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10 Ways to Cook Comforting Fall Foods With Winter Squash

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The weather is getting colder and summer is definitely behind us. While we have enjoyed all the delicious zucchini, yellow and patty pan squash, it’s time to turn our attention to the bounty of winter squash. For me, all the different winter squash and gourds were merely harvest decorations before I learned how to cook. Now, I am delighted by just how many different type of winter squash are available and how good each one tastes in its own way. Winter squash may be one of the most versatile vegetables out there, that is, once you know how to cook with them.

There are many types of winter squash, including acorn, butternut, buttercup, carnival, delicata, Hubbard, Kabocha, pumpkin and spaghetti. Check out Winter Squash 101 for more information. When choosing a squash, look for one with clean, thick skin and without any bruises or soft spots. Winter squash can be stored in a cool place for months. Here, are ways to cook with all different types of winter squash, aside from pumpkin.

1. Winter Soup

What better way is there to welcome winter than with a warm bowl of soup? My Curried Butternut Squash Bisque has the deep, rich flavor of roasted butternut squash, the heat of curry and the light, smooth creaminess of coconut milk make for a delicious, silky bisque that is just incredible. Place 6 cups of cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with 1 Tbs. olive oil. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until tender and set them aside. Saute 1 ½ cups chopped leeks in 1 Tbs. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add in 1 tsp. ground cumin, 2 tsp. curry powder, ½ tsp. ground ginger, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg and ¼ tsp. ground cloves. Stir the mixture and cook until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Add 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, 1 cup coconut milk, 2 Tbs. maple syrup and the roasted butternut squash. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Use a blender or an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth. Serve while hot.

For more soup recipes using winter squash, try this Creamy and Raw Butternut Squash Soup with Marinated Mushrooms, Mango Butternut Squash Soup, Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup , Pigeon Pea Soup with Opo Squash and this Acorn Squash Apple Soup.

2. Fried Squash

I love French fries so much, I will make them out of any food I can – potatoes, eggplant, chickpeas, pumpkin and squash. All you have to do is cut a squash in half and remove all the seeds. Using a potato peeler, remove the skin from a butternut squash and cut the rind away from other types of squash. Cut the squash into ¼” – ½ “strips, depending how thick you want your fries. Toss the fries in a bit of vegetable oil and your favorite seasonings. My choice is spicy with a mix of ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Arrange the fries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the fries in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until crisp, flipping halfway through. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauce.

Another way I love fried squash is to make pakora using butternut squash. Use this recipe for Tofu Pakora and just swap the tofu for cubes of squash. They will be crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. In these Squash Cakes, acorn squash, butternut squash and cannellini beans come together to make a delicious fried treat.

3. Squash Stews and Casseroles

Nothing tastes better when the weather gets chilly than a bowl of warm, hearty stew. This ‘Three Sisters’ Stew is kind of a stew and kind of a chili. The title comes from Native American lore where the trio of squash, corn and beans are known as the “three sisters.” If you are already planning the menu for your holiday dinners, think about making this Butternut Squash, Portobello, and Spinach Casserole with Vegan Sausage. It’s a hearty, but not heavy, casserole with the earthy, woodsy combination of vegan sausage, barley, mushrooms, sage and rosemary countered with the mellow sweetness of butternut squash and fresh spinach. Yum!

4. Squash With Pasta

Mixing pasta with squash makes for dishes that are the epitome of comfort food. One of my favorite pasta dishes with squash is my Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Kale and Vegan Mozzarella. Melt 1 Tbs. vegan butter in a large skillet or saucepan that has a lid over medium heat. Add 1 package of gnocchi and toss to coat in the butter. Cook until the gnocchi is browned and crisped up a bit, about 6 minutes. Transfer the gnocchi to a bowl. Add another Tbs. of butter to the pan. Add 4 cups of cubed butternut squash and cook, stirring, until slightly golden and soft, about 8 minutes.  Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. dried sage, ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper taste. Cook until the garlic softens, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth to the skillet. When it starts to simmer, stir in one large bunch of chopped kale and cover the pan, letting the kale wilt slightly. Uncover the pan and add the gnocchi, stirring to coat. Add 1 cup vegan mozzarella shreds and toss to combine everything. Transfer the food from the pan to a casserole dish. Sprinkle with ¼ cup grated vegan parmesan, reserving some for garnish. Broil until golden and bubbly, about 4 minutes. Serve while warm.

For more pasta dishes with winter squash, check out this Fregula with Butternut Squash and Sage, Rigatoni with Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce,  Russian Kale and Roasted Squash Noodles and this amazing Butternut Squash Lasagna.

5. Squash Instead of Pasta

The idea of making noodles out of vegetables is a great one, but it isn’t limited only to zucchini. You can make noodles out of many vegetables such as carrots, eggplant and winter squash. Just look at this dish of Coconut Curry and Butternut Squash Noodles. It’s as beautiful as it is delicious.  Long before it was trendy, people were cutting back on carbs by using spaghetti squash in place of noodles. Try this Spaghetti Squash with Alfredo Sauce and this Spaghetti Squash with Basil and Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce for two dishes of comfort food made healthier.

6. Stuffed Squash

There are many foods that can be stuffed and winter squash offers several versions. My Baked Acorn Squash with Wild Rice, Edamame, Walnuts and Cranberries is a hearty, beautiful dish that is perfect for any holiday table. In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat 1 Tbs. vegan butter. Add 1 cup wild rice, ¼ cup chopped walnuts and ¼ cup dried cranberries to the pot and cook for about 1 minute to toast the rice. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and let simmer for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.  Add ½ cup edamame, turn the heat back on low and let them heat through. You want the edamame to still have a firm texture. Fluff rice with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste. While the rice is cooking, prepare the squash. Cut the acorn squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy parts. Brush some oil on both the insides and skin of the squash. Brush 1 Tbs. maple syrup on the cut halves of the squash. Lay the squash, cut sides down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the squash for approximately 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender. Remove from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. When the rice is ready, stuff it into the acorn squash. Fill the squash generously. If desired, top the rice with ¼ cup bread crumbs mixed with 1 tsp. olive oil. Return the squash to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the tops are browned. Serve while hot.

For more versions of stuffed squash, try this Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Quinoa Mushroom Pilaf, Stuffed Acorn Squash with Wheat Berries, Pine Nuts and Sage, Stuffed Kabocha Squash with Quinoa and Chickpeas, and this Kale, Apple and Parsnip Stuffed Squash.

7. Global Squash Delights

Use winter squash to take a culinary trip around the world. I love making Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas and Burritos. The filling starts with sauteed onions, Serrano chile, garlic and grated zucchini. Then I add in black beans, cumin, chile powder, salt and pepper. Finally, mashed butternut squash is folded into the mixture. The butternut squash is so creamy, you won’t feel a need to add any cheese. Other Mexican dishes include these Butternut Squash Tacos with Tempeh Chorizo and these Mexican Bowls over Spaghetti Squash. Travel to Italy and make this Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash and Spinach  and this Butternut Squash Risotto. Savor the fragrant spices of India with this Roasted Butternut Squash in Yellow Coconut Curry Sauce and then fly off to Morocco with this Chickpea Butternut Tagine.

8. Savory Squash

Squash may have a sweet side but it’s perfect for all your savory dishes. Start your meal with this Squash Parsley Dip http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/recipe-squash-parsley-dip-video/and some crusty bread. Move on to this Spicy Butternut Squash Pie which is decadent and creamy, with the subtle hint of spices. Use your favorite winter squash to make this creamy Mac ‘N Squash and this comforting Easy Veggie Pot Pie.

9. Squash Sides

When thinking about side dishes, think about winter squash. You can cube a squash, boil it and mash it just as you would potatoes. Or roast squash for intense flavor and caramelized goodness. My Roasted Acorn Squash with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds is easy and delicious. To make the spiced pumpkin seeds: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds in a bowl with ½ tsp. ground cumin, ½ tsp. chile powder, ½ tsp. kosher salt, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, ¼ tsp. black pepper and 1 tsp. lime juice. Toss to cover the seeds in the spices. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast them for 5 minutes or until they are lightly browned. To make the squash: Turn the oven up to 425 degrees. Cut 2 acorn squash into 1-inch slices. Toss the squash slices with 2 Tbs. oil, 1 Tbs. brown sugar, 1 tsp. smoked paprika and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Lay the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 30-35 minutes. Toss the spiced pumpkin seeds on the squash and roast for 5 more minutes.

Roast butternut squash with all your other favorite vegetables and make this Roasted Vegetables with Heat Sweets Jalapeno Ginger Jelly. For a delicious rice dish, make this Wild Rice with Kabocha Squash and Sage Butter. You’ll forget all about onion rings when you make these Sauteed Delicata Squash Rings that are incredibly delicious and beautiful.

10. Baking With Squash  

Squash comes in very handy for baking, as just ¼ cup of butternut squash puree can replace one egg for binding. It also adds delicious flavor as in this Walnut, Squash and Apple Bread. Breakfast or snack time will be extra-yummy when you have these Butternut Squash Muffins .

With all the different types of winter squash available and all these delicious recipes, winter will be warm, comforting and delicious. Which is your favorite winter squash and what do you like to do with it? Let us know in the comments.

Lead Image Source: Fregula with Butternut Squash and Sage



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