Fall… that invigorating time, filled with crisp air, glowing woodlands, and a feeling of the world settling down for a long winter siesta…. And how many of you have already flirted with colds during this change of seasons, hmmm?
Time to focus on boosting your immune system!
I’ve got a (delicious!) culinary cure, brought to you by the letter “A” and the color orange.
“A” is for vitamin A, a superstar because of its major importance in:
- Vision (you knew that one, right?)
- Skin health (acne & psoriasis are often responsive)
- Adrenal & thyroid function
- Cellular growth
- Nerve cell function
- Brain health & performance: plasticity, memory, cognitive functioning, learning, mood, mental energy
- Inflammatory function
- Digestive health & detoxification (can help the body get rid of pesticides & microorganisms).
It’s best to obtain vitamin A through your diet, not supplements. Why? Because it’s a fat soluble vitamin, meaning that it’s best absorbed along with some healthy fat, such as olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, or ghee (clarified butter).
Looking for food sources? Vitamin A is conveniently found in anything orange and anything green, such as all winter squashes, carrots, kale, and collard greens.
A brief guide to winter squashes & their uses
Are some of those amazingly-shaped winter squashes in the market strangers to you? Make friends! Winter squashes play multiple culinary roles with ease: travel to Italy, roasting squashes with apple and sage. Go Middle Eastern, channeling star chef Yotam Ottolenghi, and adding cumin. Chop and add to Indian or Thai curry. Or go Americana and mash with ginger, cinnamon and orange. Oh, yum!!!
Butternut - the Italian version of pumpkin, shaped like a long-waisted pear with creamy-tan skin. Delicious roasted with apples and sage (and see soup recipes below).
Delicata - long and pale, creamy yellow with green stripes. You don’t need to peel this one! Sweet when cooked, wonderful in soups or sliced and roasted (see recipe below).
Kabocha - the Japanese word for pumpkin. A rounded, dark green squash with orange flesh combining flavors that are nutty, earthy and sweet. Also an orange-skinned, sweeter variety. Wonderful simply roasted with olive oil and sea salt.
Whole, winter squashes will keep a month or even two in a cool place in your pantry or kitchen; chopped raw or roasted, in an air-tight container in your fridge for up to 5 days; or in your freezer all winter long. Handy!
Very cozy, warming, delicious, nutritious recipe options to consider for your fall table
Quick Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut and Lime
In a hurry? Watch and learn a speedy roasted squash soup blended with spices (I used pinches of ginger, turmeric and cumin), coconut milk and lime. Results? Yum!
Roasted Delicata Squash with Orange and Thyme
I received an avalanche of rave reviews when my cookbook The Longevity Kitchen came out and I added this to My Recipe Box. Understandable! You don’t have to peel delicata squash; just cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, slice, roast and serve. It looks gorgeous on the plate. A tasty triumph!
Connecting the dots from your kitchen to your health
A final note: winter squashes are incredibly grounding for us humans, perfect when we’re stepping into fall and winter. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are especially are strengthening for the lungs, which tend to be vulnerable as it gets cold and starts to snow or rain. Enjoy these warming squashes full of vitamin A that protect your immune system during transition, fall and wintertime.
Note: If you really want to geek out, explore Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno and Lara Pizzorno’s book, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods (aka, my healing foods bible.) Superb information.
And for more winter squash options (and recipes), enjoy this Visual Guide to Winter Squash from epicurious.com.