I do love autumn! I am originally from New England where fall isn't just a season but a state of mind, an event in and of itself. A region where once Labor Day is over, the fun really begins. Apple picking, hot cider and cider donuts, leaf-peeping in Vermont and New Hampshire and of course, Topsfield Fair.
Autumn in Georgia is a bit different. That fall chill that is so welcome after a sultry southern summer comes much later. September and even sometimes October can still feel like summer. I recall sweating like a farm animal on one warm and humid Halloween "chili" night hosted at a friend's home a few years ago. All that aside, I've learned that fall in the south can be glorious. We have later but still lovely leaf-peeping, pumpkin patches and can have the windows open long after those northerners have to turn the heat on.
With fall comes a whole slew of new ideas for nutritious and delicious eating. Seasonal eating is a wonderful way to refresh a stale eating plan. The produce changes, the flavors become richer, the colors deeper. Greens, squashes of all sorts, cranberries, fresh figs and pomegranates, the most amazing apples can add flair to weekly menus and offer relief from grill and summer salad fatigue.
I love when the giant squash bin gets wheeled out at my local grocery store. Last week I chose a really pretty sweet dumpling squash to build a weeknight meal around. Not only are winter squash fun interesting to look at and totally delectable, they have amazing health benefits. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, fiber all wrapped in a mouthful of deliciousness.
Squash with greens and sausage is one of my favorite flavor combinations. I stuffed the squash with turkey sausage and broccoli rabe, which is a slightly bitter and richly flavored green. I cut the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and rub the flesh with a bit of evoo. Face down on a baking sheet, into a 400 degree oven and 45 minutes later the rich orange flesh is soft, sweet with a caramelized edge that is heavenly. While the squash roasts, I cook hot and mild turkey sausage (removed from the casing) in a skillet until browned, crumbled and just cooked. Remove to a bowl and add washed, cut broccoli rabe (sometimes known as rapini) to the pan with the sausage drippings and saute for a couple of minutes. Add a clove of crushed garlic and bit of white pepper. Add some chicken stock, cover and simmer for until just tender. Remove the lid, add the turkey meat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and slightly thickened. Serve the mixture over the sweet, tender squash and devour.
Fall flavors played a role in last night's supper as well. Playing off the idea of Oprah's favorite turkey burger, I made an amazing turkey meat loaf. I used 93/7 ground turkey, 1.25 pounds to which I added two small granny smith apples that I diced, one heaping tablespoon of mango chutney, a teaspoon each of Montreal chicken seasoning, smoked ground chipotle, celery seed, garlic powder and half a teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper. I formed it into a loaf, "frosted" it with more chutney and baked it at 375 for 30 minutes. I served this with goat cheese mashed cauliflower (add 1/4 cup crumbled reduced fat goat cheese, a pat of light butter and white pepper to steamed fresh cauliflower and mash,) and tender-crisp steamed green beans.
Here is a nice little list courtesy of Food Network on healthy autumn eating. The Daily Green has some great tips on seasonal eating, have a look. I can't wait to delve deeper into fall flavors while I continue to improve my health and fitness and shrink my bum. How are you planning to usher fall in to your kitchen this year?