Pumpkin

This post was researched and written by my Mentee, Ashley Langston. Check back each month for more posts by her.

Background Info:

  • Pumpkins are a type of squash in the Cucurbitaceae family, and the cultivar originated in Mexico approximately 10,000 years ago.
  • The modern day version of the Jack-O’lantern is based off of the Irish myth of Stingy Jack and the Jack O’Lantern. Using pumpkins for Jack O’Lanterns became popularized by Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1800’s.

Health Benefits:

  • The bright orange color of pumpkins come from a high beta-carotene content, and in the body, beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A.
  • High in dietary fiber.
  • Good source of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and folate.
  • The seeds, pepitas, are high in protein, fiber and other nutrients. They may be eaten with or without the hull, and roasting or drying are popular methods of preparing them.

Nutrition Information: (1 cup, cubed)

  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: < 1 gram
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 1 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 1 milligram
  • Vitamin A: 2650 IU
  • Vitamin C: 12 milligrams
  • Calcium: 23 milligrams
  • Iron: 1 milligram
  • Folate: 21 micrograms
  • Potassium: 395 milligrams

Taste:

  • Sweet

Season:

  • Fall and Winter

Choose:

  • Firm pumpkins, that have a slightly hollow sound when gently knocked on.
  • No soft spots or bruises.
  • Firm bases.
  • Do not carry a pumpkin by the stem, as it can break off and damage the pumpkin.

Store:

  • Cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave cut pumpkins outside if there is extreme heat, a threat of frost, or rain.
  • May be frozen for up to 1 year in a non-metallic container. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
  • Pumpkin may be canned using a pressure canner, making sure to follow recipe directions carefully.
  • Pumpkin may be dried using a dehydrator and low oven, and kept in an air-tight container.
  • Pumpkin may also be used in chutneys, butters, and preserves. These items cannot be pressure canned, and may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Cook:

  • Pumpkin rinds range from thick to hard, and peeling the pumpkin may be challenging.
  • To bake: Cut pumpkin into quarters with the rind on. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, or until fork tender.
  • Steaming or boiling: Cut pumpkin into chunks, and steam or boil until fork tender.
  • Make sure to scoop out the fibers and seeds beforehand.
  • Once cooked and cooled, the rind may be peeled off or the flesh scooped out.
  • The cooked flesh may be used as is, mashed, or pureed.
  • Pepitas may be seasoned, and roasted or dried for a healthy snack.

Serve:

  • Add cooked and peeled, cubed squash to salads, casseroles, soups, stews, and stir-fries.
  • Cooked pumpkin makes a great main dish if stuffed and baked with vegetables, rice, and ground meat.
  • Pumpkin is a popular pie filling, and may be used in several desserts.

References:

 

Comparing Winter Squash

Acorn Squash

  • Appearance: shaped like an acorn of course!
  • Available: All year
  • Size: 1-2 pounds
  • Nutrition:9 grams of fiber per cup, 25% DV of potassium
  • Ideal for: roasting with the skin on due to tough exterior

Buttercup Squash

  • Flavor: sweet pulp
  • Texture: firm and somewhat dry but rich, similar to a sweet potato
  • Ideal for: baking with the skin on, steamed, or pureed

Butternut Squash

  • Appearance: orange flesh
  • Available: All year
  • Flavor: mild & sweet
  • Nutrition: excellent source of vitamins C & A, > 6 grams of fiber per cup
  • Ideal for: roasting or tossed in stew or smoothies

Carnival Squash

  • Background: Hybrid of acorn & sweet dumpling squash
  • Flavor: sweet, buttery, and rich when roasted
  • Ideal for: roasting, can be used in any recipe as a substitute for acorn or butternut squash

Delicata Squash

  • Appearance: oblong with green stripes and yellow
  • Flavor: sweet
  • Texture: smooth and creamy
  • Ideal for: roasting or stuff with savory fillings such as whole grains
  • Pairs with: parmesan, nuts, and woody herbs like rosemary for a savory spin

Hubbard Squash

  • Appearance: dark green, orange, or pale blue rind
  • Flavor: sweet
  • Texture: grainy
  • Size: up to 20 pounds
  • Ideal for: mashing or pureeing into a sauce or filling for a pie

Kabocha Squash

  • Background: Kabo0cha is Japanese for “squash”
  • Appearance: smooth and yellow
  • Available: All year in green & red varieties
  • Flavor: sweet with notes of honey, becomes custardy when cooked
  • Nutrition: less fibrous than the others
  • Ideal for: soup when pureed or as pie filling with the skin on due to tough exterior

Red Kuri Squash

  • Background: Sometimes called the baby red hubbard, native to Japan
  • Flavor: chestnut-like
  • Texture: smooth & creamy yellow pulp
  • Ideal for: roasting in the skin and scooped out due to the hard rind

Spaghetti Squash

  • Appearance: pale yellow
  • Flavor: mild, slightly sweet
  • Texture: crunchy, stringy flesh resembling noodles
  • Nutrition: lower in vitamin A than the others
  • Ideal for: using in place of noodles when cooked, top with olive oil or tomato-based sauces

Sugar Pumpkin

  • Background: one of the most popular winter squashes, commonly canned and available at supermarkets
  • Appearance: squat
  • Available: All year
  • Flavor: sweet
  • Nutrition: < 50 calories per cup
  • Ideal for: roasting or pureeing into a soup, oatmeal, or pie filling and other desserts

Sweet Dumpling Squash

  • Appearance: most petite, weighing < 2 pounds
  • Flavor: sweet with a tender edible rind
  • Ideal for: cutting in half, stuffing, and roasting for a quick & colorful meal

 

 Reference: 

Moore, Marisa. “Winter Squash”. Food and Nutrition. November/December 2016. 30-31.

Delicata Squash

Background Info:

  • Also known as the sweet potato squash
  • Torpedo-shaped and grooved
  • Has green stripes that turn pale orange as it ages

Nutrition Information:

Taste & Texture:

  • When cooked it has a buttery flavor and creamy texture with a maple syrup-like sweetness

Season:

  • Midsummer through fall
  • Peak months are September through November

Choose:

  • Make sure it’s firm, heavy, and unblemished
  • The ideal weight is 1 pound although they can grow up to 3 pounds

Store:

  • At room temperature, in a dark and dry place
    • Should last 2-3 weeks or longer
  • Do not put in the refrigerator

Prep:

  • Has a delicate and edible skin therefore it doesn’t need to be peeled
  • Scrub with a vegetable brush under cold water to remove dirt
  • Cut in half and remove the stem
  • Remove the seeds and strings

Reference:

  • Young, Grace. “Seeking Squash.” Weight Watchers. November/December 2015. 69.

Homemade Recipes – Squash & Zucchini Boats

I am a sucker for a good price when I’m shopping for groceries. When it comes to produce, I only buy what’s in season because that means it’s on sale (aka cheaper) and tastes the best. This usually ends up with me buying a lot more veggies than I know what to do with. I always have good intentions and plan to use everything before it goes bad, but then life happens. Either I work late and I’m too tired to cook or maybe friends want to go out to eat. Whatever the reason, I just don’t get around to using the vegetables fast enough.

I hate to throw things away so I had to think of a way to use the wrinkling veggies in a dish where it wouldn’t be noticeable that the vegetables were past their prime. Then I saw a picture of a squash boat on my news feed that a friend had made which intrigued me as I had squash that was on its last leg. I found a recipe, looked at the ingredients and decided I had everything I needed, give or take. I was excited to try the boat recipe and the first thing I did was cut my squash in half, then I actually read the recipe which said to cook it whole first. It was at that point that I knew I had to just come up with something on my own. So here it is, a very simple, versatile, and amazingly delicious way to use up all of your wilting veggies.

Oh, and the best part about this recipe? Just use what you have on hand. I only had 1 squash so I used zucchini too. I had leftover cornbread but you could use other leftover bread, panko, breadcrumbs, or croutons. Instead of scallions use yellow or red onions. Substitute red bell peppers for tomatoes. Add some cooked spinach. Don’t have Parmesan cheese? Use whatever is in the fridge. Wanting to make more of a meaty dish? Instead of mushrooms, use ground beef, turkey sausage, or bacon. The combinations and possibilities are truly endless and this can be adapted to meet your and your family’s wants and dietary needs. You can each have your own boat with your own fillings which is great for picky eaters.

These can be great as side items at dinner or even make them your meal. Make a big batch on Sunday to take to work and just heat them up for lunch. Don’t forget to check out my mini crustless quiche recipe for breakfast at work while you’re at it.

Makes: 4 squash/zucchini boats

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Materials:                   

  • Oven
  • Steamer pot
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Sauté pan
  • Medium bowl
  • Spoon
  • Baking pan
  • Tin foil
  • SpoonIMG_0414

Ingredients:

  • 1 squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped leftover cornbread
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, white and light green part
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms
  • Seasoning of your choice
  • Olive oil

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F

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2. Boil water in steamer pot

3. Cut squash & zucchini in half lengthwise

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4. Once water is boiling, steam halved zucchini and squash for 7 minutes

5. While vegetables are steaming, finely chop up leftover cornbread, dice mushrooms, slice scallions, and dice tomatoes. Set aside.

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6. When finished steaming, remove pot of zucchini and squash from heat and allow to cool before handling.

7. Drizzle olive oil to coat sauté pan and add mushrooms and allow to cook down and become tender.

8. Add scallions and seasonings of your choice (I like garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and ground cayenne red pepper for a little heat).

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9. Toss to cook until scallions become more translucent then remove pan from heat.

10. Once zucchini & squash are cool, scoop out insides with a spoon. You may need to run your knife along it if it doesn’t come out easily. If you scoop too close to the skin your boat will be more like a flat beach towel so be sure to leave enough to allow the vegetable to maintain its shape.

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11. Chop zucchini & squash insides into small chunks.

12. In the medium bowl, add zucchini & squash chunks, cooked mushrooms & scallions, cornbread, tomatoes, and cheese. Mix together.

13. Line baking pan with tin foil and place empty boats.

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14. Use spoon to put stuffing into zucchini & squash boats. They will be overflowing.

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15. Put in the oven, setting the timer for 10 minutes.

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16. After 10 minutes rotate the pan 180° and set the timer for another 15 minutes or until cheese is melty and breadcrumbs are brown. Do not leave in too long or it will burn.

17. After a total of 25 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and allow boats to cool on pan

18. Enjoy! (Or store for later use)

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*Nutrition for 1 boat with Parmesan cheese, cornbread crumbs, mushrooms, scallions, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash:

  • Calories: 177
  • Total fat: 6 g
  • Sodium: 353 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 26 g
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Protein: 9 g

The nutrition can be altered depending on the type of cheese and breadcrumbs you choose such as low fat and low sodium options.

Also note, if you use meat it will increase protein along with cholesterol, sodium, and fat.

Winter Squash

Background Info: 

  • Originated in Mexico & Central America
  • Main crop among Native Americans. They would eat the flowers, flesh and seeds of the plants and would even use them as containers and utensils

Varieties: check out the page Comparing Winter Squash to see all the differences

  • All types are yellow or orange inside
  • Vary from small sizes of 1 to 2 pounds up to more than 20 pounds
  • The outside texture can be bumpy or smooth
  • Various outside hues from red and yellow to green and blue.

Health Benefits:

  • All expect spaghetti squash are a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber
  • The seeds can be roasted or dried for a snack and are a good source of protein & magnesium plus other nutrients

Nutrition Information (1/2 cup, cooked):

  • Calories: 40
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 3 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 0 grams
  • Vitamin A: 110%
  • Vitamin C: 15%
  • Calcium: 2%
  • Iron: 2%

Flavor:

  • Candy-sweet

Season: 

  • The name seems deceptive because they can be grown year-round
  • They get their name because they are often planted during the warmer months and harvested before the 1st frost

Choose: 

  • Firm squash
  • No soft spots or blemishes
  • The best ones are those that are heavy for their size

Store: 

  • Cool, dry place

Cooking: 

  • Winter squash often has a thick, tough skin that makes peeling hard. It is usually easier to cook the unpeeled squash and then scoop out the cooked flesh afterwards.
  • Scoop out any seeds before cooking.
  • To bake: Using a whole or halved winter squash,  poke holes in the skin with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degree F for 45 minutes.
  • To boil: Cut squash into four pieces or rings and place in a pot of boiling water. Boil 25 minutes or until tender.
  • To microwave: Place halves or quarters, cut side down, in a shallow dish; add ¼ cup water. Cover tightly and microwave on high 6 to 8 minutes or until soft.
  • Squash is cooked when it is easy to cut with a fork,  and the skin peels off easily.
  • Try roasting or drying the seeds for a snack

Serving: 

  • Add peeled, cooked squash cubes to your favorite soups, stews, beans, casseroles, and sauces
  • Cooked winter squash makes a great side dish for meat, poultry, or fish
  • Try either sweet or savory: season with maple syrup, ginger or cinnamon, or try onion, garlic, and herbs.

Storage: 

  • Cooked squash may be frozen in an airtight container not made from metal

References:

  • “Winter squash, fresh.” (December 2012). USDA. Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/HHFS_WINTERSQUASH_FRESH_900150Dec2012.pdf
  • “Bounty Hunger.” Shape. November 2014. 160.
  • Moore, Marisa. “Winter Squash”. Food and Nutrition. November/December 2016. 30-31.