Fall means cooler weather, football, apple-picking — and cozy foods. One signature food for fall is squash. It’s delicious whether it’s roasted, puréed into a soup or whipped into a healthy dessert.
This versatile ingredient comes in numerous varieties, including butternut, acorn, spaghetti and hubbard, just to name a few. They’re rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium. Squash is low in calories but full of phytonutrients to help rid the body of toxins that commonly lead to heart disease and cancer. The high fiber content also helps keep you full much longer.
Here are a few tips for cooking different types of squash:
• Acorn squash — The thick, uneven skin of this green squash makes it difficult to peel. The best approach is baking or roasting it with the skin on. Try it drizzled with olive oil and spices for a tasty side dish, or sprinkled with cinnamon and a little brown sugar for a healthy, warm dessert. The skin can even serve as a festive bowl!
• Butternut squash — This yellow, pear-shaped squash has a thinner skin, which allows it to be peeled before baking. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then cut the flesh into cubes for quick cooking. Butternut squash is great puréed into a soup, stuffed into whole wheat ravioli, or whipped and baked with low-fat milk, eggs and fall spices for a tasty pudding.
• Spaghetti squash — This unique squash is perfect for an easy, healthy and delicious meal. Leaving the skin on, cut it in half and bake cut side down in a little water. The magic happens after about 45 minutes. Once cooked, the flesh can be easily separated into pasta-like strands with a fork. Toss with your favorite pasta sauce and enjoy.
Butternut Squash & Chicken Stew
Makes 8 servings
• 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
• 2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
• 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 onion
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 chili peppers, finely chopped
• 3 tablespoons dry white wine
• 1.25 cup low-sodium chicken stock
• 4 thyme sprigs
• 2 bay leaves
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare the squash, cut it in half lengthwise and peel it with a potato peeler. With the cut side down, slice it across and then into 1-inch pieces, removing the seeds as you go.
Toss the chicken pieces in the flour and sauté, using half the oil until it is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a deep oven-proof dish.
Add the rest of the oil to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic and chilies until soft and starting to brown.
Add the wine and simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half. Pour liquid over the chicken.
Add the stock, butternut squash, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper to the dish, cover with a lid or foil, and place in the oven for two hours. Stir at least halfway through the cooking time.
Serve with brown rice (optional) and enjoy!
Nutrition information per serving: 259 calories, 8 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrates, 28 grams protein, 394 milligrams sodium, 4 grams fiber
Emily DelConte, Kali Garges, Amy King, Kelly Markiewicz and Meghan Martorana write this column and are registered dietitians at EVOLUTION — Nutrition Counseling by Dietitians in Bristol, East Greenwich, Newport and Providence. They adapt the recipes from public domain or copyright-free recipes.