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Meatless Monday: Squash recipes for the season

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Seasonal eating, veggie style!

It's turning toward squash season and that could mean two things -- a new meatless dish to add to your repertoire or new ideas for an old favorite.

Cajun roasted pumpkin seeds

There are several varieties of winter squash available, and they are all great sources of vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Here's a bit of trivia in case you didn't know. Squash are actually considered fruits that grow on vines. Their seeds, blossoms and even shoots and leaves can be eaten.

Don't ditch the seeds!

When you're cooking squash for dinner, be sure to save the seeds for a snack. Check out this easy, seedy recipe:

Cajun roasted pumpkin seeds

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. In a medium bowl, toss the pumpkin seeds with the butter and seasonings.
  2. Spread pumpkin seeds evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Variety of squashesChoosing your squash

Whether you're at the farmers market or grocery store this time of year, you're likely to run across a variety of winter squash. Common types include acorn, butternut, spaghetti and Hubbard, and they come in a variety of beautiful fall colors and shades of yellow, green, orange and tan. For recipes, most squash can be substituted for another variety with the exception of spaghetti squash.

Choose a squash that feels heavy for its size. You want the skin to be matte, firm when pressed and without blemishes or gouges on it. If you can find a squash with a part of its stem attached, that's even better. Without the stem, the squash won't keep as long. Don't store your uncut squash in the refrigerator. Keep it in a cool and dry environment where it can last for about a month.

To your health!

Low in fat and calories but high in fiber, squash is definitely a seasonal food that will keep you satisfied. Half a cup of cooked squash is equal to one serving.

According to the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health and its Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, people should move to a plant-based diet. The guidelines emphasize eating more foods from plants, such as vegetables and beans, whole grains and nuts.

The USDA and its MyPlate Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 notes that your daily intake of vegetables is dependent on several factors, but for men and women who get less than 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity, beyond normal daily activities, between 2-3 cups of vegetables a day is best. Review the guidelines to see what's best for you.

The idea of cutting back on meat and increasing your veggie consumption is becoming more widespread. Learn more about the Meatless Monday organization, whose goal is to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.

Winter squash is sure to be on the shelves at your local market. Good for you and great tasting, there are a variety of ways to prepare squash as a veggie-focused meal your family will love!

Squash options! Try these recipes

Butternut squash and carrot soup
Ricotta-stuffed acorn squash
Spaghetti squash Italiano
Butternut squash lasagna
Winter squash recipes

More Meatless Monday ideas

Meatless Monday Mediterranean style
Add some pizzazz to your potatoes
Go green (and meatless) with green beans
Start the week with a pizza party!
Meatless Monday: What's the news?

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