Fall Foods & the Really Good Stuff
by Jocelyn Anne
So, let’s just get this out of the way. The little girl with eyes crossed and totally fixated upon those fluffy luscious white dinner rolls? That was me every single Thanksgiving. Oh, turkey was fine, green beans smothered in cheese, yes please and stuffing – goodness gravy, bring on the stuffing! But, those homemade butter rolls mom baked every year? Sinfully delicious. And now, (countless years later) when fall hits, somehow I am flooded with all these wonderful “food” memories and thoughts again. Butter rolls. With butter. Pumpkin pie. With ice cream.
Add to this that cooler weather seems inevitably connected to comfort food and comfort food seems inevitably connected to butter, the tendency to eat the healthy salads and lean chicken my family has been devouring all summer seems, well foolish. But, if you, like myself, are ready for a fall season in which wholesome food and energy abounds, I’ve got some ideas. Who knows, we might still feel like our energetic-let’s-get-this-party-started-selves and avoid the Thanksgiving food comas altogether.
Start Out Right
Fortunately for us, fall & Thanksgiving come prior to Christmas and New Years and both fall and Thanksgiving are actually tailored towards vegetables (very unlike December). This gives us the best opportunity to kickstart our fall and holiday eating game plan. When you think fall eating this year, I want you to put the focus on vegetables. Vegetables from the fall harvest are rich, hearty and full of antioxidants just waiting to power up your health.
Vegetable Main Dish Ideas
We (especially our kids) can really only eat so many spoonfuls of squash on the side until we give up. Instead of using vegetables always as sides or afterthoughts, give them the center stage in your meal planning. Choose spaghetti squash and make a rich hearty tomato sauce to go with it. (You can even puree more veggies like zucchini and carrots to include in the sauce itself.) How about an eggplant lasagna. Roasted vegetable enchiladas. Make veggie meatloaf with shredded and cubed vegetables and oatmeal.
Fall Vegetable Sides
When it comes to sides, here are a few of my favorites: simple roasted vegetables (chop into large wedges, drizzle with olive oil and your favorite seasonings and broil gently); grilled vegetables (same idea but cooked on the barbecue); baked and caramelized carrots; root vegetable stew (parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc.); potato wedges (toss in olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake). Corn chowder. Roasted red pepper soup. Green beans with balsamic vinegar.
Play up the Pumpkin
And, oh, PUMPKIN! Pumpkin is so good for you and of course, the perfect fall food. Pumpkin goes in muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, etc. Chances are if you make something pumpkin, your kids will go nuts for it. (And bonus tip: pumpkin goes really well with shredded carrots for extra fiber and Vitamin A, but no one will ever know.)
When you start prepping your Thanksgiving, make sure to take full advantage of traditional dishes that are veggie-oriented and then see if you can modify them. Simply change out the sugar laden recipes like marshmallow sweet potato pie and go for roasted sweet potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of rosemary. Serve green beans with light balsamic vinaigrette instead of cheese. Include Greek yogurt for added protein in your creamy mashed potatoes instead of cream and butter that will add no nutritional value but will add in extra calories and fat. Pack your stuffing with roasted zucchini, parsnips, celery, mushrooms, onions, carrots and whole wheat bread. Try pumpkin pudding topped with homemade whip cream sweetened with agave in lieu of pie and Breyers Vanilla Bean.
Re-Think Comfort Foods
Trying to eat healthier and with more vegetables this fall does not eliminate comfort food. It just means re-thinking it. Comfort food has more characteristics than simply being “less-than-healthy.” It’s typically warm/hot. It’s often creamy and it’s often carbohydrate based. You can combine those characteristics in many ways other than the standard mac and cheese. And fortunately, when it comes to fall comfort foods, most of them don’t even have cheese and we typically don’t long for pasta!
Think of your usual September/October comfort picks: stew, chili, cream based soups, shepherds pie, chicken & dumplings, apple pie, pumpkin bread. All of these are incredibly easy to transform. Swap cream for low fat milk that’s got higher protein content and add in pureed vegetables like parsnips to add creamy consistency. Add more vegetables and less meat to your stew. Make chili meatless and add extra beans for high fiber. Skip the cheese on your Shepherds pie and go for “mashed cauliflower potatoes” instead or do use potatoes but add in high protein yogurt instead of butter and milk. Make an apple crisp with filling oats instead of a buttery pie crust. Make a pumpkin bread with applesauce to cut down the sugar and oil you’ll need. Use whole wheat flour and flax seed in your dumplings and use skinless breasts for the chicken. Then make sure you add in lots of carrots and veggies to get some fiber. Hopefully you can see just how easy this is…
Make this your year for new traditions. It’s a gift you can give them for the future and you’ll all get the added health benefits starting now. Plus, you’ll see just how tasty these fall vegetables can really be.
Freelancer Jocelyn is extremely passionate about eating healthy foods that give her mood and energy boosts all day long. When not writing about her latest food obsession, you’ll find her at work writing about saving energy and lowering costs with cozy fireplace heaters.