Healthy benefits of our favourite fall ingredients and Thanksgiving ideas
Autumn is the traditional harvest period in Canada, so lets look at the various foods that we can eat and enjoy throughout this season.
This week we are looking at foods such as apples, Brussel sprouts and pumpkins and how to incorporate them into your diet. These foods are warm and sooth our soul as we enjoy the beautiful colours that signal the coming of winter.
My general approach to cooking is it to keep things simple but tasty. Knowing what you are preparing ahead of time allows you to make sure that you have all the ingredients necessary and not get caught out last minute, especially when preparing a big Thanksgiving meal!
Like many, I used to follow recipes, chopping, and measuring as I went along. However, I learned from Chef George Laurier at C’est Bon Cooking that if you do all the chopping, measuring and preparation first, you’ll enjoy the overall cooking experience even more.
Prep work also allows for an extra pair of hands in the kitchen to help organize the ingredients and, more importantly, allows you to spend some social time with a friend or family member while preparing a meal. This is the ideal time to catch up in a relaxing environment while sharing in the joy of preparing food. It also takes the stress out of cooking (for those that do not necessarily enjoy it) and it makes following that recipe so much easier.
So, let us start with apples. Is there any truth to the old saying of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor at bay?’
There is something so tasty about a nice, fresh, crisp, juicy apple which is why they are an ideal snack for those who are prediabetic or diabetic, as they are beneficial in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Various studies have found that apples are extremely good for the digestive system. They feed the good bacteria and are full of the fibre that plays a role in keeping things moving down there. Apples are also a great source of potassium, which can help reduce blood pressure — as it relaxes the blood vessels in the body, and they contain a range of antioxidants, which are known to support the body’s reaction to free radicals. If your apples are not organic, it would be better to peel them as apples are one of those fruits that are being sprayed with products during the growing process. If you are not going to eat them immediately store apples in a paper bag in the coolest of the produce drawers where they will stay nice and fresh for a few weeks.
Next up is the trusty, versatile and wonderful pumpkin. It can be pureed, boiled, or roasted and can really bring together a meal. You can even make pumpkin hummus; it takes minutes to make and it is a great snack to add to those lunch boxes. Pumpkins have many health benefits. They are a great source of phytochemicals which are vital in helping the body to reduce inflammation and they are loaded with calcium for those looking to support their bone health and iron which is so important in keeping the body well oxygenated. When buying pumpkins, (if they are not just for decoration), avoid the ones that have a nice shiny rind as this is often a sign that they are still not ripe. Instead, look for the ones that have a deep, bright colour with few blemishes. Store them in a cool dark place until you are ready to use them.
One of my favourite fall vegetables is Brussels sprouts. These little gems are often overlooked as many people have memories of soggy Brussels sprouts when, in fact, they are amazing to cook with if done properly. They are a great source of fibre that supports regular bowel movements and feed good gut bacteria. Being a green leafy vegetable means that they are full of chlorophyll, which is a plant's way of storing the sun’s energy. This means that any green leafy vegetable is an amazing source of energy for the body. Look for the bright green ones and avoid any that have yellow marks on the leaves or blemishes, as this signal they are past their prime. Making a small cross in the base will ensure that they cook evenly. Brussels sprouts can make an amazing side dish to accompany a roasted chicken. They can be added to stir-fry’s, roasted, or steamed which ensures that they retain their nutritional value.
All these foods can be combined or cooked separately throughout the fall and at Thanksgiving. This turkey, apple breakfast hash recipe does just that, and by doubling up on the quantities you will have a ready made ‘left-over’ meal for either lunch or dinner. You can always add some mashed or roasted potatoes as an extra side. I find that by having certain meals ready it makes Thanksgiving so much more enjoyable and relaxing. You can always substitute butternut squash for pumpkin or swap out the turkey for chicken or beef. This is a great breakfast to have before heading out for a fall hike.