Is fall here already? It seems like just yesterday we were counting down the days until school starts and squeezing in one last day at the pool. It’s finally time for the leaves to turn, open up the windows, and put the pumpkins on the porch. The saddest part of fall for many of us will be the lack of season fresh fruits and vegetables. It seems even the pickiest eaters can’t turn down sweet berries, juicy peaches, ripe melons, crisp green beans, leafy lettuces, dark cherries…Should I keep going?
Instead of heading straight for the freezer aisle this fall, let’s take a closer look at what the produce section has to offer as the colder months creep upon us. You may notice the grocery store added a nice fall display next to the lettuce, complete with assorted gourds and little green pumpkins. If you a take a closer look, you’ll see that these hefty decorations are indeed tasty assorted squashes! They also happen to be loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, just waiting to make their way into your family’s kitchen.
Winter squashes such as hubbard, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash are nutritional powerhouses. Don’t let their hard exterior and large size intimidate you. The flesh of just one half cup of butternut squash packs in about 250% of the vitamin A you need in a day. Squash are low in calories, high in fiber and good sources of other vitamins such as potassium, folic acid, lutein, vitamin E, vitamin C, and B vitamins. They can be easily prepared by cutting in half, scooping out the seeds and roasting the oven. No need to peel or chop!
Other vegetables in their peak this fall are endive, parsnips, carrots, peppers, beets, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are too often put on hold until the holiday table and are unfortunately left out of a typical weeknight meal.
There are a lot of reasons to include sweet potatoes in your family’s regular meal rotation. One medium sweet potato has only 105 calories but packs in 4 grams of fiber, almost 450% of your daily vitamin A recommendation and 37% of your vitamin C! Vitamin A is essential for cell growth, immune function and vision. Sweet potatoes are an excellent way to increase vitamin A consumption in your family. They can be prepared in many different ways as main dishes, sides, desserts and even breakfast! They can be boiled, roasted, baked, and sautéed. They can be cooked with the peel on and the peel can even be eaten. However, be sure to scrub the potato under running water. Spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, curry, ginger, and citrus complement their rich sweet flavor well. You can store sweet potatoes in a cool dry and dark place for up to two weeks.
Children are more likely to accept new foods if they can be involved in preparing them. Allow them to help you pick out some sweet potatoes in the store. Depending on your child’s age they can help you wash and even peel them. They can also help mash and season your sweet potato dish.
One of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes is a simple “mashed potato”. I always mash up a little extra so I can whip up some tasty sweet potato muffins later. Whole grain sweet potato muffins make great snacks or a healthy quick breakfast. If you’re looking for another way to get your kids, or yourself, to eat more vegetables give these recipes a try!
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- 4 large sweet potatoes, washed and peeled
- ¼ cup of butter or margarine
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup low fat milk
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Bring a large pot of water to a light boil. Cut sweet potatoes into quarters and add to boiling water. Boil for about 20-25 minutes or until tender. Drain potatoes and place in a large bowl. Mash with potato masher or electric mixer. Reserve one cup of mashed potatoes if making muffins. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Ingredients can be easily adjusted to taste.
Sweet Potato Muffins
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato, cooled
- 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2/3 cup low fat milk
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl beat eggs, sugars, vanilla, and oil. Add milk and mix well. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients and mix until moist. Batter will be thick. Spoon into muffin cups or mini loaf tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Serve warmed with whipped cinnamon butter or reduced sugar fruit spread.