Winter Squash: Recipes and Tips (cont.)

4. Pumpkins

You can't get through October without seeing hundreds of pumpkins -- at the supermarket, on front porches, and atop the desks of co-workers. Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes. Like other large winter squashes, pumpkin can be cut into smaller pieces, the inside seed part removed, and cooked until the flesh is tender by steaming, microwaving, or roasting. Although many of us use canned pumpkin in our favorite recipes, here is some information on fresh pumpkins.

Use them:

  • Pureed and added to soups, or as a sauce for pasta dishes or filling for lasagna.
  • Roasted and served as a side dish or added to an entree.
  • Filled with rice, stuffing, or sausage mixtures (for smaller pumpkins).

One cup of fresh, boiled pumpkin will give you:

  • 49 calories, 2.2 grams fiber
  • Vitamins: 2,650 IU vitamin A (76% DV), 12 mg vitamin C (16% DV), 21 mcg folic acid (5% DV)
  • Minerals: 37 mg calcium (4% DV), 22 mg magnesium (7% DV), 564 mg potassium (12% DV)
  • Bonus: 1.7 mg vitamin E (11% of the daily recommendation of 15 mg)

How to Buy, Store, and Cook Winter Squash

When buying winter squash:

  • Choose one that seems heavy for its size and doesn't have any soft spots or cracks.
  • For squash sold in precut pieces (like banana or Hubbard squash), look for pieces with fresh-looking flesh texture and color.

When storing winter squash:

  • You can keep cut pieces in plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • If uncut, you can keep winter squash in a cool, dark, well-ventilated location for 30-180 days.
  • If it's cooked and pureed, you can freeze squash for up to 3 months.

When preparing winter squash:

  • For cutting tougher skinned varieties, you might need to use a cleaver or hefty chef's knife.
  • Your best cooking methods are steaming, baking, or microwaving.
  • For most types, it's easiest to cut them in half, remove the seeds with a large spoon, and bake the halves, flesh-side down, on a rimmed baking sheet coated lightly with canola oil or canola cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees until tender (30 to 40 minutes for most).
  • Be sure to cook until the flesh is tender, whichever preparation method you use.

Winter Squash Recipes

Here are three recipes to help you celebrate winter squash: a pasta entree, a spicy soup, and a risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto

5 cups butternut squash cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1, 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
6 cups chicken broth (lower sodium if available)
2 cups leeks (white and pale green parts), rinsed very well and thinly sliced
2 cups medium-grain rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup whole milk or fat-free half-and-half
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (more for garnish optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage (available in most produce sections)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a jellyroll pan with foil. Add the squash cubes and 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium bowl; toss well to coat the cubes. Spread them onto the prepared pan and bake until tender and lightly golden (about 40 minutes), stirring after 20 minutes.
  • While squash is baking, add the chicken broth to a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to simmer; cover to keep warm until needed.
  • Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute, stirring often, until soft and lightly brown (about 5 minutes). Add the dry rice and stir frequently for a minute. Pour in the wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until wine is absorbed (1 to 2 minutes). Reduce heat to LOW and add a cup of hot stock and simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed (3-5 minutes). Add remaining stock, a cup at a time, each time allowing stock to be absorbed before adding more. Stir each time you add stock. Right about the time you've added the 6 cups of stock, the rice should just be tender and the mixture should look a little creamy.
  • and pepper to taste if desired and serve each bowl with a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Per serving: 323 calories, 10.5 g protein, 53 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 4.5 g fiber, 230 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 22%.

Curry & Coconut Winter Squash Soup

1 large acorn squash
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallots
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red curry powder (add 1/4 teaspoon more if desired)
2 cups chicken broth (lower sodium, if available)
1 cup whole milk (fat-free half-and-half can also be used)
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 tablespoon brown sugar, firmly packed
Optional garnish: 4 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

  • Carefully cut acorn squash into about 8 wedges and scoop out any seeds with a large metal spoon. Place in large, microwave-safe dish with about 1/4 cup water, cover, and microwave on HIGH until just tender (about 9 minutes). Let cool for a few minutes. Once cool, cut away the skin of the squash wedges and cut into 3/4-inch cubes or pieces (about 4 cups).
  • Start heating a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil; when it's hot, add the shallots and saute, stirring often, for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to stir and cook for a minute. Stir in squash pieces, salt, and curry powder and cook, stirring often, for a few more minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium-high and pour in the chicken stock. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and let it simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring and mashing every 4 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, blend milk with coconut extract and set aside. When the squash mixture has finished simmering, stir in the brown sugar and the milk-coconut mixture. Use a masher briefly to smooth out any large chunks of squash. Cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve as is or, if you like a smoother texture, use an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor to puree until smooth. Garnish each bowl of soup with a dollop of fat-free sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh chopped chives, if desired.

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