Healthy Living in the North

The Northern Table: It sat on my kitchen counter for a year – and then I ate it

An opened spaghetti squash and the inside 'noodles' in a dish.

Spaghetti squash will keep on the counter for a lot longer than you might think!

I love vegetables that keep. I’m thinking of things like cabbages, onions, carrots, potatoes, beets, and other root vegetables. These hearty vegetables can live in our kitchens for a long time without spoiling, giving us more chances to fit them into recipes and our busy lives.

Last year I discovered that spaghetti squash can be added to the list of foods that last a REALLY long time. We had gotten quite a few squashes from our local community supported agriculture project, but I’ll admit it: I was not well versed in how to use these foods. Therefore, they sat on my counter, tucked away behind the fruit bowl, and were neglected for quite some time. Some got eaten, some spoiled, and some continued to patiently wait for their fate to be decided.

Then fall rolled around again, and with that came more freshly harvested squashes. It was then that I realized that some of the previous year’s spaghetti squashes were STILL sitting on my counter! Embarrassing, I know. So one day I thought, “Well, these can’t possibly be good anymore,” but I sliced one open just to be sure.

To my great surprise, it was… pristine. So I put it upside down in a baking dish with about an inch of water, and baked it in the oven for about 40 minutes. When I sampled it, it had a lovely texture and tasted great! I used a fork to pull the “meat” out of the shell, breaking it apart into its tell-tale “spaghetti” strings. I served it with dinner, simply dressed with a little butter, salt, and pepper. Yum!

What a forgiving, hearty vegetable! You can bet that I’ll be keeping an eye out for more spaghetti squash in the future. In the meantime, there are still two left on my counter from last fall, one of which will likely be used for a spaghetti squash “pasta” dish.

How do YOU like to eat spaghetti squash?

Read more about squash in past posts:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise is a registered dietitian with Northern Health's regional Population Health team, where her work focuses on nutrition in the early years. She is passionate about supporting children's innate eating capabilities and the development of lifelong eating competence. Her passion for food extends beyond her work, and her young family enjoys cooking, local foods, and lazy gardening. In her free time, you might also find her exploring beautiful northwest BC by foot, ski, kayak or kite.

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Foodie Friday: The humble but nutritious squash

This time of year I find myself turning to comfort foods. Perhaps it’s the cold weather or maybe it’s the darker days, but I find myself turning more to casseroles and stews, rather than salads and sandwiches.

Stuffed squash on a plate

For Rebecca, stuffed acorn squash is a go-to comfort recipe for the winter. What healthy recipes do you turn to during our winter months?

Today, I want to share one of my comfort recipes that my daughter and I love! My daughter loves being able to eat this dish right out of the squash shell. Try it with your kids and I’m sure they’ll love it, too!

Winter squash come in a number of varieties and are widely available in the grocery store this time of year. They’re a great, versatile vegetable that is quite shelf-stable, lasting months if kept in a cool spot. Squash are a nutrition powerhouse, too. Most are very high in vitamin A, fibre, potassium and magnesium. Most commonly, squash are used in soups, stuffed, mashed as a side dish, or used in pie (mmm, pumpkin!).

Beef-Stuffed Acorn Squash

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Yields 4 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 small acorn squash
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ lb (500 g) ground beef
  • 2 tbsp chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp celery*
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground sage
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • ¼ cup cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Cut squash in half and remove seeds and membranes. Place squash cut side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Add water and cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 F for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserts into the flesh easily.
  2. Meanwhile, cook beef, onion and celery over medium heat in a saucepan until the beef is no longer pink. Stir in flour, salt and sage until well blended. Add milk and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in rice.
  3. Transfer squash to a baking sheet and place flesh side up. Fill cavity with meat mixture. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove from oven; sprinkle with cheese and bake for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

*I didn’t have celery, so I used red pepper instead.

Rebecca Larson

About Rebecca Larson

Rebecca works in Vanderhoof and the surrounding communities as a dietitian. She was born in the north and returned after her schooling. Rebecca loves tobogganing with her daughter in the winter, gardening and camping in the summer and working on her parents cattle ranch in her spare time.

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Foodie Friday: The sweet and savory side to winter squash

Several types a squash are shown.

The variety of squash types gives you versatility in your meal planning.

The Sweet and Savory Side to Winter Squash

Much to my delight, winter squash have always marked the arrival of Fall. These festive vegetables are actually harvested in early fall and stored throughout the winter. There are so many varieties to choose from—acorn, butternut, kabocha, buttercup, hubbard and more. They often make me wonder why pumpkins get all the glory this time of year!

But with their hard rind, tough flesh, and often knobbly appearance it is not surprising that preparing winter squash might seem like a daunting task. With a few tips, you will be surprised at how easy it is to incorporate this hearty vegetable into your Fall and Winter meal repertoire!

Preparing Winter Squash

Slice the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. You could also cut in quarters, wedges, or cubes. If the squash is too hard to slice, microwave on high for 3 minutes or look for pre-cut pieces at the grocery store.

Cooking Winter Squash

Just like a potato, there are many different ways to cook winter squash. They can be baked, steamed, stir-fried, microwaved, stuffed, or roasted. Roasting winter squash enhances flavour and is my preferred method because there is no peeling or chopping required! Simply bake in a lightly oiled roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until tender. Once the squash is done, you can easily scoop out the soft flesh.

Enjoying Winter Squash

There are endless ways to transform your winter squash into a delicious and healthy meal – both savory and sweet! Each type of squash offers a unique flavour, but can be easily substituted for one another in any recipe. Here are a few ideas:

Savory Side:

  • Make a colourful alterative to mash potatoes
  •  Use it for burrito filling – try  squash, black beans, avocado, and cheese
  • Add to your favourite pasta dish – toss diced roasted squash with pasta, olive oil and parmesan  or add pureed squash to homemade mac and cheese for a surprisingly creamy sauce
  • Add roasted squash  to soups, stews, or chilli – try pureeing baked squash with vegetable broth, and low-fat milk or soymilk for a delicious soup
  • Top a salad with roasted squash for a light meal – pairs well with dark greens, walnuts, cranberries and feta cheese
  • Create an edible bowl for leftovers with twice-baked stuffed squash

Sweet Side:

  • Enjoy with chopped nuts, cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup for an easy and nutritious dessert
  • Mix with yogurt and pumpkin spice and layer with granola for a new take on yogurt parfait
  • Try squash for breakfast on oatmeal, pancakes or waffles

So, I challenge you to try a new winter squash recipe this Fall!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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