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Roasting is one of the easiest ways of preparing winter squash. It also can be one of the most flavorful.

It's as simple as peeling and seeding the squash, cutting it into bite-size chunks, then tossing it with oil and whatever seasonings strike your fancy. Then it's just a matter of spreading the squash chunks over a baking sheet, popping it in the oven and walking away.

This recipe calls for a warming blend of cocoa powder, salt, cayenne and cinnamon. The cocoa powder may sound unusual, but the flavor -- similar to Mexican mole -- is phenomenal.

But if that's not your thing, it's easy to improvise. Go Italian with a blend of garlic powder, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Or try Indian with curry powder, salt and pepper. For a bit of heat, try chili powder, cocoa powder, powdered instant coffee, salt and pepper.

> Cocoa Roasted Butternut Squash

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, to taste)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

3 medium butternut squash (about 6 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

3/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, salt, cayenne, cinnamon and sugar.

Arrange the squash chunks on 2 large baking sheets. Drizzle the oil over the squash and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the cocoa mixture over the squash and toss to coat. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Servings: 10.

Per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 230 calories; 94 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 11g fat (1g saturated); no cholesterol; 36g carbohydrate; 5g protein; 7g fiber; 300mg sodium.