Can you believe it’s fall already? I’m such a summer girl—I adore hot weather!—so for me, it’s especially hard to let go. Of course, I also recently got back from a blissful week at the beach with my family in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, too, so you can see why I’m feeling a bit blue.
So, as always, I’m looking for autumn’s silver lining. Luckily, this year I’ve got three things to look forward to over the coming months:
- Publication of a series of Food for Life online newsletter articles I wrote as part of my internship with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. If you’re interested in the surprising connections between gut microbes, diet, and health, check out these articles! Part 1 discusses the critical roles gut bugs play, while part 2 discusses the link between flora, diet, and diabetes. For instance, did you know that when researchers transferred gut microbes from the intestines of slim, healthy men, to those at risk of diabetes, the at-risk men improved their ability to regulate their blood sugar? Who knew? Be sure to check PCRM’s website for Parts 3 and 4 in the series in October and November as well—including what you can do to feed your friendly flora.
- Food service class at UMD—keep an eye out for time- and money-saving tips this fall! As part of my registered dietitian coursework at UMD, I’m taking a food service class. That means I’ll be learning the ins and outs of feeding big groups delicious food on a tight budget—in a limited amount of time. Now just imagine how those techniques could work for you at home! Check back often; I’ll be sharing the best of what I learn.
- Scoring amazing deals on veggies at the produce auction. Fall means harvest time, and one of my favorite ways to celebrate is to hit the produce auction! What’s a produce auction, you ask? It’s a blend between a farmer’s market, Costco, and an auction—including the festivity and excitement of bidding. (Click here to learn how to save big at the auction.) You really can save a lot—on my very first trip, I scored 16 eggplant for $3.30. And I had a blast doing it! Of course, going to the produce auction also means buying fall favorites like apples and squash. Which leads me to this week’s recipe, a quick-and-easy side dish that doubles as dessert…
Delicata squash rings with cinnamon apples
I came up with this combo after an impulse delicata squash buy at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago.
I was roasting sweet potatoes, and since the oven was already hot, I decided to throw in some squash rings and apples afterwards, sprinkled with cinnamon for good measure. And holy moly, was the combination good! The squash rings came out sweet and meltingly tender, the perfect partner for baked apple rings. The result tastes surprisingly like apple pie—but is healthy enough to serve as a side dish. Better yet, delicata squash skin is edible, so these tasty little winter squashes are super easy to prepare.
What’s more, this apple pie stand-in is a health rock star. Winter squash contains cancer-fighting carotenoids,¹ and one cup, cooked, delivers 33% of the daily value of vitamin C for glowing skin. Winter squash are also rich in vitamin B6, which may help improve mood.² And as the days grow shorter and the weather cools, who couldn’t use a little boost?
- 1 delicata squash (about 1 lb)
- 2 medium apples (Fuji is best, but any sweet, firm cooking apple will do)
- cooking spray (optional)
- 2 Tbsp sweetened dried cranberries
- 2 tsp maple syrup (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Place two oven racks as close as possible to the center of the oven.
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick mat like a Silpat. (In a pinch, you can also line with foil and coat with cooking spray.)
- Cut tops and tails off the squash. Slice squash in half across the equator and scoop out seeds. Slice into rings ¼-inch thick.
- Arrange squash rings in a single layer on one of the baking sheets. Spray rings lightly with cooking spray (if using) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Flip rings over and repeat.
- Cover squash with foil and bake 25-30 min, flipping rings halfway through cooking.
- While squash is cooking, core the apples and slice into rings ¼-inch thick. (If you don't have an apple corer, you can slice apples instead.)
- Arrange apple rings in a single layer on the other baking sheet. As for squash, spray rings lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with cinnamon. Flip rings over and repeat.
- Bake apples uncovered for 20-25 min (or until tender) flipping halfway through cooking. (Place baking sheet on a separate rack and staggered from the squash for even heating.)
- Stack alternating rings of squash and apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon and cranberries, drizzle with optional maple syrup, and enjoy!
1. Gonzales JF, Barnard ND, Jenkins DJ, et al. Applying the precautionary principle to nutrition and cancer. J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(3):239-246.
2. University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine. Accessed September 15, 2014.