by Kiki Athanassoulias
Winter is coming, and that means dishes like soup purees, stews, casseroles, and other things your mom used to make but that you can’t be bothered to whip up are becoming a lot more appealing. You may have, at some point, come across butternut squash soup. That was a joke. Of course you have! Squashes seem to get more and more “popular” each day – especially as the cooler weather hits! In fact, in case you hadn’t noticed: his food group is basically insta-famous.
BUT: how informed are you (actually) on squashes? Besides being a vegetable, there’s actually a bit more you might be interested in knowing…
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. While, it's a bit misleading...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.
STARCHY or NON-Starchy? That is the Question.
Let me begin by stating that there's room in a healthy diet for all types of squash - so no need to take any of the following too strictly...but it's still important to remember that the various types of squash boast various levels of starch.
"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)...
Now for the fun part of the discussion: how to add squash to your diet.
4 (UNIQUE) WAYS TO USE SQUASH
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 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 countless dollars a month on boring old almond/soy milk. You're welcome.
So there you have it, your squash knowledge has officially been taken up a notch.
Kiki Athanassouliasiki is a Rotman Commerce graduate from Toronto, and a current fellow in the entrepreneurial non-profit organization, Venture for Canada. She also writes for www.Mindfullyedible.com