Falling into Seasonal Produce

Falling into Seasonal Produce

Fall.  Autumn.  The change of seasons is marked by changing leaves and Pumpkin Spice flavored…..everything?  This year, don’t let pumpkin spice flavored oreos be your only seasonal food experience.  There are many seasonal vegetables and fruits that can help welcome the feeling of the cooler temperatures into our homes. 

There are benefits to eating produce when it’s in season beyond helping to usher in a new season.  When we choose in season produce we get the maximum nutritional benefits of those foods.  When foods are picked at the peak of ripeness, they contain their peak content of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.  Some phytonutrients in foods decline when stored for long periods of time. Phytonutrient is just a fancy word for the naturally produced chemicals from plants that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.  Antioxidants prevent or delay cell damage. This means that they keep us healthy for longer and also looking vibrant.  They reduce inflammation which contributes to chronic illness. Vitamin C is an anti-oxidant.  Many of us know that Vitamin C can also be important in reducing the length of a cold or other winter illnesses.  Vitamin C is jam packed into many of our Fall grown produce.  All plants contain phytonutrients.  This includes whole grains, nuts, beans and vegetables and fruit.  Examples of seasonal vegetables and fruits are below, but including a variety of plant foods daily is good for overall health and wellness.

Fruits and vegetables are less expensive when purchased in season.  It takes less time and money for them to get to the store and that savings is passed onto the consumer.  Eating seasonally is one of the best things you can do to reduce your grocery budget while bulking up your nutrition. 

When trying to eat healthier, the most valuable thing we can do is make sure that our food is delicious! Eating delicious food every day helps us to sustain our healthier habits.  Eating produce in season is a way to ensure that your fruits and veggies taste their very best.  Lastly, eating in season also provides the opportunity to support local producers.  Supporting local farmers allows for more sustainable food production and also reduces fossil fuels used to transport items from across the world.  Below are some options for including seasonal produce that are usually available locally.  Enjoy the season this year by trying something new or by having a familiar food prepared in a way that is new to you.

Acorn Squash

One serving of Acorn Squash is an excellent source of Vitamin C.  The easiest way to prepare all your winter squash is to halve, scoop out seeds and then bake in the oven until soft.  The tender flesh can be scooped out of the shell and used as a side dish as is.  The shape of the acorn squash also provides the perfect bowl shape for stuffing with goodies such as a combo of Italian sausage and wild rice.  Winter squash is also wonderful for roasting.  Acorn squash can be sliced in strips and roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and seasonings to taste.  

Butternut Squash

Another delicious and slightly sweet winter squash, one cup has more than 100% of the daily value of Vitamin A along with being another excellent source of Vitamin C.  After baking, butternut squash makes a delicious, creamy soup.  It’s also wonderful roasted or topped with cheese and whole wheat breadcrumbs in a casserole.

Sweet Potatoes

Swapping a baked potato for a baked sweet potato is an easy way to increase your Vitamin A and Vitamin C intake for the day.  If you’re looking for more ways to include this versatile vegetable into every day eating, try slicing them thin and using as “toast” substitute or dicing and making a sweet potato hash. 

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts often get a bad reputation for being a least favorite food.  However, when not over-cooked, most people are able to change their opinion of this notorious vegetable.  If you’ve tried Brussels Sprouts before and found them mushy, try a dry heat for cooking.  Slice in halves and roast with olive oil.  You can also try parboiling (boiling for 1-2 minutes and then immersing in cold water to stop the cooking process) and then sautéing.  They can also be steamed, but careful not to overcook. Nuts are a perfect addition to Brussels Sprout.  Try toasted walnuts or almonds on top.

Parsnips

Parsnips look like a white (possibly more boring) carrot and are often overlooked.  Despite their similar shape, they are not from the same family of vegetables.  Parsnips have a lightly sweet flavor but with more of a spiced taste than their orange counterpart. When paired with carrots in a rich beef stew they can add depth of flavor.  They are also delicious when roasted with other fall/winter vegetables. 

Cool weather Greens (Kale, Chard, Spinach, etc)

Many dark greens such as kale and spinach get an improved, sweeter flavor when exposed to frost.  This makes them a perfect fall, winter and early spring vegetable.  We all have heard of the benefits of brightly colored greens and now is a perfect time to add them to the rotation.  A more hearty, winter salad can be assembled by starting with kale and adding toasted walnuts, goat cheese, dried cranberries, topped with sliced steak.  Add Kale or Spinach to smoothies or toss greens into soups for a nutrition boost.

Pears

Pears are an excellent source of fiber with a good mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  Getting enough of both fiber types can help regulate blood sugar, increase satiety, improve bowel regularity and keep Cholesterol in a healthy range.  Pears make for a perfect snack on their own anytime but also can be added to smoothies, as a topping for oatmeal or as a salad topping.   And don’t forget pear desserts such as crisps or carmelized pears as a topping for ice cream.

Apples

It would not be the Fall season without trips to the pumpkin patch and apple picking.  The Northwest is home to many apple varieties.  Apple cider simmering on the stove immediately makes the home feel like Autumn.   This year, try apple chips baked in the oven at a low temperature until they dry and crisp.

Cranberries

Cranberries are always featured on the Thanksgiving table but not given much thought the rest of the year.  Washington and Oregon are two of only about five states that grown cranberries in the U.S.  Fresh cranberries can be added to baked goods and in crisps.  Dried cranberries are wonderful in fall-themed salads and as a topper for oatmeal.  They can also be tossed into savory dishes such as stuffed squash to add a hint of sweetness. Cranberries are a phytonutrient rich berry in the same family as blueberries.  Their bright red color signals hidden nutrition benefits. 

Aren’t we glad to live in a world with fall and all the bountiful produce that it delivers to our tables?

by Heather Blazier, RD, CDE

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world” –Dr. Seuss

This Thanksgiving season, we are thankful for the many individuals, organizations and businesses who give back to their community. Here at CHAS Health, we are fortunate to witness the generosity of others who donate their time, talent, and treasure.

Earlier this year, the children’s corner at CHAS Maple Street Clinic got a makeover thanks to Katie Mathews and Junior League of Spokane. Katie reached out to us ask if she could do a project to create a reading nook for children. She went with a Dr. Seuss theme, and Junior League provided wall hangings, book racks, and books!

“In alignment with the mission of the Junior League of Spokane to develop the potential of women and improve the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers, the new member group I was a part of was tasked with creating a reading nook at a community partner/agency of our choosing. With the League’s current focus area of improving childhood literacy in Spokane, we wanted to reach children in a location where they might not normally have access to books.  We especially liked the idea of a reading nook at CHAS because there is a correlation between health and education, and CHAS is committed to serving all families and individuals with dignity and respect, regardless of their situation.  Also, as a Social Worker, I believe it’s important to meet the individual where they are.  By providing a reading nook at the Maple CHAS clinic, not only could the JLS provide a fun, whimsical space where reading can be approachable and entertaining, the child can bring the book home where it can enhance the child’s imagination and help increase their vocabulary.”

-Katie Matthews

Encouraging children to read fits right in at CHAS Health. Our pediatricians participate in Reach Out and Read, a program proven to increase literacy and school readiness for children ages zero to six. During a medical exam, the pediatrician reads an age-appropriate book to the child, encourages the child’s family to spend time reading out loud every day, and the child gets to take their book home.

Amerigroup sponsored over 7,000 Reach Out and Read books to give out to children this year. Thanks to generous partners like Katie Mathews, Junior League of Spokane, and Amerigroup, children and families in our community are being encouraged to read.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Thank you for being the world to our patients!

This blog post part of a special CHAS Health series for #GivingTuesday 2019. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that focuses on the collective power that individuals, communities and organizations use to celebrate generosity and philanthropy worldwide. During the Thanksgiving season, it is easy to get swept up in the fervor of shopping events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday, the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, will kick off the giving season and inspire people to collaborate and give back. Follow CHAS Health on Facebook and Twitter to learn more.

Healthy Recipes: Antipasto Skewers

Antipasto Skewers

Prep: 20 min

Yield: 24 skewers

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 8oz marinated mozzarella balls
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil
  • 1 12 -ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces if large
  • 1 14 -ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

Directions

Thread 1 small or 1/2 large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and a mozzarella ball. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make about two-dozen skewers.

Healthy Recipes: Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

Total: 30 min

Prep: 10 min

Cook: 20 min

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce, from the pepper can

Directions

Put the sweet potatoes in a steamer basket and put the steamer in a large pot of simmering water that is 1 inch from the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender.

Remove the steamer basket, pour the water out of the pot and dump the sweet potatoes into the pot. Add the butter and salt and mash with a potato masher. Add the chile and sauce and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately.

 

Healthy Recipes: Quinoa Stuffing

Quinoa Stuffing

Yield: Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine the stock and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the quinoa and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Remove the onion mixture from the heat and add the quinoa to the pan. Stir in the sage, thyme and salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Transfer the stuffing to an 8-inch square pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Garnish with parsley before serving.

Variations:

Quinoa Stuffing with Dried Cherries and Almonds

Add 1/2 cup dried tart cherries and 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds to the stuffing before baking.

Quinoa Stuffing with Pistachios and Figs

Omit the sage and add 1/2 cup chopped dried figs and 1/2 cup chopped toasted pistachios before baking.

Healthy Recipes: Lemony Carrot Salad

Lemony Carrot Salad

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1lb carrots, grated on a box grater or food processor
  • 5 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley

Directions

Whisk lemon juice, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Add carrots, radishes, dill, parsley, scallion, raisins and pistachios; toss to coat.

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Add carrots and pistachios right before serving.

Prep Tip: Buy pre-shredded carrots for even quicker preparation.

Healthy Recipes: Pomegranate Punch

Pomegranate Punch

Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 liter sparkling water or club soda
  • 2 oranges, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • Arils from one pomegranate

Directions

In a large punch bowl, combine pomegranate juice, orange juice and sparkling water. Float lime and orange slices on top as garnish. When serving, sprinkle pomegranate seeds in each glass with punch and ice.