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Wonderful Winter Squash

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Fall brings the new crop of hard-shelled squash to the grocery store. These winter squash add an abundance of super nutrients to the table. Orange-fleshed squashes are especially high in beta-carotene, a nutrient important for healthy skin, immune system and night vision. A half-cup of cooked orange-flesh winter squash provides about 50 calories, a nutritional bargain.

Squash is easy to cook by following the cooking tips below:

Cooking Directions:

Get squash ready to use in a wide assortment of recipes from soup to dessert by baking, steaming or boiling. Roasting enhances squash’s natural sweetness.

  • Bake: Cut in half, remove seeds and place cut-side down in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees or microwave on high until tender. Scoop flesh for recipes using cooked squash.
  • Roast: Cut into chunks, peel cut off, toss with olive oil and seasonings. Place on a foil-lined shallow baking pan and roast at 475 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Roast until they’re folk-tender.
  • Steam or boil: Cook peeled chunks in a small amount of simmering water or in a steamer until tender. Season and serve.

Winter Squash Primer:

  • Butternut: Tan shell makes these easy to spot. Similar in flavor and texture to sweet potatoes.
  • Acorn: Looks like a large green acorn. Sweet buttery yellow-orange flesh.
  • Buttercup: Dark green shell with lighter green spots. Deep-yellow flesh with slightly nutty flavor
  • Spaghetti: Stringy flesh resembles cooked spaghetti. Use as a very low-calorie alternate to pasta dishes.

Whether you prefer sweet or savory, winter squash fits both tastes. Try this flavorful recipe featuring butternut squash.

Roasted Winter Squash and Mozzarella Quesadillas
Serves 6.

All you need:

  • 6 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups diced red bell peppers
  • 1 tbsp diced garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 dashes salt
  • 2 dashes black pepper
  • 3/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 6 tbsp diced onion
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro, divided
  • 6 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded fat-free mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup trimmed, thinly sliced green onions

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the butternut squash, red pepper and garlic with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Spread on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes until they are tender and slightly caramelized.
  4. While the squash mixture is cooking, combine the diced tomatoes and onions. Add 1 tablespoon of cilantro. Set aside to be used as salsa.
  5. Lay tortillas on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place 1/4 cup mozzarella on one-half of each tortilla.
  6. Distribute roasted squash mixture evenly on top of the cheese, followed by green onions and remaining cilantro. Fold tortillas in half to form quesadillas.
  7. Place in a 200-degree oven for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve with fresh salsa on the side of the quesadilla.

Tip: For easier cutting, soften small squash by cooking in the microwave oven on HIGH for 3 to 5 minutes or until shell can be pierced with a knife.

Nutrition facts per serving: 290 calories, 6g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 530mg sodium, 46g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 15g protein.

Source: Recipe courtesy of Challenge.gov Recipes for Healthy Kids.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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