Create a garden; bring children to the farms for field trips. I think it’s important that parents and teachers get together to do one or two things that they can accomplish well—a teaching garden, connecting with farms nearby, weave food into the curriculum.Alice Waters, Chef & Food Activist
Walking through the grocery store, it’s hard not to immediately see the changes between summer and fall produce. It’s almost like the changing of leaves. In summer, the produce is vibrant with the reds of watermelon and strawberries and the blues of berries. In fall, the produce is much like the leaves themselves, presenting shades of oranges, yellows and browns with the introduction of pumpkins and gourds and squashes.
Growing up, food was more basic than it is now. I remember a lot of beef roasts and roasted chickens with potatoes and carrots. Simple, hearty and wholesome food was the standard of that time. Nowadays, there are so many more options out there, which makes it ideal to get the family involved in the kitchen, making meals and Sunday Dinners more interesting and fun.
Last year, a friend of mine was relating to me about her volunteer day at her son’s school each week. The school had started a vegetable garden to teach the kids more about gardening and eating fresh foods at home. As Alice Waters alludes above, if you can get the kids involved in vegetables themselves, they may have more curiosity and motivation about eating them.
This particular friend thought that the concept was almost prophetic. Her son was a very particular eater and never ventured far from chicken nuggets and pizza. Dinners were a daily struggle to get him to eat, let alone eat healthily. However, when the garden started at school, and he and his fellow students got involved in the planting, watering, and picking of various new vegetables, he wanted to try them at home. It’s funny how much more tantalizing an idea is when it comes from someone other than mom or dad. While it wasn’t an easy transition from pizza to squash, the notion of ‘trying’ was introduced. And from then on, he opened his eyes a little wider and started to enjoy more foods—slowly, but surely.
If you give butternut squash a try, you’ll find that it’s not only tasty, it packs a nutritious punch. One cup provides 450% of your daily vitamin A and 50% of your daily vitamin C! It is also considerably high in magnesium and potassium. Because of its nutrition and flavor, it’s one of my favorite fall vegetables to incorporate into meals. And when roasted, its naturally sweet flavor emerges—and that may be just what is needed to keep the kiddos coming back for more.
Due to the high nutrient content, it is not only good for adults, but excellent for kids as well! If your child is a picky eater and not the biggest fan of vegetables, and gardening is not an option, try to get them involved in the shopping and cooking process. Research shows that children eat more vegetables if they have a role in their preparation. One tip is to go grocery shopping with your child and allow them to pick out the produce. Then, at dinner time, get them involved in the process by giving them small, manageable tasks such as washing the produce or pouring the produce into bowls or cooking pans, stirring, or serving it. They are sure to tell the rest of the family about their role in dinner preparation, and therefore very likely to try it out themselves!
When you sit down to eat at dinnertime, encourage your child to try the butternut squash by explaining to them the health benefits in terms they will understand. “Give this a try – Butternut squash helps you run fast!” or “Eat your butternut squash- It helps you grow tall and strong!” Research shows that these sorts of phrases encourage kids to eat more veggies, which makes sense because every kid wants to be fast, strong, and tall – like a superhero!
How to Choose Butternut Squash
This lovely vegetable is best ripe in September and October, and depending upon your region and store availability, you can find it throughout the year. Look for butternut squash with a solid beige color devoid of any cuts or bruises. It should feel heavy for its size. Keep it in your home in a dark and cool environment; it does not need to be refrigerated.
How to Start Preparing Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a challenge to chop yourself! You need a sharp knife and steady surface to ensure that you chop the squash and not your hands. Start by slicing off the stem and bottom ends of the squash so that both ends are flat. Slice the squash in half, just where the thinner end begins to widen around the middle. Turn each half so that the flat end rests against the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated peeler or paring knife, peel off the skin in downward strokes. Then scoop out the seeds and dice or slice as you may need for your recipe.
** Helpful Hint: I recommend utilizing the resources available to you and purchase pre-chopped butternut squash. They come in both fresh and frozen packages. And in a lot of stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, you can even find butternut squash “zoodles,” which will make the kids cooking more fun. Trust me, you will thank me later!
Today, I’m sharing tasty butternut squash recipes that are healthy and fun for the entire family to enjoy. Mix and match them with various other family favorites, especially if this is a new vegetable for the kids (or the vegetable adverse adult in your life).
I’ve tried all of these and they’re terrific additions to my plant based meal transition. Regardless of where you are on the vegetable eating spectrum, I think these are all recipes that you can enjoy together as a family.
Butternut Squash Cheesey Pasta Sauce
Incorporate butternut squash into your next family pasta night by blending some steamed butternut squash into your cheese sauce. Because of the matching color, kids will not even be able to detect that the squash has been added to the sauce! You can even explore using butternut squash in your favorite non-dairy cheese sauce like this one or explore a classic like this.
Butternut Squash Black Bean Tacos (Vegan)
This is one of my first “vegan” recipes, and it’s a new favorite in my house. Change up the “Taco Tuesday” mundane recipes by incorporating your new favorite fall vegetable: roasted butternut squash. Simply roast cubed butternut squash with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper until tender. Then assemble tacos in corn tortillas with the cubed squash, black beans, salsa and sliced avocado before serving. There is truly nothing easier and your kids will love them. Try this recipe!
Butternut Squash Curry with Spinach (Vegan)
Need a healthy and vegan recipe that is easy to make for both lunch or dinner or saves well for the leftover lunch at your desk? This Butternut Squash Curry with Spinach may not be as kid-friendly as the other recipes here, though for those of us eating a more plant-based and healthy diet, it is a win-win. Flavor, fresh ingredients, spices, nutrients, plant-based, this recipe checks off all of the boxes. Full of flavor from the squash, tomatoes and spinach, it may be just be what sways some of the protein lovers in your family.
Maple Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash Zig Zags
Trader Joe’s and some other grocery stores sell butternut squash pre-chopped in fun zig zag French fry shapes. Roast up these fun-shaped veggies with some maple syrup and cinnamon to serve as a tasty sweet side to accompany any main dish. Try this recipe! If you cannot find the pre-chopped zig zag shapes, I recommend buying the pre-chopped cubes of butternut squash and using a small cookie cutter to create other unique shapes. Get creative here! Try making hearts, stars, or even your favorite animated character using cookie cutters small enough to use on large cubes of butternut squash.
Butternut Squash Tater Tots
Kids love tater tots! Increase the nutrition in this popular snack by adding in some butternut squash with the traditional potato. Steam cubed russet potatoes and cubed butternut squash. Then grate them with a cheese grater or food processor until completely grated. Next, add a bit of oat flour to the mixture and stir to combine. Once combined, form into tater tot shapes. Bake these in the oven until crispy. Kids love these tater tots served with a side of ketchup or ranch dressing. They will never know that you snuck some veggies into their favorite snack. Try this recipe!
Butternut Squash Spinach Salad
Maybe this is more for a date night dinner than one with smaller kids. It’s so delicious I had to add it into this butternut squash recipe wheel of fortune. Roast some butternut squash and then add to fresh spinach. Additional great ingredients include roasted pecans, pomegranate seeds, and goat cheese crumbles. Toss everything with a fresh and healthy dressing. Make it a main course entree with a grilled chicken breast sliced on top.
Butternut Squash Soup
There is nothing better than soup for dinner as the weather cools off. Butternut squash soup is easy, delicious and comforting this time of year. To prepare, first, steam cubed butternut squash. Add vegetable stock, rosemary, steamed squash and a touch of cream to a large stock pot. Allow to heat through, then blend with an immersion blender or pour into a stand blender. Serve immediately with a hunk of warm country bread for dipping. If you want to follow a formal recipe, try this one!