As the leaves change colours and the air becomes crisp for our northern hemisphere friends, autumn ushers in an array of nutrient-rich produce and the season of Halloween. While Halloween may bring thoughts of sweet treats and indulgence, it's also an excellent time to celebrate the nutritional bounty of seasonal superfoods. Oh, and for those of you Down Under – we’ve got the goods on the best (and spookiest!) of spring produce too.
Let’s start with your classic Halloween food fare – the humble pumpkin. These iconic symbols of autumn offer far more than just festive décor for your Halloween party – they’re also rich in:
Beta-Carotene: The precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene promotes good vision, immune health, and skin integrity.
Fibre: Pumpkins are a great source of dietary fibre, aiding in digestion and helping you feel full.
Vitamins and Minerals: They contain vitamins like C and E, along with minerals like potassium and magnesium.
Not sure how to make the most of it? Try this tasty recipe.
Spiced Pumpkin and Lentil Soup
- 1 small pumpkin, peeled and diced
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 sprigs thyme, to serve
- In a large pot, sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant.
- Add the diced pumpkin and red lentils, then pour in the vegetable broth.
- Season with ground cumin, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the pumpkin and lentils are tender.
- Add your butter.
- Blend the mixture until smooth, and serve your nutritious pumpkin and lentil soup.
- Top with thyme.
Sweet Potatoes: A Nutrient-Rich Powerhouse
Sweet potatoes are not only a delightful side dish but also a nutritional powerhouse. These vibrant root vegetables boast:
Vitamin A: In the form of beta-carotene, promoting healthy skin, vision, and immune function.
Fibre: Enhancing digestive health and contributing to satiety.
Antioxidants: These help combat oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the body.
Sweet Potato and Quinoa Stuffed Capsicum
- 4 large capsicums, halved and seeds removed
- 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 375°F or 190°C.
- Place sweet potato cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and roast until tender.
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Fill the capsicum halves with the mixture and bake for 20-25 minutes until the peppers are tender.
Apples: Nature's Perfect Snack
Apples are a quintessential snack, for anything from the kids’ lunchboxes to a post-exercise snack – but they're also packed with impressive health benefits, including:
Fibre: Apple skin contains soluble fibre that supports digestion and heart health, helping to keep your bowel movements regular and bloating away.
Vitamins and Antioxidants: Apples offer vitamin C and an array of antioxidants, which help combat free radicals and inflammation.
Cinnamon Baked Apples
- 4 apples, cored and halved
- 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F or 175°C.
- Place the apple halves in a baking dish.
- Drizzle melted coconut oil over the apples and sprinkle them with ground cinnamon.
- Add chopped walnuts to the apple halves.
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the apples are soft and fragrant.
Making the Most of Spring Produce
Australia and New Zealand might not be known for their wild Halloween parties like the US or Japan, but that doesn't mean we don't love a good scare! (And any excuse to celebrate!) While the northern hemisphere enjoys Autumn produce during Halloween, those in the southern hemisphere can still embrace the spooky spirit and make the most of their spring produce.
In Australia, spring brings a bountiful array of fresh produce, and you can enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables during this season. Some of the common spring produce in Australia includes:
- Asparagus: Spring is the prime season for asparagus in Australia. These tender spears are perfect for grilling, roasting, or adding to salads.
- Strawberries: Strawberries are a sweet and juicy treat in the spring. You can enjoy them fresh, in desserts, or as a topping for yogurt and cereals.
- Avocado: Avocado season starts to peak in spring, making it an ideal time for adding this creamy fruit to your salads, sandwiches, and toast.
- Broccoli: Fresh broccoli is abundant in spring. It's a versatile vegetable that can be steamed, roasted, or used in stir-fries.
- Spinach: Spring spinach is vibrant and tender, perfect for salads, omelets, and green smoothies.
- Peas: Sweet peas are a delightful spring vegetable. They can be enjoyed fresh or added to a variety of dishes.
- Artichokes: Artichokes are in season in spring and can be a unique addition to your meals, whether roasted, grilled, or stuffed.
- Lettuce: Various types of lettuce, including butterhead, leaf, and iceberg, are abundant during spring, making it easy to create refreshing salads.
- Radishes: Radishes are a crunchy and peppery choice for salads and sandwiches during the spring season.
- Spring Onions: These mild-flavoured onions are great for adding a touch of freshness to your dishes.
- Citrus Fruits: Spring is a transitional period for citrus fruits in Australia. You can find the last of the winter citrus like oranges and mandarins, as well as the early arrivals of spring citrus, such as lemons and limes.
- Zucchini: Zucchini starts to emerge in spring, and it's a versatile vegetable that can be spiralised, grilled, or added to pasta dishes.
- Rhubarb: Rhubarb is often associated with spring, and it's used in a variety of desserts and baked goods.
- Cabbage: Cabbage is readily available in spring and can be used for coleslaw, stir-fries, and stuffed cabbage rolls.
Here are some tips for using spring produce creatively to create Halloween-themed dishes:
Hauntingly Colourful Salads: Spring is known for its vibrant greens and colourful vegetables. Create spooky salads by incorporating colourful ingredients like red capsicum, cherry tomatoes, and purple cabbage. Consider using black quinoa or adding edible flowers for an eerie touch.
Wickedly Fresh Fruit Platters: While apples may not be in season, take advantage of spring fruits like strawberries, kiwis, and oranges to create a Halloween-themed fruit platter. Use cookie cutters to shape fruit into bats, ghosts, or pumpkins.
Spring Veggie Witch Fingers: Transform spring vegetables like asparagus or green beans into creepy witch fingers. Blanche them to maintain their bright green color, then use almond slivers for the fingernails and add a dip for extra spookiness.
Ghostly Smoothie Bowls: Whip up vibrant and nutritious smoothie bowls using spring fruits like mangoes, bananas, and avocados. Decorate the bowls with coconut flakes and chia seeds to create ghostly faces.
Spring Salsa with a Spooky Twist: Make a fresh salsa using spring herbs and vegetables like cilantro, spring onions, and radishes. Add a dash of heat with jalapeños and arrange them in a spooky skull shape.
Spooky Spring Soups: Utilise spring vegetables such as peas, leeks, and zucchinis to prepare green soups. Garnish with crème fraîche spiderwebs or chive broomsticks for a Halloween touch.
Petrifying Pesto Pasta: Prepare pasta dishes using homemade pesto with fresh basil and spring garlic. Create spooky pasta shapes like spirals or bowties and garnish with pine nuts and olives to make them resemble creepy creatures.
Mummified Spring Rolls: Craft spring rolls filled with fresh spring produce like bean sprouts, lettuce, and carrots. Wrap them with rice paper and use black sesame seeds to create mummy-like bandages.
Spooky Spring Smoothies: Blend green smoothies with spinach, kale, or matcha powder as the base. Add spirulina or chlorella for an eerie green colour and garnish with gummy worms or plastic spiders.
Boo-tiful Berry Desserts: Take advantage of spring berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries to create blood-red or deep purple desserts. Berry tarts or berry compotes can be the centrepieces of your spooky dessert table.
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