Winter Squash: The Healing Food
What if there was a food that can keep colds and flu away? What if this food could keep winter dry skin away? What if this food was also tasty, inexpensive, and available in almost every grocery store?
Sounds like a miracle food doesn’t it? It isn’t a miracle that foods can keep us healthy. That’s what food is for!
What is this fabulous, tasty, and inexpensive food? SQUASH. Winter squash to be precise. Pumpkin is a winter squash. They are great for eating, not just for decoration.
Winter squash have thick, tough shells that protect the sweet, rich flesh inside which makes them excellent storage vegetables. Some varieties are available year-round, but their natural season runs from late summer to mid-winter.
No matter what variety of winter squash or pumpkin you choose, always pick winter squash that feel heavy for their size.
One of my favorites is turban squash, part of the cucurbita maxima family of winter squash. There are so many to choose from it’s hard to even list them all. The more popular ones are acorn, butternut, delicata, hubbard, kabocha, turban, and pumpkin.
Deep orange vegetables are great sources of beta-carotene. This vegetarian source of Vitamin A is good for the skin and mucus membranes. Keeping the nasal passages, throat, and lungs healthy can make them strong enough to resist colds and flu. It also helps if you are in a cold climate to breathe only through your nose when out in the cold, unless you have a scarf around your mouth. The cold air can compromise your lungs and make you susceptible to colds and flu.
Keep it simple when you start cooking winter squash. The easiest way is to bake it whole. You don’t need to cut it up, peel it, or remove the seeds. Just wash it off, make sure the bottom is flat. Put it in an oven-proof pan like a cake or pie pan or even a roasting pan*, depending on the size of the squash. Take a very sharp knife and pierce the top part of the squash in 2 places to let the steam out. The knife should be inserted all the way into the hollow seed bed.
Some of my students told me years ago that they baked a squash that exploded in the oven. That won’t happen if you have made steam escape holes.
Preheat the oven to 375® or 400° F. Put the punctured quash in its pan into the oven and bake it for 45-90 minutes depending on the size of the pumpkin. Check it with a sharp knife after 45 minutes. When the knife inserts easily into the soft flesh, it’s done.
Remove it from the oven and cut it open in a dish to catch the juices. Scoop out the seeds and serve scoops of delicious deep orange delight. I like to eat it with just the addition of butter or coconut oil, salt, and pepper. You don’t need to mask it with sugary additions; it is sweet on its own.
If you have a really large squash you can purée it and freeze it in serving size baggies. I like to make a cake of cooked squash so I freeze the cooked and pureed squash in the size to use in the recipe. If you want to make a pie, freeze the exact amount the recipe calls for and you can bake pumpkin pie all year round. Get creative, any squash can make a nice pie, the deeper orange it is the better the taste will be.
An easy soup can be made of pureed squash, sautéed onion and garlic, and enough liquid to create the desired consistency. You can use prepared stock or just add coconut milk. Heat and serve.
Vegan Dinner Pumpkin
Instead of turkey, many people stuff a squash and serve it as a main course. When it is cooked you can slice crescent wedges so that everyone has a ring of squash filled with the spicy filling.
1 medium pumpkin or other squash
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 small brown onions
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup toasted cashews or pecans
500 g Chinese style tofu, often called soft
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 tablespoon dark miso paste
1-2 cups cooked toasted buckwheat or brown rice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Heat the coconut oil over a medium-high heat and sauté finely chopped onions, garlic, mushrooms, and nuts until the onions are soft and slightly browned. Set aside to cool while you prepare the filling.
Preheat the oven to 375-400° F.
Wash the pumpkin in veggie wash and dry. Cut the top off to make a removable lid on the pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and set aside.
Blend the tofu until it is smooth and then add in the tarragon, sage, and miso and blend to mix together. A blender or food processor is best for this.
Mix the onion mixture, cooked buckwheat, and tofu together and spoon into the hollowed out pumpkin. Cover with the pumpkin lid, place in a baking dish or casserole dish and bake for 45-90 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked and the filling is firm, not runny.
To serve: Place on a dish or plate with a rim* and slice crescent pieces so that everyone gets the filling surrounded by pumpkin. It is best for it to be firm enough that it stays together when sliced for a nice presentation. If it is not set up or firm in the middle, no problem just slice the pumpkin and add a scoop of the filling next to it.
Sprinkle fresh parsley on top to garnish. Serve with cranberry relish and a green salad.
*We use pans or bowls with this because the pumpkin can be juicy and it prevents it from getting on the table or in the oven, making a huge mess.
You can alter the filling to be brown rice, garlic, onion, miso and dill. Any cooked grain and seasoning can be used. This is the kind of great looking festive meal that can be made with the ingredients you have in your pantry. You can prepare it ahead of time and bake it later. Make sure the pan underneath can go from fridge to oven. Blended tofu is a great replacement for eggs in any kind of stuffed vegetable dish or even pumpkin pie where it can replace both the eggs and the cream. Using tofu requires you to use more seasoning than you normally would. The tofu seems to suck up the flavoring.