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We SHINE doctors put a priority on eating well, and as busy working women, we also know the challenge of making nutritious meals with plenty of veggies when time is tight. We have developed many tricks and tips to find easy ways to put a delicious meal on the table in a hurry.

The SHINE blog will share our best-loved recipes and easy tips with you, as a regular column called Good Food Fast. In this ongoing feature, we will highlight some of our favourite ideas for putting together a healthy meal fast, using seasonal familiar ingredients that keep well and make the most of nature’s bounty.

Winter squash: a bit of prep goes a long way

The humble squash is a winter staple and is chock full of amazing nutrients. Squash is high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and the minerals calcium, iron and magnesium. It’s an excellent source of fibre and is easily digested. Squash has nutrients that are good for your eyes, your heart, your skin and even contains bioactive compounds that have anticancer properties. It is filling and naturally sweet, but is not a problem for blood sugar levels.

There are many varieties of squash, ranging from the fibrous spaghetti squash to the creamy butternut. Delicata and Kabocha squashes can be roasted unpeeled. You can eat the skin!

With a little prep time put in when you have a few minutes in the kitchen, squash can become good food fast! Here is how we like to use butternut squash, all through the week.

Take 1 or 2 butternut squash with long straight necks (those necks are easy to peel!). Cut through the squash, just above the bulb end. This gives you two parts: the easy-to-peel long necks and the round bottoms. You can save the round bottoms unpeeled, to use later in the week.

With the long straight necks, peel them with a vegetable peeler and cut them into one-inch chunks. You will need a good strong knife to do this! Now spread the chunks in a single layer on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and pop into a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Presto! You have a delicious side veggie dish for tonight’s meal!

You’ll also have lots of squash ready to use for the first few days of the week, and some can be frozen for later. This is a boon for busy cooks!

Here are some ideas for what you can do with your roasted squash chunks:

• Add chunks to a sturdy green salad for more flavour, more heft, and more nutrients. Sprinkle your salad with roasted pumpkin seeds to add even more nutrients and protein.

• Add to a rice bowl, with sauteed greens, nuts and seeds and drizzle with your favorite dressing. A great quick lunch or supper!

• Go with Mexican flavours! Dust your squash chunks with Mexican seasonings and use to make vegetarian tacos or quesadillas. Top with salsa and try adding black beans to the filling to make a satisfying protein meal.

• Add to chili or stews to boost the veggie content of your meal.

• Make a roasted squash soup: Sauté a small, diced onion, a clove of garlic, and your squash. We like to add garam masala for an Indian scented soup, but thyme and rosemary are also delicious here. Add a litre of chicken or vegetable broth and buzz it up to make a smooth and satisfying soup. A dollop of coconut cream or oil can add some extra creaminess and calories if wanted.

• You can even use roasted squash in a smoothie! Blend with almond milk, maple syrup or a few dates, some pumpkin or chia seeds and a sprinkle of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Surprisingly delicious!

• Or just eat as they are for lunches and snacks, even tastier served with some pesto for the added protein and concentrated greenness!

The seedy rounded ends of the squash, halved, hollowed-out and stuffed (unpeeled) make great little individual edible containers for a stuffing of ground turkey, onions, spices and pre-cooked rice. Just stuff and bake until the squash is tender and the filling is cooked. This may take about 45 minutes.

We hope these ideas inspire you to use more of the inexpensive, easily accessible superfood squash!

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