Harvest the Health Benefits of Pumpkin and Squash with the Tastes and Colors of the Season
Nothing signals the start of autumn, and the flavors of fall, more than that first sip of a pumpkin-spice latte or a bite into any one of the many pumpkin-flavored treats making their way onto menus everywhere. From the first day of fall, until long after the Thanksgiving decorations have been put away. There’s far more to pumpkins than pies and lattes, and squash (particularly the increasingly popular butternut squash) is a fall superfood packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. We show you how to delight family and friends both with the way they taste and the way they look.
So just how good for you are these super-healthy fall favorites? To start with, one cup of pumpkin contains more potassium than a banana, more vitamin A than a cup of kale, and more fiber than ½ cup of quinoa. But the health benefits don’t stop there. Since pumpkin is incredibly rich in vitamin A and high in vitamin C, it can help boost your immune system (it contains vitamin E, iron, and folate, which also strengthens immunity. In addition, the fiber in pumpkin helps keep you energized and the minerals (it’s filled with blood pressure-regulating minerals like potassium and magnesium) help your heart. As one of the best-known sources of the powerful antioxidant beta carotene (which converts to vitamin A in the body), pumpkin and squash’s health benefits are vast. Consuming foods high in beta carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease, and decrease the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Pumpkins (which are part of the Cucurbita family, which includes squash and cucumbers) are known for being “nutrient dense” and providing mainly good-for-you carbohydrates, in addition to being packed with all of the other beneficial vitamins and minerals. Since it’s rich in fiber (which slows digestion), it keeps you feeling full longer. What’s more, at less than 50 calories per cup, it’s naturally low in calories – and consisting of 94% water, helps to keep you hydrated, too! Both pumpkin and squash are great options for those following a low-carb lifestyle – and make a great low carb/low-calorie substitution for higher-calorie foods like mashed potatoes.
This month, I’ve taken the already-healthy pumpkin and squash and made them even healthier – incorporating them in some of my favorite recipes, highlighting the distinctive savory tastes of these fall favorites. The best part? These Keto-friendly, sugar-free, and gluten-free dishes are bursting with both flavor and nutrients – making them the perfect addition to your tables as we celebrate fall’s beautiful and healthy bounty.
Pumpkin Oat Squares
- 1 cup 100% pure pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 4 tsp monkfruit sweetener
- 2 eggs Eggs -OR- Vegan Eggs (mix 2 Tbsp flax and 6 Tbsp water, set 10 minutes)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla
- 1-1/4 cups gluten free flour
- 2-1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 tsp allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup vegan or regular chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 “x 13” baking pan. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix all of the wet ingredients together. With a wooden spoon, stir until well incorporated.
- Add all of the dry ingredients.Slowly stir the mixture to lightly incorporate, making sure there are no clumps of flour remaining.
- Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts.
- Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. You may also add more chocolate chips and nuts to the top, gently press them into the pumpkin batter.
- Bake for 25 minutes, until edges have slightly turned golden brown. Allow to cool completely for 45 minutes before slicing.
- Serve, or these can be frozen for 3 months!
“Not Your Grandmother’s” Spaghetti Squash
- 1 large spaghetti squash halved and roasted
- 1 medium head of kale chopped
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes drained
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1 bulb garlic
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup garbanzo beans (optional)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (vegan or regular)
Preparing your items for roasting:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash spaghetti squash, dry off, cut in half lengthwise.
- Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and innards. Brush the inside with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash halves flat side down onto a roasting pan.
- Take the whole bulb of garlic and slice off the entire top point of the garlic bulb.
- Rub olive oil over the entire bulb. Place the garlic bulb, garlic roots down, on the same pan of squash.
- Place in oven for 30 minutes.
- For the last 5 minutes of roasting, add raw walnuts to the pan.
- Remove roasting pan from the oven and set aside to cool.
- When the spaghetti squash, garlic, and walnuts have cooled enough to handle, it is time to make dinner.
- Use a fork to gently scrape out the strands of spaghetti squash and place into a large bowl.
- Peel the roasted garlic cloves, whole. Add to the bowl of spaghetti squash.
- Place roasted walnuts in a small bowl.
- Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat; add chopped kale. Cover and cook until kale has wilted, about 3 minutes.
- Add sun-dried tomatoes; stir.
- Add spaghetti squash, roasted garlic; gently stir.
- Add roasted walnuts.
- Continue cooking and stirring until all of the ingredients are well- combined and heated through.
- Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with Parmesan cheese.
- Optional to add: garbanzo beans, crushed red pepper, fresh lemon juice.
Roasted Acorn Squash
- 1 med. acorn squash
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper large dices
- 6 whole mushrooms roughly cut
- 1/4 cup celery finely chopped
- 2 cups spinach chopped
- 1 cup cannellini white beans drained
- 1/4 cup sweet onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Small dash red pepper flake
- 2 slices gluten free bread dried and cubed
- 1/2 cup brown rice cooked
Preparing the Squash
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Wash the acorn and split in half from stem to tip. Discard seeds.
- Place acorn squash in a baking pan, flat side up.
- Brush the acorn squash with olive oil, honey, salt, pepper.
- Place a small piece of butter or Vegan Butter on the inside of the acorn squash.
- Put into the heated oven and bake for around 45 minutes or until the acorn squash is tender.
Making the Stuffing
- Place some olive oil in a large saute pan on medium heat. Add mushrooms, red bell pepper, sweet onion, celery, salt, pepper, red pepper flake; sweat until tender.
- Add minced garlic, sprigs of thyme, cannellini beans; stir.
- Add chopped spinach; add a little water to create a vegetable broth. Season.
- Add bread and rice; mix slowly.
Putting It All Together
- Fill the acorn squash with the vegetable stuffing mixture.
- Place back into oven for about 20 minutes to heat.
- Top with vegan or regular Parmesan cheese & toasted walnuts!
Butternut Squash with Wild Rice
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 cups wild rice cooked
- 1/2 small onion finely diced
- 1 celery stalk finely diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 cup fresh cranberries (or dried ones soaked in water)
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
Preparing the Squash
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Wash the butternut squash. Cut the squash lengthwise, stem to bottom.
- Remove the seeds from the small area.
- Score (with a small knife, crisscross your cuts on the long part of the squash.
- Cover the entire squash with olive oil and place thyme sprigs on the long part of the squash.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place in a baking pan and bake until the butternut squash is tender and bright in color, about 40 minutes, depending on size of squash.
Putting it All Together
- Place olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion, celery, cranberries, salt, pepper and sweat until translucent.
- Add garlic and stir in on low heat. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix; onion mixture and cooked wild rice. Add some water. Season.
- Place the wild rice mixture into the hole of the butternut squash.
- Put baking pan back into the oven to warm.
- Remove from oven, and top with toasted walnuts.