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The Many Benefits of Eating Winter Squash

February 15th, 2012 Cooking

Have you been looking for another veggie to add to your repertoire? Do you have very much experience with winter squash? In spite of the name, this vegetable actually grows during the summer, though they can be found throughout the year in many supermarkets. Not only is squash a very versatile veggie but it's quite good for you as well! According to the World's Healthiest Foods, it's an incredibly rich source of vital antioxidants. So the next time you're at the grocery store, give it a shot! You may be surprised just how good it can be. Here are a few different ways you can enjoy winter squash.

1. Seeds. Just like pumpkins, squash seeds make for a tasty and healthy snack. In order to retrieve them, chop the squash in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds at the "bell" of the vegetable. Carefully remove each of the seeds from the squash and place them in a single layer on a baking pan. Allow them to roast at about 150 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes - this will make them tasty and easy to eat without sacrificing the nutritional benefits that they provide. According to the source, these seeds are high in both loneleic acid and oleic acid (which is found in olive oil).

2. Preparation. Regardless of how you want to prepare your squash, there are a few steps required before it can be worked with. First, you're going to have to peel the skin off. This can be done using a potato peeler or knife. Once the skin is removed, a special cutting process is used, thanks to the squash's unique shape.

According to SimplyRecipes, the first cut you want to make is a small slice about a quarter-inch from the bottom of the vegetable. You want this to be as even as possible, as you'll be using it to stabilize the squash when holding it vertically. Next, stand the squash upright and make a long slice down the middle. If you're having trouble making a clean cut (some squashes can put up a bit of resistance), you can use a rubber mallet to gently tap the knife further down. You can now use a metal spoon to remove the seeds.

3. Steaming. After slicing the squash into one-inch cubes, you may want to consider steaming it. This is a fast way to prepare the vegetable and ensures that all of the nutrients are kept intact during the cooking process. You should only have to steam squash for about seven minutes - that's usually enough to soften it up and release flavors.

4. Baking. You also have the option of baking your squash. Note that baked squash doesn't require peeling. All you have to do is cut the vegetable in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds - it's now ready to be placed in the oven! You also have the option to leave the entire thing intact and simply pierce a few holes using a fork before placing it in the oven. You may find recipes that call for baking the squash, so it's a good technique to have down. It's also worth noting that the skin peels off much easier once the vegetable is baked, which could make preparation easier.