Lovin’ Fall and Winter Squash

By Diane Giuliani

I love autumn!! Every day I delight in Mother Nature’s brilliant display of fall colors on the trees. I relish the last of the divinely warm daytime temperatures, but can hardly wait for the nippy air temps at night. Pumpkins are everywhere you turn. Some paid their last tribute as creatively carved Jack-o-lanterns, while others will soon decorate the Thanksgiving table or greet your guests at the front door. My summer garden is winding down and a smile grows on my face as I harvest the last of two favorites ~ Butternut and Spaghetti squash. I gleefully anticipate their ultimate destiny in my kitchen as the colder days of fall and winter approach. Gosh ~ what’s not to love about all of that?! As you’ve probably guessed, this month’s featured food is winter squash! These wonderfully hearty vegetables can be used in soups, stews and salads or roasted and served as a side dish with a scrumptious and grounding autumn meal. Be sure to check out this month’s recipe below!!

Winter Squash comes in many different shapes and sizes. While the varieties are distinctive in flavor and appearance, they all have a protective skin that is difficult to pierce, accounting for its long storage life. Some of the more popular varieties include: Butternut, Acorn, Hubbard, Turban, Spaghetti and Kabocha Squash. Although winter squash is available from August through March, the peak season for winter squash is in the fall during the months of October and November. These are the months that the concentration of nutrients and flavor are the highest and its cost is at its lowest.

Winter squash promotes both heart and respiratory health because of its high concentrations of Vitamins A and C. The typical deep orange and yellow colors are a reflection of their rich source of carotenoid phytonutrients (plant nutrients), making them rich in antioxidants. They support our immune system and help make our natural killer cells more effective. They’re also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 and niacin. Winter squash contains only 80 calories per one cup serving, which makes it an ideal food for healthy weight control.

To select the best tasting winter squash look for ones that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull (not glossy) rinds. Winter squash continues to respire even after it’s been picked so it’s best to store it in a cool dark place, away from heat and bright light. Winter squash is best cooked either steamed or roasted. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • For those that have a very hard rind, I put the whole squash into the microwave for 3-5 minutes on high (possibly longer if the squash is large). This will soften the rind just a tad so that it’s easier to get a knife into it.
  • Butternut and Kabocha squash can both be peeled with a vegetable peeler so that you can cut it into smaller pieces before roasting. This is a great method to use when you’d like to add some color and a different texture to a fall salad.

After you’ve cut your squash in half, scoop out the seeds and either steam the two halves, or turn the halves flesh side down into a glass Pyrex, add a 1/4 cup of water to the dish and cover with foil. Roast in a 350ºF oven until the squash is fork tender. Once done, the flesh can be scooped out and seasoned to your liking.

In the spirit of the season and with gratitude ~
Diane

Red Curry with Cauliflower and Butternut Squash

Inspired from: Delicious Living Magazine
Serves 4 | Vegan | Slow Cooker

In the morning, transfer the green beans from the freezer to the refrigerator so that they’re thawed later in the day. For added protein, stir in red lentils halfway through cooking time, or fold in cooked garbanzo beans at the end. Serve with brown basmati rice.

Ingredients:
1 small head of cauliflower, cored
1 medium butternut or kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
4 carrots, chopped in medium sized chunks
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 lemon grass bulbs, slightly smashed
1-2 tbsp. red curry paste
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk – I prefer using full fat milk rather than the low fat milk
2 ½ cups organic chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 pound frozen green beans, thawed
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions:

Cut the cauliflower into large florets. Combine cauliflower, squash, carrots, onion, ginger and lemon grass in a 4-5 quart slow cooker.

In a small bowl, combine curry paste, red pepper flakes and a little coconut milk; stir until creamy, and add to pot. Add remaining coconut milk and broth; stir to mix. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 6-7 hours, until vegetables are tender. If you want to boost the protein in this dish, be sure to remember to add the red lentils halfway through the cooking process.

During the final 20 minutes of cooking, season with salt and add the green beans. Cover and cook until beans are hot. Just before serving, stir in the chopped fresh basil. Serve in shallow bowls with cooked basmati rice.

Notes:

  • If you don’t have a slow cooker, this recipe can be made on the stove top. Be sure to keep an eye on it though because it will not take nearly as long to cook.
  • Cubed, extra-firm tofu can also be added to this dish during the final 20 minutes of cooking.

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