Winter Squashes: From Dips to Desserts

Pumpkins are not one of my favorite winter squashes, but they are chock full of the FoodTrient carotenoids, which our bodies turn into vitamin A. These nutrients are really good for your skin, hair, eyes, and heart. They also help prevent cancer and support the immune system. Winter squash is also a good source of the FoodTrient fiber, which helps to control the appetite and is good for the digestive tract. So I’m exploring delicious ways to enjoy many interesting fall fruits of the vine: pumpkins, kabocha squash, butternut squash, acorn squash, hubbard squash, and turban squash.

At this time of the year, pumpkin pie is very popular. Since I don’t love pumpkin, I make a pie with a combination of fruit, such as apple, and pumpkin. Here are several ways to incorporate pumpkins and other squashes into your diet:


  • For a mid-morning snack, I slice pumpkin spice bread, toast the slices, and spread them with apple butter or cream cheese.
  •  You can buy squash chips at a nearby Thai market or make them at home: peel, de-seed, and slice raw Hubbard squash on a mandolin or other food slicer and lay the chips on a greased baking sheet in a single layer. Then set your oven to its lowest setting (200 degrees or so), and let the chips dry out in the oven overnight. A light sprinkling of sea salt will really bring out their flavor. Serve them with my Moringa Dip, an olive oil mayonnaise–based dip you’ll find in my cookbook FoodTrients: Age-Defying Recipes for a Sustainable Life.


  • For lunch, you can enjoy another moringa-squash recipe: Moringa Vegetable Soup. The bright green, grassy moringa leaves lend a snappiness to the earthy, mild flavor of kabocha squash. You can also find this soup with a chicken-stock base and veggies like okra and eggplant in my cookbook. In addition to carotenoids and fiber, it contains a host of other powerful FoodTrients, including anthocyanins, lycopene, oleocantha, potassium, quercetin, sulfur compounds, and vitamin C.
  • If you prefer to make a pure squash soup, steam or boil butternut squash (without the rind or seeds) and blend with salt, a bit of balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, and some chicken or vegetable stock (to thin it out). A spoonful or two of yogurt smoothes the tastes of this soup nicely. Top with croutons or toasted pumpkin seeds. For a spicier dish, stir in a sprinkling of cayenne pepper and/or paprika.


  • For dinner, stir-fry one-inch cubes of acorn squash, chopped kale, olive oil, garlic, onions, and freshly grated ginger—you can add string beans and scallions, too—in peanut oil for 7–10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. To make the sauce, mix oyster sauce and cornstarch and add it to the stir-fry near the end of cooking. This dish is wonderful topped with seared beef or fried tofu and served over brown rice.


  • For a carotenoid-rich dessert, use cubes of pumpkin or almost any winter squash without its seeds or rind. I boil the cubes in a mixture of equal parts sugar and water (a simple syrup, really) until tender, 10–15 minutes. Then I serve it with butter and maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon.

There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the fruits of the fall, even for a non-pumpkin lover like me!


About Grace O

Grace O has been cooking and baking professionally and recreationally all of her adult life. As a child in Southeast Asia, she learned the culinary arts by her mother’s side in her family’s cooking school. She became so well versed in hospitality and the culinary arts, she eventually took over the cooking school and opened three restaurants. She is widely credited with popularizing shrimp on sugar-cane skewers and being one of the first culinarians to make tapas a global trend. She has cooked for ruling families and royalty. Grace O’s move to America precipitated a career in healthcare, inspired by her father, who was a physician. Twenty years and much hard work later, she operates skilled nursing facilities in California. Grace O strives to create flavorful food using the finest ingredients that ultimately lead to good health. Her recipes, although low in saturated fat, salt, and sugar, are high in flavor. Grace employs spices from all over the world to enliven her dishes, creating food that is different and delicious. She believes that food can be just as effective at fighting aging as the most expensive skin creams. And since she’s over 50 herself, she’s living proof of that.
What Do FoodTrients Do?
anti-inflamatory Anti-Inflammatory

Reduces inflammation process in cells, tissues, and blood vessels, helping to slow aging and reduce risk of long-term disease.

anti-oxidant Anti- oxidant

Prevents and repairs oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals.

immunity-booster Immunity Boosters

Support the body’s resistance to infection and strengthen immune vigilance and response.

mind Mind

Enhancers encourage vibrant skin and hair and improve mood and mental agility.

disease-preventing Disease Prevention

Reduces risk factors for common degenerative and age-related diseases.