Living Well Los Alamos: Pumpkins & Winter Squash

Living Well Los Alamos
Pumpkins and Winter Squash
Halloween is just around the corner which means we will soon be seeing jack-o-lanterns staring at us from porches and sidewalks.
But pumpkins have many other uses besides scaring trick-or-treaters. Pumpkin are actually winter squash, all of which originated in the Americas. Evidence of pumpkin-type seeds has been found in Mexico dating between 7000 and 5500 BC.
There are many varieties of winter squash including Hubbard, butternut, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkins among others.
Many winter squashes are excellent sources of Vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. For example 1 cup of butternut squash cubes provides 50 percent of your daily recommendation of Vitamin C. A cup of cubed Hubbard squash contains 5 grams of fiber. One half cup pumpkin has 140 percent of the daily Vitamin A recommendation. Winter squash is low in calories and contains no fat.
Selecting and Storing
When choosing a winter squash or pumpkin look for one that feels heavy for its size with a hard, tough rind free of blemishes and soft spots. Pumpkin should be brightly colored. Store in a cool, dry place and use within two months.
Preparation Tips
To prepare winter squash and pumpkin, rinse in cold water, lightly scrubbing with a vegetable brush, cut into halves or quarters, and remove seeds and stringy portions. One pound of squash will yield 2 to 3 servings.
To steam: 1. Wash, peel, remove seeds, and cut the squash into 2-inch cubes or quarter the squash and cook with the rind on. The rind can be easily removed after cooking. 2. Bring one inch of water to a boil in a saucepan. Place the squash on a rack or in a basket in the pan. Do not immerse squash in the water. 3. Cover the pan tightly and steam 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
To microwave: 1. Wash and cut lengthwise. If the squash is too hard to cut, microwave 1-2 minutes to soften the rind, then cut. Remove seeds. 2. Place squash in a baking dish and cover dish with plastic wrap. 3. Microwave until tender, rearranging the pieces halfway through the cooking time. 4. Allow to stand covered, 5-10 minutes, before serving.
To bake: 1. Wash and cut lengthwise. Small squash may be baked in halves. Large squash should be cut into portion size. Remove seeds. 2. Place squash in baking dish. 3. Bake at 400º F for 1 hour, or until tender.
Roasted Seeds
Remove seeds from pumpkin or winter squash and wash them. Place them on an ungreased sheet pan and bake at 350ºF for 20 minutes. Use seeds on salads, in trail mixes or enjoy by the handful.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
Makes 1 serving
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons pure pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup hot espresso or strong brewed coffee
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving
Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla in a medium microwave safe bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and vent with a small hole. Microwave until the milk is hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk vigorously until the milk mixture is foamy, about 30 seconds. Pour the espresso or coffee into a large mug and add the foamed milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. Recipe courtesy of Food Network 2014.
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
Makes 6 servings
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400. In a baking dish large enough to hold ingredients in a single layer, toss squash with syrup, oil and seasonings. Bake for 20-30 minutes until squash begins to brown. Turn squash using spatula and roast another 20-30 minutes until tender.
Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
Makes 6 servings
3 acorn squash
5 ounces turkey sausage
1 small onion chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon, chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
Hot sauce, to taste
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
Cut squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly coat a large skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring often, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook for 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes, beans, salt and hot sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the tomatoes are broken down, 10 to 12 minutes.
When the squash are tender, reduce oven temperature to 325°. Fill the squash halves with the turkey mixture. Top with cheese. Place on the baking sheet and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted, 8 to 10 minutes. Recipe courtesy of Eating Well Magazine 2007.
Helen Idzorek is the Extension Home Economist and 4-H Agent for NMSU Cooperative Extension Service. She can be reached via email at or at 505.662.2656. The Los Alamos County Cooperative Extension Service is located in the Community Building at 475 20th St, Suite A, Los Alamos, NM 87544. Find them on facebook or visit their website at
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