2017-10-25 / Entertainment

The wonders of winter squash

By ANGELA SHELF MEDEARIS

I used to look at the hard, oddly shaped exteriors of winter squash and pass them by, mainly because I had no idea what to do with them. Then I discovered that winter squash are actually easy to prepare and are a healthy addition to any meal. They’re also a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Even better, one-half cup of cooked winter squash has only 40 calories.

Winter squash are picked when fully mature and the skin is thick. This thick skin is inedible, and is designed to provide a protective covering for the squash. It also allows for a long storage life in cool or cold weather. Winter squash can be stored for three months or longer in a cool, dry place, preferably in a single layer.

Three of the most common winter squash are butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash. Butternut squash is tan in color and has a long, bell-like shape. Spaghetti squash is oblong or oval in shape and yellow in color. Acorn squash gets its name because it is shaped like an acorn. It is dark green in color and has a ridged rind or skin.

When shopping, look for squash that are heavy for their size, free of soft spots and have a dull sheen (a shiny skin is an indicator the squash is not fully mature). With a few selection and preparation tips for preparing winter squash, you can create delicious and flavorful dishes all season long.

All types of winter squash can be baked in the same way, but not prepared the same. All winter squash bake well. Cut the squash in two, scoop out the seeds and brush the cut surface with oil. (The hard shell of the squash can be difficult to cut in two, so be sure to have a sharp, heavy-duty knife.) Place the cut side down in a baking dish with 1/4 cup of water. Bake uncovered at 350 F until the flesh is soft.

Spaghetti squash isn’t used in recipes in the same way as other winter squash. It was given that name because of its spaghetti-like interior. Once cooked, use a fork to peel the flesh away from the skin to form long strands like spaghetti. You can serve it with any type of pasta sauce, in the same way you would serve spaghetti noodles.

Butternut or acorn squash can be used interchangeably in recipes. Once cooked and cooled, they can be scooped out and stuffed, or peeled away from the skin, cut into cubes and used in soups, stews and casseroles along with other vegetables.

This recipe for Acorn Squash Filled with Cider Spiced Apples uses this winter squash in a flavorful way that serves up beautifully and pairs well with pork or chicken. It’s the perfect fall side dish!

Acorn Squash Filled
With Spiced Apples
4 tablespoons unsalted
butter, melted
2 small (1 pound each)
acorn squash
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black
pepper
2 Granny Smith apples,
peeled and cut into 3/4-
inch dice
1 1/2 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons maple
syrup or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1. Set oven at 400 F. Using
2 tablespoons of the melted
butter, coat the bottom of a

shallow 3 or 4 quart baking
dish.
2. Cut a thin slice off
both ends of each squash.
Halve squash horizontally.
Scoop out the seeds. Place
squash halves in the baking
dish with the cut sides up.
Brush with 1 tablespoon
butter and sprinkle with 3/4
teaspoon of the salt and the
pepper. Set pan aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the apples, 1/4 cup
of cider, the maple syrup
or brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1/4
teaspoon salt. Divide the
apples among the squash
halves, distributing the excess liquid among them
evenly. Drizzle with the
remaining tablespoon of the
butter and sprinkle with the
remaining nutmeg.
4. Pour the remaining 1
1/4 cups of cider into the
baking dish. Cover loosely
with foil and bake for 1 1/4
hours until the apples are
tender. Serves 4.
Angela Shelf Medearis
is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of
seven cookbooks. Her new
cookbook is “The Kitchen
Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.”

©2017 King Features Synd.
and Angela Shelf Medearis

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