How to make healthy choices every day

Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates

First of all, I need to send out a huge thank you to everyone for your support these past couple weeks. Your emails and messages have meant so much and really kept me up. Yes, it has been an ‘interesting’ time in our lives, but we’re getting used to a new routine and doing things a bit differently…slower. I can imagine that this is very much the shock new mothers experience when suddenly they have a completely dependent person on their hands (good practice, Mikkel says). However, he is getting better and spirits are high. We are both looking forward to the day when he can feed himself and tie his shoes! See? It is like having a baby, albeit a very big one.

So I’ve been coping by going for walks. Long walks. As the man can now move his fingers and send text messages, I’ve been able to leave the house for periods of time and he calls me back if he needs something. This is progress.
My walks are glorious, and I have been experiencing autumn on an entirely new level this year, since I am normally racing past it on my bicycle. We had a couple weeks straight of bright, low, blinding sun, which has now been replaced with storybook fog. Thick, soupy mist clinging to every golden leaf and moody canal reflection, turning the world into a giant watercolour painting. Guh. Stunning.
 I’ve been so moved by the riot of tones and textures on the forest floor and cobblestone streets, I made a dish to echo them all. Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates, with a Maple Mustard Dressing is indeed autumn on a plate.

This dish combines some serious fall power-players when it comes to nutrition, and not coincidentally, are excellent choices for preparing the body as we head into a long winter. Another good reason for eating seasonally.

Butternut Squash
– one of the best plant food sources of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. This helps preserve normal eyesight and may help to minimize the risk of cataracts. Butternut squash can help ward off those pesky cold-weather infections, but can also protect against cancer, stroke, and heart disease. [1]

Kale – the richest source of carotenoids in the leafy-green vegetable family, making it a top cancer-fighter. Kale helps to regulate estrogen, protects against heart disease, and regulates blood pressure. The calcium in kale is more absorbable by the body than milk (and ounce for ounce, contains more calcium than milk)! This makes it an excellent choice for both prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, arthritis and bone loss. [1]

Pomegranate – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard time and time again how antioxidant-rich this fruit is. But you may not know that the jewel-like seeds also contain iron, calcium, vitamin C, magnesium, and a good dose of fiber. [1]

There is something to be said for living in a city that truly embraces eating seasonally. You just can’t get asparagus here in February. No peaches in May. Kale comes and goes in a matter of weeks in Copenhagen, so I am eating it up like a greens-starved maniac. And that goes for the rest of the ingredients: butternut squash and pomegranate are around from now until the New Year and then we bid farewell until next time. But what I discover every year that keeps me intrigued, are all the combinations of those seasonal foods that seem to mingle so effortlessly.

This dish was a great example of that. Even though I was really trying to emulate that fall colours from a more artistic standpoint (‘cause I’m a big food dork), the flavours really complimented one another too. In therapy, I believe they call this the “ah-ha” moment. It’s why tomatoes and basil are best buds, or pumpkin and sage – the seasons blatantly present us with what tastes best together. All we need to do is open our eyes, get in the kitchen and experiment. No fear! I honestly was a bit worried about this mash-up, but happily, it’s delicious. Of course it is. Nature knows best.

Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates
Serves 4
1 medium butternut squash
4 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. melted ghee or coconut oil
3 Tbsp. poppy seeds
couple pinches of sea salt

2 cups packed shredded kale
1 shallot
juice of ½ lemon
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of sea salt

Maple Mustard Dressing
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
pinch sea salt
1 tsp. pure Maple syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into cubes. Toss with oil, minced garlic, poppy seeds, and sprinkle with sea salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until fork-tender, not mushy (approx. 30-40 minutes)
2. While the squash is roasting, shred the kale by slicing it in very thin strips. Add the juice of ½ lemon, a pinch of sea salt and massage into kale to wilt. Set aside.
3. Make dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Pour over kale, toss to coat.
4. Remove the pomegranate seeds. Fill a bowl with water, cut the fruit in half, then roughly pry out the seeds with your fingers and let them fall into the water. The seeds with white pith will float to the top – remove the pith as much as possible leaving the seeds, which will then sink.
5. When the butternut squash has finished roasting, remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Add to kale and mix. Toss with sliced shallot, pomegranate seeds, and garnish with lemon zest. Season to taste. Serve.

So life is a bit slower these days, and I’m actually grateful for that. This experience has forced me to be quieter, gentler, and more observant, leading me to look at being with a fresh perspective. If none of this had happened perhaps I would have biked right past the beauty of autumn, missing the confetti leaves scattered at the foot of the church, the shocking green of damp grass, the semi-bare branch of the tree, shivering just so. The walks are good. And when I come home to feed my husband? Well, that is even better.   

Sources: [1] Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York, NY: Penguin, 2003. 

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at

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