Fresh Picks – Apples + Squash

Let me tell you a little story about going to the farmer’s markets.  I remember years ago (8 maybe?) when our little town in Southern California got its first farmer’s market.  This actually might have been the start of my healthy food interest, or at least passion for food started – the variety of produce and products being sold by friendly (relatively) vendors on a weekly basis.  You could browse the stalls and taste the sweetness of the fruit.  Ok, being honest I’m sure for a good 4 years I would go and simply sample the produce and count it off as my daily serving of fruits.


As time went on, we started making it a destination for our weekly berries, I made friends with a few of the vendors and we would chat it up in Spanish.  Our berry man even remembers me to this day and will start a conversation in Spanish, even though my knowledge of the language is fading fast.

I would go to the Saturday market up at Santa Clara, continuing my habit of taste-testing before purchasing.  I’ve never really caught onto the whole “seasonality” trend, simply because in America and especially California, you can have whatever type of produce you want all year long.  Sure some items come in droves during their appointed season, but other times you can find strawberries at any point of the year.  They may not be as plump, sweet, and juicy as in the summer months, but they are still there, sitting on the shelves waiting to be purchased or composted (so we hope?).

We all hear about “organic this” and “freshly farmed that” and sure, I support the local movement, but when it comes down to it, I’m all about price.  So last week, I decided to pick up some vegetables at the Union Square market.  I’ve been eating kale and spinach on a regular basis and decided to try one of the salad selection tents.  It was all fine and dandy – I got to choose a ziploc bag and fill it with my favorite types of lettuce and I thought to myself, “ah, arugula, maybe I’ll sample that this week.”  That was until I reached the cash register and the woman said, “25”.  So, 25 cents? That’s a deal.  “No, $25” she replied.  Oh no, no, no.  That’s where I draw the line.  My entire farmer’s market budget blown on one bag of lettuce.
IMG_3966I do enjoy the process or routine of going to a market.  The sights and sounds are comforting or even just fascinating.  There are times where I feel I need to come dressed as a football player, decked out in shoulder pads and a helmet, simply to get through the mess and grab a head of cauliflower.  But, it is an adventure and a weekly one at that.

I guess I would compare it to the action of getting a cup of coffee from the same coffee shop.  Sure, there are countless other ones you can go or even brew it yourself, but actually going to a store where maybe one day they will learn your name, your face, or even your order, standing in line with other people, makes it more enjoyable, at least in my view.

IMG_3963Well, I’ve managed to spend most of the post talking about my random views on farmer’s markets when I really wanted to point out a couple of my favorite fall products – squash and apples.  True, squash is present in the summer as well, but just go with it.  From spaghetti squash to acorn squash, butternut squash to good ‘ol pumpkins, there are so many wonderful and delicious gourds to make for your meals.  I’m normally not that creative with my meals during the week and resort to chopping up any type of squash that I bought, covering it with a little coconut oil spray and some seasonings (either my uncle’s variety or thyme) and throwing it in the oven at 350F-400F for about 20 minutes.

There are also a number of benefits from squash although I’m not much of a food scientist or health dietician, so all my notes come from Google.

Squash Benefits

  • Vitamin C
  • Anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Antioxidants – carotenoid (alpha-carotene & beta-carotene)
  • Regulates blood sugar


As for apples, we’ve all heard the little tale of an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Well, in some cases it can be true! Random side note, did you know red apples affect your blood sugar more than green apples?  Thanks to Sara Smiles for that little fact. SO strange!

Last year I went apple picking for what I believe was the first time and it was a blast.  I had planned on attempting to leave the city this year to do the same, but things got in the way.  But, there’s always next year. A few quick tips on apples, apple storage (so they don’t rot like mine seem to have done lately), and even some tasty snacks and treats to keep you on your “apple-a-day” plan 🙂

Bushel of Quick, Easy Tips

  • Apples continue to ripen at room temperature so store them in the fridge, preferably in a plastic bag.  This will keep them fresh for a few weeks
  • Skin an apple with a peeler instead of a knife, which slices away too much of the flesh. (I personally think the skin is the tastiest part) 🙂
  • Making baked apples? use a melon baller to scoop out the core without cutting through the fruit.
  • Apples turn brown quickly once they’re peeled and cut.  Before adding chopped or sliced apples to a salad, toss them with a little lemon juice.


And while we all are familiar with apples + peanut butter or apple pie, how about some of these other delectable recipes?  I’ve been a fan of the fresh juice craze, complete with apple, celery, kale, and all 🙂

Cinnamon Applesauce: Peel and quarter 4 large apples.  Simmer in a large saucepan with 1/2 cup water, breaking up apple wedges into small pieces as they cook.  As it starts to boil, add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Cook and stir for ~10 minutes, mashing apples with a fork.  Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.  Great with pork loin and green beans!

Granola-Topped Baked Apple: Core a Fuji or Gala apple, leaving bottom intact; remove seeds.  Place in a glass bowl and top with 2 tsp brown sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg, and 1 tsp butter or greek yogurt.  Cover and microwave for 2-3 minutes or until apple is soft.  Sprinkle with granola or top with a dollop of ice cream or yogurt.  Tastes lovely with pumpkin ice cream for added festivities.

Apple & Cheese Sandwich(es): #1 – take a toasted English muffin, spread with nut butter and layer thinly sliced cheddar and sliced apple. #2 – Take two pieces of whole wheat (or bread of your choice), spread a little butter on the outsides, place in pan with cheddar and sliced apple.  Cook until outsides get crispy (flip halfway through) #1 would be extra sweet with a few chocolate chips

Apple Smoothie: Blend 1/2 cup apple juice, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, 6 ice cubes, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 apple peeled and chopped.  Pour in a glass and add a little apple slice for garnish.

Apple-Oatmeal Cookies: Beat 1/2 cup softened butter (or 1/4ish cup Greek yogurt), 3/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and 1.5 tsp vanilla extract until creamy.  Stir in 1.5 cups uncooked oatmeal, 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon.   Once batter has been mixed, add in 1/4 cup milk, 1 finely chopped apple and optional – 1 cup raisins.  Form dough into balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350F for about 10 minutes.

IMG_4083_FotorWhat are some of your favorite ways to enjoy apples or squash?


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