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Fall Finds: Taking Stock of Winter Squash

Autumn is a magical time of year – the days are crisp, the trees are brilliantly colored, the smells of cider and cinnamon fill the air, and pumpkins and decorative corn stalks can be found around every corner. With that being said, fall is the perfect time to stock up on winter squash. Butternut squash and pumpkins only skim the surface – there’s an abundance of winter squash so don’t be afraid to branch out! Although winter squash is planted in the summer, it’s harvested in the fall and can keep through winter if stored in a cool, dry place.

Winter squash is a healthy, low calorie alternative that can spruce up just about any comfort food. Most varieties range from 40-75 calories per cooked cup. Winter squash is rich in carotenoids, which are antioxidants important for maintaining healthy vision and act as “brain food” by enhancing cognitive function. Winter squash is also loaded with vitamin C to boost your immune system as we head into flu season. Furthermore, although winter squash is considered a starchy vegetable, studies show that the slowly digested carbohydrates in squash lead to a steadier, more gradual rise in blood sugar than other starches, which can help prevent insulin resistance that causes diabetes. Bonus: Squash is also high in fiber, which aids in satiety and curbs your appetite!

Cooking Tips:

• Roast squash at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or steam for 15-20 minutes

• For pureed squash used in soups or baked goods, roasting first makes it much easier to peel the tough skin away from the flesh.

• For recipes calling for cubed squash: pierce with a fork in a few spots and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes to soften slightly prior to peeling, then cut into cubes and bake as directed.

• Help reduce food waste - don’t toss your squash seeds! They can be rinsed, dried, and toasted in the oven for a high protein snack. Try flavoring with cinnamon and brown sugar, paprika and chili powder, or classic salt and pepper with a little olive oil.

Types of Winter Squash

Pumpkins

Few things say autumn more than pumpkins, but did you know that this fall favorite is also chock full of nutrients? Pumpkin is an excellent source of potassium and vitamin A. Opt for sugar pie or baby bear pumpkins – they are smaller and sweeter, and thus better for baking and cooking. Make your own pumpkin puree and toss into baked goods such as pies, scones, or cookies. Try adding cubed pumpkin to your favorite chili recipe or swapping for the white potatoes in stew, or toss into your favorite casserole dish.

Butternut squash

Try pureed as a soup (try this roasted apple and butternut squash soup) or roast in the oven with olive oil and a few simple spices such as rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, or cloves.

Acorn squash

The size of acorn squash makes it ideal for stuffing with cooked grains (such as wild rice or barley) or sausage to make a meal (try this vegetarian sage and mushroom stuffed recipe here). Acorn squash can also be enjoyed by slicing into thin round wedges (skin included), coating with breadcrumbs and roasting to make a savory snack.

Spaghetti squash

A popular alternative to traditional pasta noodles due to its “stringy” texture, spaghetti squash is a low carb winter squash – 1 cup contains about 40 calories and 10 grams of carbs. To cook, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and roast in the oven or place in the microwave. Then, using a fork, scoop out the flesh. Toss with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese, or olive oil, roasted garlic, fresh tomatoes, and feta cheese for a quick, easy dinner.

Kobocha (Japanese Pumpkin)

This round squash is popular in Japanese cuisines and comes in reddish orange and mottled green colors. Try baking and tossing with cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, and slivered almonds for a healthy side dish.

Buttercup squash

Resembling a small green pumpkin, buttercup squash has a sweet, mild flavor. Roast and toss with sautéed kale or puree into a soup.

Delicata squash

With a distinctive oblong shape and cream colored flesh featuring green stripes running lengthwise, this squash has been described as having a flavor similar to sweet potatoes, and the skin is even edible!

Natalie Colla