Eat Your Jack-O-Lantern

…And More Recipes Using Fresh Fall Produce

Today is the first day of October, and here in Boulder, we’re teetering on the edge of Fall, going from a cloudless 85-degree day to a crisp 62-degree one…back to 83 degrees the next. To celebrate Fall, enjoy the new seasonal produce popping up and recipes to use each.

Autumn brings more than orange and yellow leaves, crisp air, and football season. Shifting from the bright, tropical fruits and vegetables of summer – berries, mango, peppers, arugula, tomatoes – Fall brings its own bounty of seasonal produce. Eating seasonal has advantages beyond just nutrition: because your fruits and vegetables don’t have to cross hemispheres to get to you, it’s more environmentally sustainable, fresh, and affordable. And because of the shorter travel time, seasonal produce has more nutrients (a fruit or vegetable’s nutrients start to degrade the moment it’s picked) and tastes better. To enjoy health benefits and fresh tastes at their prime, include these Fall fruits and vegetables in your meal plans.

If you’re missing your summer glow, add some pumpkin to your diet. Recent research found that eating vegetables rich in carotenoids – the antioxidant that gives carrots, peppers, and sweet potatoes their red and orange colors – gives your skin a healthy golden glow that is actually found more attractive than sun-tanned skin. In addition to being stored under the fat in our skin, carotenoids are secreted through the skin and then reabsorbed, giving some healthy color to your face. Pumpkins are also a great belly-flattening food: they are high in fiber, which satiates hunger and balances blood sugar levels, and potassium, the bloat-combating mineral that counterbalances the water-retaining effects of sodium. Pumpkin can be replaced anywhere butternut squash is used, so try it in soups, salads, and pasta dishes. Pumpkin puree can be used as the main ingredient or as a moisture-adding sidekick in breads, muffins, and cookies. I modified this recipe by using all whole wheat flour; adding a little more pumpkin, as well as ground flaxseed and chia seeds; reducing the sugar; and adding tons of spice.

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

Adapted from here
¼ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast
⅓ cup warm milk
1 egg, beaten
¾ – 1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 – 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 T ground flaxseed
1 T chia seeds
1 tablespoon brown sugar + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ground gloves, ginger, cardamom, allspice

In a large bowl, add warm water to yeast; let sit for 5 minutes. Add all ingredients – but only 2 cups of flour – to yeast mixture; beat for 2 minutes. Add remaining flour until dough forms a stiff ball. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Let dough rise in an oiled, covered bowl for 1 hour, until doubled.

Knead dough again. Form into a log that will fit in a greased bread pan; let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 375 F for about 27 minutes; bread should sound hollow when tapped.

Fennel is used most often in Italian cuisines and is known for its mildly sweet, crunchy taste with notes of licorice. Composed of a bulb, stalks, seeds, and fronds, it can be eaten raw or cooked. Fennel is rich in the flavonoids quercetin, rutin, and anethole. Quercetin can help treat asthma and allergies by blocking histamine release, and it can also protect against macular degeneration, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal disorders. But it might show the most promise in the gym: a study from the University of South Carolina compared two groups of cyclists, one of which had consumed a quercetin-enhanced drink. The group that had ingested quercetin increased their ride time until fatigue by 13.2% and increased their VO2 max by 3.9%. Further enhancing fennel’s health benefits is anethole, a recently investigated antioxidant that protects against cancer by shutting down tumor-propagating signals called tumor necrosis factor-mediated signaling. Next time you’re making tomato sauce, saute fennel along with onions and garlic to bring an anise note to your dish. Fennel also pairs well with citrus, so try topping grilled salmon with fennel and lemon slices or making a simple salad of sliced fennel and citrus segments.

Fennel, Citrus, and Olive Salad
Thinly sliced fennel bulb
Grapefruit and orange segments; reserve juices
Sliced Kalamata olives
Olive oil
Fresh basil
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

Separate grapefruits and orange segments over a bowl, collecting their juices at the bottom. Add fennel and olives; toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and fresh basil.

Apples might be the most quintessential autumn fruit, but their versatility, affordability, and ease of preparation gives them a spot on this list. They’re so mainstream that they’re often overlooked by flashier superfruits like goji berries and dragonfruit, but apples have plenty of health benefits of their own. Recent research has shown that apples’ main defense against sun damage is a army of polyphenols, including quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and epicatechin. These polyphenols, which mainly live in the skin of the apple, can absorb damaging UVB rays, thereby protecting fragile photosynthetic receptors in the skin. These antioxidants transfer their protective properties to us when ingested: apples help improve cardiovascular health, help lower asthma risk, and may help fend off lung, breast, liver, and colon cancers. Apples can also help maintain stable blood sugar levels by reducing the rate of glucose absorption, stimulating the pancreas to pump out more insulin, and facilitating sugar uptake by our cells. There are hundreds of types of apples, ranging from the sweet and crisp varieties of Gala, Fuji, and Honeycrisp to the tart tastes of Granny Smith and McIntosh. In general, sweeter apples fare better eaten raw, added to salads, or pared with cheese; try Crispin, Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady. Lower sugar varieties, like Braeburn, Granny Smith, and Red Rome are best used in cooking and baking.

Kale Salad with Apples and Walnuts
1 bunch kale, stems removed, cut into strips
2 granny smith apples, thinly sliced
Cherry Tomatoes
Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Agave Nectar
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

Massage kale strips with olive oil; this softens the tough pieces and tempers kale’s bitter taste. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, agave nectar, and salt and pepper to taste; toss. Add apple slices and cherry tomatoes; sprinkle with walnuts.

Beets get their vibrant colors from antioxidants called betalains; purple and dark red beets contain betacyanin, and yellow and orange beets are colored with betaxanthins. These pigments demonstrate both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory behavior by infiltrating damaged cells and nursing them back to good health. If you’re looking to start eating more healthfully and clean, beets are a great place to start. Betalains support detoxification processes by triggering an enzyme that regulates toxin neutralization and excretion and enhancing liver function. Healthy liver function promotes the efficient breakdown of fat, improving weight loss efforts and eradicating fatigue. Beets can be eaten fresh, steamed, roasted, or pickled; avoid boiling them as their nutrients are quickly lost in water. Raw beets have have a taste and texture similar to carrots; cooking them softens them and brings out their mildly sweet flavor.

Citrus Beet Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts
1 bunch beets, scrubbed and roasted
2 large blood oranges, cut into segments
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Shallot, chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground black peppers
Toasted hazelnuts

To make dressing, combine olive oil, sherry vinegar, juice from blood oranges, and shallot. Toss arugula and beets, separately, with vinaigrette. Top arugula with beets, blood orange segments. Garnish with toasted hazelnuts, salt and black pepper.

If you want to add some tang and protein to this recipe, add crumbled goat cheese or chèvre.

Figs are a recent addition to trendy foods – paired with expensive prosciutto and French cheeses, they’ve made their way into the foodie world – but they were esteemed by European cultures long before their current popularity. In Greece, there were laws prohibiting the export of the best figs, and Egyptian cultures intombed their kings next to offerings of baskets filled with figs. As figs spread around the world, so did their health benefits: they’re one of the best plant sources of bone-strengthening calcium and their high levels of potassium help control blood pressure and bloating. Figs contain more hunger-quashing fiber than any other fruit, fresh or dried, which contributes to balanced blood sugar and and a satiated appetite. Fiber has also been shown to prevent adult-onset diabetes by slowing the digestion and absorption of sugars. Studies even show that diabetic patients who take fig leaf extract with their breakfast require less insulin in their daily injections, providing a natural aid for diabetes. Figs are a great snack; eat them dried with nuts, or pair the fresh ones with yogurt. For a quick but fancy appetizer, throw them on a platter and let their honeyed taste shine with salty and savory accompaniments.

Fig, Cheese, Prosciutto, and Nut Platter
Figs, cut in half
Assortment of cheeses: goat, brie, parmesan
Walnuts and almonds
Arugula and mizuna
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Arrange the above ingredients on a platter; allow guests to prepare individual crostinis with the ingredients. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


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