The Truth Behind The Orange: Get to Know Your Squashes
Ah yes, the time has come: we all suddenly remember pumpkin is our favourite food, we make excessive amounts of butternut squash soup, and buy inedible gourds to put on our kitchen tables (& to insta). Yes, those weird but cute mini-pumpkin-looking thingies with the warts are decorative - i.e NOT food - so do yourself a favour and don't eat them.
(*Side note: I will also resist the urge to comment on the amount of pumpkin patch pictures I've had the pleasure of scrolling through this month...)
Now to the point: how informed are you (actually) on squashes? Maybe you think that by knowing that they are a vegetable - and thus "healthy" - you've got this topic covered...WRONG!
To begin, the term squash actually refers to a categorization of a type of gourd - of which there are various types. Sticking with squash, there are 2 main types: summer and winter. I already know what you're thinking: summer squash is available in summer, winter squash in winter. Now you're 0 for 2 my friend. Yup, it's a bit misleading...but summer squash is available all winter long, while winter squash is generally on the market in late summer and during the fall - as well as, yes, winter. This is actually a good thing, for reasons I'll explain later...trust me you'll be glad its the summer squash that's available all year ;)
THE STARCH FACTOR
Here's the deal: sure, there's room in a healthy diet for all types of squash - so no need to take any of the following too seriously and go squash-policing your meal plan...but it's important to remember the non-starchy vs. starchy squash rule!
"Non-starchy" vegetables are generally classified as those that have less than 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. They also tend to have a lower calorie count - of about 25 calories per serving. The following squashes count as non-starchy veggies:
While both starchy and non-starchy vegetables have an important role to play in a balanced and healthy diet, you should be mindful of the amount of starchy vegetables you're consuming. Loading up on starchy veggies as your sole source of vegetables is simply not the healthiest approach. Here are the starch squashes, to be enjoyed in moderation - which, let me tell you, can be quite the challenge once you've tasted the glory of a buttercup squash (a cousin to the winter butternut)...
Okay, so hopefully I haven't scared you with all this "carby" business, but you might as well know the truth. Yes, spaghetti squash isn't as creamy and sweet and rich and delicious (I can go on) as buttercup - which is literally a dessert on its own - but they each play their part ;)
Now for the fun part of the discussion: how to add squash to your diet.
4 Ways to Use Squash (That You're Likely Neglecting...)
1. SMOOTHIES! Roast them in the oven for 30-60 minutes (depending on size and variety) and then dice up, throw into a ziplock bag, and freeze. They make wonderful additions to smoothies (or, my favourite, smoothie bowls) - all the creaminess and "nice-cream-ness" of bananas...with less sugar and a whole lot more vitamin A! If you like the sound of that...try my Autumn Smoothie Bowl recipe here.
2. PORRIDGE/"PALEO BOWLS". Similar process here - minus the freezing. Essentially, you can roast and mix these little treasures into just about anything...oatmeal, yogurt, or mash it up by itself and sprinkle with toppings like dried golden berries, cacao nibs, buckwheat groats, hemp seeds, spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger - get creative!
3. BAKING. Sure, we've all heard of pumpkin bread/muffins (boring! #beentheredonethat). But did you know that you can basically throw squash cubes into just about any baked goods recipe?! It's a great gluten-free option, and tends to adds moisture and "dewiness" to dessert...um hello, that is never a bad thing! Check out how I used a mix of squash types in a "vegan fudge" rendition I whipped up here.
4. NUT MILK. Okay, you've got to admit that you did NOT see this coming. Well, good news - it's true. Instead of throwing out the seeds after roasting your squash, save them, soak them overnight, and go ahead and make nut milk just like you would with any other ("more mainstream") nut like with almonds...Yup, I just saved you $4.99. You're welcome.
So there you have it, your squash knowledge has officially been taken up a notch.