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  • Justine Hays

A sweet with a secret- Chocolate Squash Cake

Winter squash is a beacon of bright flavor in the middle of dreary winters. Deep orange hues let you know the squash is loaded with vitamin A and filled with fiber. It's sweet without any added sugar. It can be a comforting side dish, added to soups & chili, a hearty breakfast when topped with granola and yogurt, or a satisfying, sweet dessert. Recently, I picked up a bunch of honey nut squash, a tiny relative of butternut squash.

I love honey nut squash because they are smaller than butternut and thus easier to cut up. A simple slice down the middle and they can be pulled apart. Scoop out the seedy middle, place them cut side down on a lined baking sheet and put them in the oven for about 30 minutes at 425F. You'll have soft, scoopable squash in no time.

Once I roasted all my squash, I thought about what to do with it. Chocolate squash cake is where I landed.

Food & Wine has published a wonderful recipe that I made a few changes to along the way.

You'll need:

1 1/2 cups roasted and pureed squash

5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate

1 stick plus 3 tablespoons of butter

4 eggs

3/4 cup of white sugar

1 cup of brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour (or AP flour)

3/4 teaspoon of baking powder

large handful of chocolate chips

If your squash is whole, cut it, roast it, scoop, or puree it if you need to. If your squash is a pureed frozen brick, good on you! You saved a step. Defrost and move to the next step.

Butter a 9x13 pan and preheat your oven to 350F.

Over low heat, melt your butter and broken up unsweetened chocolate pieces. As soon as it's close to melted, stir until smooth and let cool slightly.

While that's melting, in a large bowl, combine sugars, eggs, vanilla, and salt with a hand mixer until pale tan and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add in the melted chocolate/butter and mix. Add in the squash and mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to the large mixing bowl of wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 25 minutes.

You can top the cake with fluffy. chocolate buttercream frosting or just a dusting of powdered sugar. It's wonderful warm with a scoop of coffee of vanilla ice cream on top. This is a perfect dessert for Valentine's Day. It has a warm, spicy, chocolatey flavor with hidden veggies and more fiber than a traditional chocolate cake. You won't even notice the squash!

This cake (without frosting) serves 12. Per serving you'll take in 260 calories, 42g of carbs, 9g of fat, 5 g of protein, 103 mg of sodium, 64mg of cholesterol, 2 g of fiber, 21% of your daily vitamin A, and 22% of your daily calcium.

Looking for tips on how to cut your squash? Here are few tips to keep you cookin':

A dull knife is far more dangerous than a sharp knife, not only in this scenario but in all kitchen scenarios. A dull knife will require more pulling and pushing, not what you want when keeping an odd shaped vegetable still. A sharp knife will glide back and forth more easily through the skin and fibrous pulp of squash.

Start by using your knife to create a flat end or side, to prevent the squash from rolling. This can be just a thin slice of the skin to create a flat surface.

If you’re cutting a large squash, cut it into smaller sections so it’s easier to hold, keep still, and cut confidently.

If your squash is too big or you just don’t feel comfortable cutting it up, try poking some holes in the squash with the tip of a knife or fork, then microwave the squash four 4-5 minutes until it’s just tender enough to cut.

You can also cook squash whole in the oven or slow cooker. When the squash is tender and a fork easily pierces the skin and interior, the squash is done. Let it cool until it is easy to handle then cut and use however you wish.

You can also buy your squash pre-cut or pureed and frozen. No matter what you choose, the vitamins, minerals, and fiber will almost the same!

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