It’s all about color! Pack your plate with colorful foods and you’ll have a healthy diet. Yes, the gorgeous fall colors of the leaves on the trees also color our fall harvest foods and deliver a riot of good nutrition. Russet red cranberries and blueish purple grapes contain anthocyanins which can slow cancer cell growth. Orange pumpkins and butternut squashes deliver vitamins A and C important for vision, bone growth, reproduction, and a healthy immune system. They also help fight cancer. Fall’s yellow and green squash contain a variety of nutrients which together battle atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and high blood pressure. They can help prevent heart disease and strokes. Plus the fiber in these squash help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of colon cancer. Eaten together with rich, brown, whole grain bread which can improve heart health and aid weight loss, they deliver a superbly healthy diet!
But it’s the artist in us, not the academic nutritionist, who’s drawn to the healthiest foods. If I need my glasses in the grocery store then I’m in the wrong aisle. Inherently healthy foods rarely come labeled. Instead they advertise themselves in the international language of vibrant colors. They say, “I’m so pretty! Pick me up!” Yes, beautiful foods = healthy foods = easy cooking = happy eating.
So this fall season, I’m bringing autumn’s colors into the kitchen. I’m cooking up canvases of color. I’m letting the fabulous colors of fall’s foods entice my kids to the table. I get them to eat veggies by sweetening them with fall fruits and dashes of cinnamon. And because the harvest foods can be so simple to prepare, the kids can help with the cooking. Kids are more likely to eat a food they have helped cooked.
For example, to cook acorn squash I just slice the squash in half crosswise and let the kids scoop out the seeds. I clip off the pointy bottom tips, and set the squash in an oiled casserole dish. I salt and pepper them, and add a scant teaspoon of brown sugar. The kids fill the squash cavities with cranberries and diced apples. We dot them with butter, then pop them into the oven for an hour at 325. Sometimes I prepare and cook them ahead of time because I’ve found that re-heating them in the microwave doesn’t damage their flavor.
I add green or yellow and a touch of brown to our plates by steaming sliced zucchini, then topping it with a mix of bread crumbs slightly browned in melted butter.
Butternut squash is also easy to prepare. I just slice it lengthwise in two. Scoop out the seeds, lay the halves down on a slightly oiled microwavable dish. Nuke them on high for about 12 minutes. Then I scoop out the orange butternut pulp into a casserole dish, mash it up with butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon, sometimes a tad of brown sugar, and serve it.