With chilly evenings on the way, it’s comforting to stay inside and cook up something warm. Instead of adding calories with high-carb snacks like cookies and brownies this fall, visit a farmers’ market for fresh squashes and root vegetables that add variety to main meals.
Sweet potatoes, acorn and butternut squash, and carrots can add semi-sweet accents to complement traditional main dishes like baked chicken, meatloaf, pork chops, or lamb without adding lots of prep time. Simply baking, roasting, or simmering the produce and adding a touch of spice enhances the natural sweetness and satisfies cravings.
For a sweet and simple vegetable treat, select butternut or acorn squashes. Slice the vegetable lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place the halves face-down in a baking dish covered with one-half inch of water, and cook for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees.
Remove from the oven, place the sides face-up, and sprinkle with cinnamon. Removing the skin is not necessary. It’s easy to scoop the squash out of its “shell” with a spoon. The texture of baked acorn squash is smooth and creamy, and the taste is naturally sweet. Serve with butter or a butter substitute.
To serve butternut squash after baking it, trim or peel away the skin, slice, and sprinkle with cinnamon. The squash’s texture is soft and its color will brighten the meal beautifully.
Sweet potatoes don’t need marshmallows to taste sweet. Try baking sweet potatoes in the oven for 50 minutes at 350 degrees. To prepare, wash them in warm water, pat dry, and rub butter on them to retain their moisture while they bake inside aluminum foil.
Remove from the oven, slit foil at top, and separate the sides. Serve with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg and a single pat of butter or butter substitute.
Mashed sweet potatoes are equally as delicious and filling, and can be ready in 30 minutes. Wash in warm water and use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Dice the tubers into one-inch cubes and place in a pot with water that covers the top.
Cook the diced sweet potatoes on top of the stove on high heat and stir every two to three minutes. Once boiling, cover the pan and cook on medium heat for 25 minutes. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter or a substitute to taste.
For a quick snack, sweet potato fries are an alternative way to prepare the tubers while retaining their sweetness. Cut lengthwise, spray with olive oil, spread them out, and cook in a toaster oven for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Pause the oven half-way through and turn over the fries.
Sweet potato fries can also complement burgers or meatloaf. They taste great alone or with ketchup.
Wash and peel carrots and cut lengthwise or in rounds. Cook in one-half inch water over high heat until boiling. Add a pat of butter and two tablespoons of honey for every two to three cups of carrots.
Remove the lid and reduce heat to medium, allowing steam to rise. Stir occasionally. After 20 minutes, the honey, butter, and vegetable juices form a delicious reduction sauce, and the carrots take on the honey’s sweet flavor. Serve hot.
Carrot fries also make a quick snack. Slice the carrots lengthwise, spray with olive oil, spread them out, and cook in a toaster oven for 10 to 12 minutes at 400 degrees.
Pause the oven half-way through and turn over the fries. Avoid overcooking, as the carrot slices can dry out quickly. Serve alone or with a main meal such as burgers or sandwiches.
While carrot and sweet potato fries won’t offer the same sweetness as some other options, they’re a delicious way to add nutrition to main courses or satisfy cravings between meals.