Harvest the Health Benefits of Pumpkin and Squash with the Tastes and Colors of the Season
By Chef Lynn Michelle
Photography by TR Love, TR Media World
Nothing signals the flavors of fall more than that first sip of a pumpkin spice latte, or dreaming about holiday pumpkin pie. But there is far more to pumpkins than lattes and pies! Another star of autumn is squash, particularly the increasingly popular butternut variety. But did you know it’s a superfood, literally packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants? Titillating most of the senses, these fall favorites bursting with delicious flavors will satisfy family and friends with delightful sights, smells and tastes.
Superfood you say? Just how nutritious are these super-healthy fall favorites? Pumpkins, which are part of the Cucurbita family that includes squash and cucumbers, are known for being nutrient dense and providing good-for-you carbohydrates. 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 a half cup of quinoa. But the health benefits don’t stop there. Since pumpkin is particularly rich in vitamins A and C, it can help boost your immune system. It also contains vitamin E, iron and folate, which may strengthen immunity, as well. 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 anti-oxidant beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body, the health benefits of pumpkin and squash continue! Studies have shown 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.
What’s more, at less than 50 calories per cup, it’s naturally low in calories, and since it’s rich in fiber, which slows digestion, it keeps you feeling full longer. Did you know pumpkin and squash are about 94 percent water? They help 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 and pasta.
This month, I’ve taken these already healthy gourds and made them even healthier by incorporating them into some of my favorite recipes that highlight the distinctive savory tastes of these fall rock stars.
with Kale, Roasted Garlic, Walnuts & Sun-dried Tomatoes
Gluten Free | Vegan | Vegetarian | Sugar-Free | Pictured Above
3 Tbsps Olive oil
1 large Spaghetti squash, halved and roasted
½ cup raw Walnuts
1 medium head Kale, chopped
1 whole bulb Garlic
½ cup Sun-dried tomatoes, drained
¾ tsp Salt
1 cup Garbanzo Beans (optional)
¼ tsp Black pepper
½ cup vegan or regular Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350°F. Wash and dry squash. Cut in half lengthwise and take out the seeds. 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 top point of the garlic bulb (should be a flat surface with the garlic roots down) Rub bulb with olive oil and place it on the same pan with squash. Bake for 30 minutes. At the last 5 minutes of roasting, add raw walnuts to the roasting pan. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
Once cooled enough to handle, gently scrape the squash with a fork to release the strands of “spaghetti” and place into a large bowl. Peel the roasted garlic cloves, whole. Add to the bowl of squash. Place roasted walnuts in a small bowl. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add chopped kale. Cover and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add sun-dried tomatoes, stir. Then add squash and garlic and gently stir. Add 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 additions include: garbanzo beans, crushed red pepper, or fresh lemon juice.
Butternut Squash & Wild Rice
Gluten Free | Vegan | Vegetarian | Sugar-Free
1 Butternut squash
2 cups Wild rice, cooked
½ small Onion, finely diced
1 Celery stalk, finely diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh Thyme sprigs
1 cup fresh Cranberries (or dried soaked in water)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash squash, cut the lengthwise stem to bottom and remove seeds. With a small knife, score (criss cross cuts) on the long part of the squash. Cover the 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 tender and bright in color, about 40 minutes depending on size of squash.
Cook wild rice according to package. In a large sauté pan, cover the bottom with olive oil and add onion, celery, cranberries, salt, pepper and sauté until translucent. Stir in garlic over low heat and set aside. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture and cooked wild rice (add some water if needed). Adjust seasoning to taste, if needed. Spoon the wild rice mixture into the hole of the squash. Put the baking pan back into the oven to reheat. Top with toasted walnuts. Let’s eat!
Roasted Acorn Squash
Gluten Free | Vegan | Vegetarian
1 medium Acorn squash
1 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsps Honey
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1/2 Tbsp Butter (or vegan butter)
2 sprigs fresh Thyme
1/2 cup Red bell pepper, large diced
Dash Red pepper flakes
6 Mushrooms, roughly sliced
¼ cup Celery, finely chopped
1 cup Cannellini white beans, drained
2 cups Spinach, chopped
¼ cup sweet Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup Brown Rice, cooked
Toasted Walnuts, optional
2 slices gluten free Bread, dried and cubed
Parmesan cheese (vegan or regular), optional
The Acorn Squash: Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash the squash and split in half from stem to tip. Discard seeds. Place in a baking pan, flat side up. Brush with olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Place a small piece of butter (or vegan butter) on the inside of the squash. Put into preheated oven and bake for around 45 minutes, until the squash is tender.
The Stuffing: Cover the bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil. On medium heat, sauté mushrooms, red bell pepper, sweet onion, celery, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes until tender. Add minced garlic, sprigs of thyme, cannellini beans and stir. Add chopped spinach and a little water to create a vegetable broth. Season to taste, if needed. Add bread and rice and mix slowly. Fill the squash with the stuffing mixture. Place back into oven for about 20 minutes to heat. Top with cheese and toasted walnuts.
Pumpkin Oat Squares
Gluten Free | Vegan | Vegetarian
1 cup 100% Pumpkin purée
1/4 cup Coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup Maple syrup
4 Tsps Monkfruit sweetener
2 tsps Vanilla
2 Eggs (or 2 vegan eggs, see tip below)
1 tsp Baking soda
1¼ cups gluten free Measure to Measure Flour
½ tsp Baking powder
2½ cups, Gluten free rolled Oats
½ tsp Ground cinnamon
¼ tsp Allspice
½ tsp Ground nutmeg
½ tsp Salt
½ cup vegan or regular Chocolate chips
½ cup Pecans or walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9”x 13” baking pan and set aside. In a large bowl, mix all wet ingredients together with a wooden spoon, and stir until well incorporated. Add all of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Slowly stir the mixture to lightly incorporate, making sure there are no patches of flour remaining. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. (Optional: You may add more chocolate chips and nuts to the top, gently press them into the pumpkin batter. Bake for 25 minutes, until edges slightly turn golden brown. Allow to cool completely for 45 minutes before slicing. Serve and enjoy, or freeze properly for 3 months.
Chef Lynn Michelle is a personal chef located on Hilton Head Island serving the entire Lowcountry. Whether it’s preparing healthy, gourmet, family-style meals, or expertly creating elaborate dinner parties, Chef Lynn and her team do it all—planning, shopping, cooking and clean up. www.cheflynnmichelle.com (843) 422-5280
Chef’s Note: To make vegan eggs mix 2 Tbsps ground flaxseed and 6 Tbsps water and let set for 10 minutes.