The Season’s Sweetest Vegetable: Squash

It’s that time of year, when the farmer’s markets and grocery stores fill with a variety of squash, but what do we do with this vegetable and why is it so healthy? Squash is a nutrition powerhouse, loaded with potassium, fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Better than that, children might be more willing to try it thanks to its naturally sweet taste. Natural sugars present in cooked winter squash make it an easy sell. Read more about my 4 favorite winter squashes:

butternut

Butternut Squash: Mild, nutty flavor. Uses: Steam chunks until tender, then puree with 1 tablespoon of Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, small amount of skim milk, cinnamon and a splurge of honey. Skylar’s tip: Sneak an extra veggie serving in to your families’ meal by simply adding plain pureed butternut squash to mac and cheese, or mixed into a rice dish. Make your own apple squash cupcakes, squash muffins, or squash pancakes. acorn-squashAcorn Squash: Savory flavor. Uses: Cut squash in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Preheat oven to 350 degrees while slicing the squash, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, brown sugar and a dash on honey; roast until tender for 30-45 minutes. Or, try pureeing acorn squash with butter, salt, and a sprinkle of nutmeg and use as a soup or sauce over pasta. Skylar’s tip: Choose acorn squash that is heavy for its size, with a hard skin free of blemishes.

delicata

Delicata Squash: Mild, nutty flavor. The Cook’s Thesaurus notes that it has a taste similar to that of sweet potatoes. Uses: Unlike winter squash, delicata squash is easily chopped and sliced and does not require roasting or baking to soften its flesh (although a quick 30 seconds in the microwave does help). Slice halves of delicata into 1-inch pieces, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, a drizzle of maple syrup on a baking dish, and roast in the oven at 425 degrees until tender.

spaghetti squash

Spaghetti Squash: A spaghetti squash looks like a small yellow watermelon, and weighs anywhere from 2 to 5 pounds. Uses: Cooked, this squash is a great substitute for pasta. Cold, it can make a nice salad side. Prepare by piercing squash with a fork and baking whole at 375 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour. When you scrape out the inside flesh of the squash halves it easily separates into pasta-like strands. Grate your favorite cheese on top!

Skylar’s Other Helpful Hints:

  • Try “squash chips” by adding some salt and oregano on top and roast for about an hour on a baking plan sprayed with olive oil at 200F. Rotate the tray halfway through.
  • Boil squash and potatoes together for a multicolor mash. Add a little milk, butter, and spices to taste.
  • Once children are old enough, get them involved in planting squash in the garden and learning about how squash grows.