Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sweetness of Fall

An Okinawan proverb states, “One cannot live in this world without the support of others.”

The Okinawa Centenarian Study is a well-documented report examining the elderly population in Okinawa, Japan. What’s so interesting about this population in particular is that they have the lowest rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer in the world – which are in fact, the three leading causes of death in the U.S. While research indicates that their longevity and well-being is linked to genetics and other healthy habits such a physical activity and healthful dietary choices, their personal relationships – such as strong family ties and community belonging – have seemed to play a key factor in maintaining such good physical health and longevity.

That’s why our best (non)diet advice continues to be:

Eat real food and share it with those you love.”

With the holiday season now in full swing, spending time with friends and family will inevitably play a role in your eating patterns and food choices. While this time of year can be stressful for many families, sharing a meal with the ones you love can help balance holiday stress. So, we encourage you to enjoy the season, particularly with the company of those around you. And why not also enjoy all the delicious in-season fruits and veggies? It certainly can’t hurt!

They include:

apples, artichokes, Asian pears, Brussels sprouts, grapes, persimmons, pomegranates, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatillos.

A pear isn’t really just a pear, or a body shape. Anjou, Bartlett, Bosc, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Seckell—each has their own flavor and texture.

And that sticks true for apples, too. Gala, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, Golden Delicious, Macintosh – the options are far from few.

And the variety doesn’t stop there. Pears and apples can also be enjoyed in an assortment of ways. These high fiber fruits make for perfectly convenient snacks when eaten fresh or dried by themselves; but when sliced, they are also great additions to salads and other savory dishes.

 Of course, let’s not forget about the sweet stuff either.

Substituting pears for apples in your favorite dessert recipes, such as a fruit crisp or crumble is an easy way to change-up an old recipe. And don’t discount poached pears and baked apples. While cooked fruit may sound like a boring dessert, it’s anything but bland. Heat intensifies the sweetness of apples and pears, while also softening the texture to result in a completely delectable, crowd-pleasing sweet course.
Sweet potatoes not only score high on taste, they also are leader in the pack when it comes to nutritional content. A medium-sized sweet potato contains three grams of fiber, is just 160 calories, and contains a rich amount of Vitamin A, C, beta-carotene, and potassium making it a good nutritional choice any time of year.

A few of my favorite ways to enjoy this delicious & nutritious seasonal veggie are to:

·         Bake and top with a hefty serving of nonfat Greek yogurt or a little bit of feta cheese.

·         Cut into strips and bake to make sweet potato “fries.”

·         Mash and combine with a touch of brown sugar and freshly grated nutmeg.

·         Mash and use in a variety of baked goods, such as cookies, muffins, or breads.

And now, for a recipe.
Baked Apples
This recipe is not only the perfect go-to as a last minute dessert idea, these apples also look adorable and are a guaranteed winner when it comes to both nutrition and taste.

4 large Fuji apples
¼ cup dried fruit such as raisins, dried tart cherries, cranberries, or currants
¼ cup chopped nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or pecans
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ - ¾ cup apple juice
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat oven to 400 F. 
Wash apples. Remove the core with a small paring knife and spoon, leaving the skin on and a hole through the middle and the bottom intact. Peel off the apple skin around the top next to the core to prevent apples from bursting when baking. Place apples in a baking pan.

 In a small bowl, combine dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix until spices are well distributed. Stuff each apple with dried fruit and nut mixture, and fill with apple juice. Top each apple with a dab of butter.

Bake for 30 for 40 minutes until apples are tender.

Enjoy, preferably with those you love.

These seasonal tips & recipe were featured in last month’s
Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal.
For more “In Season” tips & recipes, pick up the next issue of
The Health & Family Guide on November 16th.

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