Pumpkin and other winter squashes are not as common as they used to be in the American diet. Most pumpkin is consumed in the form of pie around the holiday season. Your challenge today is to include squash in a non-pie form in your diet. Why? Let’s look at this powerful vegetable a little closer and discover what it has to offer.
Benefits of squash
Both winter and summer squash varieties are rich in B vitamins; they can also help to reverse many of the damaging effects of stress on the body and further prevent other types of illness. Squash is also a good source of vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system, prevent colds, and help fight allergies.
Other nutrients found in squash include potassium and niacin. One of the most important beneficial nutrients of squash is one that has only recently been discovered. Squash is known to contain coumarins. Although coumarins are not anticoagulants per se, they interact with other nutrients to work as anticoagulants in the body. This means that squash can potentially have blood thinning effects, which can be beneficial for those with high blood pressure or poor circulation. In addition, this property can provide added protection against heart disease. Simplebites.net has an excellent post detailing the different varieties of squash. Click here to learn about squashes and their basic flavors.
Perhaps squashes are less popular than other vegetables because of their hard outer rind. Cutting into these rinds with a sharp knife and working with the round nature of most squashes can cause a nasty cut if you are not careful. Our simple solution to this hard problem is to bake the squash first then extract the soft insides. This technique works with all kinds of squashes from pumpkin, to acorn, to spaghetti!
- Clean the outside of the squash thoroughly.
- Place the squash on a rimmed baking dish or cookie sheet.
- Place in a preheated 350 degree oven.
- Set the timer for 30 minutes for a small squash or 1 hour for a larger squash.(or longer if necessary)
- The squash is done when a fork will easily pierce the rind of the squash.
- Remove from oven and let cool until the squash can be handled.
- With a sharp knife cut the squash in half from the stem to the base.
- Scrape out the seeds with a spoon.
- Scrape out the flesh with a spoon and immediately use in a recipe or place in a storage container for later use.
- Squash will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container for about 5 days.
How to include squash in your diet
If squash is a relatively new weapon in your nutritional arsenal, then a few ideas for using this wonder-veggie is in order. Keep in mind most winter squashes have a slightly sweet taste but are typically not a strong flavor. This helps in incorporating them into other recipes! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Add ½ cup of squash puree to each cup of pancake mix.
- Include 1-3 cups either chunked or pureed squash into soups. They add a wonderful depth of flavor to any cream or broth based soups.
- Incorporate ½-1cup of pureed squash into regular mashed potatoes.
- 1-3 tablespoons of pureed pumpkin in a serving of oatmeal, add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves for a pumpkin pie flavor.
- Use spaghetti squash as a substitute for noodles in a pasta dish.
- Experiment with other squashes in your pumpkin bread/muffin recipes.
- Add ½ cup pureed squash in your morning smoothie.
Hopefully this will inspire you to experiment on your own with squash. If you have a delicious squash recipe to share, contact us! We love to hear from you!