The word squash is derived from the Indian word askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” Although Native Americans mostly ate it raw, we generally like to cook it. Squash is known as one of the “Three Sisters” planted by Native Americans. The three sisters include corn, beans and squash and were three native plants that were farmed. This was one of the first examples of sustainable agriculture, as each plant supported the others’ growth: corn provided stalks for the beans to grow, squash vines covered the weeds on the ground, and beans provided nitrogen for all three crops to grow.
Squashes are technically classified as a fruit, but have many culinary uses as a vegetable. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Some are big and round, while others are thin and short. They can come flattened or tubular and with straight or crooked necks. Colors range from white to yellow to orange to green – some with stripes, others that are solid.
They are classified according to when they are best harvested, in either the winter or summer. Summer squash is usually harvested during the summer. These plants have thinner skins and are smaller. Examples include zucchini and yellow crookneck. Winter squash are harvested at maturity, usually at the end of the summer through the winter. This type of squash generally has a harder shell, which allows them to act as storage containers for cooking their flesh along with other ingredients. They have thick skin and hard seeds and can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration. Examples include butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash.
Squash is extremely high in carotenoids (Vitamin A) – most orange fruits and veggies are high in Vitamin A.
It is also extremely high in the following:
It is rich in Lutein, a carotenoid that contributes to the dark orange color of butternut squash and pumpkin and serves as an anti-oxidant.
Squash can protect you against cancer, heart disease and cataracts.
Fun Fact: It has the same composition as a fruit, so is considered a fruit and not a vegetable. All squash is considered a fruit with edible flesh.
Parent tip for cooking with kids: Many varieties of squash contain seeds that can be toasted and eaten as a snack. Pumpkin is a member of the squash family, and its seeds can be made into a tasty Halloween treat that kids gobble up! You can toast any kind of squash seeds, including butternut and acorn squash, and then coat them with a little olive oil, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt and add them to their favorite squash soup.
A healthy take on regular old muffins.
Yields: 24 regular-sized muffins (two pans’ worth)
1 1/2 banana – mashed
1 cup butternut squash – baked or boiled
¾ cup apple sauce
1/3rd cup turbinado sugar or sucanat (or any other less processed sugar)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 cups whole wheat/white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Grease muffin pans or add muffin cake liners to pans.
• Mix together banana, squash, eggs, apple sauce, sugar and oil in a mixing bowl until well blended. You can also use an electric mixer if this is easier.
• In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda and powder and cinnamon.
• Make a hole or well in the dry ingredients. Dump the wet ingredients into the center and then start to blend the two ingredients together to form a batter.
• Pour batter into muffin tins and sprinkle with cinnamon.
• Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes.
• Let cool and then serve.
Optional: Top with a glazed cinnamon icing
Nutritional information (per muffin):
Carbohydrates 12 grams
Protein 2 grams
Fat 4 grams Saturated fat 1 gram
Fiber 2 grams
Vitamin A 1% of daily rec amt
Vitamin C 5% of daily rec amt Sodium 130mg – low
Calcium 1% of daily rec amt
Iron 4% of daily rec amt
Sugar 1.5 grams
Why is this recipe healthier than a usual squash muffin recipe?
- We used bananas instead of butter for moisture and tenderness.
- A lot of recipes call for a cup of butter, which adds 1,600 calories, 176 grams of fat and 112 grams of saturated fat to the recipe.
- 1 ½ bananas add only 158 calories, .6 grams of fat and .15 grams of saturated fat.
- We swapped out butter for sunflower oil.
- We added butternut squash for a boost of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.
- We lowered the amount of sugar added to the recipe – only 1/3rd cup.
- Some recipes call for 3 cups of sugar!
- We swapped out the sugar with apple sauce. You can also use fruit such as figs or dates, fruit puree or vanilla extract to cut back on sugar in a recipe.
- We used whole wheat/white flour to add more fiber and still make it appealing to kids.
- We added only a teaspoon of salt for 24 muffins.
- We included cinnamon for added sweetness and flavor.