Enjoy the flavors of the season. Some of the most popular and healthy choices that are in abundance now are fall or winter squashes. They are easy to prepare and add variety to your menus. Some choices at local markets are acorn, butternut, Hubbard, turban and spaghetti.

Cooked yellow spaghetti squash plate

Cooked yellow spaghetti squash with herbs.

Spaghetti squash gets its name from the thin, pasta-like strands that result after it’s baked. In fact, for those who have gluten allergies, spaghetti squash can serve as an alternative to the pasta. Simply add a pasta or marinara sauce to the baked squash and you have a delicious main meal or side dish.

Winter squash are high in vitamins A and C. They are also high in potassium, which helps keep your muscles and nervous system working properly. They also are a good source of folate, which assists in the production of new cells. Folate is important for pregnant women.

Here is an easy way to prepare spaghetti squash:

Wash the squash. Dry and cut the squash in two. Remove the seeds. Place the squash cut-side down on a lined baking dish. Cover the squash with foil to help keep the steam in. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. When cooked, use a fork to release the tender strands.

If the squash is too difficult to cut in two (they are hard) then roast it whole for about an hour. When it it is tender, cut in two and remove the seeds with a spoon. Use a fork to separate the strands.

Topping with marinara sauce is the classic way to serve but some other toppings to consider are chili, sautéed garlic mushrooms, sautéed garlic with herbs and a topping of Parmesan cheese, or ratatouille.

A recent favorite is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup diced onions, 3 or 4 sliced mushrooms, and 1/2 diced bell pepper, sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. When veggies are softened, add 2 cups of the cooked spaghetti strands and heat 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Stir and serve! It pairs well with beef, pork, poultry or seafood.

The squash is quite versatile and takes on the flavor of what you add to it. Here are a few more ideas on how to master the gourd. Maybe this will inspire you to come up with your favorite flavor combinations.