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Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

As soon as the first crisp days of autumn arrive, I subconsciously, and rather rapidly, begin to shift my diet to match the shifting environment that surrounds me. Outside my window, I admire the many shades of orange spreading across the sky. Then soon after, near as many orange hues start appearing on my kitchen counters.

Squash of every variety, and sweet potatoes too, fill up my empty wooden baskets, my ceramic plates, and now my mason jars, too.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

When Williams Sonoma kicked off this week with the theme of “Not Your Average Smoothie”, naturally I knew I needed to throw some squash into my blender.

I’m all about going outside the traditional smoothie box, and I’m also all about squash, so it seemed like a perfect platform for experimentation.

I turned on my oven, said bottoms up, and began getting to work.

Spiced Butternut Apple Smoothie

I decided upon butternut, loving its creaminess in soups that I often create with apples. I figured, why wouldn’t that be delicious iced and turned into a smoothie, too?

After testing out this smoothie several times, I finally came up with a recipe that’s a little weird, a little wild, yet totally straw-worthy and insanely refreshing.

Through my testing, I learned to save the oven for the squash soup, and stick to steaming for the smoothie. Steaming enables the squash to stay juicer and not as dense so you end up with a shake that has a nice light, whipped consistency. Along with some spirited spice – curry powder and a kick of cayenne (ow ow!) – this smoothie embodies some of fall’s best warming qualities while remaining refreshing till the last sip.

Feel free to try swapping the butternut with sweet potato, or even pumpkin. Just be mindful of possibly needing to adjust the liquid. If you want to step further out of the box, add some spinach. I did this to one batch, and the results were great (even if it sounds a little weird). To get a little wilder, top your smoothie with toasted walnuts or pecans. Or an extra kick of that spicy cayenne, if you like it hot.

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Breakfast Millet with Peanut, Ginger & Turmeric Apple Compote

Breakfast Millet with Peanut, Ginger, & Turmeric Apple Compote

I’ve been on a turmeric kick lately, which is great because there are 101 health benefits associated with it. It’s a huge antioxidant-powered anti-inflammatory, meaning it can aid in everything from reducing arthritis pain to heart disease prevention.

It’s also frequently used in Chinese Medicine to treat depression, and it’s been shown to delay liver damage. With how brutal this winter’s been, it’s no wonder I’ve been consuming so much of the stuff. How else am I going to counteract all that alcohol I’ve been consuming as a result of my snow-induced depression? Kidding of course.

I will admit, however, a ginger-lemon-honey-turmeric tonic makes a great morning choice after a night out on the town. As does this breakfast.

Breakfast Millet with Peanut, Ginger, & Turmeric Apple Compote

In drink form or not, my turmeric intake often goes hand in hand with my ginger intake. The two make great partners in the kitchen, both in terms of health and flavor rationale. (Ginger’s another one of those anti-inflammatory, detoxifying godsends.)

Thus, it seemed only natural to take them to my apples for a Saturday morning breakfast. Sweetened with a little raw honey, which gets counter-balanced with a little lime, this brings a wonderful way to wake up. Plus, did I mention there’s peanut butter in this? Is there any better way to wake up than with that? For this PB-junkie, the answer is no.

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Arugula, Apple and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich with Caramelized Onions

Arugula, Apple and Tempeh Bacon Sandwich

Most times of the year, when I go to the grocery store, 75% of my basket is filled with fruit and vedge. However, lately I’ve been swimming in honeycrisps and butternuts and greens from the farmer’s market where I work. My grocery trips have been minimized, and my produce budget even more so.

Now when I go to the store, I end up with a basket that looks nothing like myself.

tempeh_apple (3 of 3)

I am a people-watcher. I love the art of observing others. So when going stir-crazy in the Whole Foods check-out line, I’m watching. I’m analyzing what the people in front of me plan to make for dinner. I’m picking out recipes for them in my mind, and I’m judging — er, I mean guessing — their lifestyle and personality traits. All from the items cruising their way to the cash register.

I, of course, am also seeking out my future husband. I’m scanning the lines in search of the handsome guy who’s buying figs and sweet potatoes, brazil nuts and oatmeal, and ingredients you can actually cook with. If you need to find me, I’ll be in that line. And hopefully exiting it with dinner plans. Just kidding.

Lately, however, trips to the grocery store have been scarce, and the farmer’s market is my new best friend. From it, I was able to pick up the fresh fall arugula and apples that compose this meal. Complimented by the rich flavors of caramelized onion, curry and parsley, this creates a surprising and satisfying sandwich. I love adding a sweet crunch in unexpected places, and here the apples carry this out beautifully. Choose your favorite eating variety, and make sure to thinly slice.

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Roasted Apple Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

When I went apple picking a few weeks back, I strolled up to my dad with my 1/2-filled bushel of fresh red and yellow speckled beauties and told him I was calling it a day. To my eyes, there were more Jonathans in that basket than I could ever fit into my future fall breakfasts. And plus, I wanted to save some apple-inclined taste buds for the Honeycrisps that were soon to arrive.

“What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you going to finish filling up that bushel?” my dad asked me. A shock took over his face as if I just comitted some sort of crime.

“I’ll never eat all of the ones I have,” I replied before taking a breath to lift the 15lb. wooden crate from the grass.

“Of course you will. That’s nothing. Go fill up that basket.”

So off I went, adding a few more pounds into my arms as I strolled down the 100-foot rows of the apple forest. It’s hard to protest a request to pick more tree-ripened fruit.

Fortunately, the refridgerator truly does wonders for storing apples, and weeks after our family venture, I found myself left with a handful still ready to use on my kitchen table.

Two of them went into this soup. A soup I might say I found myself ridiculously proud of upon the 10 pm, Monday night finishing touches of fresh sage. Pure, velvety heaven. And with that beautiful orange color, you know it has to be packed with nutrients, too. This is definitely one of my favorite soups (and recipes!) I’ve made in a long time. Pair with a slice of crusty bread, and it could become one of your favorite meals, too.

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Maple Curry Rice Salad

The following recipe started off with intentions of becoming a typical Waldorf Salad. Not that I was particularly craving it, but more like I had an abundance of apples on hand that I wanted to use.

I quickly abandoned the idea once I realized Waldorf salad traditionally calls for lettuce as its base rather than the rice which I wanted to pair with the apples. I don’t do too many sweet renditions of rice, but oddly that indeed was what I was craving.

Besides, it was easy to let go of the whole Waldorf thing, because really, when have you ever had a truly memorable Waldorf salad? For me, I can probably say never. Waldorf salad tends to be that mysterious item on the salad bar in which everyone takes a little spoonful because its creaminess looks, well, creamy. Creamy generally evokes those luxurious flavor adjectives such as smooth, rich, and buttery.  But does Waldorf salad generally embody any of these characteristics? Nada.

Occasionally, it’s worth a few bites, acting as a sweet, refreshing chutney in accompanying a heavy meal. But enough about forgettable Waldorf salads, let’s get to the rice recipe picture above. I decided to stick with the idea of creating a refreshing salad, and then veered off down a path of memorable flavor. I chose apples to keep it light, and then added curry powder to draw on the sweetness of the raisins and maple syrup I would be adding. I also chose to retain a light creaminess by adding yogurt, and then finished it off with some toasty, full-bodied nuts. The end result made me wonder why I don’t play with sweet and savory combinations more often. If given a spot on the salad bar, this Maple Curry Rice Salad would be worthy of more than just one curious spoonful. You’d bet I’d be back for seconds.

Serve this dish hot or cold. Note that if served warm, the cayenne will be more distinct, if used.
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