Winter Squash 101

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The produce aisle has changed as of late. The shelves have switched from recognizable favorites like zucchini and green beans to rough, bumpy squashes like butternut and acorn. If you’ve ever tried these varieties on a whim, you already know they’re delicious if prepared well. If you haven’t tried them, I’m sure the question of what to do with them is your biggest obstacle.

Types of Winter Squash:

The problem with winter squash is in the preparation. Most varieties have thick skins that need to be peeled, seeded or otherwise dealt with before eating. There are two simple solutions to this problem that takes the guesswork out of a tough squash.

When boiling and mashing: The first time I made butternut squash, I peeled, seeded, cubed and boiled it to mush. It was delicious, but honestly, it took a good 1/2 hour just to prep. No more peeling for me! Years ago I found an easy solution online. Pop it in the microwave before peeling to loosen the skin. Poke holes in the skin to avoid pressure buildup inside, then nuke it for about 5 minutes, turning regularly. Once the skin is wilted and soft, it will be much easier to peel.

Helpful tip: To save time, you could simply microwave it until the entire inside is soft. No need to boil at all!

When roasting: Simply cut your squash in half the long way, remove the seeds, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven. It should take about 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, but will vary depending on its size. You’ll know its done if you can poke a knife easily all the way through. Simply scoop out the flesh for a great winter side dish.

Helpful tip: use a heavy duty knife, preferably one big enough to make one pass. The raw squash will be tough. Pack your muscles. 

Alright! Now that your preparation confidence has been lifted, it’s time to decide which one to buy.

Butternut squash: A favorite Thanksgiving side dish in my house, the butternut squash isButternut squash great for sweet or savory preparations. There are recipes everywhere for this autumn star, everything from soups to lasagnas to butternut squash gingerbread cake (oh my!).

Butternut Squash Gingerbread Cake (Greens of the Stone Age)

Sage Roasted Butternut Squash Puree (Hold the Grain)

Acorn squash: A smaller, cuter cousin of the butternut, this variety is easily cut in half, 5196852790_3700682351seeded and roasted, just like the butternut. A simple drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic gives a savory taste, but could also be mixed with cinnamon and honey for a sweeter dish.

Stuffed Acorn Squash (Stupid Easy Paleo)

Acorn Squash Custard (It’s A Love/Love Thing)

Sugar pumpkin: Yep, pumpkins are good for more than carving, although not all varieties are meanpumpkin-squash-halloween-soupt to eat. Sugar pumpkins are the most common variety to make sweet treats like pumpkin pie, but can also be used like a butternut squash for more savory flavors.

Pumpkin-Coconut Bisque (Popsugar)

Paleo Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes (My Whole Food Life)

 

Don’t forget the seeds!

Pumpkin and spaghetti squash are my favorite roasted seeds! You can slow-roast them, or if you’re pressed for time, bake them alongside your roasting squash for a quick treat. These little gems burn easily though, so watch them carefully and turn a few times while your squash cooks. They’re done when golden brown.

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Like this article? Your friends may too! Don’t forget to share!

You may also like:

‘Tis the Season for Pumpkin EVERYTHING

Time for a Post-Thanksgiving Diet Reboot?

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