As the leaves change color and the evenings become chilly, I’m reminded that it’s the season for farm fresh apples and delicious butternut squash. Versatile and delicious, both apples and squash are packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
The antioxidants found in apples have been shown to promote lung health while the fiber in apples keeps you feeling full longer. An apple a day may even help control your weight, especially if eaten before meals.
Although there are more than 7500 varieties of apples grown in the world, we normally see just 10 or so varieties in the grocery store. Instead of choosing the same tried and true apple this fall, be adventurous and bite into some of the newer varieties such as Honey Crisp, Melrose, Jazz or Pink Lady. Delicious as a snack or dessert, you can also use apples as an ingredient to enhance both the nutrition and flavor of your favorite meals and dishes. Here are a few ideas:
- Cut up apples and sauté in a teaspoon or so of butter or canola oil. Toss in a few walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon and you have the perfect topping for oatmeal or whole grain pancakes, French toast or waffles.
- Spread a whole grain tortilla or flatbread with light cream cheese or a nut butter, top with thin apple slices, and roll it up.
- Add crunch, variety and flavor to your favorite brown rice, whole wheat couscous, or quinoa pilaf by mixing in diced tart apple chunks prior to cooking.
- Fold diced apples into muffin batter right before baking. Check out my recipe for apple butternut squash muffins below.
- Serve fresh apple slices with a dip such as honey yogurt, almond butter or the butternut squash dip below.
Rich in fiber, beta-carotene, potassium and a number of antioxidants, butternut squash is a nutrient-rich vegetable that can enhance dishes ranging from soups, stews and pasta to smoothies, muffins and desserts.
I grow butternut squash in both my home and community garden and prefer it over pumpkin for ease of use, consistent sweetness, and also a larger ratio of flesh to seeds. Roasted squash seeds – just like pumpkin seeds – are rich in protein and contain heart healthy fat.
To roast butternut squash seeds, clean and rinse, then spray with oil, place on a baking sheet and place in 325 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. After they cool, place in an airtight container for storage.
The dip below is a great way to entice kids to eat more fruit. Pair with fresh cut apples, banana chunks, pineapple chunks or pear slices.
Butternut Squash Dip
6 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. whipped cream cheese
1/2 cup pureed butternut squash
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Mix ingredients well and serve with fresh fruit.
Nutritional Information Per Serving: 132 calories; 4 g fat; 8 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate; 100 mg sodium; 2 g fiber; Calcium 23% DV; Vitamin A 198% DV; Vitamin C 4% DV; Iron 5% DV
Butternut Squash Apple Muffins
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup canola oil
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly oil 2 baking tins (18 muffin cups total) or line with paper baking cups.. Mix flour, sugar, spice, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large mixing bowl. In another bowl, slightly beat eggs and mix in pureed squash and oil. Stir into dry ingredients and mix lightly. Gently fold in the chopped apple and chopped walnuts. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake 25-30 minutes until done. Loosen muffins and serve warm.
Servings: 18 medium muffins
Nutritional Information Per Muffin: 150 calories; 6 g fat; 3 g protein; 22 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 140 mg sodium; 3 g fiber; Calcium 4% DV; Vitamin A 70% DV; Vitamin C 4% DV; Iron 6% DV