The sky is darker and the nights are cooler. Winter is on the way! Changing our diet is a simple way to prepare our bodies for a healthy winter. It’s time to put those cold smoothies and refreshing salads to rest. Everyone is surprised when I suggest this, as a salad is considered to be healthy. And they are; raw foods are perfect in the spring and summer, but not for the winter. In the winter our bodies want cooked foods.
Just look around at the farmer’s markets. Nature is telling us what we should be eating. In the spring and summer it provides us with tender leafy greens, tomatoes, summer squash and other vegetables that don’t take much effort to eat raw. You can pretty much eat them off the vine. But come late fall we are provided with hard winter squash. You can’t just take a bite out of that! All of the root vegetables are available now and need to be roasted, steamed, or put in to soups to eat. When was the last time you ate a raw beet?
The winter squash in particular can be intimidating because they are so physically hard! But don’t let that scare you off. They are loaded with flavor, nutrients, and fiber. In Chinese medicine their bright orange flesh and sweet flavor correspond to the Earth element and support the Spleen and Stomach qi. They are beautiful with varied colors and fun names like Delicata, Sweet Dumping, Carnival, Kabocha, Spaghetti, and, of course, Butternut and Acorn.
Score the outside of the squash and roast it whole in a baking dish at 350 for 45-60 minutes or until desired softness. You don’t even need to cut it! When you take it out of the oven it will be soft. Just slice in half and scoop out the seeds and flesh. It’s that easy!
The amount of flesh that you get will depend on the type of squash you choose. I recommend roasting 2-3 at a time and freeze any left overs in 1-2 Cup portion sizes. That way you’ll always have it on hand to throw together an easy meal.
Now what? Here are a few easy ideas to incorporate these lovely vegetables into your diet. Have fun and experiment! You don’t need to have an exact recipe but there are plenty floating around foodies blogs and sites if you want exact measurements.
- Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little butter and you're all set!
- Dry roast hemp seeds and sesame seeds in a pan with cumin, coriander and smoked paprika until toasted. Sprinkle roasted seeds on the squash, then drizzle with olive oil.
- Sautee onion, garlic, and ginger. Add squash, coconut milk and vegetable stock, simmer then puree for a creamy soup.
- Add maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, then cook down until it thickens to make “pumpkin butter.”
- Make a pie! Add eggs, milk (or dairy free version) and your favorite spices. Any of the winter squash can be substituted for sugar pumpkin. Once you make a pumpkin pie from scratch you won’t go back to store bought versions. The texture and flavor are amazing!
- Make squash pancakes! They taste just like sweet potato pancakes with a dash of cinnamon and a little maple syrup.
- Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds then stuff the center with your favorite stuffing. Maybe a wild rice of quinoa pilaf?
- Make a frittata. Take 4 eggs, 1 C milk (or dairy substitute) then add 1/2-1C squash plus any of your other favorite vegetables. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.
Any of these ideas will keep your body nourished and happy as it burns extra energy keeping you warm this winter. Feel free to check out my Facebook page, where I'll be sharing even more recipes for the long New England winter. Enjoy!