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10 Ways to Cook Winter Squash

Oh my gourd! Winter squash is so delicious and incredibly nutrient-dense. The deep, rich colors are beautiful to look at and their tastes are even more sensational. The tastes and textures of the types of winter squash vary slightly, but most are described as earthy, creamy, and rich. While the exact nutrient content will deviate a little from one variety of winter squash to the next, they are all rich in a diverse array of carotenoids, antioxidants that are converted in your body to vitamin A. Winter squash are also excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, and good sources of some minerals and metabolism-supporting B vitamins. They are also rich in filling fiber.

Any of the recipes below can be made with any type of winter squash, including butternut, kabocha, acorn, buttercup, carnival, pumpkin, sweet dumpling, spaghetti, blue hubbard, and delicata squash.

Winter Squash Fries

Who doesn’t love a big plate of piping hot fries? Make yourself some healthy fries by using winter squash rather than plain ol' taters.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and sliced into evenly-sized spears, blotted dry with a paper towel
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place butternut squash spears into a large bowl. Drizzle oil over spears, add salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and any additional seasonings you would like. Using your hands, toss to coat all spears evenly.
  2. On a baking sheet lined with foil, spread spears out. Bake 25-30 minutes, flipping spears halfway through until fries are golden and crispy. Serve with ketchup or your other favorite dipping sauces.

Roasted Maple Squash Medley

Roasting vegetables transforms and intensifies the earthy, sweet flavors of winter squash.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium acorn squash
  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup or black-strap molasses
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup queso fresco cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and dice both acorn and butternut squash and place in large bowl. Add oil, maple syrup, spices, and salt. Toss to coat.
  2. Spread mixture onto baking sheet lined with foil. Roast 20-25 minutes - squash should be golden and tender.
  3. Remove from oven. Top with crumbled queso fresco, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds and serve. This is also delicious served cold!

Mashed Winter Squash

Step aside mashed potatoes, there is a new vegetable stealing the spotlight. Banish the boring spud mashies and opt for mashed winter squash instead. Cook any variety of winter squash--butternut, acorn, pumpkin — and mash with your favorite herbs, spices, and little nonfat Greek yogurt for creaminess. Garlic, Parmesan cheese, and fresh parsley make for flavorful additions to your mashed squash.

Butternut Enchilada Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 medium (~2.5 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 2 serrano peppers, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, no salt added, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 6 large (or 8 small) corn tortillas, cut into fourths
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. In a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish, mix together butternut squash, onions, peppers, oil, and spices. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, removing from heat about halfway through to stir and return to oven. Once veggies are roasted, remove from oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F.
  2. Transfer veggies into a large bowl and add beans and salsa. Using the same dish in which you roasted the vegetables, layer bottom of a dish with cut-up tortilla, covering the bottom with one layer. Spread 1/3 of bean and veggie mixture on top of tortillas. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Put another layer of tortillas on top of the cheese. Put spinach on top of tortilla layer. Top with another 1/3 of bean and veggie mixture and another layer of 1/3 cup of cheese.
  3. Add the last layer of tortillas, the rest of the veggie and bean mixture, and spread enchilada sauce over the top. Top with rest of the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes. Cut into even squares and serve. Garnish with cilantro, lime wedges, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, or hot sauce.

Roasted Squash Soup

This velvety soup gets its creamy texture from healthy fats in almond milk rather than heavy cream, which is high in total fat — especially heart-damaging saturated fat--and calories. Plus, the deep, robust, sweeter flavor of the roasted butternut squash really permeates every yummy spoonful of this soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash (~2.5 pounds), peeled, seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch sized cubes
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 3.5 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Place squash and carrots on a baking sheet lined with foil. Spray veggies lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add shallots, onion, and salt and sauté about 7 or until translucent. Add garlic and saute 1 minute more.
  3. Add broth, cooked squash, maple syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, and black pepper. Cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until flavors have melded. Carefully using an immersion blender, blend soup until soup is blended completely. If using a regular stand blender, blend in batches and return to pot.
  4. Add almond milk, yogurt, and thyme. Stir until heated throughout. Season with additional salt, pepper, or a little cayenne if you like a little heat. Serve immediately.

Squash Tacos

Make your Taco Tuesdays a little more exciting, and vegetarian! Grilled or roasted cubes of seasoned butternut or acorn squash pair incredibly well with black beans, corn tortillas, tomatoes, lettuce and melty cheese for a healthy, delicious, nutrient-dense taco. Top with all of your favorite fixin's such as guacamole, pico de gallo, nonfat Greek yogurt (as a healthy substitute for fatty sour cream), and hot sauce.

Appetite-Squashing Chili

Any variety of winter squash adds a boost of nutrition, enormous sweet, earthy flavor, and dazzling color to a lackluster chili recipe. When sautéing the ground turkey, ground beef, or soy crumbles, along with your onions and peppers, toss in a cup of shredded or diced winter squash, any variety or combination. Add the usual chili suspects — your beans (drained and rinsed), canned tomatoes, spices, and herbs. Feeling lazy? Rather than dicing or grating squash, simply add in a can of pumpkin purée to your chili. This pureed winter squash will add creaminess to your chili without adding unnecessary fat from cheese or sour cream. This works well if you are serving it to picky eaters. Since it is puréed, most people won’t even notice pumpkin is in there.

Twice-Baked Squash

Twice-baked potatoes pale in comparison to twice-baked squash. It delivers so much more intense flavor and remarkable color that this is sure to become one of your go-to fall favorites.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium acorn squash
  • 2 green onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
  • 2 slices turkey bacon, cooked, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 6 Tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons breadcrumbs (whole-grain if available)
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut squash in half and discard seeds and any strings around seeds. Place in roasting pan flesh-side down and fill with 1/4 inch of water. Cover with foil. Bake about 35-45 minutes until squash is tender and can be pierced with a fork. Remove from oven, let cool until able to be handled. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F.
  2. Scoop out squash flesh into large bowl, leaving 1/4 border around sides (so squash keeps its shape). Add Greek yogurt, 4 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, bacon, green onions, salt, pepper, and paprika and mix well. Fill squash halves with mixture, sprinkle with remaining 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake another 20 minutes until top is golden brown.

Savory Squash Fritters

These quick, easy, scrumptious fritters are a creative way to enjoy butternut squash for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Plus, you can switch up the seasonings you use to make them taste a little different each time. Try Italian herbs, such as basil, oregano, and rosemary for one preparation, and season with chili powder, garlic, cumin, and a little cayenne for a spicy Mexican dish.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups shredded fresh butternut squash
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning, or a mix of your favorite herbs and spices
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Canola oil

Directions

You can peel and shred your butternut squash with the large holes on a box grater or in a food processor.

  1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together all ingredients except the oil.
  2. Lightly coat a large skillet with oil, turn skillet on medium-high heat. Using about 3 Tablespoons, scoop out mounds and place about 2 inches apart in the skillet. Flatten slightly with spatula and cook for 2-3 minutes, flip, and cook for 2 minutes more until fritters are golden brown and crispy.

All Your Baked Goods

Trying to cut back on fat and calories but want to enjoy moist, delicious baked goods? Simply swap out the oil called for in a recipe for an equal amount of cooked mashed winter squash. The ratio is 1 to 1, meaning if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of canola oil, you can simply mix in 1/2 cup cooked pureed squash. You could also use canned pumpkin (again, pumpkin is a type of winter squash). This works well in cakes, cupcakes, pancakes, waffles, muffins, scones, and breads.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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