When the season of falling leaves, pumpkins and mums arrives, nothing is more appealing on a chilly evening than a bowl of silky butternut squash soup … unless maybe it’s a slice of warm, fragrant pumpkin bread!

What these two signature foods of fall have in common is that they are made from winter squash. The perfect food for cool weather months, these members of the gourd family offer a great nutritional value and add tummy-filling fiber to any meal. More nutrient-dense than summer squash, the winter varieties provide beta-carotene, Vitamin C, potassium and more. And winter squash is low in calories, making it a wonderful diet food! A half-cup serving of butternut squash contains only 40 calories.

Their larger size can be intimidating to a novice cook, but squash is amazingly simple to prepare. Take acorn squash: you can create an elegant side dish by cutting one in half and scooping out the seeds. Add a couple teaspoons of honey, brown sugar or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon of butter into the centers. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

Roasting squash brings out the delicate flavor of the flesh. Cut in half and place the squash halves, cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the flesh with softened butter or oil, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with brown sugar, maple syrup or orange juice. Flip over the halves and roast them for 40-45 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven until the skin is blistered, browned and the flesh tender. When the squash has cooled, the skin peels off easily. Once the squash is cooled, scoop out the flesh, mash it and use in any recipe calling for squash puree. It freezes well and reheats easily.

What is your favorite winter squash recipe?