consciouscook-11-3There is an appointed time for everything.

And there is a time for every event under heaven-

A time to give birth, and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

— Ecclesiastes, 3:1-2

November should inspire a time of focused reflection, leading to a time of great gratitude.  Gardeners and farmers, I am sure, give thanks for having harvested the bounty with which God has blessed them, as they  cover their beds, and leave the ground to sleep until spring. The labors of the summer and fall have once again yielded delicious and nutritious crops that will sustain us as we cycle through the seasons.

Recently I was given a most handsome squash, of a variety that I am completely unfamiliar with.  It is so attractive and makes a charming addition to my fall décor, with its dark green skin, deeply ridged skin and sturdy, rounded shape.  I am so pleased with its appearance that I am not sure I can bring myself to render it into a recipe! Tetsukabuto is its name. In researching this new addition to my kitchen, I have learned that it is a Japanese variety, possessing a sweet, sticky flesh. More reading will be required to decide its fate — décor or dinner? But mostly I am grateful for the blessing of a generous and kind gardener.

November and December are ideal months to enjoy freshly harvested squash.  Their flavor is optimal during these two months.  All varieties are an excellent source of fiber, and offer plenty of vitamin A and potassium.

Acorn squash is preferred by some for its dry texture and not so sugary flavor. A marvelous dinner party entrée can be made by stuffing acorn squash with apples, cranberries and sage, or wild rice, onions and mushrooms.  Cubed and roasted, acorn squash can be added to frittatas or mixed with black beans and hot peppers for a bracing burrito.

Butternut squash has been crowned the queen of the soup squash by many cooks. Its sweetness and silkiness when pureed, makes for sublime soups that marry well with a myriad of flavors. Coconut milk and lemon grass will add Asian flair; cayenne pepper and maple syrup will stir up some sweet heat; apples and ginger are appropriate, as well as a version adding sweet corn kernels and a bit of smoked paprika. Butternut squash is also superb in chili, lasagna and as a ravioli filling.

Delicata squash, as its name suggests, is a more delicate squash, with a softer flavor and a softer skin that is completely edible.  For an entrancing autumn side dish, roast cubes of well washed, unpeeled delicata squash with cut up sweet and hot peppers, onions, carrots, and parsnips. Place all the ingredients in a roasting pan, drizzle with grape seed oil, roll everything around until well coated with oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in a 400-degree oven until desired doneness.

Spaghetti squash, also a softer-skinned squash has gained popularity, mostly as a substitute for carbohydrate-laden pasta. The stringy, pale yellow flesh can be eaten just like pasta: the squash roasted, then scraped into a bowl and topped with a zesty marinara sauce. Or for a more mellow mouthful, season the cooked spaghetti squash with butter, parmesan cheese, salt and a grinding of fresh black pepper.

Buttercup squash, a hard-skinned variety is quite good for pie making. Its sweet flesh also lends itself nicely to soup making, or try roasting slices in the oven seasoned with cinnamon, chili powder and a drizzle of maple syrup.

At the market, choose squash that is heavy for its size, feels firm and has no soft spots. Store in a  cool, dark spot until ready to cook.

Enjoy this blessed and bountiful time and be grateful for every opportunity to prepare a delicious life!

Apple-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4

2 large acorn squash, cut in half horizontally, seeds removed

2 Honeycrisp or Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into cubes

2 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 ½ Tablespoons lemon zest

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup applesauce

4 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the 4 squash halves cut side up in a 9 x13 pan. Trim a tiny bit off the bottom of each if they are rolling around, so they will sit flat. Place the apple cubes in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice. Add all remaining ingredients, except butter,  and mix well. Stuff squash halves evenly with mixture. Place 1 Tablespoon of butter on top of each stuffed squash half. Pour water or a mixture of water and apple cider one third of the way up the pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Stick a knife in and if soft enough, remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes to brown tops.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP,  “The Conscious Cook “, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com