Cold weather comforts

By Carol Berg Sloan RD

Although we live in Long Beach (which most of the country thinks is in perpetual summer), fall is here, which in turn influences our palette to lean towards cold-weather comfort foods and seasonal, traditional favorites. First foods to my mind are: walnuts, which are being harvested now; pumpkins, which are sitting on most neighborhood porches; and apples, while offered year-round, taste most delicious in the fall.
Walnuts are the only tree nuts that contain significant amounts of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which is the plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids. A mere handful contributes 2.5 grams of this essential fat to your diet. Studies have shown that ALA may help prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Walnuts add crunch and versatility to many dishes– I threw some into chicken pot pie! Think beyond adding walnuts to baked goods and use them in trail mix, salads and pastas.
Pumpkin is full of vitamin A and fiber, and it’s a hearty fruit. I wish more people would eat them instead of turning them into jack-o-lanterns. You can cut up your pumpkin and bake it, or you can purchase cans of pure pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling, which already contains the spices and sugar.
Apples are an excellent source of fiber and are available in more than 2,500 varieties in the United States. Be sure to eat the peel, for that is where most of the fiber and antioxidants lie. My favorites are Honeycrisp, Red Delicious and Granny Smith. Honeycrisp make great desserts– cut into slices and served with melted caramel.

Try this simple fall recipe as a fun snack or after-dinner treat for the whole family.
Pumpkin Smash
Makes 8 servings
½ cup pumpkin mixture and four graham crackers per serving

Preparation time: 5 minutes
2 (15 ounce) cans pumpkin pie mix
1 (6 ounce) container of low-fat vanilla yogurt
32 graham crackers
1. Combine the pumpkin pie mix and yogurt in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
2. Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture on each cracker.
3. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 193, Carbohydrate 42 g, Dietary Fiber 3.5 g, Protein 3 g, Total Fat 2 g, Saturated Fat <1 g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 1 mg, Sodium 315 mg

This recipe is from the Harvest of the Month recipe book, published by Network for a Healthy California.  

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