Loris Sofia Gregory, Healthy Kitchen Coach, Apple Valley, MN
Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337
Welcome to the first month of autumn, bringing to fruition the growth of spring and summer and the harvesting of nature’s gifts before a long winter’s rest. It’s also a time for us to reap the benefits of efforts and energy put into our health, our relationships and projects over the last few months. We can still savor our last bites of garden-fresh sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon but we feel a change in the air and notice new FRESH & LOCAL at Valley Natural Foods. Be greeted at our door with a cornucopia of hearty winter squashes and pumpkins. Explore further for more healthy whole food this month, including an autumnal rainbow of apples, beets, parsnips, potatoes and onions, with more earthy bounty to come.
Autumn is the time to prepare for more nesting at home, including drying, freezing and canning FRESH & LOCAL vegetables and fruits, stocking up wood and fuel for our hearths and bringing our warmer clothes out of hiding. As you ponder fuller, richer and more heat-producing meals to carry you through the chill of the coming months, look at our inspiring “Discover Local Squash” chart for eating your way through our Baby Blue Hubbards to Speckled Hounds.
A rare heirloom variety born in 1953, Baby Blue Hubbard is the perfect choice to enjoy as the weather begins to chill. Its deep orange flesh is sweet and nutty and its petite size makes it quicker to cook. “Speckled Hound,” a squatty round kabocha squash with bluish-gray speckled skin, also offers tummy-warming sweet orange goodness. L&R Poultry and Produce, a family-owned and operated organic woodland farm near Kenyon, Minnesota, delivers many of our FRESH & LOCAL squashes. Rae Rusnak, L&R farmer/owner, says that we can enjoy winter squashes into March, if stored in a cool dry place. She advises laying out squashes on newspaper, paper bags or wood without touching one another for adequate air circulation and optimum winter preservation.
Winter squash is a tasty combination of complex carbohydrate (natural sugar and starch) and disease-preventing fiber. It is also a source of potassium, niacin, iron and beta-carotene. Generally, the deeper the orange of squashes and sweet potatoes, the higher the beta-carotene content. Our wise bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, essential for healthy skin, vision, bone development and general health-enhancing maintenance.
Once in your kitchen, split squashes in half with a sharp blade or cook whole to avoid messy and sometimes challenging preparation. Pierce the whole squash a few times and roast in a baking dish in a 400-degree oven until soft. Split, remove the seeds, serve “in the skin” or scrape out the inner flesh and whip or mash. Squash needs little seasoning, although butter, maple syrup or brown sugar, and cinnamon are favorites. Try also salt and pepper with a tiny kick of ginger or touch of aromatic sage. You can peel, cube and roast or steam larger squashes for enhancing any chili or veggie stew. Kids and adults easily warm up to cubes tossed with butter, maple syrup and spices, then browned and caramelized in the oven.
To roast seeds of any squash or pumpkin, first rinse in a strainer and remove any strings. Pat dry on a towel and toss with a little oil, salt, and any spices (fresh thyme is nice). Spread on baking sheets. Bake in a 350-degree oven until golden brown and crunchy (7 to 15 minutes depending on the dampness of the seed).
For a special treat, cut off top of a small sugar pie pumpkin and scrape out seeds. Fill with chopped FRESH & LOCAL apples, other dried fruit as desired, a sprinkling of “pumpkin pie spices” and a touch of apple cider or brandy. Bake it whole at 350 degrees and serve with local ice cream. (Time will vary with size.) Make your own pumpkin/squash autumn spice blend with 1-tablespoon cinnamon, 1-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Combine all ingredients and store in tightly closed glass container in dark, cool place.
In considering your healthy September suppers, don’t forget to notice of the arrival of russet and Yukon gold potatoes from L&R as well red, yellow and white onions and parsnips from Wisconsin Growers, with more FRESH & LOCAL to come. I look forward to meeting you at my events this month. REGISTER ONLINE TODAY or call VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, ext. 221.
FREE FRIDAY FILM: FORKS OVER KNIVES, September 14: 6-8 pm. Led by the personal journeys of pioneering researchers Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, this film follows “reality patients” who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes. Doctors teach their patients how to enjoy a whole foods plant-based diet as the primary approach to treat their ailments, as the film reveals their challenges and triumphs. Free but please register in advance.
FRESH & LOCAL FLAVORS OF AUTUMN, Tuesday, September 18, 6:30 to 8:30, $27 members / $30 non-members. Be confident and inspired in choosing, preparing and seasoning the FRESH & LOCAL flavors of autumnal vegetables and fruits. Enjoy an interactive produce tour, hear about our local farm partners for September and October, and learn the benefits of earth-friendly seasonal eating. I will demo easy preparation and cooking techniques paired with Frontier herbs and spices. This class includes demos, tasting and recipes for Polenta Pizza with Roasted Root Vegetables and Baked Stuffed Apples, plus additional seasonal recipes. Please register by Friday Noon, September 14. Use coupon code #5130 for $3 off online registration.
Based in Apple Valley, contact FRESH & LOCAL healthy kitchen coach Loris Sofia Gregory at 952.431.5586 or lorissofiagregory.com. Loris would love to hear your ideas and questions about eating FRESH & LOCAL. Request her earth-friendly recipes and healthy seasonal eating tips if you miss her monthly demos and classes at Valley Natural Foods.