Friday, October 24, 2014

Stop walking by the Squash

Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, Red Kuri, Kabocha, Delicata and Pumpkin are all varieties of Winter Squash.  These beautiful and delicious seasonal jewels can be intimidating to many, causing you to walk right by them in the Produce section.  Well you are missing out on some wonderful tasty ingredients that is high in fiber and if stored like you would potatoes (unrefrigerated), can last up to 6 months. Because I would hate for you to go any longer without them in your life, here is a quick and easy guide to getting to know 3 of the most popular Winter Squash.

Butternut - Large, smooth peanut shape and tan in color.  This squash is best baked or mashed. The best way to prepare it is, to remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, pierce it with a fork and microwave for 3 minutes to make it easier to cut. Cut lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, cut into chunks and roast on 400 for 25-30 minutes. I use it to make muffins.

Butternut Squash muffins

Mix together dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup roasted or steamed winter squash

1/2 cup canola oil
6 tablespoons of grade B maple syrup
Egg replacer equal to 2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chopped unsalted pecans
Add the dry ingredients and the pecans to the wet ingredients in stages, mixing gently. Pour into greased muffin tins or bread loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees.

Check mini muffins after 10 minutes, standard muffins after 18 minutes, and bread loaves after 40 minutes. Bake until the top is golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed.

Pumpkin- When choosing a pumpkin make sure you choose a pie pumpkin to eat or you can buy the puree in a can.  The whole ones look like mini versions of the one used for carving and decorating.  I found a delicious pumpkin cheesecake recipe that I make a dairy free version of.  If you like dairy skip the cashews and add real cream cheese but I don't think you would miss it at all.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 1/4 cups raw soaked cashews
1 cup maple syrup
1 16 oz. can organic pumpkin puree 
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice 
1 tub (8 ounces) tofu cream cheese
optional: 1/2 tsp salt to taste (depends how much salt you soaked your cashews in)
One standard vegan graham cracker pie crust

1. Soak about one cup of raw cashews in about 2 1/2 cups of water in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 – 1 tsp of salt to the bowl – mix to dissolve. The salt allows the water to absorb more efficiently into the cashews and also adds some salt for your recipe. 
2. Soak this cashew bowl overnight in the fridge. You want well-soaked cashews so that your pie mix blends up perfectly creamy. I soaked my cashews for about 18 hours. At least 8 is optimal. Don’t soak for more than two days or the cashews can get grimy.
3. The day of your actual pie making allow at least 3 hours from the time you start to the time you wish to serve the pie. I like a cool time of at least 2 hours.
4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
5. Drain the water from your cashews. They should be very soft to bite and a slight purplish dark hue. This is normal. Add 1 1/4 cups of cashews to your food processor – or blender.
6. Next, add in the maple syrup, vegan cream cheese, pureed pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice. Blend on low then high for about 3-5 minutes until the mixture is completely creamy. If your mixture is a bit thick for some reason – you can add in a few teaspoons of either water, maple syrup or even non-dairy milk. After blending, do a taste test and add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt if needed. I added in about 1/3 tsp extra salt. But taste before adding.
7. Pour your mix into a graham cracker pie shell (store-bought or homemade).
8. Bake pie at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes. Your pie will firm up significantly upon cooling and chilling in the fridge.
9. Remove pie from oven. Cool on counter for at least 30 minutes. Then place in fridge until ready to serve. At least 2 hours cooling and/or chilling time is my preference. A warm pie will be tasty, but still a bit “wet” to slice.

Spaghetti Squash - these semi-soft and yellow squash are mild in flavor and when cooked it's flesh resembles spaghetti.  

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 400. Pierce the whole squash with a fork and microwave for 3 minutes to soften.  Let cool.  Once cool to touch cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds (DO NO THROW SEEDS AWAY set them aside for the next recipe).  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place squash flesh side down.  Bake squash for 50-60 minutes or until skin is fork tender.  Remove from oven and let sit until it is cool to touch.  turn flesh side over and use fork to scrape the squash "spaghetti" strings.  Add to a serving bowl.  In a saucepan heat your favorite marinara and add 1/2 cup to the squash and season to taste. Serve immediately with additional Marinara on top.

Don't forget the seeds.  Most of us know that the seeds of the pumpkin can be roasted and eaten but so can the spaghetti squash ones.  You can go crazy with the seasoning of your choice. Try a little seafood seasoning or garlic powder or cayenne pepper before serving.

Roasted Pumpkin or Spaghetti squash seeds

Seeds from 1 spaghetti squash or Pumpkin
1/2 tsp. safflower oil
Sea Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove seeds from squash and rinse.  Dry thoroughly with paper towels.  In a small mixing bowl, combine seeds, safflower oil and sea salt.  Spread seeds on ungreased cookie sheet making sure none are touching.  Bake 10-15 minutes on one side.  Turn seeds using a spatula and bake another 10-15 minutes.  Seeds are done when golden, slightly brown on ends and edges and have a nice crunch.

Now that you have the basics, stop walking by those squash in the Produce department and enjoy these wonderful fall and winter favorites.