Eating Seasonally

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Eating seasonally. While it is a simple concept -- just eat foods that are "in season" or harvested during a specific time of year -- there's more to it than just being a trendy food movement. Eating seasonally benefits your health, the planet, and your wallet.

First, you save money. When you buy what's in season you buy food that's at the peak of its supply and in close proximity geographically, so it costs less to farmers and companies to get it to your grocery store.

Another benefit of eating seasonally is that you include a broader variety of foods into your diet. Incorporating these various foods will expand your palate and expose you to dishes that you might not have otherwise explored. The net result is a more comprehensive array of vitamins and nutrients on a regular basis.

Finally, eating seasonally means you get the best tasting, healthiest food available. In- season food quality is at prime because it's grown naturally and closer to you, more likely to ripen on the vine prior to shipping, and less likely to be shipped unripe or to spoil on the shorter trip from farm to grocery store. Foods that are out of season have to be shipped from across the world to get to you and are usually picked before the peak of their flavor or nutrients and sprayed with preservatives in order to survive the long journey. It's no wonder eating seasonally means the best taste! After all, you are eating produce when nature intended for it to be harvested and eaten!

You are probably wondering: how do I know what food is in season? Winter means warming foods - ones that take a long time to grow. Here is a list of produce that is at its peak now in December:

Sweet potato
Turnips
Oranges
Brussels Sprouts
Pumpkin
Onion
Garlic
Kale
Cauliflower
Squash
Beets
Cranberries
Carrots

This list may seem daunting at first glance...what do you do with all these fruits and vegetables? Here is a simple recipe to inspire you to explore what's in season.

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Cranberries are one of my favorite winter fruits, tiny yet bursting with flavor. Whether dried or fresh, cranberries are great in pies because their tartness balances out the sugar. The filling is really simple and so is the crust--walnuts provide a healthier flair and earthy flavor that adds a delicious twist to the usual crust.

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp almond extract

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly grease deep 9-inch pie plate. Put walnuts in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the flour, sugar, and melted butter, and process until you have a very fine, silky crumb mixture. Press the crumbs firmly over the cotton and sides of the pie plate and bake until very slightly brown, 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
Combine all filling ingredients except almond extract in large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until mixture becomes thick and glossy, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Cool to room temperature.
To bake, preheat oven to 350˚. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.

Bon appetit!

Images by Creative Commons and Sophia Armenakas