Discovering Winter Squash

If you’re like me, trying out a new food can be a little scary…and trying to cook with one can be even worse! But have no fear! Let me take you on a journey to discover how to choose, prepare, cook, and EAT some winter squash because it turns out they’re more than just decoration at Thanksgiving time, but a powerhouse of nutrients and a yummy addition for any meal!

Winter squash is a blanket term for a variety of squash typically in season from October-February (but usually are available all year around) . They’re harvested in the fall, and last through the winter due to their thickened rind. This past December, I went to the grocery store to check out what was available, and this is what I found…

  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Spaghetti squash

I didn’t buy any at that time, because they all looked so different and I didn’t exactly know what I should be looking for. So I did a little digging to see what I could find out about choosing different types of squash so here are some general guidelines you can follow:

  • Heavy for its size
  • Thick, hard skin (should be able to knock on it)
  • Skins should have a vivid color
  • No cracks or soft spots
  • When
bulb (it will have more “meat”)

Winter squash are typically inexpensive and are an easy way to make a nutritious meal! Butternut and acorn squash are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium . While spaghetti squash may not pack quite as much of these nutrients, it’s a great low carb and calorie option. One of the most challenging parts is to cut it open (after you wash it with some cool water, of course). Its tough rind keeps it nice and fresh for three-six months when stored in cellar like conditions (~50 degrees) but can make you break a sweat in the kitchen. An easy way to combat this though is to put a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding around and cut off the ends to create a flat surface. Or you can poke some holes in it and pop it in the microwave for about five minutes. You might also need to peel the squash which you can simply do with a peeler (or knife depending on how thick the rind is) which may make cutting a little easier. Once it is cut, however, it will only last about a week in the refrigerator.

When you do get it open, it’s time to scoop out all of the seeds like you would a jack-o-lantern (pumpkins are a winter squash too!). But don’t throw them away quite yet, because you can roast them into a yummy snack for later that’s filled with potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber, and protein (health benefits/nutrients).

Now it’s time for cooking the squash. Or roasting, baking, steaming, boiling, microwaving, grilling, sautéing etc. The options are just about endless.

Although it will vary depending on the squash and recipe used, you’ll know the squash is done when you can easily pierce the insides with a fork.

Below, you can follow some of the recipes I tried and how they turned out!

Grain Free Spaghetti

Here goes nothing!

I got it cup open and scooped out half the seeds but I’m not too convinced it’s going to look like spaghetti by the time I’m done.

Time to throw it in the oven with a little water.

While the squash is roasting, make your topping!

Still doesn’t look like spaghetti to me.

a little scraping with a fork…

…and voila! Spaghetti!










Spaghetti squash is a great way to throw in a serving of veggies to your plate when you’re craving a plate of carbs. I served this during a family get together and my mother (who has a family history of diabetes and hates summer squash) was pretty hesitant to give this a try. However, she was pleasantly surprised how much it actually tasted and felt like spaghetti (other than the annoying twirling of the fork you have to do with actual spaghetti). It was al dente and complimented the flavors of this recipe very well! Try this recipe or experiment substituting it with your own favorite pasta dish!


Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Kale, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Adapted recipe from Serious Eats 


  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • ¾ c. drained oil-packed sliced sun-dried tomatoes (2 T. of oil reserved)
  • 1 pound of Italian mild/hot ground sausage
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 ¾ c. chicken broth
  • ½ shredded parmesan plus additional for garnish
  • ⅓c. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella


Preheat an oven to 375°F.

  1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds
  2. Place the squash cut-side down in a baking dish, and add enough water in the pan to come 1/2 an inch up its sides. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, then turn over and cook, covered, until the squash is very tender, an additional 15 minutes.
  3. While the squash is cooking, heat the reserved tomato oil in a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat until simmering. Add the sausage and cook until browned, breaking up as you go, about 8 minutes. Remove the meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat behind in the pan.
  4. Add the garlic and kale to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until the garlic is very fragrant and the kale begins to soften, 2-3 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the kale is very tender and the liquid is nearly all reduced.
  5. Return the sausage to the skillet and add the parmesan and basil. Toss well to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the warm spaghetti squash and top with the mozzarella.

Veggie Pancakes


Not your average box of Bisquick, but it will do (I hope)

Much easier to cut in half than spaghetti squash

Roasted very similarly to the spaghetti squash. Make sure you add enough water! I had to add more half way through

Time to scoop into the food processor. Be careful not to burn yourself!

The smoother the better

Mix together dry ingredients

Mix batter, add milk to desired consistency. If it’s too thick they won’t cook all the way through

Flip when you begin to see bubbles

They have a really nice color and smell wonderful. And taste even better

I was so excited to try these that I forgot to take a picture of them on my plate! Fresh off the skillet with a little maple syrup was enough for me to grab another. Plus, I loved that I was getting a veggie in with this sweet treat! I served them at a brunch with the other interns and they were a big hit. It took some experimenting in the kitchen to get the consistently just right, but towards the end I was flipping flapjacks like it was my job. So if you’re one to have a “special” breakfast on the weekends give these easy acorn squash pancakes a try! 

Roasted Acorn Squash Pancakes

Adapted recipe from


  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ t. ground cinnamon
  •  ¼ t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ¾ T. sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 T. of vanilla
  •  1/2 c. milk


  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds
  3. Place the squash cut-side down in a baking dish, and add enough water in the pan to come 1/2 an inch up its sides. Bake for 1 hour or until the squash is very tender.
  4. While the squash is cooking, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  5. Once cooked, scoop out the acorn squash flesh into a food processor. Pulse until nice and smooth.
  6. Mix together puree and flour mixture. Stir in egg, vanilla, and milk.
  7. In a small griddle or sauté pan, scoop out about 1/3c of batter. Cook until bubbles appear and then flip. Cook until lightly browned on both sides.
  8. Stack onto a plate and drizzle on some syrup or honey. Enjoy!

Squash Pie

Time to turn this baby into a pie!

It was a little easier to get this guy open by chopping off the ends to make a flat surface. As you can tell though, I still didn’t get it cut right down the middle. Ooops!

Technically you can microwave squash with some water and get the same effect as roasting. However this didn’t work for me. I think it’s because I simply had too much in the pan. Microwave would be the best option for a smaller acorn squash

Either use store bought pie dough or make your own while the squash is roasting

Let’s mash these up!

This is a lot brighter than canned pumpkin. Starting to wonder what this pie is going to look like.

Mixed with the other ingredients and poured into the unbaked crust

Well it sure looks like a pumpkin pie! Make sure it’s done in the middle by inserting a knife or toothpick to see if it comes out clean.

So while this does have a little different flavor than the typical pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving time, it was still pretty good! Unlike homemade pumpkin pie (from an actual pumpkin not the canned stuff) this filling wasn’t extremely runny. I was extremely surprised how much it darkened up when it was all mixed together! Will I make it again? Probably not…but it was sure fun to try!

Whether you want it for breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner winter squash is a great way to fit in the recommended veggies for the day and get a load of vitamins A and C (both immune enhancers), potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and fiber with little calories! Make it sweet or make it savory. Make it however you like! And don’t forget about those seeds which you can roast for a yummy snack!

Butternut Squash Pie

Adapted recipe from


  • Single pie crust
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 c. sugar
  •  4 ½ t. cornstarch
  • 1/2 T. ground cinnamon
  •  ½ T. pumpkin pie spice
  •  ½ c. butter softened
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  •  ¼ c. water
  •  3 t. of vanilla


  1. Preheat an oven to 400°F.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds
  3. Place the squash cut-side down in a baking dish, and add enough water in the pan to come 1/2 an inch up its sides. Bake for 1 hour or until the squash is very tender.
  4. While the squash is cooking, prepare pie dough and lay in pan
  5. Once cooked, scoop out the acorn squash flesh into a food processor. Pulse until nice and smooth.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Beat in the squash, butter, eggs, water and vanilla until smooth. Pour into crust.
  7. Bake at 350 °F for 40-45 minutes or until a knife/toothpick comes out clean
  8. Let cool and enjoy!
Copyright: All content © 2010-2019 Nutrition Strategy Advisors LLC. Photographs © Donna P Feldman, unless otherwise attributed. Reproduction or use without permission is prohibited.