I woke up to a 60-degree apartment, frosted windows on my car, and the desire to stay cozy warm under my down comforter and flannel sheets.
It is fall. You know what that means. Pumpkin everywhere. Pumpkin recipes. Pumpkin decorations. Pumpkin candles. Pumpkin Lattes. Pumpkin costumes. Pumpkin jokes. Pumpkin crafts. Pumpkin. Pumpkin. Pumpkin. No matter where you look, pumpkin is in existence. As I type this, I look across the restaurant and see an ad for pumpkin soup. It’s like the 1958 movie, “The Blob”. The pumpkin engulfs everything. However, in the festive fall decorations displayed on patios and in the windows of stores, sitting under the pumpkin’s shadow is something more glorious than a lit-up Jack-O-Lantern’s face: the forgotten squashes. Growing up I would see the decorations and not even think twice about the other squashes let alone comprehend the fact that you can eat them! I saw them and thought how funny some of them looked but were still somehow aesthetically pleasing for the season. I love this season not for the leaves changing, the weather cooling, or Pumpkin Spice Lattes. I love this season because that means I will finally find squash in surplus at the store—butternut, spaghetti, acorn, delicata, hubbard. You name it! So many squashes that deserve to shine too! Why does the pumpkin get all the glory?
Don’t let pumpkin railroad your fall. Here are 3 squashes you should focus on as well. Not only are these squashes fun decorations, but they are delicious and have several health benefits for living a fit, healthy, and happy life.
- Butternut Squash: I’m pretty sure butternut squash is a hidden gem in the cooking world and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This squash has a sweeter taste and is delicious roasted, put into a soup, or even used in desserts. I love. Love. Love. Butternut squash. It can be savory or sweet. You get the best of both worlds; how can you not want to experience this? The versatility of butternut squash makes this squash the perfect fall treat.
- Health benefits: Butternut squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, Zinc, Potassium, fiber, and vitamin A. If you have autoimmune conditions like me, it is an excellent source for some of the vitamins you need to boost your system and regulate the condition naturally.
Recipe: One of my favorite ways to eat butternut squash is simple and super easy to make. It doesn’t require a ton of ingredients or complicated steps. Ingredients: 1 peeled, deseeded, cubed butternut squash; olive oil; pink Himalayan sea salt and black pepper to season. That’s it! 4 ingredients. Easy and simply. Butternut squash is so tasty on its own, you don’t need to add anything to it!
- Preheat oven to 400° F
- Toss the butternut squash cubes in the olive oil
- Place the cubes on a cooking pan Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper
- Bake 25-30 minutes or until squash is tender and browned.
I’ve also created butternut squash soup for more of a savory taste and created a butternut squash mash that is a perfect ratio of savory to sweet. This simple recipe is my favorite though because it makes for a quick and delicious side.
- Spaghetti Squash: I feel like spaghetti squash is the go-to in the squash world, which isn’t a bad thing. Whenever I crave pasta, I use spaghetti squash as a substitute. After cooking, it peels away into long noodles that imitate spaghetti (shocking I know based on the name). It doesn’t taste the same, but it helps me believe for a few seconds that I am indulging in the heavy carb loaded pastas I used to consume prior to swim meets. It’s a nostalgia thing.
- Health Benefits: Like my delightful butternut squash, spaghetti squash is also a good source for vitamin A, potassium, fiber and considered a low calorie/low carb food. This squash can help with regulating blood pressure, cholesterol, and aid metabolism—all health concerns that run in my family and connect to my thyroid function. I’ve said in previous posts that I refuse to be my genetics and not believe that I am incapable of changing it. Consuming spaghetti squash is one way for me to fight against the root of the issue not just cover the symptoms.
Recipe: Again, a simple way to make spaghetti squash is roasting it in the oven. I will tell you, it is an art form to find the right tenderness to your spaghetti squash. Cook it for too long it is squishy and soft. Don’t cook it long enough, and it’s too crunchy. It’s like Goldilocks and the porridge. You must find what’s the best for you. I still haven’t perfected the right temperature or time. Ingredients: 1 Spaghetti Squash, olive oil.
- Preheat oven. I usually cook at about 400°
- Cut the squash in half stem to base and scoop out the seeds *Be careful when cutting the squash, especially if the skin is tough!
- Lightly coat inside the squash with olive oil Place on cooking pan (you can place a piece of parchment paper down first) with cut-side down
- Roast in oven for 40 minutes or until the squash is the right tenderness for you.
Once the squash is cooled there is a vast amount of options for how to serve it. I usually sauté a variety of other vegetables and cook up some ground turkey, scoop out the squash and serve it all together. You can create a pasta sauce or pesto sauce to serve with it. You can create a stuffed spaghetti squash bowl and use the skin itself as the bowl. So many options!
- Acorn Squash: Prior to my immune boost in July I had never cooked with acorn squash. I played it safe and stuck to the squash I knew: spaghetti and butternut. This was the squash I would see in decorations and consider inedible. I didn’t really have a desire to try it. However, since I have decided to focus on eating the foods that supply my body with what it needs, I am trying to incorporate new foods like acorn squash into my eating habits. Turns out it is delicious. Although it is a more perishable squash and doesn’t last as long as the other squashes, it is still just as tasty, providing either a savory or sweeter option.
- Health benefits: Again, this squash is also a fantastic source for potassium and vitamins and fiber. It will help with blood pressure, immune system, and cholesterol. So what acorn squash can also teach us is that squash is amazing and beneficial to boosting your system.
Go to her recipe. Make it. Eat it. You won’t regret it. So good.
*I don’t eat a lot of pork, so I substituted an Italian ground turkey sausage. You can always adjust the meat option.
I used to be terrified to try something new. I liked safety. I liked comfort. I liked being in control. However, I have discovered part of living my fit, my healthy, my happy lifestyle sometimes involves me stepping away from that safety and comfort, allowing myself to release my grip on my sense of control and experience something new (like cooking with acorn squash), so that I can embrace the experience in the moment, not worry about the outcome or future result. This is what will allow me to live out my passion in this life. This is what will allow me to live a life where I am fueling my mind, body, and spirit as a whole.
In the past not allowing myself to loosen the reigns of control and discovering new things has led to a lot of “What ifs” and some regrets—whether that was not telling a guy how I really felt because I hid behind my insecurities or not moving to a new state after college or not choosing to experience different cultures when given the opportunities. And you know what, holding onto that safety and comfort didn’t make me happy or healthy. Holding onto those “what ifs” and regrets didn’t make me happy. Happy and healthy were a far and distant concept because I was choosing to live in a way that hindered me from experiencing the life I kept claiming I wanted: a life where people could see passion, happiness, and growth igniting inside of me. I focused in on believing safety and comfort would give that to me, but the ripples left by this concept only left questions, doubts, and fears. Trying to be in control created a pit that I dug for myself and I slid right on in, accepting my home at the bottom. That isn’t the life I want. I want a life of growth not a life of stagnation.
Lately, I have taken different steps—and not the precautionary kind—to fully embrace a life that will allow me to grow. I released safety nets, I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone in several areas of life, and I am releasing control in the moments I catch myself clinging to the false ideas that fit in my “perfect” plan. And I will continue to take these steps because I want to experience all the squashes in my life, not just the one that tries to dominate because it is the latest trend or most popular option for that season of life. Choosing to experience the new and different is what will give me my fullest and happiest life. This, like the nutrients of the 3 squashes I am embracing, is what will fuel and supply me with the life I was created to live.