September is just around the corner and as the September days come and go the air gets cooler, the leaves begin to change color, and some of our favorite vegetables come into season; Pumpkin and winter squash. These two versatile vegetables, and two favorites of our nutritionists at our weight loss camps, can be used in an array of recipes, ranging from desserts to main dishes. Here are some of the choices you can choose from, how to prepare them for cooking, and how to share them with your family and friends:
Pumpkin is most useful in its canned form and easy to keep on hand in your pantry. Be careful when shopping to avoid canned pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar and fat. Look for canned pure pumpkin and load up for the off season when even the canned version can become hard to find in stores. Pumpkin puree can be used as a baking substitute for eggs and oil in cake recipes making for a thick and rich texture, added to your morning oatmeal for some extra flavor and fiber, or in a quick and simple soup with chicken broth, canned pure pumpkin, and veggies of your choice.
Winter Squash is great for creating a hearty and colorful meal. Some of the most popular include butternut squash, acorn squash, and spaghetti squash. Butternut and acorn are very similar in taste and preparation but can be identified by their different shapes. Spaghetti squash is unique in its preparation and as the name states, looks like spaghetti on your plate!
When choosing a butternut squash look for ones with longer and thicker stems as most of the “meat” comes from this part and the bottom is where the hollow and seeded part is located. To prep your butternut squash start by peeling the skin from the outside with a potato peeler (be careful when dealing with its awkward shape not to cut yourself). Then cut the squash in half length wise so both the stem and bottom will be cut in half. Next, scoop out the seeds from the center and begin to cube up your butternut. If this is too much work you can find precut and cubed squash in your groceries refrigerated section. Butternut squash can be roasted up with onions, apples, olive oil, cinnamon, and salt for a side dish, made into a vegetarian chili with black beans and tomatoes, or into muffins for sweet treat. Acorn squash can be substituted for butternut in many recipes, but is harder to peel and cube. Acorn squashes are good for cutting in half, roasting, and stuffing with foods such as brown rice, beans, and veggies.
Spaghetti squash is a large yellow oval shape and can be found in the produce section with other squash selections. Start by cutting the squash in half length wise (this is sometimes difficult) and remove the seeds and pulp. Then place the squash face down on a baking pan and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes in the oven depending on the size of the squash at 375 degrees. If you don’t have a lot of time or only have access to a microwave no problem. Place the squash in a shallow dish with enough water to cover the bottom and place saran wrap over the dish. Microwave for about 6 to 8 minutes, remove the plastic film and let stand for a minute or two. If the squash is fork tender and starts to stings when you scrap it length wise it’s ready to go! Scoop out the contents from both halves with a fork to get the full spaghetti effect. This squash can be used as a pasta replacement, and can even be served as a sweet dish with a little butter or margarine and cinnamon sugar.
There are so many different uses for pumpkin and squash. Take some of these helpful tips from the nutritionists from our weight loss camps and you will be making delicious dishes everyone will love.