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Whip up winter squash
A bowl of winter squash diced and prepared to cook

Whip up winter squash

By KERRI LINDBERGH STEWART, RD on January 29, 2019

It seems like everything is pumpkin-spiced these days. But don't forget you have another food: winter squash! Winter squash is another great option for the fall and winter season. And you have several options: acorn, butternut, kabocha, delicata, sweet dumpling, spaghetti and buttercup.

Squash is an excellent source of Vitamin A and is known for its immune system-boosting properties. This is especially helpful coming into flu season. Many are also excellent sources of potassium, which helps better regulate blood pressure by countering sodium.

It's no secret that most winter squash have an outer shell that is almost rock-solid, which has both pros and cons:

  • Pro: They can keep for 3 to 4 months in a dark, dry place.
  • Con: It sometimes seems like the only way to cut the squash in half is with a chainsaw.

But here's a trick for breaking through that hard shell: Use the microwave. Depending on how long the squash is microwaved, it can either be fully cooked or softened enough to safely cut in half and then roasted in the oven.

How to prepare your squash to cook

First, take a sharp knife and poke 10 to 15 holes scattered around the entire squash. Do not forget this step — this is crucial to allowing some of the water to escape.

Next simply put the squash on a plate and into the microwave. Rotate every 5 minutes until softened enough to cut through, or until cooked. A squash is done when you can lightly poke near the stem or the end and you are able to indent the exterior with your finger. The body of the squash should become somewhat wrinkly. A large spaghetti squash may take up to 25 minutes, but a smaller acorn squash may only take 10 minutes.

Now you are able to cut through the squash like butter! Caution: The squash will be steamy and hot after cooking, so let it sit out a few minutes before cutting open. 

Because of their uneven shape, butternut squash does not cook very evenly in the microwave. Microwaving first softens the skin to safely in half or makes it easier to peel the skin and chop into cubes to roast. Plus, microwaving cuts down the roasting time in general. The squash halves may only need 30 minutes instead of an hour and a half in the oven, and cubes may only need 15 minutes.

Lastly, save the seeds! Did you know each part of the squash from the flower to the seed to the fruit is edible? The seeds are all relatively similar in size and can be a great snack after roasting with a hint of oil and your favorite spices.

Find winter squash recipes at

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Kerri Stewart, RD, LD, is a registered dietician with Spartanburg Medical Center and the Joe R. Utley Heart Resource Center.