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Bargain-Priced Winter Squashes Big on Health Benefits

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Shoppers who bypass winter squashes because they don’t know how to cook them are missing bargain-priced health benefits.

Preparing winter squash need not be complicated, said Karen Blakeslee, K-State Research and Extension food scientist.

Peeling and dicing a winter squash before adding it to a soup or stew takes just a few minutes; to bake, wash squash skin, pat dry, and slice the squash into halves (or sections) before placing it (cut side down) on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F until a fork can be inserted through the skin with ease. Cooking time will vary with size; squash cut into rings will bake more quickly than squash cut in half.

Though not eaten, the skin on winter squash need not be peeled before baking. Some people prefer to remove seeds before baking, while others claim they enhance flavor and remove seeds after baking.

Either way, winter squashes are low-calorie, low-sodium, fat-free and excellent sources of health-promoting vitamins and minerals:

* Acorn squash, usually deep green or golden orange and similar in shape to a small football, has 60 calories per half-cup serving and 20 percent of the daily Vitamin C recommended on a 2,000-calorie diet.

* Butternut squash, typically buff color with a narrow neck and bulb-like bottom, has 40 calories per half-cup serving; is high in Vitamin A (230 percent of the daily recommendation), and offers 25 percent of the recommendation for Vitamin C (both on a 2,000-calorie diet).

Winter squashes are harvested at maturity and can be stored in a cool, dry place for three months. Buy winter squash with firm skins and free of cracks, dents and soft spots.

More information on choosing and using winter squashes is available at K-State Research and Extension offices and online at: http://www.rrc.ksu.edu.

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