Winter Squash is Here!

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Fall is here, and that means that squash season is in full swing! Whether you get your winter squash from the grocery store or the farmer's market, you'll find that pumpkin, butternut squash, and others - such as acorn, kabocha and hubbard - are healthy make ahead options that your entire family will love. By cooking and freezing these delicious gourds, you will be able to plan out meals and dishes well into the winter. Squash will also keep a long time when stored in a cool place.

Squash will need to be cooked and mashed before you can freeze them. You can do this by washing them and removing the tough outer skin and any inner pulp or seeds. Cut the squash into even cubes, and boil or steam them until a fork easily goes though the flesh. You can use a potato masher if the chunks are soft enough, but you will get the best results from a food processor, a hand blender or food mill. Make sure that you have a large enough bowl in which to mash the squash, as they tend to become rather messy! When the squash is cooled, you can put it into freezer-safe Ziploc bags or tubs. This is a great way to evenly portion your puréed squash for future meals, as you can freeze the exact amount for specific recipes. Plastic containers will work well for ease of pouring in your squash and many even have measurements. All squash tends to freeze well, aside from spaghetti squash, which should usually be eaten fresh.

Frozen squash purée has a number of uses. You can use it as a base for soups and stews, or add it to delicious baked treats. For example, you can use frozen puréed pumpkin to make your Thanksgiving pies special with little extra effort. (Tip:  sugar pie pumpkins are a good choice.) Butternut squash can be mashed and used as a unique topping for shepherd's pie. You can also make delicious quick-breads with a variety of frozen squash purée, as well as homemade ravioli filling. The delicate flavor of squash pairs well with nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar. If you love risotto, you can set aside some cooked squash chunks to dice instead of mashing.

As a rule of thumb, properly sealed frozen squash will last up to a year in the freezer. (Don't forget to label with the date.) You can enjoy winter squash all year round if you try some make ahead ideas. These wonderful veggies are a great way to feed your kids filling and nutritious meals.