Squash, pumpkin, figs are in season

BY CARLYE WAXMAN, RD | Vegetables can be super delicious and filling — especially those that pop up in the fall season. Apples, broccoli, mushrooms and sweet potatoes are something we easily recognize. But they can, and do, get boring. Writing about them can even get boring. So take advantage of all that fall has to offer by expanding your vegetable palate.

Perhaps you’ve passed by a pumpkin and got intimidated, wondering how (and why) you were going to carry it home. How about those funny looking squashes that deserve a place on the windowsill instead of your belly?

Here are my favorite fall vegetables — with nutrition facts and tips on how to easily prepare and cook them. Realize that eating extra servings of these vegetables are more food for your stomach, and less calories in your body. So keep slim while keeping your “I’m not going to cook tonight” mentality.


These heavy little things are an excellent source of vitamin C, which can help keep us from getting sick. Choose one that’s free of bumps and spots. They can store for three months in a cool dry place (like as a centerpiece on your table).

Directions: Cut squash in two. Remove seeds. Add 1 pat of butter, 1 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp maple syrup on each side. Put in a baking pan with a little water for 30-35 minutes at 400 degrees, cut side up. Each half is about 120 calories.


This big boy has a lot of fiber, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C, which is great for the heart and your satiety.  Buy already cut from Trader Joe’s on 23rd Street, it’s easier than peeling and cutting one yourself. If buying one precut, use it right away. If you buy one in tact it lasts a few months.

Directions: Place large chunks of cut squash in a baking dish and toss in 1-2 tsp olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes on 400 degrees F. A half cup, cooked, will be about 50 calories.


Hands down, this is America’s most hated vegetable. Seriously, it’s been rated. If you hate them, you’ve been cooking them wrong. Just four of these are 40 calories, and rich in folate. Keep them in a plastic bag for a few days after purchasing. If you wait longer, they’ll start to smell rancid. Don’t wash until you’re ready to eat them.

Directions: Cut off the brown stems, peel off any yellow leaves and discard. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and roast for 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees F. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that they’re very good — especially when crispy (they sort of taste like French fries).


Figs are not only famous for their mild laxative effect, but they’re a great source of B6 and potassium as well. Don’t judge them before you buy them (the shriveled, ugly ones are actually the best). Once bought, use them right away.

Directions: Cut in half. Brush the cut sides with honey and cooking spray. Heat a pan and cook the figs (cut side down) for a few minutes. For a sweet snack, serve with Greek yogurt or add to your oatmeal at breakfast.


Excellent source of vitamin A. Choose one that’s 5-8 lbs. (any larger, and it’s not as sweet; any smaller, and you have more skin than pumpkin). They store about a month in a cool dry place — but up to three months in the refrigerator. Pumpkins are packed with potassium, but also contain a high dose of vitamin C, calcium, beta-carotene and folate.

Directions: Cut around the stem and chop in half. Chop in half again. Remove seeds. Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. Peel and cube. They go great mixed in a spinach salad with dried cranberries, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.


The same rules apply here, as with other squash. Find one deep in color; and it should be heavy. It stores for up to three months in a cool dry place. There’s 80 calories in the whole thing!

Directions: Cut in half, scoop out seeds, flip it over and fork in some holes. Flip it to cut side up, add 1 pat of butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and 1 tsp of maple syrup. Cook in a baking dish with a little water on the bottom as long as you would the other squashes, cut side up. You won’t be disappointed. With the butter and syrup, it works out to about 140 calories in the whole squash.


Swiss Chard delivers a delicious, earthy flavor and doesn’t take long to prepare! They have a great source of potassium as well as vitamins A and C. Choose fresh green leaves and avoid those that have started to turn yellow.  You can store those that aren’t washed for a couple of days.

Directions: Separate the stems and leaves from the bunch. Wash. Chop leaves roughly.  Add to a pan with a little olive oil and sauté for about 10 minutes. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add black pepper.

Test it in your tiny kitchen and pair it with a drink!

RECIPE: Swiss Chard, Pumpkin and Apple Brown Rice

with Cinnamon Spiked Apple Cider


Cooking spray

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup diced carrot

(both ingredients already come chopped at whole foods)

½  small jalapeno pepper, diced

1 cup of cooked pumpkin, cubed

1 ½ cups of finely chopped Swiss chard

1 cup of peeled and chopped apple

2 cups of cooked brown rice

½ cup of vegetable broth

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Directions: In a large saucepan over medium heat coat with cooking spray. Add onion, carrot and jalapeno pepper for five minutes. Stir in the chard, pumpkin and apple and cover for another five minutes.  Add pumpkin pie spice. After rice has been boiled and cooked, add it to the pot with the broth, bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

For the drink:

1 cup of apple cider, heated

2 oz of cinnamon schnapps

1 cinnamon stick