The Free Library of Philadelphia offers culinary classes and workshops and I was fortunate to be able to participate in a class called Winter Squash led by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Kathleen Mathis of Reimagining Nutrition. I say fortunate because I had
procrastinated forgotten to register so the class was full. However I asked about a wait list and bang…the class came to be.
I went into the class thinking that winter squash equaled butternut squash soup (because that one time I went to Panera) but learned that there are so many varieties and ways to experience of squash! Kathleen started the class by asking about our experiences with any types of winter (versus summer) squash and then introduced the varieties that were available during this season.
Summer squash includes chayote, globe, pattypan, scallopini, yellow squash and zucchini.
Winter squash includes acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, delicate, hubbard, pumpkin, kabocha, spaghetti and turban squash. Winter squash is readily available in the fall and winter, but what really sets it apart is winter squash is thick-skinned and difficult to cut compared to summer squash.
Kathleen urged us to think outside the box and our normal ways that could prepare this veggie and be open to new ideas. The squash we would be working with during class included buttercup, acorn, and butternut and sweet dumpling.
As the class was called “Winter Squash: A World of Flavors,” we created recipes that were inspired by Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern flavors. We worked in teams and my team helped prepare Spiced Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and it was so good, and simple to prepare, that I recreated it at home a few days later!
Before we started, Kathleen demonstrated how to prepare the squash, which is a game changer for me. In the past, I would buy the chunks already cut because I was intimidated by the cutting up of the veggie. She gave us links to some videos and showed the class just how easy it was to peel and dice. (Note…the skin is not toxic but has a bitter taste so that is why you may want to peel it off.)
Squash is a good source of fiber and works to help lower blood pressure. Since my blood pressure is going up and being treated with medication, this information gives me hope that the changes my family and I have been making in our diet are, well, worth it. I found this link from The Food Bank Kitchen which offers additional ideas to prepare your winter squash.
In addition to the Spiced butternut squash with cauliflower, we created a Middle Eastern Squash Dip, which we served with veggies and pita chips and Mediterranean Acorn Squash. The combination of spices and flavors….amazing! the combo of spices and flavors…amazing! The spices were a blend were a savory blend that did not make me wish I could salt my food, but allowed me to experience the delicious blend of spice, sweet, crunch.
Suggested ways to make these dishes into a meal: serve over couscous or wild rice, perhaps even a bed of greens.
I realize that the above picture is…busy but this is a sample of what was served.
The classes offered at the culinary center are inspiring and encourage me to explore in the kitchen. As we ate the meal we prepared, some of the other attendees talked about how cooking is something they wish they could do more of but feel like there is never enough time. The tips that Kathleen provided make creating and feeding your family more doable and possible and accessible.
If you are in the Philadelphia area and interested in checking out what’s happening at the Free Library’s Culinary Center, visit their site here.
Want more information about Kathleen’s service? Visit Reimagining Nutrition.
Here is a throwback post from one of my first classes at the Free Library Culinary Center in which The Librarian and I learned about different spices and how to incorporate them into your meals!