Squash for All Seasons

Winter squash is super healthy. Try these family-pleasing recipes.

This time of the year you’re probably seeing huge bins of unrecognizable “gourds” at the grocery store or farmers market, begging you to take them home, fret over them, arrange and re-arrange them, or maybe they’re piled up at a roadside stand, looking pretty and decorative, but not necessarily tasty. Most of these pumpkin-cousins are really just simple squashes.

Squashes and gourds both come from the same family of cucurbita species. There are very specific categories of cucurbita, but in this part of the country you generally hear squash referred to as summer and winter squash. This refers to whether a squash is harvested when it’s immature (summer) or mature (winter), which is also why winter squash are generally larger than summer squash. 

In the summer we see yellow or crook-neck squash as well as zucchini and occasionally acorn squash. In the fall we see butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squash as well as the unsurpassable pumpkin. There are other, less well-known winter squashes such as hubbard squash, cheese squash, and cushaw squash. Almost all of them are hearty, meaty, and nearly impossible to cut without a vice grip, a large serrated knife, and a partner in crime.

But don’t let that stop you from taking them on. Your hard work will be rewarded with dense, fiber-rich flesh that can substitute for meat in meals like chili, lasagna, or ravioli. 

Recently, squash (like kale, chickpeas, and avocados) have made a massive comeback in the foodie community, likely because of their variety and flexibility in dishes as well as their nutritional value. Just search “spaghetti squash recipe” on Pinterest and prepare to be overwhelmed with ideas. But sometimes, simple is best. And winter squash can certainly shine in very simple applications. Not to mention, they make great fall-themed decorations up until you’re ready to cook them. 

The average winter squash has a mere 40 calories per cup, less than one gram of fat, over 30 percent of your vitamin A and 25 percent of your Vitamin C. It also contains B vitamins, fiber, and plenty of potassium. But how do you get your kids (read: your husband) to eat them? Find a few recipe inspirations below.

Apple and acorn squash casserole would be perfect on the Thanksgiving Day table, and spicy pumpkin bisque is a great choice for a rainy day with some good, crusty bread. Then take on this so, so simple winter squash preparation and customize it to suite your taste or what you have on hand. And speaking of hands…you’re going to need an extra one when you get ready to start cutting. 

Spicy Pumpkin Bisque 

Serves 4
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. cumin (add more if you are a cumin lover like me)
1 t. red curry paste (may omit if you don’t have any on hand)
1 3/4 cup fresh pumpkin puree (or 1 14- or 15-oz can pumpkin if fresh is not available) 
1 14-oz can Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies
1 cup roasted fresh corn kernels (or regular if you don’t have time to roast)
1/2 cup salsa (I use a jalapeno-cilantro salsa)
1 cup light broth
1 14-oz. can coconut milk (or fresh if available)
Sea or kosher (coarse ground) salt and fresh ground pepper
Chopped cilantro to taste (dried or fresh)
1 t. raw organic agave nectar (or other sweetener that is available)
1/4 cup light sherry
Juice from 1 fresh lime

• Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-low heat and add the garlic, cumin, and curry paste; stir for one minute. Add the pumpkin, fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies, roasted corn, and salsa. Stir to combine.

• Add the broth. Heat until mixture comes to a simmer and begin adding the coconut milk; start with one cup. If you like it creamy, add more. Season with the salt and ground pepper, cilantro, and sherry. Continue heating until mixture comes to another simmer.  Add lime juice and stir.

• Add more spice if you want spicier soup; add more agave and/or coconut milk if you prefer less spicy flavor.

Recipe Courtesy of Daryl Nemo, BFBLHR Volunteer

Acorn Squash and Apple Casserole

Serves 4 
1 acorn squash
2 apples, cored and sliced
1 T. butter
2 T. brown sugar
1 T. finely chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

• To easily peel the acorn squash without losing a lot of the flesh, put the squash into a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain the water and replace with cold water and allow squash to cool for 5-10 minutes, until cool to the touch. Peel the skin off with a knife or use a spoon to get into the ridges. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds. and cut off the stem. Slice each half into one-inch pieces. 

• Place the squash chunks into a large casserole dish with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, walnuts, salt, and cinnamon. 

• To microwave, place plastic wrap over the dish, poke a few holes in it, then microwave for 7 minutes on high. Remove, uncover and stir, then return to the microwave for another seven minutes or until squash is fork tender. 

• To bake, cover casserole with aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for about 30 min. or until squash is fork tender. Stir once halfway through bake time. 

Roasted Winter Squash

Take any medium-sized winter squash such as butternut, spaghetti, or acorn and cut in half, lengthwise. Remove all seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on an aluminum lined baking sheet. Rub exposed flesh with olive oil; then season with salt and pepper (or other herbs or spices you have on hand such as curry powder, tarragon, or sage).

Bake uncovered one hour (or 45 minutes for small squash such as acorn) until easily pierced through with a fork. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut into large pieces or wedges and serve. 

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.

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