Featured food: winter squash

wintersquashWinter squash is a great addition to meals in fall and winter.  It’s filling, although not as high in calories as starchier vegetables like potatoes.  There are several varieties, all with subtle taste and texture differences, from the stringy and blander tasting spaghetti squash to the dense sweet flavor of butternut or Hubbard squash.

Some of the common varieties you can find in your grocery store in autumn:

  1. Butternut
  2. Delicata
  3. Acorn
  4. Turban
  5. Buttercup
  6. Spaghetti
  7. Hubbard (orange, blue, green)
  8. and others.  Pie pumpkins are also in the squash family.

Nutrition info:

  • Low to modest calories.  Spaghetti squash is one of the lower calorie varieties, while acorn and butternut examples of higher calorie squashes.  But even then, a cup of mashed squash has around 80-90 calories.  A whole cup of mashed squash is going to be really filling.
  • High potassium
  • Significant iron
  • The dark orange varieties are high vitamin A
  • Fiber, B-vitamins, some vitamin C
  • Low fat and low sodium

Easy preparation:

  1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise with a good knife.
  2. Scrape out the seeds with a spoon
  3. Put the squash halves cut-side down on a baking pan
  4. Pour about 1/2 inch water into the pan
  5. Bake the squash in a 350 oven until a fork easily pierces the skin.  The halves may look a bit collapsed.
  6. You can scrape out the cooked squash and mash it a bit with seasonings, or slice the cooked halves into smaller serving pieces.

You an also stuff the squash halves before baking.  Delicata, Kabocha, Acorn and spaghetti squash work well.  There are plenty of stuffed squash recipes around.  If the squash will be the main entree, look for recipes that use a cooked whole grain mixed with seasonings, some vegetables for flavor and a high protein ingredient like cheese, nuts or cooked meat.

Pieces of uncooked peeled squash go great in other dishes, but you have to be careful not to overcook them too much or they’ll just fall apart.  Peeling and cutting up a raw squash can be a difficult task.  Butternut and Hubbard are good varieties for this type of use.  If you can find peeled and pre-cut uncooked butternut squash pieces at your grocery store, your food prep will be a lot easier.  Here are some ideas for using it:

  • Add to a hot pasta dish
  • Cook in a risotto
  • Add to a vegetable soup.
  • Use in mixed roasted vegetable dish, with potatoes, rutabagas and parsnips
  • Add small pieces of firm-cooked squash to a burrito
  • Add to scrambled eggs or a vegetable omelet or frittatta

The other good thing about winter squash: they’re pretty.  If nothing else, you can decorate your dining table or kitchen with an arrangement of different varieties.  But they’re such good food, don’t forget to eventually cook them.

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