If you’re into tormenting your tiny tots then the above photo shows at least one alternative use for fall pumpkins besides carving jack-o-lanterns! The idea to place my child inside a hollowed-out pumpkin wasn’t mine–I think I may have seen it on Pinterest–but I couldn’t resist sharing this picture of the mangy munchkin to begin my post on squashes.
Many people, myself included, like to adorn their homes with squashes in the fall. Coming in all shapes and sizes, from short and squat to robust and round to simply bizarre, and covering all colors of the rainbow (except for maybe blue), squashes indeed make beautiful decorations for kitchens, entryways, and front porches.
But what do you do with so many squashes once the fall season is over and it’s time to bring out the Christmas decorations? Eat them, of course! Squashes are among the cheapest and easiest fall fruits (yes, they’re a fruit) to prepare, and they pack a powerhouse of nutrients including potassium, carotenoids, folate, and fiber. Best of all, kids love them and babies can eat them, too.
To prepare squash, split any variety (acorn, butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, spaghetti) down the middle with a large knife, scoop out the seeds, place the halves flesh-side down in a pan or casserole dish with an inch of water, and bake at 350 degree for 45-60 minutes. An especially large pumpkin may need to be cut into quarters or sixths and baked a few sections at a time. Squash is done when a fork sinks easily into the flesh. To serve, simply scoop out the flesh and add butter and cinnamon to taste. That’s it! If you have an infant, he or she may not like the texture (my girls didn’t when they were younger); in that case, run several spoonfuls (butter included) through a food processor for a few seconds to smooth it out.
If you’re feeling ambitious you can turn your baked squash into a gourmet soup using the recipe below (my own creation), which is easy to modify to suit your own palate. For example, cinnamon and nutmeg can replace the curry and paprika.
Simple Squash Soup
- 1 large squash (butternut works especially well)
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 6-8 ounces coconut milk or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
- ground pepper to taste
Depending on the size of your squash, you may need to alter the quantities to get the right taste and consistency. I use a stick blender to puree the ingredients together but a blender or food processor would work just as well.
Squashes are a staple in our home since they are so simple to prepare and because they have just the right amount of sweetness to entice children. They also store easily if not eaten all at once: just place any uneaten halves or sections face down on a plate and put in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. When you’re ready to finish, either heat it up in the microwave or melt a pad of butter in a saucepan and scoop the flesh into the pot with the butter until warmed.
If you’re looking for a new food to add to your meals, I highly recommend simple, succulent squash!