The Cucurbit family has a long and legendary past. It is believed that this family dates back as far as 10,000 years or more and most likely originated in South, Central and North Americas.
Members of the family include familiar names such as squash, gourd and pumpkin. The term winter squash is used because they typically require 90-120 days to mature from spring planting until fall harvest.
Winter squash are very high in vitamins, fiber and omega-3 fat. Vitamins A, C, K and B6, B2 & B3 and folate are prevalent in winter squash as well as the minerals iron, copper, manganese, potassium and magnesium. The seeds contain substantial amounts of Vitamin E and protein.
Winter squash can be incorporated into breakfast, lunch or dinner. Recipes range from simple roasted squash as a side dish for your meal to more complex dishes such as unique salads and appetizers, savory casseroles and sumptuous desserts.
Experiment with pumpkin protein smoothies for breakfast or as a meal substitute. Roasted acorn and butternut squash or pumpkin can be cut into cubes and added to your favorite stuffing for a fun twist this Thanksgiving.
You can even use a roasted spaghetti squash in place of pasta and as a serving bowl for a unique presentation of just about anything, including pepperoni or cheese pizza, broccoli casserole, chili, Pad Thai, etc. Try squash fritters or honey roasted butternut squash with cranberries and feta as appetizers at your holiday gathering.
The following recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is perfect for chilly fall days and as a Thanksgiving meal starter.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed (set aside to toast later)
3 tablespoons butter
1 small Granny Smith apple
½ medium sweet onion
2 ½ cups chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
Salt & white pepper to taste
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Spray the cut side of the squash with cooking spray. Place the squash pieces cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast until knife tender, about 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, core and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the apple and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
When the squash is full cooked remove it from the oven, and set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle.
While the squash and apple/onion mixture are cooling, clean the seeds then season with salt & pepper. Place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at about 165°F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside for garnish.
Using a large spoon, scoop the squash flesh into a blender with the sautéed apples and onions. Add the broth to the blender and purée until smooth.
Pour the squash mixture into a heavy-bottom saucepan along with the heavy cream. Heat the soup on medium heat, being careful not to scald. Add salt & pepper to taste. Garnish with toasted seeds if desired.
Have fun in the kitchen!