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Winter’s Bounty: Squash

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Winter’s Bounty: Squash

Winter squash makes a beautiful individual serving dish or a stunning main meal presentation. Fill these incredibly tasty wonders full of seasonal vegetables, rice, beans, or meat mixes. Imagine your favorite meatloaf recipe transformed into something spectacular when you bake it in the center of an acorn squash. Or half a butternut squash filled with mushroom, spinach, and ricotta, and drizzled with fine Italian red sauce made from the summer’s bounty of garden tomatoes and herbs. The creativity is endless.

Try your favorite combinations. If you don’t have some on hand from your own garden, you’ll find that store-bought squash are very good, not to mention easy on a tight budget. Unlike most other vegetables, squash keeps for many weeks and looks gorgeous displayed in big bowls or flat decorative plates.

Hard winter squash is much easier to cut and bake than most people realize. A small, sturdy paring knife does well. Hold the squash with the stem side up and make a small downward slit straight down next to the dry stem. Insert the knife fully and slide down to the bottom. Do the same for the opposite side of the squash, and it should easily crack open. Use a grapefruit spoon or small tea spoon to scrape the inside pulp clean. Wash inside and out and place them in a baking dish, cut side down so they don’t roll around much. If cooking pumpkin, use a cookie sheet. Add about an inch of water to the dish.

There are two different methods for filling: (1) Bake the squash in 350° oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a sharp knife pokes through easily. Cool the squash, fill it with your favorite ingredients, and heat for another 15 minutes; or (2) Place uncooked ingredients into the raw squash, cover, and cook at 350° for an hour, or until tender. Cool and slice. For either method, it is nice to dust or rub them with a scant of salt, olive oil, garlic or onion powder, or favorite meat seasoning if using a meat filling, before baking. Squash has a very delicate wonderful flavor of its own, so just a little seasoning goes a long way. I use organic ingredients for the following recipes.

(Continued Below)

Easy Acorn Squash and Beans
1 medium acorn squash
1 15-oz. can pinto (or favorite) beans
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced celery

Prepare acorn squash by cutting in half, scoop out loose inside pulp. Rub inside with oil, dust with salt. Bake in 350° oven until tender (about 20 minutes), drain water from pan. Rinse canned beans. Place in sauce pan with onion, garlic, and celery. Heat gently for about 10 minutes and fill cooked acorn squash with bean mix. Optional: add diced ham, diced tomatoes, or corn, topped with jack or Parmesan cheese. Substitute beans with brown rice.

Butternut Squash with Italian Sauce
1 medium butternut squash
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare butternut squash by slicing lengthwise, scoop pulp, rub insides with a little olive oil and lightly salt. Bake, cut-side down, in rectangle cake pan with 1” water, in 350° oven for about 15 minutes, until squash is soft, but not mushy. Drain the water from the pan and set the squash aside. Follow ingredient list for Italian Sauce. Sauté tomatoes, onion, and garlic for 20 minutes, add herbs, sugar and salt. Let sauce set for 10 minutes to cure the seasons together. Place cooked squash into a baking dish with fitted lid. Spoon the Italian sauce into the butternut squash hollows. You made need to spoon a little squash out to make room for more sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese, cover and bake at 350° until the sauce bubbles. Let set for 5 minutes to cool. Options: substitute spaghetti squash, use mozzarella cheese and sausage for a main course meal.

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1 RANDY COLSTON { 12.02.11 at 2:06 am }

I just wanted to expand on the winter sqash band wagon. I growed some tahitian winter squash this year and they are just like pumkin, but sweeter tasting like butternut squash. I FOUND OUT THIS YEAR THE FASTEST WAY TO COOK THE WINTER SQAUSH IS IN THE MICROWAVE OVEN!! IF YOU GOT A SQUARE PYRODEX OR PLASTIC CONTAINER THAT WILL FIT THE MICROWAVE FULLY IS BEST. Cut the squash in half or fourths to lay flat in container, cut side down and cook for approx. 10 minutes it will pill out of the skin easily with a big spoon. I then bag it up after cooling for squash pumpkin pies–usually 2 cups for two pies. IT’S BETTER THAN GRANDMA’S PUMPKIN PIE–DON’T FORGET TO SCRAPE OUT THE PULP AND SEEDS FIRST-GOOD EATIN”

2 Phyllis Poole { 12.01.11 at 11:15 am }

Baking/steaming, the squash for 5-10 minutes without opening it, will make the skin soft and can be cut open easily.

3 Fred Mullett { 11.30.11 at 8:03 pm }

Butternut=clean@bake-cool–clean meat from skin into mixinbowl Add 1/2 C.sourcream@ 1/2 diced onion MIX place in covered dish then frige it,bout an hour === u will enjoy this simple Dish!!! love Fred

4 Jayla SunBird { 11.28.11 at 6:03 pm }

Adding squash to the diet is a sure way of getting satisfaction about your family’s welbeing. Being both healthy and inexpensive, they takes away the worry of which vegetable to use for what menu. There are so many varieties, you may serve squash three times a week and start the next week of with a different three types the next week, for a month!
By time you get back to other favorites, how can serving vegetables be boring? This is good, exciting and healthy. Enjoy your vegetables with a break at sameness.

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