Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

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The wonders of winter squash

By Robyn Webb, MS, LN , ,

Many of us have fond memories about food from our childhood. Whether it's your mother's homemade muffins or your grandfather's special sauce, food has a way of transporting us back in time. I continue to savor to this day the warm images of preparing meals with my mother. Mom was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 38 and all the way up to her last days in her eighties, we enjoyed preparing good, healthy homemade foods. 

Autumn was one of our favorite times to cook. We loved taking advantage of the seasonal winter squashes and found ways to make them into interesting, creative dishes. The high fiber squashes were much better for Mom's blood sugar control than refined carbohydrate foods such as white bread. Their naturally sweet taste took the place of dessert. We had our share of trials and tribulations in mastering these odd, awkwardly shaped vegetables, but our years toiling in the kitchen made us into two squash-cooking virtuosos. Here's a culmination of those crisp morning and cozy evening cooking sessions we shared:

1. Always choose winter squashes that have a dull skin. A shiny skin indicates that the squash was picked too early and therefore is not ripe.

2. Choose squashes that feel heavy for their size, with no cracks and a smooth skin

3. Make sure the stem is attached to the squash. Without a stem, bacteria can enter the squash. The stem should be well rounded and dry.

4. Winter squashes have a long shelf life! Keep them up to 3 months at a temperature of 55-60 degrees. Storing winter squash at 50 degrees or lower, such as in a refrigerator, causes the squash to spoil faster. If you have to refrigerate winter squash, it can be stored for 1-2 weeks.

5. Cutting a winter squash can be a challenge! We learned a great trick. Place the squash in the microwave and heat for 4-5 minutes. Remove, let cool enough to handle, and then with a sharp knife, slice right through. The microwave heat loosens the skin, without actually cooking the squash, making it a breeze to cut the tough-skinned vegetables.

6. The tastiest way to prepare squash is to roast it or sauté it. While streaming and boiling are perfectly healthy methods, they tend to dilute the rich flavor.

7. Use mashed cooked winter squashes in recipes calling for pumpkin puree. Instead of pumpkin pie, try making it with mashed acorn or butternut squash.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup was one of the creations that has Mom's name written all over it! She loved this soup and I'm so glad I can share it with Diabetes Forecast readers.


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