Autumn Bounty

November 8, 2016 in Health, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

I haven’t been paying much attention to the weather in most places around the northern hemisphere, but I know that here in the mountain west, the weather has been glorious. Of course, that’s my personal opinion. I suppose if I were into skiing, then I’d be bummed, as it’s not really been very cold. Yes, the mountains surrounding our home have been dusted with snow a few times, but these couple of extra months, of what my native California mind imagines as autumn, has been a wonderful postponement for winter. I’d enjoy having an autumn each and every year.

If you read this post frequently, you probably know that I garden. This year, with my sixteen-plus years of mountain west experience, I started taking out all the vegetables and annuals even though it was not freezing yet. I rationalized that I did not want to be doing it in freezing cold November. What a shock! I’ve still got a couple of tomato plants that I didn’t have the heart to tear out. They are still producing tomatoes.

I did take out all the squash; well, in reality I took all the vegetables except for two or three tomato plants. As is so frequently the case, I ended up with a bounty of hard winter squash. This year delicata; carnival (looks like colorful acorn); banana (the offensive linemen of the vegetable garden) and butternut grace my cold storage. Family, friends and neighbors have also been enjoying the harvest of my garden; it’s such a joy to share the autumn bounty.

Recently I was browsing recipes for the extremely versatile butternut squash. (Note: you can use most of the winter squashes in butternut recipes.) If you’re looking for ideas, some of those websites are: Allrecipes; Cooking Light; Delish; Eating Well; Food Network and Martha Stewart. There seem to be a jillion more, but this will get you started.

I found one website that I feel I can’t pass without making a comment. The link was for 20-plus easy butternut squash recipes – from Delish. There were quite a few really wonderful recipes, but what caught my eye was the number of recipes that included bacon. Why do they want to add something (processed meat), to recipes that otherwise use such healthy ingredients when we’re trying get the American people to consume less processed meat? Go figure!

A few things that I’ve already done with the squash is to roast a giant banana squash – used a small part of it as a side dish, and froze three nice quart bags of roasted squash for later in the year when the fresh ones are not breathing down my neck. I sliced up a delicata and layered it with apples; fresh rosemary and onions; roasted and …..yum! I took the flesh from some roasted butternut squashes, and a tray full of roasted cored, but not peeled apples, and added the traditional ingredients for soup to a big soup pot. Popped in my immersion blender and quickly had some fabulous smooth and tasty soup. The first recipe of butternut squash soup (made with banana squash) was served with non-fat Greek yogurt in the middle. From my experience, it’s pretty difficult to make a mistake with squash recipes. It turns out delicious regardless of what you change.

Because winter squash have such a naturally sweet taste, you may discover that they are a fantastic, nutritious food to include for the family. Roasting and caramelizing a bit, adds to the flavor. I’ve used recipes with fresh basil, rosemary, and sage that I’ve already made this season. Herbs are a great way to benefit from the squash’s low-sodium/high-potassium content, without adding a lot of salt.

I prefer to just share with you that winter squash is a fabulous food to include in your diet; but many of you want to know some of it’s numbers and letters. So in a quick way, I’ll try to tell you a little about it. For about 4 ounces (a cup of cubes), it only has 63 calories. In that same cup it has about 300% of what you need to supply yourself with vitamin A and half of what you need for the entire day’s needs of vitamin C. It’s a good source of fiber, and has almost no sodium or fat; and of course, no cholesterol. The squash varieties vary a bit, but in essence these are all-purpose numbers to give you an idea.

If you substitute winter squash for potato, you could not only decrease the calories of the potato side dish, you could ramp up the amount of carotenoids you’re getting in your diet (some of the over 800 different carotenoids). Two of the wonderful benefits of the autumn harvest are these: staying healthy and enjoying wonderful flavors at the same time. Try it if you haven’t already. You’ll like it.