Spice-Roasted Winter Vegetables or Why You Need Knife Skills

11:27 pm

There are two significant factors that culminated in Rick and I making this very simple recipe:

Significant Factor #1. We are not good at making food during the week. The complicating factors here are many but the there are 2 biggies: we are often tuckered on school nights (how grown up does one have to be before that stops being a relevant term?) and we adore going out to eat.

This has, in turn, resulted in another outcome – I don’t fit into the majority of my work clothes anymore. Hello, Weight Watchers! Given the plethora of recipes they offer in their online tools, I thought I’d give one for a spi

Significant Factor #2. I now have mad knife skills! Sadly, I am not able to throw one through an apple on top of an assistant’s head, however, I can now cut food like somebody who knows what they’re doing.

My pal Allison and I took a knife skills class at our local co-op to gain this impressive ability though there a lot of  videos (I liked this one ) through which you can hone your skills. The transformative  basics for me were: having a sharp knife (funny thing, that logic), adjusting my grip for more control, using the length of the knife to truly cut instead of relying on brute strength to push down through the food and, finally, not using my cutting board as a storage area for cut items and refuse (what’s a few more dirty dishes?).

So when Rick and I were laying around debating “should we stay (in) or should we go (out to eat)?” I put on my big girl pants and suggested we go for this simple recipe to try out the new skills.  The original recipe uses only butternut squash, but we expanded it to include the potatoes and the mysterious-looking celariac we had from our CSA

As this recipe called for Garam Masala, an Indian combination of spices, I called our Indian cooking consultant (read: Dad).  After he got over the initial shock of me wanting to use Garam Masala with squash (not exactly a classic South Indian combination), I was delighted to find that we could easily make our own homemade version.

Garam Masala is similar to curry powder in that there is not one set recipe for it.  The ingredients vary by region and even cooks, so it’s good to start out by making a small volume of it and tweaking it to suit your taste as you first start to use it.

The first time around, it felt like something was missing from the dish.  It was good, but…thankfully, my mom helped me figure out what the “but” was so that, when I made it a second time as part of our first very-grown-up dinner for Allison and her boyfriend Marcus, I upped the cumin and added coriander powder so it ended up like this:

1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp clove powder
2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp corriander powder

Another variation would have been adding some chile powder, but I waited on that.  For the same night, I also bought some Garam Masala from the co-op’s bulk aisle and split the batch in two for flavor comparison.  

Both batches were well-received.  The most notable differences between the two were that the purchased Garam Masala seemed to be a bit saltier and sweeter at the same time (There is a tendency for much prepared Indian food to be on the sweeter side a la North Indian).  I’m happy to say that my diligent grinding of whole black peppercorns wasn’t all for naught – the homemade batch won out that battle.  Marcus even said the dish reminded him of an appetizer his mom makes for Christmas; nothing enriches a dining experience like a little nostalgia.

The variation in squash and other veggies was nice, but I’d recommend sticking with butternut squash or another more flavorful winter vegetable for the majority of the content.  Celariac worked well here – it tastes like a mix of celery and carrots and has a strong flavor, so it could hold its own with the spices.  The potatoes, however, were bland by comparison.

And finally, how much did this cost to make, you ask?  Well, I realized that I only ever want to know how much the ingredients I need to purchase will cost.  Even if, over time, there is a per-recipe cost if I have everything, usually I have to shell out for a few ingredients.  So here’s the breakdown that way:


household/store  brand price

bulk or organic

6 oz can of cooking spray


organic: $5.79

3 lb butternut squash


organic: $3.87

1 medium onion


organic: $0.63

Olive Oil

4.89 (8.5oz bottle -57.5₵/oz)

bulk: $4.67 ($8.79/lb)

Garam Masala

5.49 (1.7 oz jar – $3.23/oz)

bulk: $2.41 ($1.42/oz)

Kosher Salt – 3lb box



Black Pepper


bulk: $1.68 ($.83/oz)

Cilantro – 1 bunch


organic: $2.99





Printable Recipe

Spice-Roasted Winter Vegetables and Onions


  • One spray cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, fresh, pleeled, cut into 1-inch chunks (or other winter vegetables)
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 3 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Coat a large  baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Place squash and onion on prepared baking sheet; drizzle with oil and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with garam masala, salt and pepper; toss to coat.
  3. Roast, tossing about halfway through cooking, until squash and onions are tender and slightly browned, about 25 minutes.
  4. Transfer vegetables to a serving blatter or bowl and sprinkle with cilantro; toss to coat.

(3/4c serving = 2 Points Plus points)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mom December 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Yum! This looks like the perfect winter dish-very hearty with spices that make me feel warm just from reading the list. Two surprises…it only took 25 minutes to cook, so with some rice and protein (Could tofu or boiled egg be added? Would some leftover roast or turkey be good?), you really have a meal in 35 minutes. It may take that long just to drive to a restaurant and be seated. The other surprise is that your list of ingredients with organic veggies was not much more than conventional. It always surprises me that for less than a dollar difference you can get all the goodness of organic. What do you think about adding a little tomato sauce or paste and then popping it in the slow cooker so that it is done when you come home? I am trying to think of shortcuts and leftover ideas so that I would have two suppers for the little time it takes to make this.


Clay December 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

This looks delicious. Great use of vegetables, and I bet it was packed with flavor and nutrients.


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