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Squash: Pop's All You Need Guide
Learning about Food & Drink

Squash: Pop's All You Need Guide

As the colder seasons fall upon us, cozying up next to the fire, staring outside at the cold winter day, and enjoying warm, hearty, and delicious meals makes this season one so many of us look forward to each year. There are so many different foods that remind us of the holiday season, including that of the squash family! From pumpkins to butternut squash, this family of fruits screams wintertime with its health benefits keeping our bodies healthy during the holiday season. If you’re interested in learning more about squash, the wide varieties available, and the inspiration for incorporating this fruit into your diet, this guide is for you! For today’s Pop, All You Need Guide, join us as we explore all things squash! 

History of Squash

As we dive into the world of squash, it’s essential to understand where they originated from. According to WCIA, squash originated in the New World and extended from the U.S. to Argentina! In fact, Mexico has the most extensive diversity of species of squash, and it is estimated that squash originated within the region. While indigenous groups throughout the Americas long enjoyed this plentiful fruit, the first known use of squash in Europe didn’t occur until the 16th century! Squash itself is very easy to grow, and the seeds are easily cultivated and stored for future use, so with time, this fruit continued to grow in popularity. Given the ability to easily breed varieties as well, new squash varieties continued to develop, providing us with a plentiful selection to enjoy today.

Fun Facts about Squash

  1. According to AgHires, the United States imports more squash than any other country! On average, about 300,000 millitons of squash are imported each year.
  2. While we may think of squash as a vegetable, it is a fruit thanks to its ability to flower and produce seeds!
  3. Additionally, the smaller the squash, the more flavor it has! Who would’ve thought?

Different Types of Squash, Their Health Benefits, and How to Prepare Them

Before diving into the details of how healthy squash is or even how to prepare these fruits, it’s essential to look at all the different squash types available at your local farmers market or grocery store. First and foremost, it’s important to note that there are two different categories of squash: winter squash and summer squash. So what’s the distinction between each? According to Countryside Food and Farms, summer squash is a soft-skinned fruit with a more tender and moist inside. This squash is perfect for grilling, making it a delicious summer treat! On the other hand, winter squash is much harder outside, which lasts a long time during the cold months. Additionally, it is noted that the seeds of winter squash are larger and more difficult to eat, unlike its counterpart.

So, now that we have clarified the difference between each squash type, let’s look at the varieties that fall into each category. These are only a few of the hundreds of varieties of squash available, but they most likely are the most popular ones that are widely available for purchase. Some different squash types include 

Summer squash types: 

Crookneck - Crookneck squash is a medium-sized squash with smooth yellow skin and soft, edible seeds. It has a mild flavor with notes of pepper and nuts, similar to zucchini. This fruit is also quite healthy and full of nutrients, including carotenoids that act as antioxidants and reduce the chance of diseases and chronic illnesses.

There are a number of ways to prepare crookneck squash, depending on the culture you live in and the spices you enjoy. You can simply steam or sautee this fruit and add some salt and pepper, peel it into thin slices and use it in place of pasta for a low-carb option, prepare a lovely squash soup, and so much more. If you’re interested in exploring the world of the yellow crookneck squash, try this vegan and gluten-free friendly roasted crookneck squash, this crookneck squash frittata, or this yellow squash casserole.

Pattypan - Pattypan, another summer squash variety, is a sweet, dense, saucer-shaped fruit with edible skin and seeds. This squash is likely found in farmer's markets during the July and August months and is very easy to prepare, similar to zucchini! There are also numerous health benefits to pattypan squash, making it a delicious way to incorporate more nutrients into your diet during the summer months! For example, this fruit is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, and fiber, helping to keep your body healthy and reduce both the risk of colon cancer and dietary cholesterol! Additionally, pattypan squash is perfect for those on a low-sodium diet, given its low levels of calories, sodium, cholesterol, and fat.

There are a variety of ways to prepare this not so well known squash! Many of the squash varieties we’re exploring today can be prepared the same way, whether grilling, blending for soups, sauteeing, blanching, or having it baked! If you’re interested in trying pattypan squash, we recommend this roasted patty pan squash recipe or garlic-herb pattypan squash.

Straightneck - Another delicious summer squash variety is the straight-neck squash. It is characterized by a straight, yellow body with glossy skin and makes for an easy-to-grill option! Like other squash, it contains carotenoids and lutein, helping protect against damage from free radical build-up in the body.

There are so many different ways to prepare straight-neck squash; the possibilities are endless! You can cut it thin and use it in lasagna, eat it raw in a salad, enjoy it steamed or roasted, or even enjoy it stuffed with meats, cheeses, and other vegetables! If you’re looking for delicious recipes to get you started with straight-neck squash, try these: this baked parmesan yellow squash recipe or this lemon and olive oil roasted yellow squash recipe!

Winter squash types:

Acorn - Acorn squash, a part of the winter squash family, is often one you will see during the fall and winter seasons. This fruit has drier flesh and hard-to-cut outer skin, allowing it to be stored for the long winter months without spoiling. This squash can be grown all over the U.S., but most large commercial crops hail from Michigan, New York, and California! This squash has a mildly sweet flavor but is noted as a bit dry, making it an excellent option for roasts, stews, or baked goods. This variety of squash doesn’t provide as much nutritional value as its cousins but is still a great source of dietary fiber, helping to support colon health and lower cholesterol. Additionally, acorn squash contains vitamin C, B6, magnesium, potassium, and manganese, helping support your daily nutritional needs.

There are various ways to prepare this squash, with most preparations requesting it to be cooked with the skin on. Whether you’re in the mood for a delicious warm acorn squash soup or are a fan of eating it baked or roasted, acorn squash is the perfect winter squash to try this holiday season. Here are some delicious recipes to help get you started: this delicious baked acorn squash with brown sugar and butter, this herb-roasted acorn squash with parmesan, or this stuffed acorn squash!

Butternut - One of the most well-known squash varieties, butternut squash is a delicious and widely-used fruit for various dishes. Commonly used during the winter, these fruits are harvested in the late summer and fall but are easily stored for a long time, so they will likely be available throughout the year. Since the seeds are much harder than summer squash, you’ll have to remove them as they aren’t edible. Butternut squash provides plenty of health benefits, making it a great choice to enjoy during the cold winter! For instance, butternut squash can provide 298% of your Daily Vitamin A need, helping to protect your vision and support healthy cells in your body. This fruit also contains significant amounts of both Vitamin C and Vitamin B6, working as antioxidants to fight free radicals and support protein metabolism and blood cell formation. 

Butternut squash is extremely versatile, perfect for roasting, pureeing for soups, or even creating dishes like mac and cheese or tacos! If you’re looking for inspiration for what to make this fall and winter season, butternut squash is an easy-to-find and easy-to-prepare option. Try these recipes: this cinnamon roasted butternut squash recipe, this roasted butternut squash soup recipe, or this squash and radicchio salad with pecans!

While each of the varieties of squash we mentioned above can be prepared differently, there is also quite a bit of crossover that makes this fruit extremely versatile. As we noted, many of these can be enjoyed as soup, in place of meat or poultry, or a nice addition to your daily fruits and vegetables to help you receive the nutrients your body needs. Additionally, squash is an easy plant to grow in your home garden if you've got a green thumb! Learn more about growing squash at home here.

All in all, squash is a delicious yet underrated fruit that can be enjoyed in an infinite variety of ways. Whether you’re enjoying this fruit in the summertime or find yourself preparing this more in the winter, incorporating squash into your diet can help you and your family achieve the nutrients to protect your health better.

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Sous Vide: Pop's All You Need Guide
Learning about Food & Drink

Sous Vide: Pop's All You Need Guide

French cooking is renowned worldwide, especially because of the chef’s ability to prepare food precisely. Relying on various food preparation techniques, French chefs prepare food that contains flavor and richness with an artisan’s touch. Many of these preparation techniques have become used internationally in cuisines, including the Sous Vide technique. According to -, the Sous Vide method of cooking (in French - Sous Vide translates directly to “under a vacuum”) is a method of cooking in which food is vacuum-sealed in a bag and cooked to an exact temperature while immersed in a water bath. The results of this cooking method are truly delightful - food is cooked consistently, maintains its tenderness, and allows you to prepare your favorite meats and vegetables without having to worry about overcooking the food. If you’ve never tried this method of cooking but are interested in how to get started, this guide is for you. For today’s Pop All You Need guide, we will dive into the world of Sous Vide, providing tips, tools, and techniques that will get you to cook delicious foods in no time. 

History of the Sous Vide Cooking Method:

As we mentioned earlier, the Sous Vide method of food preparation is that of the French, but back in the day, it was not used to help cook food more evenly or even help the food taste better. Rather, Sous Vide was used as a safety measure during the late 1960s after food-grade plastic films and vacuum packaging for food were developed; according to Cook, the ability to keep packaged foods submerged in water at a certain temperature helped to make sterilizing and pasteurizing food much easier for labs, hospitals, and large food companies. 1974, though, brought the Sous Vide method to restaurants in France after a chef wanted to cook foie gras without losing much fat within the cooking process. So, after much experimentation, the chef Pierre Troisgros found that sealing foie gras in plastic and cooking it at a precise temperature, submerged in water, provided the best results, and Sous Vide was then born.

Slowly the technique made its way to other parts of the world, including the United States, thanks to the onslaught of the World Wide Web! Chefs began to take up the new way of cooking, investing in circulators (one of the main components needed to cook effectively in this method) and experimenting with Sous Vide, sharing their techniques over the internet. Slowly but surely, by 2005, the method became much more widespread, with professionals teaching classes on Sous Vide and many more cookbooks, including recipes using the technique. Additionally, with time, the price of at-home immersion circulators has also begun to drop, making Sous Vide a much more viable option for those who wanted to partake but didn’t have a commercial kitchen or tools. So, here we are today, where thousands of immersion tools have been created (all at different price points), making this cooking method viable for all!

Tools You’ll Need

Now that we’ve discussed the history of the Sous Vide cooking method, you may wonder what you need to have in your kitchen to try this for yourself. Not to worry, here is a list of a few things you will need to be able to Sous Vide in your kitchen:

An Immersion Circulator - this device is key to the Sous Vide process! Immersion circulators are devices you insert into a tub or pot of water. It circulates the water as it heats the temperature precisely and continuously for the desired cooking time. While immersion circulators used to be quite pricey and hard to attain for the at-home chef, nowadays, you can find a good quality one for less than $250!

Sous Vide Bags - You can’t sous vide without the second main component of the cooking method, the plastic sous vide bag, to place what you are cooking into. These bags are typically vacuum sealed to take all of the air out and then submerged into the hot bath to cook the items to a perfect texture. Thankfully, several different Sous vide plastic bags are available on the market today, and you can even use Ziplock freezer bags if you’re in a pinch! 

A Large Pot or Tub for the Bath - The third main component to successfully cook using the sous vide method is to place the meat, water, and immersion circulator! There are a number of different containers or pots you can use for this cooking method, ranging from a Cambro 8-quart storage container to a normal large cooking pot. It is noted, though, that plastic is a better heat insulator than the metal of pots, but you can use whatever you have handy.

Bag Clips - This one is self-explanatory, but bag clips are needed to ensure the food remains submerged in the bath for its entire cooking process.

Ping Pong Balls - You may wonder, why would I ever need ping pong balls to cook? While it may seem odd, ping pong balls provide quite a service during the sous vide cooking process. While the water in the bath circulates thanks to the immersion circulator, you want the temperature to be constant during the cooking process. Thanks to the laws of chemistry, heat constantly leaves the water as it moves, so the likelihood that the temperature will ebb and flow too much and leave the food uncooked despite the cooking time you allocate. This is where the ping pong balls come in handy - they work to become a good insulator for the water, helping to maintain a constant temperature and therefore allowing the food to be cooked each and every time evenly!

What Can I Make Sous Vide?

Now that you know what tools you will need to prepare your food, you may think, “What foods can be prepared using the Sous Vide cooking method?” Well, there’s quite a lot that can be made this way, including but not limited to:


Steaks and other meats and poultry

Seafood

Vegetables

And even eggs!

Most commonly, steaks or chicken are prepared in the sous vide method, given its ability to cook the meat thoroughly while maintaining the tenderness and moisture of the meat during the cooking process. According to Serious Eats, sous vide cooking offers unparalleled control over anything you try to cook and provides perfect results each time. If you’re interested in a delicious chicken with flavor and juiciness, try cooking it sous vide! Make sure to season your meat before you place it in the plastic resealable bag (either a sous vide bag or a Ziplock freezer bag) to give your desired flavor during cooking. Then, place the bag in the water bath and make sure the bag sinks (it should if properly sealed) and follow this timing chart to cook the chicken well! Finally, it’s recommended to finish searing the chicken in a skillet or cast iron pan to give it that nice golden color and finishing flavor, and you’re good to go! The same goes for meats like steak, pork chops, and all other food items you wish to cook using the sous vide method.

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International Holiday Dessert Favorites
Learning about Food & Drink

International Holiday Dessert Favorites

The holidays are a joyous time all around the world. Depending on where you may find yourself, the celebrations can reach large scales, with an abundance of Christmas Markets, large Christmas Trees, parades, and much more, further spreading the holiday cheer that many look forward to each year. Like the large occasions, the food excels just as much, especially within the sweets department! Cookies, cakes, and other desserts make the holiday season so much more special, with pies, decorated cookies, and flavors of peppermint, apple, and cinnamon filling the air, leaving us reminiscing on the times of the times we shared around the fire with our loved ones. All around the world, different countries enjoy the same holidays in their ways, with versions of desserts that make this time of the year special for foodies and families alike. Today, we wanted to take you on a journey worldwide to see all the delicious desserts enjoyed by cultures during this time of the year to inspire you to try some of these out for yourself! 

Polish Pierniczki (Polish Gingerbread Cookies)

This Polish dessert, also known as the Polish Gingerbread Cookie, is a classic treat passed out to children on December 6th yearly by St. Nicholas (or Święty Mikołaj in Polish). The city of Toruń has been known famously for making gingerbread cookies since the Middle Ages and used to be cut into beautiful shapes using intricately carved wooden molds. Today, though, pierniczki is cut into various shapes and other beautiful designs, and even shaped as Santa Claus! 

To make these cookies, you’ll need eggs, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, dissolved baking soda, honey, and all-purpose flour. Simply beat two eggs with sugar until light, add to the eggs the spices, baking soda dissolved in three tablespoons of water, and honey, and mix well. Gradually add the flour and mix the ingredients until a stiff dough forms. Once the dough is formed, wrap it in plastic to let it rest for 30 minutes. Once the 30 minutes are up, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roll the dough out in preparation to cut it into your desired shapes! Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes and let the cookies cool before icing them (if desired). 

German Christollen (Stollen Bread)

A true German classic holiday dessert, Christollen (also known as stollen bread), has been around for hundreds of years and has become a worldwide popular Christmas pastry! Its candied fruit and nut remind so many of the happiness of the holiday season, with its sweet flavor complimenting a nice coffee or other warm winter drink. This delicious bread originates from Dresden, Germany, and can be dated back to 1329, thanks to a contest in which bakers baked a loaf of bread with the finest butter, sugar, raisins, citron, and other ingredients. The Bishop of Nauruburg at the time had enjoyed the bread so dearly that he ordered a specific amount of grain to make only stollen. It became an element of the Christmas season during 1424 when Christollen began to be sold at the Christmas Market, also known as the Streizelmarket. Today, Christollen or stollen bread, in general, is available worldwide at grocery stores and specialty stores alike! You can also make it at home and, while time-consuming, will be sure to wow your loved ones and transport you to the snowy holiday season of Germany. 

Chilean Pan de Pascua Fruitcake

Another delicious treat enjoyed during the holiday season hails from Chile and is reminiscent of the German stollen bread we mentioned earlier. This bread, also known as Pan de Pascua, is thought to have descended from German stollen and Italian panettone but adapted to match the South American region's spices, liquors, fruits, and nuts. Typically this bread is served with cola de mono, a spiced alcoholic coffee drink, and another Chilean holiday tradition. However, it would pair well with coffee, tea, or even as a nice standalone dessert.

To make Pan de Pascua, you will need a few things: butter, brown sugar, sugar, eggs, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, strongly-brewed coffee, and brandy (you could use pisco or rum), among other ingredients. Making this bread takes a bit of time, but you will be thrilled you did! The results are picture-perfect and great to share with friends and loved ones during this holiday season.

Filipino Bibingka

Another holiday favorite hails from the Philippines and is known as Bibingka. This delicious coconut rice cake is a staple for Christmastime in the Philippines. Its savoriness combined with the sweetness of the coconut makes for a decadent treat that would be perfect to serve with a nice hot coffee or even hot chocolate. Many find Bibingka to be a staple of their childhood, reminding them of the time spent with family and friends, celebrating Christmas with loved ones. Bibingka is a savory dessert, but it is the true definition of home in food.

To prepare Bibingka, you’ll need some rice flour, salt, baking powder, butter, sugar, coconut milk, fresh milk, a salted duck egg, grated cheese, some raw eggs, grated coconut, and a pre-cut banana leaf. For this recipe, you’ll start off by preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and combine rice flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing them together well. Cream the butter and add in sugar while whisking, and then whisk in the eggs until everything is well mixed. Gradually add in both coconut milk as well as fresh milk and whisk again for 1 to 2 minutes more. Lay the banana leaf onto a baking pan, pour the mixture into the pan, put it in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Once you take the Bibingka out of the oven, top it with the sliced salted egg and grated cheese, and bake the cake for an additional 15 minutes until the top is medium brown. Once cooled, brush with butter and top with grated coconut!

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