November 01, 2011

Winter Squash: Where the Hell Have You Been All My Life?

Curious about the health benefits of butternut, acorn, hubbard, turban, kabocha, and other winter squashes? Need some recipes?

And yes, I believe I am the last health and fitness blogger on the planet to discover that the big piles of gourdy-looking objects on display this time of year at the grocery store are actually edible food items. I thought they were table decorations!

As it turns out, winter squashes are tasty. They are not nearly as caloric as you might think, given the gloriously sweet & starchy nature of them. Though some are scary-looking, they can actually be easy to prepare if you're lazy busy, and they have tons of sneaky health benefits. How did I manage to miss them all these years?

So if you haven't already read a million other posts about sweet winter squashes, or if the posts you read had too much actual information in them and not enough swearing or gratuitous cat pictures (always a problem in nutrition posts, don't you think?) then it looks you've come to the right place!

Photo: aturkus

Winter Squashes and Nutrition:

The "World's Healthiest Foods" website has the full scoop on the nutritional benefits of winter squashes, so I'll steal their content pass along some of their info.

For example, winter squash has:

  • Craploads of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin.
  • Seeds that you can lightly roast (160-170°F for 15-20 minutes) that have lots of linoleic and oleic acid.
  • Particularly virtuous kinds of starch--pectins--that are "specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan."  Um, yeah. Anyway, these are good because they have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties.  And hooray for all that!

But WHF warns you to make sure you get 'em organic, as they are superstars at sucking up nasty soil contaminants, like PAHs.

Squash: A Better Calorie Bargain?

Starches have gotten a lot of bad press nutritionally (unless you're looking at the whole resistant starch issue; a topic for another time).  But check out the nutritional differences when Fitsugar compares squash vs sweet potatoes, and The Washington Post compares kabocha squash and regular potatoes. If you're trying to save a few more calories for inexcusably big slices of cake and big honking cheeseburgers extra portions of healthy fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, then squash may make an excellent potato substitute.

Squash Recipes

Some of these big-ass squash look so intimidating it's hard to think what you might be able to do with them.

But if you'd rather eat them than disguise them, there are lots of ideas out there!

What Crabby Did

I peeled a butternut squash (pain in the ass, by the way), cut it up, & brushed lightly with olive oil. Baked for over an hour at 350 until the pieces were soft, then mashed them with some chicken broth and nutmeg. Easy-peasey, and tasted good!

Photo:  BourgeoisBee

OK, so that wasn't exactly helpful.  Sorry, frowny cat. But I believe that's a summery squash you're dealing with there anyway.  Hmm, is there anyone else out there who has some ideas for winter squash?

Pathetic Bid for Attention From Reaching Out to New Friends at... the Dole Health Summit!

So if you google squash recipes, especially if you have a particular kind in mind, it's not like there's any shortage.  But in honor of the upcoming Dole "Health and Happiness Summit," (which I'm sure you'll be hearing about later, or I'll never get invited to another blogging conference again),  I thought I'd check out the blogs of some of those folks I'll be meeting. Do any of them have any winter squash recipes?  As it turns out, many of 'em do! However, apologies to @APSandy, who is an awesome twitter person to follow but whose blog I couldn't find, and Tish from Luv and Kiwi who has an excellent blog but saw me coming and hid all her winter squash recipes where I couldn't find them and steal them.

So in no particular order:

Check out the fabulous FBG's  Acorn Squash Dip with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

Over at Meals and Miles, Meghann gussies up some hubbard squash by adding hummus, cheese, apples, and other tasty ingredients.

At Bookieboo's ginormous and helpful site, there's a tasty looking recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa that looks really, really tasty.

Iowa Girl Eats has a recipe and nearly-pornographic pictures of a Butternut Squash Lasagna. Visit if you dare.

Tina at Carrots and Cake tried out Hungry Girl's Cheesy Butternut Bake, adding amusing commentary and a picture of a seriously adorable dog.

Over at The Token Fat Girl, yet another great blog, you can find a quick recipe for Recipe for butternut squash fries. And doesn't the world need more non-guilt inducing fries?

And finally, at Run Eat Repeat, there's a super-easy recipe for pumpkin creme which makes a creme to put on waffles. (Is pumpkin a winter squash? What the hell, close enough.  But dangit Monica, with your tasty breakfast pictures.... suddenly I'm in dire need of a waffle!)

BTW, I've been offline much more than I thought this week, what with our cross-country move and the odious unpacking, storing, schlepping, errands and chores exciting organizational challenges and functional fitness opportunities that's brought.  And I realize I may be a bit distracted by the Dole thing as it's my first blog event ever. (Can't imagine why "Crabby McSlacker" wouldn't be a welcome guest at any marketing event!)   So my apologies for unanswered emails, unvisited favorite blogs etc.  Will catch up eventually, I promise!

So, um squash. Or any new food item you recently discovered, or thoughts about conferences or moving or anything on your mind today? And if you've got favorite recipes, please throw in a link!


  1. I love squash and butternut squash soup is my favourite go-to option for lunch.. though I usually buy it prepared. My son makes a delicious roasted squash dish.. baked with onions, Parmesan cheese and other goodies.

  2. Hilary, that roasted squash w/ parmesan and onions sounds awesome! And you apparently have a son who cooks, even more awesome!

  3. I mostly can't stand squash aside from two things my mom makes:

    1. Squash pie (like pumpkin pie, but made with squash)

    2. Creole squash, which was apparently a recipe from my paternal grandmother. Mashed squash is mixed with bacon, onions, tomatoes and oregano, topped with cheese and baked so that by the time it's done it does not resemble squash at all.

    So for me the rule if you can turn it into dessert or add tomatoes, oregano & cheese, I'll eat it.

  4. A friend gave me a kabocha squash a month ago and I have no idea what to do with it. I do have a picture of it posing with the cat.


  5. I love squash, but I would never recommend trying to peel it. Easier to cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and nuke it for 10 mins or so. I just made a great pumpkin soup that was actually very easy and delicous.

  6. Squash tastes great and you can get a lot of mileage out of one gourd. I make all of our rugrat's baby food and one of his first solids was a simple yellow squash, steamed and pureed (with skin). He loved it. Butternut squash soup is divine, as well as cubed and roasted with onions and spices, such as garam masala and fresh cilantro. *drools*

  7. My mother-in-law bakes a mean squash. She grows them in her garden, cuts them up and bakes them, and they taste SO GOOD!
    There also used to be a family of stray cats in their yard, but they left. So thank you for the gratuitous kitty pix!

  8. Agree with Mary, Roxy and Torrey about not peeling squash. Wash and chop into halves or quarters, rub in olive oil, sea salt, bit of nutmeg if you're feeling adventurous, and roast for up to an hour.
    I roast the seeds in olive or canola oil and sea salt. Tasty.

  9. I love squash! I didn't read all the comments so maybe someone already told you this but if you microwave the butternut for 5 minutes you can peel it easy-peasy:) Otherwise that thing is a monster! My fave way to cook squash though is to just stick it in the over for an hour or two and let that baby slow roast...mmmm

  10. Being a totally uneducated squash newbie, I'm finding these tips tremendously helpful--thanks everyone!

  11. My favorite is spaghetti squash (yes, they call it that for a very good reason!). Roast it for an hour and then take a fork and rake lovely spaghetti-like strands. I use it as a substitute for pasta. Delish!

  12. I'm not sure I've laughed so from reading about squash in quite a while. Or ever, for that matter. Maybe I've been missing out, but I've never found a squash that made me giggle before.

    I make kabocha fries with the skin still on 'em. Chop into fry shape pieces, spray with olive oil, put on a cookie sheet, bake at 375 for 25 minutes, they're dry, crispy and dippable. And if you grate some parm on top, I won't tell anyone.

  13. Hm, squash is not something I have tried. I am not a big pumpkin fan, so don't imagine I will like the others, but, who knows?

  14. I like buying squash and leaving it on my counters so when friends pop by they enviously look at my gourds and think I actually know how to cook them. I do like to eat them when someone else does though. The comments are awesome because now I just might try to cook one myself!

  15. We love us some squash round here! Butternut soup (I can email you a recipe - too long for a comment). But our favorite is probably stuffed acorn. To start, cut the top off and a bit of the bottom (so it stands up), scoop out the seeds. Add a bit of butter to the bottom and roast at 375ish until soft. To fill, 2 options: 1) stovetop (make it as per recipe then just scoop it in, add a bit of butter on top to keep it moist, and a bit of parm, bake for 15 minutes, done) 2) Same as stovetop, but use leftover stuffing from Thanksgiving dinner. Sausage stuffing is especially good. Just be sure to add some butter on top to keep the stuffing from drying out while cooking. We like spaghetti squash too - just a bit of butter, herbs, and some spice to add flavor! Oh, I also have a whole lotta pumpkin recipes stored up.

    And lastly - never attempt to peel a raw squash. That only results in finger detachment and lots of swearing. Always bake (or nuke) first!

  16. Yay for gratuitous cat pictures!

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  17. Always informative & funny at the same time! :-) I ate squash more as a kid than now since I am a lazy cook & never been the biggest fan BUT I can season it up & make it taste different as you metnioned. I will have to see which is the easiest & least amount of ingredients to make! ;-)

    Have fun at the conference & welcome back to CA & now the leak at San Onofre - great, right! Too close to me!

  18. Thank you, thank you for the link back! Can't wait to meet you in the sunshine state! :)

  19. I made a whole wheat bread using acorn squash and dried cranberries. It was really good and very moist. It goes great with tea or soup.

  20. I like to cut my favorite squashes, kabocha, b'nut, Hubbard, Sweetmeat, in pieces with a heavy knife or cleaver, pressure cook briefly, or steam, then when cooled, scoop away from the skins. I eat some immed. refrigerate the rest for sauces, salads, soups. I even add chunks or spoonfuls to the morning hot cereal.

  21. i love butternut squash with loads of cinnamon atop.
    but my new food item is not a fresh item of produce, nope. it's a prepackaged item from Trader Joe's called "veggie and grain salad" - i am OBSESSED with it!

  22. Squash soup. Yum. I need to get an immersion blender, stat.

    Also, roasted butternut with onions and herbs de provence is one of the best side dishes of the winter.

  23. welcome home.
    cant wait for the posts :)

  24. You want squash recipes? I got 'em! Careful, though: I am incapable of cooking anything without bacon. And when I add cashews and coconut milk, I kind of blow the whole lo-cal thing to smithereens. Still, my Caribbean Squash Soup is to lie, cheat and steal for.

  25. I was just browsing looking for recipes when i ra across this page...Thanks for the belly laughs ..great blog...The best way to get recipes for winter squash is to go out in the rural country and ask a farmers wife...OR sometimes you can get awesome recipes from those old timers selling produce at the farmers markets in small towns :)

  26. I've never been a big squash person. My husband is though and has been trying to get me to cook it. I think I just may venture and try it again!


  27. You can't go wrong with this old favorite. Baked acorn squash with chopped apples, cinnamon, and organic butter. Bake at 350 for about an hour. WOW!

    You're right about peeling squash. Big pain.

  28. I eat spaghetti squash EVERY SINGLE day! Ha Ha! I am a squash whore!! It's crazy!!


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