comments online and decided to modify Mr. Tanis’ recipe right off the bat to add more flavor. (See the NYT article link above for the original recipe.) I’ve included mine with adaptions below.  It’s very flavorful but not at all spicy—the only tricky part will be procuring fresh curry leaves (available at Indian markets and online: see amazon link below).  While Mr. Tanis says curry leaves are optional, to me, they really make the dish.

My modifications were to add ground cumin, garam masala and also Maharajah Style Curry Powder By Penzeys Spices. Yes, I know that ‘curry’ is a catch-all and that many of the ingredients are listed both separately and in this curry powder.  But the recipe was delicious with these additions and I love Penzey’s curry.

As for rice, I served it with Trader Joes Brown Jasmine Rice for a fiber boost.

The picture above I took while it was cooking, and my version of the recipe follows. Don’t be daunted by the number of ingredients—nearly all are just spices!  And I didn’t even bother with wild mushrooms: I used sliced Baby Bellas and Shitakes … and didn’t measure them, just used 2 packs from Trader Joe’s.

It’s simple, I promise! If you like curry you will want to give this recipe a try.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Curry - Going Lo-Co adaption of David Tanis recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

Delicious, easy vegetarian curry published by David Tanis in the New York Times. Mr. Tanis adapted his recipe from a Madhur Jaffrey, and I've slightly modified further, for more flavor and cholesterol-lowering fiber. It's easy - but the fresh curry leaves are a must. If you are not familiar, they are sold in Indian markets, or see below for a link to fresh curry leaves on Amazon!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 482 kcal
Author: David Tanis, adapted by Karen Swanson
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 10 ounces butternut or other winter squash peeled and diced in 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 or 2 small whole green chiles such as jalapeño or serrano
  • 3 medium shallots or 1 small onion finely diced. I use already-diced fresh onions and diced more finely
  • ½ teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Handful of fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 pound mushrooms preferably a mix of cultivated and wild, trimmed and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • ¾ cup coconut milk preferably reduced fat
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice freshly squeezed
  • fresh cilantro diced and sprigs for garnish
  • 2 cup brown jasmine rice
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves optional
Instructions
Prep before cooking
  1. Cook about 2 cups of brown rice or brown jasmine rice so it will done when curry is done.

  2. Roast the diced squash (directions in 'prep' and 'cooking' below) either earlier in the day, or 1 hour before you want to serve.

  3. Prep ingredients to facilitate quick steps in this recipe: a) Chop cilantro and squeeze lime; set aside. b) Dice squash into relatively uniform 1/2" cubes and set aside. c) Cut a lengthwise slit in each chile to open it, but leave whole and set aside. (This allows the heat and flavor of the chile to release into the sauce without making it too spicy.) d) Measure spices into 2 small bowls (one with mustard and cumin seeds, one with all other spices) and set aside. e) Mince garlic. f) Bring curry leaves to room temperature, if frozen.

Cooking
  1. Roast the squash: Preheat oven to 425. Slick squash cubes with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them for 20-30 minutes (set them aside to  add to pan after the mushrooms.) The original recipe sautes squash on cooktop but roasting is easier and boosts flavor depth - you just have to time it so they are roasted before you start cooking.

  2. In a wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots or diced onion to skillet, salt lightly and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves and let sizzle for about 1 minute.  
  3. To skillet, add the minced garlic, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, chiles, cumin, garam masala and curry and the slit-but-still-whole jalapeno (or serrano) chili peppers. Stir well and cook for 1 minute more.

  4. Add mushrooms to pan, season with salt and toss to coat. Continue to cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add squash cubes to pan, stir in coconut milk (shake can well first!) and bring to a simmer. Lower heat to medium and simmer for another 5 minutes. (If adding baby spinach for nutrition and color boost, add it after about 2-3 minutes so it wilts by time the 5 minutes of cooking squash is done.)  If mixture looks dry, thin with a little water. Taste and season with salt. 

  6. If you are serving for a dinner party, you can keep curry warm in a (pre-warmed) crock pot set to warm.

  7. Just before serving, stir in lime juice. 

  8. Serve atop high-fiber brown rice. Top with diced cilantro (unless you/guests are averse to taste) as it adds a lot of flavor.  If desired, garnish with cilantro leaves.

Recipe Notes

Nutritional Data calculated using My Fitness Pal.

Nutrition Facts
Roasted Butternut Squash and Mushroom Curry - Going Lo-Co adaption of David Tanis recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 482 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 18%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Polyunsaturated Fat 7g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Sodium 18mg 1%
Potassium 105mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 87g 29%
Dietary Fiber 6g 24%
Sugars 5g
Protein 9g 18%
Vitamin A 23%
Vitamin C 22%
Calcium 11%
Iron 12%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Heart-Healthy Delicious Snack – Roasted Chickpeas

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While writing the first draft of my new book, The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan (to be published in January 2018), I was reminded just how important fiber is to a cholesterol-lowering diet

Adults need to consume 5 to 10 grams (or more) of soluble fiber daily to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. As for total dietary fiber, adult women need 25 grams and adult men should consume 38 grams of total fiber per day (those over age 50 require less). Source: The Mayo Clinic’s article, Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet.

As I crafted a chart of fiber-rich foods to include in the book, I quickly realized that personally, I was lagging fiber-wise. A quick victory was needed and I found it, quite by accident, in chickpeas.

I had no idea that a mere 1/2 cup of chickpeas delivers 6.3 grams of dietary fiber—that’s nearly 25% of the daily dietary fiber needed to reduce cholesterol, in one easy snack. As raw chickpeas don’t appeal, I poked around the internet and discovered chickpeas can be roasted!

Melissa Clark’s Crunchy Roasted Za’atar Chickpeas New York Times article had an interesting recipe. But it was Emma Christensen’s How To Make Crispy Roasted Chickpeas in the Oven post on The Kitchn I found most helpful. Here are her key tips:

“First, dry the chickpeas as much as possible. I like to gently roll them between two clean dishtowels. Also, don’t skimp on the olive oil. You can use less, but your chickpeas will be less crispy. Lastly, wait to toss the chickpeas with any spices or seasonings until you pull them out of the oven, otherwise the spices have a tendency to burn and become bitter.”

Experimenting to come up with a cooking plan, I discovered convection baking at 400 degrees worked better / delivered crispier chickpeas than regular roasting. Based on user comments, I dispensed with the parchment paper. You can use my version of the recipe below as a starting point, then add either fresh herbs like Emma Christensen suggests, or my favorite—Penzey’s Balti Seasoning for an easy Indian flavor (click picture for Amazon link *)—or sprinkle liberally with your favorite herbs and spices.

Make a batch of Roasted Chickpeas to keep on hand for a few days as a delicious, high-fiber snack—or swap them for high-fat croutons in salads, grain bowls or even soups.

Crispy Oven Roasted Chickpeas with Balti Seasoning
Course: Snack
Servings: 4
Author: Karen Swanson
Ingredients
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons Penzey's Balti Seasoning
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to Convection Bake 400°F (or Bake at 425°F)

  2. Rinse and drain the chickpeas: Open the cans of chickpeas and pour the chickpeas into a strainer in the sink. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

  3. Dry the chickpeas: Pat the chickpeas very dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. Ideally, leave them to air-dry for a few hours. Or rub dry thoroughly, removing any chickpea skins that come off.

  4. Toss the chickpeas with olive oil and salt: Spread the chickpeas out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir with your hands or a spatula to make sure the chickpeas are evenly coated.

  5. Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 30-45 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes. The chickpeas are done when golden and slightly darkened, dry and crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle.

  6. Remove chickpeas to a bowl. Sprinkle the Balti Seasoning over the chickpeas and stir to coat evenly. Taste and add more seasoning if desired.

  7. Serve while the chickpeas are still warm and crispy. They will gradually lose their crispiness as they cool but keep for a few days in an airtight container, becoming chewy rather than crispy but still delicious.

Recipe Notes

If you have time, the easiest way to get the rinsed chickpeas totally dry (key to crispy results) is time. Rinse the chickpeas and leave them to air dry for a few hours on dish- or paper towels.  

 

I hope you give these a try for a great, fiber-rich salad add-in or snack. In my experience, they’re delicious with wine or beer!

* Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link that earns me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. That said, I only recommend products I personally use and love.

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How to Eat 25 grams of Dietary Fiber a Day

To lower cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends eating 25 grams of dietary fiber per day for a 2,000-calorie diet.

As I discovered while writing, Are You Eating Enough Fiber to Lower Cholesterol? the answer for me was a clear NO. Curious and concerned, I did a little research (and math) and realized that I’m currently only consuming about half of the dietary fiber I need to lower cholesterol.

And that led me to wonder what exactly I’d need to eat to double my fiber intake / get to 25 grams of fiber a day.

What I discovered was surprising. I thought I’d need to overhaul my diet completely. Like adopt an all-oatmeal-all day-long or quinoa quinoa everywhere type of eating plan. But it turned out that all I had to do was pay little more attention and make two easy changes: a) eat whole wheat versions of the foods I was currently eating, and b) add in a high-fiber snack.

To figure all this out, I used two key sources of information. The USDA 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes Appendix 13 which is a table called, Food Sources of Dietary Fiber. While informative, I found this chart hard to navigate as it lists foods in descending order of fiber, not by type of food. To make this information more useful in meal planning, I turned it into a chart organized by meal. To do that, I relied on another useful site, SELFNutritionData, where you can search for ingredients or foods and find their full nutritional information.

Here’s a snapshot of the chart I created which lists the fiber in foods, organized by meal. To download a PDF of the entire file, click Fiber By Meal.

For me, here’s what I learned. Yes, I could (and should) shift to either oatmeal or an oat or wheat bran cereal for breakfast. But I continue to cling to my half a bagel with lox habit. So instead, I modified lunch to include a whole wheat pasta and added both almonds and roasted chickpeas as an afternoon snack. It felt familiar and was an easy shift and best of all, it doubled my dietary fiber to 25 grams per day!

Here’s a chart with three meal plans per day: a goal (including oatmeal) meal plan, my ‘current’ meal plan (as of last week), and my modified meal plan where I added whole wheat versions of my current foods and a high fiber snack:

Easy Peasy. A happy lo-co surprise.

How about you? Are you getting enough fiber in your daily diet to lower cholesterol? Download the PDF of my fiber chart to easily figure out what foods you could modify or add to get to 25 grams of dietary fiber per day.

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Are You Eating Enough Fiber to Lower Cholesterol?

While doing research for my exciting new project—a low-cholesterol cookbook that will debut in January, 2018 (more on that in subsequent posts!)—I was reminded just how important fiber is to a diet that helps naturally lower cholesterol.

Which of course made me realize I’m probably not getting enough fiber. On the plus side, I am definitely back in the habit of a daily dose of Metamucil.

On the downside, that only delivers 3 grams of total dietary fiber, and 2 grams of soluble fiber, which is known to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol.

How does that compare with the amount of fiber a person needs to consume daily to help lower cholesterol?

I could do better.

Adults need to consume 5 to 10 grams (or more) of soluble fiber to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. As for total dietary fiber, adult women need 25 grams and adult men should consume 38 grams of total fiber per day (those over age 50 require less):

 

Age 50 or youngerAge 51 or older
Women25 grams/day21 grams/day
Men38 grams/day30 grams/day

Source: The Mayo Clinic’s article, Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet, which lists these as the total daily fiber recommendations for adults.

The Mayo clinic goes on to list fiber-rich foods (and clearly, I can’t just rely on Metamucil—I need to make sure these play a large role in my daily diet):

“If you aren’t getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:

– Whole-grain products
– Fruits
– Vegetables
– Beans, peas and other legumes
– Nuts and seeds
– Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron back after processing, but not the fiber.”

Are you getting enough fiber to help lower your cholesterol?

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Red Grapefruit Juice to Lower BP and Cholesterol

It is not well known that grapefruit (particularly red grapefruit) can naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

This is surprising because a small 2006 Israeli study clearly demonstrated a link between grapefruit consumption and reductions in both blood pressure and cholesterol. While it was a small study and 10+ years ago, the logic still holds that eating red grapefruity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol (for details, see my post, Grapefruit Pros and Cons.)

Why the lack of information about how to naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol with grapefruit? A jaded view would say it’s easier for doctors to prescribe statins and/or blood pressure medications. A less jaded view would be that hypertension and high cholesterol are too serious to leave people to treat it ‘naturally’ and indeed some folks might not be vigilant enough.

But I think a very-well monitored first attempt to get hypertension and cholesterol under control with lifestyle changes (exercise, nutrition) is vital. Why take statins or blood pressure medications if simply adding grapefruit on a daily basis works for you?  Currently, the first medical directive for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol focuses solely on reducing saturated fat and salt. I think adding grapefruit—especially red grapefruit—should be discussed as a first-step, physician-monitored plan.

Now before I say another word, please note that if you take any cholesterol-lowering or blood pressure medication (or lots of other meds, actually) you MUST NOT add grapefruit or grapefruit juice to your diet without speaking with your doctor.  See the ** warning at bottom of post!

Assuming you are OK to safely consume grapefruit, you might be put off by its sourness. I was happy to discover that I quite like the Trader Joe’s Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice (not the ‘drink’ but the fresh juice in the refrigerated section.) As explained in my post about Metamucil, I now mix Metamucil into roughly 8 ounces of red grapefruit juice for an added cholesterol-lowering punch. After several weeks I was delighted to experience a heartening dip in blood pressure.

So if you do not take a statin, hypertension or other medication (again, see warning below), consider adding red grapefruit or red grapefruit juice to your daily diet to help naturally lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

** VERY IMPORTANT:  do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you are on statins or hypertension or indeed, many other medications. Specifically, do NOT eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice if you take Lipitor or any other statin medication to lower cholesterol or any blood pressure medication without speaking first to your doctor.  (Grapefruit warning applies also to medications for heart rhythm, depression, anxiety, HIV, immunosuppression, allergies, impotence, and seizures.)  It is dangerous to start eating grapefruit (or drinking grapefruit juice) if you take any of these medications as they affect how the drugs are absorbed. If you take any medication, do not start to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice unless you speak to your doctor first.

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