Everyone has their guilty pleasure food—the one that always tricks you into thinking it’s worth enduring a belly ache from gorging past the point of no return. The dish that makes extra gym time pale in comparison to the momentary bliss. Mine is pasta, gets me every time.
For those of you who share my pasta woes, you were probably thrilled when you discovered that there was a healthy alternative: spaghetti squash noodles. The day I learned that a cup of these noodles contained a mere fraction of the calories and carbohydrate content of pasta was the day I found out I have what it takes to cut up a winter squash. It’s no small feat. It takes some degree of boldness and frankly, endurance, to chop something the size and weight of a bowling ball into cubes.
If carving a rock-hard squash seems a little intimidating, there are safe ways to do it. And as with most things in life, the gratification that comes from conquering a tough task is worth the elbow grease, especially when it becomes a delicious, healthy meal.
Winter squash is well known as a health food, and several varieties—like butternut, acorn, and pumpkin—have had their time in the trendy food limelight, but there may be one you’ve overlooked.
The kabocha squash, or Japanese pumpkin, is a newer kid on the block making a strong appearance at the market these days. It has fewer calories and less than half the carbohydrates of butternut squash, while still delivering a rich, sweet flavor. It’s also one of the best sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that protects against cancer and heart disease, and may even slow cognitive decline by reducing oxidative stress. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body—essential for the immune system, healthy skin and vision—and provides a good dose of vitamin C, a natural anti-inflammatory.
If kabocha squash is a new one for you, this simple recipe is a great introduction to this disease-fighting fitness food. And no marathon chopping is involved, just slice it into wedges and roast until it’s soft enough to scoop out and blend into a velvety soup. The buttery sweetness of roasted kabocha squash pairs deliciously with curry powder and ginger, while the cayenne pepper gives it a nice kick. Not only is this soup incredibly flavorful, it’s a solid addition to a healthy, whole foods diet to keep you on track with your fitness goals.
-1 kabocha squash, small to medium size
-2 Tb olive oil
-salt and pepper to taste
-½ onion, chopped
-2” piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
-2 garlic cloves, chopped
-2 tsp curry powder
-½ tsp cayenne pepper
-1 tsp coriander
-3 cups vegetable broth
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees
-Line baking sheet with foil
-Slice ends off squash and cut through the center, scrape out insides of each half, then slice halves into smaller wedges
-Rub wedges with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, roast in oven for 45 minutes or until soft, remove from oven and let cool
-Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion and cook 5 minutes until translucent, then add garlic, ginger, curry powder, cayenne pepper, coriander and cook until fragrant about 2-3 minutes
-Remove squash flesh from skin and add to pan with onions and spices, stir in vegetable stock
-Increase heat to bring soup to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, partially cover and let simmer 10 – 15 minutes, add more salt to taste
-Remove from heat, add batches of soup to blender (or use an immersion blender) to puree
Photo: Isabelle Boucher, CC-BY
Ashley Sigmund is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health and fitness.