Winter Squash finds it way to my table on a regular basis. This versatile starchy vegetable lends itself to savory or sweet additions. Add it to soup, nourish bowls, tacos, chopped salads, or a pasta dish. If your prefer to keep it simple simply steam or oven roast slices of squash for a filling side dish. Enjoy it as snack hot from the oven or even eat a few slices for breakfast!
This comfort food is an excellent source of fiber and complex carbohydrates as well as vitamin A and C. I keep an assortment of squash on hand all winter long. There are usually 4-5 squash in a 17 inch Holland Wood Bowl on my kitchen island or the dining room table. There are so many different types of winter squash to choose from so have fun trying them all.
I just want you to see how much fiber this low calorie, low fat, starchy squash has. It’s an incredible healthy food to include as often as you wish.
The USDA lists winter squash as a 1 cup serving.
Acorn Squash 1 cup, 115 calories, .29g fat, 2.3g protein, 29.89g carbohydrates, 9.9g fiber
Butternut Squash 1 cup, 82 calories, .18g fat, 1.84g protein, 21.5g carbohydrates, 6.6g fiber
Honey nut squash on the far left, a delicata – striped in the center, a spaghetti squash behind it, kabocha on the right in back, right front a butternut and center front an Acorn squash.
How To Buy Winter Squash
Avoid squash with cuts or punctures in the skin. Choose squash that are heavy for their size. Variations in the skin color do not affect the flavor.
How To Store
Store whole squash in a cool dry place for 1 to 2 months. You may store longer if you have a dry, cool, dark storage place like a basement.
Once cut, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, refrigerate and cook within 5 days.
Once cooked, refrigerate and use within 4 days, or freeze cooked squash in air tight containers for up to one year.
How To Cook
Winter squash can be steamed, oven roasted or microwaved.
How To Prepare for Cooking
Wash and scrub using a vegetable brush, cut in half, remove seeds, cut into slices if desired. Some varieties may be peeled and diced before cooking.
Hint: To make cutting an uncooked winter squash easier, I pierce the skin 5-6 times with a sharp knife, then place on a layer of paper towels in the microwave and cook on high for 3-5 minutes. This softens the tough outside enough to make it easier and safer to cut open. Remove from microwave with hot pads, let cool until easy to handle. Place squash on a non sliding, cutting board, grasp firmly with one hand and using a large sharp knife cut through to the center, turn over and cut the other side until squash comes apart.
I find cleaning out the seeds to be a messy task, but this ice cream scoop makes easy work of cleaning out all those seeds and membranes. It has a thin but sharp edge that makes quick work of a tedious task.
How to Microwave As A Cooking Option
Place halves or quarters face down in a dish, add 1/4 cup water, cover the dish, microwave 6 minutes per pound. Be careful when removing dish from the microwave as the water will be hot.
Well Your World has an excellent Date Powder that is wonderful to sprinkle over the squash with a little cinnamon and nutmeg – mash the squash and you have a delicious dish of winter squash.
How To Steam Squash
I use a simple Stainless Steel Collapsible Steamer Basket in a pot on the stove. Bring water to a boil under the steamer basket. How long to steam, depends on the squash and, how thick you cut it. Use a fork to pierce the squash to tell if it is cooked all the way through. I also use this method to quickly steam potatoes and sweet potatoes. It is so fast! The steamer baskets come in different sizes so be sure to consider what size pot you will be using.
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OVEN ROASTED KABOCHA SQUASH
Ka-BOH-cha. This squash is a less common winter squash but it has gained popularity and can be found in many regular grocery stores now. Whole Foods, Asian markets and the Farmer’s Market usually have them. It has become my favorite winter squash. It is dense, filling and sweet all on it’s own. It taste like a sweet potato combined with a pumpkin! Scrumptious! The squash will still brown and caramelize without oil. It is fabulous!
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees or if using a convection oven 400 degrees – different ovens vary so figure out what temperature and length of time is best for your appliances.
Scrub the flesh well with a vegetable brush. No need to peel this one. You can eat the peel once cooked it becomes very tender.
Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, slice into 1 -1 1/2 inch thick slices.
Hint: If hubby Tom is home I have him cut the squash for me. One day he wasn’t here so I had to find a way to cut a huge squash myself. To make cutting easier I pierced the skin all over with a sharp knife, then placed the squash on a layer of paper towels in the microwave and cooked on high for about 5 minutes. Remove from microwave with hot pads, let cool until easy to handle. Place squash on a non sliding cutting board, grasp firmly with one hand and using a large sharp knife cut through to the center, turn over and cut the other side until squash comes apart. Easy!
Cover a baking sheet with foil, (enjoy an easy clean up) and line it with parchment paper or use a Silpat mat. Season with freshly ground black pepper or cinnamon and roast in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes or until tender. You can turn the slices over after 15 minutes to brown both sides if desired. Use as a side dish to Lentil Loaf with Date Glaze or over rice with steamed greens, on top of a salad with seasoned lentils. Refrigerate the leftovers and reheat gently in a microwave oven.
As it roasts in the oven the outer skin of the kabocha squash softens up and becomes tender enough to eat. This squash is sweet all on it’s own and is quite dense almost like a sweet potato.
These two varieties of kabocha the regular one and this red one, are very similar in texture and taste.
The acorn squash and a little butternut squash are oil free – the glossy outside is just from the moisture of the squash. No oil is needed to cook these. They are delicious all on their own.
BAKED ACORN SQUASH
Acorn squash are more common and can be found in most all grocery stores. You might find green or golden ones that are all orange. These are less sweet than other winter squash. They are the perfect shape to be stuffed with a ground meat and rice mixture or cooked greens and grains for an entree. I like them as a side dish drizzled with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Warm and comforting! Try this stuffed version
Pre -heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash the squash well, then cut in half (the long way) remove the seeds, season with freshy ground black pepper, or cinnamon or leave them plain. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silpat mat and then a sheet of parchment paper, place squash cut sides down and cook for 30 -40 minutes.
To serve drizzle with mate syrup, maple syrup or sprinkle with a teaspoon of date sugar and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. I like to eat it with a spoon so I can scoop out all of the good stuff! Go ahead and roast 2 or 3 of these since you have the oven going. Cool completely, wrap with plastic wrap or put in Tupperware and store in the refrigerator. They reheat quickly in the microwave and make for a nice snack or a quick side dish later in the week. Or you can scoop out the squash and put it in a freezer safe container and freeze it for using in the future.
Curry Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash is one of my favorite ways to enjoy acorn squash. You can also try the same concept but with Mexican spices and black beans instead of garbanzo beans.
This is also a very common squash that can be found in the grocery store. It can be cut in half and prepared like the acorn squash. ( See my hint above for easy cutting.) When it is done cooking you can let it cool slightly and then using a large spoon remove the cooked squash to a bowl and mash it with a little date syrup or maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg.
I have found that if time allows I like to remove the peel and oven roast cubes of butternut squash. The oven roasting allows the natural sugars in the squash to come out and caramelize and the flavor is sweeter. It is a little more work because you have to get that tough peel off. You can use a sharp knife if you are skilled at doing so and don’t have to worry about slipping and cutting yourself.
Or, if you are more like me, you might want to get a good vegetable peeler for this job. I have found this style of Kitchen Aid Vegetable Peeler to be very effective foe peeling the tough skin of a butternut squash. This peeler allows you to get a firm grip and pull with some force the full length of the squash. It works great!
Once you have the butternut squash peeled, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and dice into even pieces. At this point the squash is ready to use in soups or ready to oven roast. To oven roast, preheat the oven to 400 – 425°. Cover a baking sheet with foil, then line it with parchment paper or use a Silpat mat, season squash with freshly ground black pepper, spread it out on baking sheet and oven roast for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Stir once half way through baking time. The result of this cooking method is all those little cubes of cooked squash can be tossed into a chopped salad or scattered over some grains and steamed greens, mixed with some cooked lentils or tossed into a bowl of soup.
You will love this Easy Pumpkin Curry. Feel free to use a butternut or kabocha squash if you don’t have a pumpkin on hand.
This Curry Ginger Butternut Squash Soup is one of our favorites. I make it all year long. If you purchase the pre – cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s or Costco it goes together quickly! You can also find frozen squash at many stores too. Fresh, frozen or pre-cut, however you decide to purchase winter squash will make a nice addition to your weekly menu. Enjoy!
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