Piled on a platter or tumbled in a basket, winter squash have the look of autumn about them. Pumpkin, butternut, acorn – even their names evoke the season.
Winter squash – those with hard skins, unlike soft-skinned summer squash – have more going for them than magazine photo spreads. They are good and good for you, too.
Karla Arrigoni, a registered dietitian with Marshfield Clinic, loves butternut squash for all these reasons (besides the fact it’s super tasty):
- Butternut squash is a rich source of dietary fiber and phyto (plant)-nutrients.
- Butternut squash has even more vitamin A than pumpkin.
Vitamin A is a powerful natural anti-oxidant beneficial for maintaining healthy cells. It also is an essential vitamin for eye health. Research studies suggest that natural foods rich in vitamin A help protect the body against lung and oral cavity cancers.
- Butternut squash is rich in B-complex group vitamins like folates, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid. Among other things, B vitamins help the body produce energy and form red blood cells. Squash also provides minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
- Butternut squash seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids that benefit heart health. In addition, they are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature, you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils.
Try this recipe
Arrigoni loves that this recipe includes spinach and chickpeas to add to an already super-nutritious food. Give it a try. It might just become a family fall favorite.
Chickpea, Spinach and Squash Gnocchi
Prep time: 35 minutes
- 1 pound frozen gnocchi, whole grain is preferable
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced peeled butternut squash or unpeeled delicata squash (1- to 2-inch-long slices)
- 1/2 cup sliced shallots (1-2 medium)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14-ounce can low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried rubbed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 8 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar reduction or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (see note)
Cook frozen gnocchi in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions. Drain, rinse and pat dry.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until starting to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil, squash, shallots and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in broth, dried cranberries, sage and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring, until the squash is almost cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add spinach, chickpeas and the gnocchi and cook, gently stirring, until the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes more. Serve drizzled with balsamic reduction (or balsamic vinegar).
Note: Balsamic vinegar reduction is sometimes called balsamic glaze or balsamic drizzle. Bring 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until syrupy and reduced to about 1/4 cup, 10 to 14 minutes. (Watch the syrup carefully in the last few minutes of reducing to prevent burning.)
Each serving (1-1/2 cups) contains about 485 calories; 6 g fat; 92 g carbohydrates; 15 g protein; 9 g sugar; 619 mg sodium. (Nutrition bonus: vitamin A, 225%; vitamin C, 53%; folate, 33%; magnesium, 19%; potassium, 17%; calcium, 16%.)