The autumn season means cooler temperatures and heartier meals. Mother Nature in all her wisdom, has seasonal foods for a reason, and that reason is have natural harvest cycles of produce that support our bodies, health and wellbeing during the various cooler, cold, warm and hot seasons. In the present autumn season, our bodies start to naturally crave heartier and more warming foods, and squashes are a great addition to your fall and winter menu plans.
Brimming with nutrients, both the meat and seeds of squashes offer delicious and nutritious meal options the whole family will enjoy.
5 Winter Squashes
Acorn Squash – Probably the most popular of winter squashes, acorn squash is easy peasy to bake. Carefully cut in half and spoon out the seeds in the center. Using a fork, poke a generous amount of holes into the inner flesh and then dot with butter, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a drizzle of real maple syrup and bake on center oven rack at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Serve as-is as a side dish, or for a hearty main dish, fill the center of the baked acorn squash with some rice pilaf or quinoa and veggies for a nice warming and hearty meal.
Acorn squash nixes anxiety as well as muscle cramping and spasms due to it’s rich stores of relaxing potassium, boasting more than bananas. It also contains muscle-relaxing magnesium and stress reducing calcium, helping to reduce aches and stiffness in the body as well as mental frazzle within 15 minutes.
Sweet Dumpling Squash – This particular winter squash variety tastes akin to sweet potatoes and is a potent neutralizer of carcinogens due to its rich stores of beta carotene and the hard-to-find alpha carotene. Additionally, sweet dumpling squash is very high in dietary fiber, helping to flush stored toxins and wastes from the body while aiding the digestive system in running smoothly.
You can easily substitute sweet dumpling squash in place of sweet potatoes in recipes, or for a quick and addictively delicious side dish, saute peeled cubed sweet dumpling squash in a large skillet with melted butter and some ground cinnamon until fork tender.
Turban Squash – This particular squash is ridiculously rich in B vitamins, which will give you last all day energy to get you through those busy holiday season days as well as those cooler weather days. Additionally, turban squash is high in iron and zinc, giving your immune system a powerful boost in cold and flu protection. To prepare, simply cut off the top part of the squash (which is marked with a “ring”) and spoon out the seeds. Place the cut sides of the squash down onto a well greased baking sheet and bake on center oven rack in oven at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes. Scoop out the cooked flesh and toss with some sauteed vegetables and seasonings of your choice for a nice side dish, or serve over rice or cooked chickpeas for a hearty stew-like meal.
Spaghetti Squash – Appropriately named for it’s stringy-like pulp, which resembles cooked spaghetti, spaghetti squash is a great gluten-free, and lower carb option for pasta dishes, or can be tossed with some olive oil and fresh herbs and seasonings for a tasty side dish. To prepare, pierce the outer rind generously with a sharp knife and bake whole on an ungreased cookie sheet for 60-70 minutes. Once the squash is cool enough to touch, carefully cut in half and pull out the cooked squash strands using a fork.
Pumpkin – Not just for carving, pumpkin makes for a very versatile winter squash. To make fresh pumpkin puree, thoroughly wash the outer rind and carefully slice into chunks while simultaneously removing the seeds. Place the cut chunks skin side up in a deep roasting pan and fill with approximately 1/4″ water. Bake on center oven rack for 60-70 minutes, or until very tender. Once the cooked pumpkin has cooled, remove the outer rinds and mash or puree. Makes a healthy alternative for mashed potatoes, or you can use the puree for all those delicious autumn and winter baking needs. The puree freezes well, and will stay fresh for up to 6 months in the freezer. Pumpkin is brimming with nutritional goodness as well, and probably one of its most boastful of health benefits, is its ability to keep blood sugar levels stable, repairing damaged insulin producing cells, helping to regulate both Type I and Type II diabetes, all of which also aid in weight loss and healthy weight management.
So, don’t overlook all those pretty squash sitting there at the farmers markets and grocery stores this fall season. Pick them up regularly and enjoy all the taste and health benefits they have to offer.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews