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I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Easy Way to Cook Acorn Squash

As newly-weds  my husband would not eat sweet peas, squash or eggplant but he loved rutabaga.  I, on the other hand would eat any vegetable, except eggplant and I have to tell you rutabaga was something I almost had to choke down.  Other than that, any vegetable was fair game for both of us and to this day, while our tastes have changed a bit, vegetables play a large role in our diet.  Honestly, the only vegetable neither of us eats is eggplant.  That may be because I don't cook it right.  I don't know.  At any rate, any vegetable other than eggplant is fair game in our home.

seeding the acorn squash
Squash comes in two varieties, summer and winter.  Summer squash (eg. zucchini) has a thin, edible skin whereas winter squash has a thick, inedible skin that needs to be removed.  The seeds of both varieties are edible as well with summer squash seeds being small and tender compared to the larger, tougher skinned seeds of winter squash.

By far my favourite winter squash is acorn squash which gets it's name from its shape that resembles an acorn.  It is rich in Vitamins A (beta carotene) and C as well as a good source of potassium.  It has a bit lighter flavour than some of larger, darker fleshed winter squashes.  In season, large acorn squash will be as cheap as 5/$1 or 20¢ each but even off season, they are still quite inexpensive.  The beauty of acorn squash is it can be baked, grilled, steamed or microwaved without removing the hard outer skin.

Simply cut in half and scoop out the seeds with connective tissue.  The squash is now ready to prepare for baking or grilling.  Don't discard the seeds!  Place the seeds in a colander and rinse well to remove the connecting tissue.  Place the seeds on a mesh tray to dry.  The dried seeds can be saved for next year's garden or they can be roasted in the oven for a delightful, nutritious snack.

add a little butter and salt to the acorn squash cavity
Some folks like to add brown sugar to their squash and the worst concoction I've ever seen with squash was adding marshmallows!  I see no need to mask the flavour of squash.  Instead, I add a little butter and sea salt to the cavity of each half of the squash.  This is just enough flavour without overpowering the wonderful flavour of the squash.

That is just how quick and easy it is to prepare acorn squash for baking, microwaving or grilling.  The same prep without the butter and salt is used when steaming except the squash is turned cut side down in the steaming basket.

wrap the acorn squash in foil to bake
If baking or grilling, I cover the prepared acorn squash with tinfoil.  This retains the steam produced by the cooking squash, keeping it tender and flavourful.  If cooking the prepared squash in the microwave oven, I recommend using wax paper to wrap the squash in.

Acorn squash baked or grilled takes about the same amount of time as baked potatoes, usually about 45 minutes.  If cooking on the grill, the prepared squash should be put on the top rack of the outdoor grill.  I place the prepared squash on a Silpat lined baking sheet when cooking in the oven to prevent any leakage onto the floor of the oven.

spoon out the acorn squash
The squash is cooked when it gives when slightly pinched between fingers and thumb.  I remove the squash from the oven (grill or microwave) and let sit a couple of minutes.  I then carefully remove the covering.  It is important to open from the side furthest from you to prevent steam burning you.  The soft flesh is easily scooped from the harder skin which has softened somewhat during cooking.  I simply scoop the flesh out into a serving bowl, mash lightly with a fork to mix the butter and salt, then serve.  The empty skin is destined for the compost bin.  It really is that easy to prepare and cook acorn squash without ever having to peel it!  It is a no muss, no fuss method to enjoy acorn squash.

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