Top Ten Delicious Nutritious Fall Veggies & Recipes

The hearty cool weather crops are in!

This is such a great time of year for cooking with these healthy and flavorful vegetables. I’ve picked my ten favorites to share with you.  I hope these turn out to be some of your favorites too!

Escarole and soup season are made for each other! Soups and stews make great meals in the colder months. And, they are particularly handy for busy families. You can prepare in advance and refrigerate or freeze until you need them.  I add greens like escarole to just about every soup or stew and crock-pot meal we make. I especially love escarole because it doesn’t have a particularly strong taste on its own, so it blends well in most any soup or stew. Escarole is also easier to digest than some of the other heartier fall greens so can be a good choice for young children or other family members with sensitive digestion. However, escarole is not a lightweight when it comes to nutrition. It’s a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. To up the fiber content even more and add a little protein, try a simple soup of escarole and white bean. Pair it with a loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette and you’ll have tasty, quick, nutritious meal for the entire family.

Turnips always remind me of Thanksgiving. Growing up we only saw turnips once a year on the holiday table. Boy, were we missing out by not having them more often.  This root crop is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, yet low in calories. One cup of cooked turnips has only 51 calories which is about 25% the calories in the same serving size of potatoes. Yet, it provides 5g of fiber, along with calcium, potassium, vitamin C and a boatload of B vitamins. Turnips are cousins of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts but have a texture more like a squash than broccoli. Here’s our favorite turnip recipe that features fresh ground horseradish – another tasty root crop. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/well/healthy-recipes/recipes/smashed-turnips-with-fresh-horseradish

Rutabaga is a cross between turnip and cabbage. On the outside, it can be tough to tell the difference. Rutabagas are a bit larger with yellow flesh and a purple top, where turnips are a bit smaller with white flesh and purple trim. Rutabaga is sweeter tasting than its cousin the turnip and can be mashed, roasted, used in soups or stews, or cut like fries as a potato substitute. Personally, I prefer the taste and texture of a rutabaga over turnips in most recipes. But, they can be interchangeable. Here are some recipes that combine the two. https://www.marthastewart.com/275205/turnip-and-rutabaga-recipes?slide=3413362

Brussels sprouts are truly a cold weather crop. They reach their peak season in the fall and are available through the winter.They become most flavorful after the first frost. Another one of the cruciferous veggies that are plentiful this time of year, they are chock full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals with very few calories. For the freshest sprouts buy them still on the stalk. Leave them on the stalk until you are ready to prepare them for cooking. I find a good set of kitchen shears work well to safely remove the sprouts from their stalk. Brussels sprouts are so versatile that you should never be bored with them. Just to be sure, here are 25 Brussels sprout recipes for you! https://www.marthastewart.com/275510/brussels-sprout-recipes

Cauliflower is another cold weather vegetable that is power-packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Like its cruciferous cousins, cauliflower is rich in cancer-fighting sulfur compounds, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. Purple cauliflower is an even better nutritional choice. The taste is about the same, but the purple color comes from increased levels of antioxidants and it contains about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower. Both white and purple cauliflower make a great low calorie, high fiber substitute for mashed potatoes. Try it out using your favorite mashed potato recipe, or try out one of these dairy-free recipes. https://www.yummly.com/recipes/mashed-cauliflower-no-dairy

Celeriac is that ugly, hairy, warty-looking root ball at the farmer’s market. Celeriac can also be called celery root or knob celery.  Which is kind of deceiving name, because it’s not the root of a celery plant at all. It’s a member of the same plant family as celery, but it’s grown specifically for the root. The thick white flesh inside is crunchy when you bite into it and has a stronger, earthier flavor than celery. As with other root crops, it’s rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in calories. Celeriac is very versatile and can be roasted and eaten all on its own, incorporated into soups and stews, mashed like potatoes, and added to salads. Here are some recipes for you to try. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/celeriac-recipes/

Parsnips look a lot like carrots but are larger and lighter in color. Parsnips are not quite as sweet tasting as a carrot and have a nuttier, heartier flavor.  Lightly seasoned with salt, pepper and a touch of olive oil before roasting in the oven is my favorite way to eat them. It really brings out the earthy flavors. Like other root crops, they are loaded with lots of minerals and other beneficial nutrients. Most notable is the high level of B vitamins like folate. Folate is one of the must-have doctor recommended nutrients for pregnant women to reduce the risk of birth defects. Parsnips are also abundant in potassium which is a key nutrient for heart health.

Butternut Squash is at the top of my list of squashes that come into season this time of year. It adds a tasty nutty flavor to any recipe, and it’s hearty enough to stand on its own. It’s so easy to cook when you’re pressed for time. Slice it in half long ways, take out the seeds, brush it with some olive oil and bake face down on a cookie sheet for about 40 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, scrape it out of the skin into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste for a quick and easy side dish. I also love it for breakfast! Here’s a recipe that I cook up on the weekend and keep in the fridge. On weekday mornings I heat a cup or so in the microwave and top with a fried egg for a protein-packed hearty breakfast in under 5 minutes. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kale-salad-with-butternut-squash-and-almonds

Acorn Squash is another one of those squashes that cook up easily for a quick and easy side to any meal. I usually choose smaller ones that when cut in half will be a single serving of vegetable to add to a meal. I slice them in half and spoon out the seeds so that they look like little cups. I break the stem off the top piece so it sits flat. I coat the exposed flesh lightly with olive oil or butter; sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar and bake flesh side up on a cookie sheet for about 25-30 minutes.  I serve one half to each person. It’s a tasty side to any protein and makes a nice presentation. When I have more time, I may choose to stuff with apples or other seasonal favorites.

Spaghetti Squash is an oblong shaped yellow squash. Like other squashes, spaghetti squash offers a healthy dose of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber with a low-calorie count. But surprisingly it also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fats which are important healthy fats along with a fair amount of protein, while being relatively low in carbohydrates. It’s a great veggie if you eat a more Paleo style diet. This squash variety is served up a little differently and can be used in substitution for pasta. You can cut it in half and bake like the butternut and acorn varieties, or you can boil the two halves. When tender, scrape a fork across the flesh to separate it into strands. Serve the squash with your favorite sauce or other pasta toppings. Here’s an easy spaghetti squash pasta recipe for you. http://thefitchen.com/easy-spaghetti-squash-pasta/

 

Posted in Dieting, Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition, Recipes Tagged with: , , , , ,

Your Go-To Healthy Eating Plan

healthy eating plan

Your Go-To Healthy Eating Plan

I talk to a lot of people about healthy eating.  Lack of time is the most common reason I hear from those who find it challenging to eat healthily. I’ve come to learn, that this is really more of a planning issue. We all have the same twenty-four hours in the day. What we choose to do with them is what makes the difference. That’s why I want to help you craft your own Go-To Healthy Eating Plan.

You see, your family situation is unique to you. There is no one-size-fits-all Healthy Eating Plan. Every family or individual is different. The common ground comes in around the idea that most things in life turn out better with some planning and forethought. The same is true for healthy eating and cooking.

Do you know that by 4:00 pm on any given day, most families have no idea what they are having for dinner? That’s a recipe for disaster. Having your own personalized Healthy Eating Plan can make be the difference between an unhealthy fast food takeout meal and a wholesome, nutrition meal at home with your family. 

In this article, I’ve picked three basic planning strategies to get you started. I’ll be writing more about other tips and strategies in the future.

Step 1 – Create Your Weekly Meal Plan  

This first step may not be what you think. This is different than and comes before menu planning. This is about sitting down with your and/or your family’s calendar and looking at when and how you will address each meal time. Take a good look five to seven days out and figure out how many nights you will be eating dinner at home. Also, take a look at breakfast and lunches. Do you bring your lunch to work? Do your children take lunch to school or camp?

healthy eating plan

This information will be the foundation of your menu planning. Before you can plan a menu you need to know how many meals you need to plan. Let’s say you find that you need five at home dinner meals and breakfasts plus lunches for you to bring to work bring to work and the kids to take to school. This will be the foundation for the next steps.

Before you get into the finer points of the menu, let’s dive a little deeper into the planning. Take another look at your calendar and see where you can block off time for meal prep at the beginning of the week. For me, this is usually on a Saturday or Sunday. I’ll block off a couple of hours to cook some items that will keep for several days, will be good as leftovers, or can be modified or added to so as to yield more than one meal. I’m big on seasonal cooking, so this time of year I make good use of fresh items from the farmers market. In the colder months, I make lots of soups, stews and casserole type dishes using heartier root crops and dark leafy greens.

Knowing how much time you can devote to meal prep and cooking in advance will help you to choose the right recipes when planning your meals. Are you going to have time to prepare a Julia Child gourmet feast, a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal or something in between? Also, take into consideration the time you will have each day to devote to getting a healthy meal on the table. Even though you are doing some of the prep work in advance, there will still be a few last minute tasks at meal time.

If seasonal cooking is important to you, think about that too when choosing recipes. Get to know what’s available at your farmers market and grocery store at different times of the year. The produce available can vary greatly from season to season. I find that cooking with the freshest ingredients can make cooking go a lot faster because often these ingredients can be eaten raw or partially cooked.

Step 2 – Plan Your Menu

healthy eating planThis part is going to depend largely upon how much time you have, and the foods you and your family like to eat. I encourage you to try and expand your food repertoire. Most families eat the same foods over and over again. I’d like to challenge you to try one new healthy, unprocessed food each week. Be it a vegetable, a fruit, a healthy grain or a new protein. At the end of six months even if you and your family liked only half of the new foods you tried, you have still incorporated thirteen new foods into your menu. And try the same food more than once, prepared differently.

When considering menu items think about what will make a good left over. Leftovers can fill in gaps in the week where you need a quick meal or a lunch. A chicken dinner is a great example of this. Instead of cooking only what your family will eat at that meal, cook a whole chicken with extra sides. You’ll get several meals from that one effort. You’ll have leftovers the next several days for lunch or a quick meal to heat up another night. Then there’s always chicken salad and chicken soup. Cooking this way is also a great money saver, too.

Don’t forget about breakfast! It’s so important to start your day with a good healthy breakfast. And it doesn’t have to be a big time drain in the morning. A recipe for a warm kale salad with squashes and other veggies in it makes a great base for an egg. I’ll make a double batch on a Sunday and it keeps in the fridge all week. In the morning, pan fry a fresh local egg while heating up a serving of the kale salad in the microwave. Top the kale salad with the egg and you’ll have a five-minute healthy breakfast. Veggies along with a good protein make a great breakfast.

Another tip for saving money is to choose recipes with common ingredients. Stay away from recipes that need exotic ingredients that you will never use again. This can lead to a cabinet full of expensive spices and ingredients that you’ll never use again. Pick recipes that have the same or similar core ingredients so that you can multi-purpose spices, herbs, oils and other kitchen basics. From this, you can create your own list of must-have pantry items that are always on hand. This helps too when on occasion you find yourself needing to whip up a meal on short notice.

Step 3 – Plan Your Shopping

Now that you have a menu planned it’s time to make a shopping list. Make your list from your menu and recipes. Shopping from a list will save you time and money. No wasted trips to the store or farm market for just one item and less spoilage and wasted foods that you didn’t need or use. As you make your list watch for those “one use” ingredients. And if you see an item that you will use often, buy the bigger size. Again, this will save you time and money in the long run.

As you’ve figured out by now, I’m all about having a plan. So, I’m going to suggest that you plan your shopping trips too. Plan only one or two shopping trips each week. If you’ve implemented the other suggestions you will find a rhythm and this will work. You will be amazed at how much time and energy you can free up for other things in your life. Here’s an example of what I mean.

I recently worked with a very busy Mom of three young children who works a full-time job. Her biggest challenge was finding the time to make good healthy meals for herself and her children every night. She was accustomed to stopping at the grocery store several times a week. Through planning like I’ve explained here, we freed up more than four hours each week for her. She’s now into the habit of only two trips to the grocery store per week and one trip to the farmers market. Because she has a list and a plan, she has healthy meals at the ready and has more free time to spend with her children.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful and can get started right away on your own healthy eating plan. And if you run into difficulty, please reach out to me. I’d love to help you out.

Posted in Dieting, Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition

5 Favorite Local Herbs

local herbs

5 Favorite Local Herbs

There are so many wonderful fresh local herbs waiting for you at the farmers market. I picked a few of my must-have favorite local herbs to share with you. In addition to adding fresh flavor to your favorite dishes, you can drink some of these herbs too. I’ve included some recipes for making herbal teas and for adding local herbs to enhance the flavor of your favorite tea or beverages.

Basil

Pesto is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think about basil, right? But have you ever thought about drinking your basil? You can create a variety of refreshing summer drinks with basil. Here’s a recipe for basil tea that’s great hot or cold. Basil Tea Recipe. You can even use this recipe as a base and mix it your favorite black or green tea over ice with a wedge of lemon or lime. It’s very tasty and refreshing on a hot day. Or, you can add basil to fruit infused water for a refreshing summer drink. I find it goes especially well with watermelon or strawberry infused water. Basil is a rich source of Vitamin K, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium so no matter what food or drink you add it to your getting some really important minerals. Basil also has natural antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Mint

Mint is one of my favorite summer herbs and another one that I love to drink. Mint is wonderful for your digestive system. It’s great at soothing nausea or indigestion, can help to relieve gas and bloating, and it promotes and supports healthy digestion. This is another herb that I love to add to teas, fruit-infused waters, and other summer drinks. And who doesn’t enjoy a mojito or mint julep on a warm summer evening? Mint has topical medicinal benefits too. Mint can have a soothing and cooling effect on summer skin irritations like poison ivy. Try applying cold mint tea bags or a cool rag soaked in mint tea to relieve itching, and reduce redness and inflammation.

Purslane

Purslane is becoming more and more common at farmers markets. It’s a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, in fact, more than any other leafy vegetable plant. Purslane is an excellent source of Vitamin A, again one of the highest among leafy greens, and it also contains Vitamin C, some B Vitamins, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and manganese. You can use purslane raw in salads and juices, cooked in soups or other dishes, or even add it to a stir-fry as you would other greens. Here’s a tasty purslane Potato Salad Recipe.

Lemon Balm

local herbs

Lemon Balm is a member of the mint family and is considered a calming herb. It’s not typically used in foods or cooking, it’s used mostly for medicinal purposes. Lemon Balm is believed to reduce stress and anxiety and promote sleep. And like some of the other herbs I’ve mentioned, it also has digestive benefits like improving appetite and easing indigestion, gas and bloating. Making a Lemon Balm tea is an ideal way to get the health benefits associated with this herb. Here’s a tea recipe that includes other tasty herbs. Lemon Balm Tea.

Cilantro

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is often used as a garnish for Mexican food. But cilantro has many powerful health benefits too. Add it to your green drinks and smoothies to bump up the nutrition as  Cilantro is a rich source of vitamins A, C, K and B vitamins as well as minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.  It also has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. And Cilantro contains compounds which act as chelating agents that bind to toxic metals and help remove them from the body. Here is another herb that makes a great tea. Try this Ginger and Cilantro Tea.

 

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition

Where Our Food Comes From – And Why It Matters.

Where Our Food Comes From – And Why It Matters

where our food comes from

 Knowing where our food comes from allows us to make better choices. 

Big Ag

Here’s where our food comes from for many of us.  Most produce, meat, and poultry products in the grocery store come from what’s known as Big Ag and or Factory Farming operations.  Big Ag operations are huge commercial farms that typically grow one crop over and over again. The sole purpose is high yield, not high quality or nutritional value. This style of crop management can lead to over-farming of the land which depletes the soil. Huge amounts of pesticides, herbicides and chemically based fertilizers are used. Here you will also find a very high rate of GMO use.

Factory Farming

Factory farming is the industrialized production of livestock. These animals are raised in deplorable and inhumane environments. These filthy unsanitary conditions require the constant use of antibiotics. The animals are injected with or fed growth hormones to enhance the rate of growth so they can be brought to market in short periods of time. These practices produce some of the most chemical-laden and unhealthy food products in our food supply. All the chemicals, antibiotics and hormones used are passed along to the consumer in the meat, milk, eggs and other food products made from these animals. 

Other Options

Here’s the good news. Many grocers now partner with local producers. And when it’s not the local growing season, they may import from smaller farms in other parts of the world. Be a wise consumer. Ask where the food originates. Look into the country of origin to learn about their farming practices. It can take some time, but it’s well worth the effort.

Make it a point to shop your local farmers market. The producers and farmers at the markets offer a variety of fresh produce and food products that are grown in some of the healthiest ways. Sustainably grown foods, organic foods, and locally grown foods are the most common.  Knowing what is important to you and your family will help guide your decisions on which one is best for you. Get to know your local farmers and ask about their growing practices. You’ll learn a lot and will be sure to find vendors who are a good fit for you.

where our food comes from

Organically Grown

Organically grown crops are the gold standard, but very hard to come by. It’s a very arduous and expensive process for a farmer to be Certified Organic, but you can find a few. Organic produce is grown free of all chemicals, pesticides, and animal products are without antibiotics and hormones.  The produce is fresher because it is harvested closest to peak ripeness and will contain more nutrients because of ripening naturally on the parent plant.  Grass-fed beef is higher in good cholesterol and lower in bad, higher in vitamins A & E, leaner with lower fat content, and contains more antioxidants.

Locally Grown

Locally grown crops that aren’t certified to be organic are a healthful option too. Small local operations don’t use the level of chemicals and pesticides found in Big Ag. And local producers of animal products don’t have the unsanitary conditions that come from overcrowding and mass production of livestock. The crops can have the same nutritional value as organics because they are grown in close proximity to the point of sale, the farmers market. And for me, the most important benefit is getting to know the farmer, knowing exactly where your food is coming from and how it’s grown.

Sustainably Grown

Sustainable farming combines many of the clean practices used in organic farming and has all the nutritional upside of locally grown produce. I find crops grown in this fashion to be the best, most affordable and most abundant choice for me and my family. I also appreciate the socially responsible aspect of this style of farming. Crops are strategically rotated as to not deplete the soil. Compatible crops are grown alongside each other to maximize growing space. Specially chosen cover crops suppress weeds and act as natural pest deterrents to limit the need for pesticides and chemicals. Great care is taken to do no harm to the soil, air, and water. Sustainable farms actually enhance and preserve the land for future generations. Animals raised on sustainable farms are healthier, fed higher quality foods and yield a healthier food product.

When you know where our food comes from, you’ll have many healthful options available to you. Take advantage of them and visit a farmers market in your area to get to know your local farmers and learn what’s available to you. Here’s my favorite market here in Connecticut. The Monroe Farmers Market is a great example of a thriving market that features many different vendors who use different farming methods. 

I welcome your comments and feedback. If you have a farmers market or healthy eating related topic you’d like to hear more about or questions you’d like answered, please feel free to let me know. 

Sharon A. See
Certified Holistic Health Coach
Vitalized Wellness
Shelton, CT
 
You can find me and other interesting articles, resources, and recipes at www.vitalizedwellness.com.

Follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vitalizedwellness.

 

 

 

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition

Farmers Market Benefits: 5 Reasons to Visit

Five Reasons to Visit Your Farmers Market

I love the farmers market so much that it was really hard for me to list only five reasons for you to visit your local markets. And if you don’t have a local farmers market in your area, look to your local farms for their own farm stands. This is another great way to find fresh locally grown produce.

farmers market benefits

Farmers Market Benefits

Fresh is Best

The farm fresh fruits, veggies and other delectable items you’ll find at the market are packed with vitamins and minerals. The produce you find at the market is grown close to the market site and is often picked within hours of market time. This allows the fruit or vegetable to ripen naturally on the mother plant.

This freshness means all the live vitamins, minerals, and digestive supporting enzymes are still intact giving you a huge boost in nutrition over store bought produce. And this just picked goodness means a more flavorful product that will last longer and be less inclined to spoil quickly. Unless you grow your own, you can’t beat market fresh produce.

Money Saving

Grocery stores have lots of overhead expenses that get passed along to you the consumer. Distribution and transportation costs are also factored into the price you pay at the register. When you buy direct at the market from the farmer or producer you save money.

The farmers and other vendors at the market don’t have lots of overhead and transportation costs to pass along to you. You’re cutting out the middle guys and getting a better price for a higher quality product. And, many farmers practice sustainable farming which means limited use of pesticides and chemicals which gives you a cleaner, healthier product at substantial savings over buying organic at the grocery store.

Fun Family Time

What better way to teach your children about the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables than with a trip to the farmers market. A family trip to the market is a wonderful teaching opportunity to show children where their food comes from and to introduce them to the farmers who grow their food.

Studies show that engaging children in the process of planning and preparing meals helps them to make better food choices when they are away from home and can have a role in preventing obesity. It also can be helpful in expanding the palette of picky eaters. You can encourage them to try the delicious samples that the market vendors have to offer.  And it doesn’t have to be only about the fruits and veggies for the kids. Many markets offer fun kids’ activities for children to enjoy.

Best Fast Food 

Summer time when the kids are out of school can be very busy and full of playtime, family trips, and camps. Instead of grabbing something unhealthy to eat at the drive through or spending lots of money taking the family out to eat, stop by a  farm market instead. Your children can have fun with the kids’ activities while you grab just about everything you’ll need for a quick and healthy meal.

Think simple and quick with little fuss. Fresh veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and broccoli topped with some herbs like parsley and basil over pasta can be a really quick simple meal in the summer. Or, try putting that grilled burger or chicken over a freshly tossed summer salad full of lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, peppers, celery and beets.

Support Local Business

Giving your business to local farmers and producers has far reaching benefits to your community. When you buy from the vendors at your local market your dollars stay local. The farmers and producers at the market, in turn, spend that money on other local products and services. Supporting local agriculture also helps to preserve farmland and open space in your community.

Local farms often are family run business that practice sustainable farming which preserves the land for use by future generations. And there is something to be said for knowing where your food comes from. Get to know the vendors at your market and learn about how they farm or produce their goods. You can learn some really interesting facts about how your food is grown and ways to make healthier choices for you and your family.

I look forward to bumping into you at the market!

If you’d like to read more about farmers markets and local farming CLICK HERE to go to The Monroe Farmers’ Market. This is my go-to local market.  Here you’ll find more articles written by me and other contributing authors who are equally as passionate about local farming and farmers markets.

 

 

 

Posted in Healthy Eating, Healthy Lifestyle, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , , ,

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