I know what you’re thinking… squash takes work to prepare (even when I actually know what to do with it). The mounds of colorful, tough-skinned squash stacked perfectly in boxes in the grocery store. I think that we can all agree that squash, pumpkin and the like are beautiful.
However, I had no idea what to do with them…
I didn’t know I could pick up a frozen bag and could toss them into soups, salads, and rice dishes. I didn’t even know that I could roast them to create amazing pasta dishes. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a season for them (November/December…I’m preparing something fun with squash for Thanksgiving and Christmas next year)!
Underneath their colorful, sometimes rough, exteriors are nutrient-dense flesh that does really well in soups – it’s just the right amount of starch to yield a creamy texture. Add a little bit of ginger and cinnamon and voila! Roasted goodness…
Here’s the next question…
What are the different kinds of squash because this sounds too good to be true?!
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, kabocha squash has green skin, orange flesh, and a shape similar to pumpkin. The flesh is super sweet when cooked and is rich in beta-carotene – 1 cup has more than 200% DV of vitamin A! Before preparing for cooking, place whole squash in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes to soften the skin – it will make cutting, peeling, and chopping an easier and much safer experience. Try using kabocha in place of the butternut squash in your favorite soup.
Acorn squash varies in color from dark green to tie-dyed green with orange shades. The flesh is less sweet than kabocha and is more yellow than orange. Just one cup provides more than 25% DV of vitamin C. You can soften the squash if needed by heating in the oven, although it is small enough that this may not be needed. Trim the top from each squash, invert on the cutting board, and slice from bottom to top to create two halves. Remove seeds. You can bake the halves with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of maple syrup for 30 minutes at 350°F – an excellent side dish. You can also slice into half moons to prepare for roasting.
Sugar pumpkins look a lot like carving pumpkins so be sure to select those marked especially for cooking. They are sweeter than those cultivated for jack-o-lantern displays. The best way to cook the flesh is to roast the entire pumpkin – this allows the flesh to remain moist and helps the sugars to develop. Remove stem from pumpkin, rinse, and make several slits through the skin with a sharp knife. Bake at 350°F for about an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cooled. Cut the top portion off (around where the stem would be), remove seeds, and scoop out flesh.
Delicata squash has a mild, nutty flavor, firm flesh, and thin edible skin. Preparing this variety could not be simpler: rinse, cut in half, remove seeds, slice into half-moons, toss with some olive oil and salt and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes until browned. This is definitely something that is good enough to eat on their own as a fiber-rich snack!
What about the seeds?
Rinse any remaining flesh from seeds and lay out on paper towels to dry. For savory, toss with a bit of olive oil, seasoning of choice, and salt and pepper to taste.
For a sweet flair, toss the seeds with a bit of melted coconut oil, a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon or other spice, and a pinch of salt. Sweet and savory – why not!
All combinations are on the table, including adding a little kick with some cayenne pepper. Roast seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Enjoy as a snack or topping for salads, yogurt, oatmeal, or chia pudding.
You’ll also want to grab some recipes here!
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