Laura Brown is a mom, home cook, gardener, and squash enthusiast. She taught preschool for 6 years and now nannies for children out of her home in Seattle while caring for her toddler son. Laura loves cooking for her family and the children in her care. She likes making traditional kid-friendly meals more nutritious and delicious by adding squash whenever possible. Laura and her family are currently building a home on Whidbey Island, where they look forward to having more space to play in the woods and grow more squash.
Laura is a longtime vegetarian and has always cooked and eaten a lot of squash, but she has upped her squash game in the last few years - especially when cooking for children!
One of my first gigs cooking for kids was at a Boys and Girls Club daycare. I was in charge of cooking after-school snacks that met the state nutrition guidelines. They had to be inexpensive as we had to serve 150 kids - and, most importantly, the kids had to like them! One of the nutrition requirements that the kitchen staff had trouble meeting was the vitamin A requirement. With a little research, we learned that winter squash is a great source of vitamin A. That week, I made a giant pot of Squash Mac and Cheese (whole wheat noodles, pureed squash, and whole milk, sprinkled with cheese) and watched as 150 kids happily ate it all up.
Last fall, my dad showed up with several boxes of winter squash from Oregon - including kabochas, Winter Sweet, buttercup, Shokichi Shiro, and Tetsukabuto. I’m a big fan of squash, but I was sure we’d never go through it. I figured our friends would be helping us eat through our stash all year. Thankfully, my son had just just started eating solid foods and I knew winter squash would make the perfect soft nutritious meal for a baby, so dove into the stash of Shokichi Shiros. These are tiny gray squash that are easily halved, bake in the oven quickly, and have great flavor. We spooned it straight out of the skin into my sons mouth and a yellow toothless grin revealed that he was hooked. From November to February, we ate squash with meals about twice a week. It was so nice to have easily stored vegetables on hand all winter long. It meant fewer trips to the grocery store and easy meal planning. We ate winter squash in chili, risotto, pancakes, soup, ravioli, Mac and Cheese, cinnamon rolls, and corn bread. It was even in my son’s first birthday cake. By March, our stash was gone and our friends didn’t even get any!