FD Healthy: Fall Flavors & Seasonal Savors

By: FD Chef Gem aka Ann Ziata

It’s the season of savoring! There’s no better time of year to cozy up in the kitchen and sit down for a nourishing, belly-warming meal. We sat down with FD Chef extraordinaire “Gem” to learn a few nutritional tips and tricks, and how to whip up her favorite fall recipes!

FD: What is one nutritional tip that you think everyone should know?

Gem: The more you savor your food, the more effectively your body will absorb the nutrients.

Our digestion works most efficiently when our parasympathetic nervous system is turned on, when we are relaxed and not in the stressed-out “fight-or-flight” mode. Laughing, spending time in nature, and hugging are three of many ways our bodies switch into “rest and digest” mode. At mealtime, sit down to eat, in a chair, at a table, with the nice plates, and minimize any distractions like phones and TV.

What is one food myth that you want to clear up?

Gem: There is no one diet that works for everyone. Our body compositions, preferences, ancestries, upbringings, and even our unique populations of helpful bacteria in our intestines, will dictate which foods our bodies thrive on. 

How do you balance being indulgent with being health-conscious?

Gem: I pay a lot of attention to my cravings and how they affect my physical, mental, and emotional health. The quality of my sleep, meals, hydration, and stress levels will affect how I want to eat throughout the day. So if I notice at 9pm that I want to indulge myself, I have some insight on where this craving comes from. I’m not a fan of denying myself joy, so I’ll enjoy the treat, then take note for tomorrow on what steps I may take to get myself back on track (like going to bed earlier, or eating a more substantial lunch). 

Roasted Kabocha and Raddicchio Salad with Toasted Pecans, Pomegranate, and Mint with Creamy Shallot-Dijon Dressing

Serves 6

Roast the squash ahead of time to have this salad on the table in a pinch. Because radicchio is such a hearty leaf, you can even dress everything during dinner and have the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch ready to go.

Roasted Kabocha Squash

1 kabocha squash (2 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon sea salt
Pinch black pepper


2 heads radicchio, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
½ cup pecans
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ ounce mint, leaves coarsely chopped

Creamy Shallot-Dijon Dressing

4 shallots
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch black pepper
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil


  1. Heat oven to 375F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. For Squash:  Toss kabocha squash with olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet and spread squash in an even layer. Bake until tender and golden, 20-30 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Toast pecans in an even layer on a parchment-line baking sheet, until fragrant, about 7 minutes. Let cool and roughly chop.
  4. For Dressing: Peel shallots and transfer to blender with Dijon mustard, maple syrup, sherry vinegar, sea salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as necessary. While motor is running, slowly stream in olive oil. Season to taste.
  5. To serve: Toss radicchio, squash, pecans, pomegranate, and mint with dressing. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Marble Banana Muffins

Yields about 14 muffins

Everything tastes better marbled. When swirling the batters, less is more. One too many strokes will diminish the effect.


1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder
4 freckled bananas
¾ cup coconut sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted (but not hot) coconut oil


  1. Heat oven to 350F. Line 2 cupcake baking trays with 14 paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, sift together cocoa powder and sea salt. Set aside.
  4. Peel bananas and break into large chunks into the food processor. Puree until smooth. Add coconut sugar and vanilla extract; puree. While the motor is running, slowly stream in coconut oil and let mix until well-incorporated.
  5. Transfer banana mix into flour mix; stir until no large flour lumps remains, being careful not to overmix. Pour half of the batter into the bowl with the cocoa powder and salt. Mix until cocoa powder is evenly blended into the batter. You will now have two bowls of batter, one with chocolate and one without.
  6. Marble the muffins: Starting with the plain banana batter, add a tablespoon of batter into a cupcake liner. Add a tablespoons of the chocolate batter right on top. Then alternate teaspoons of each batter until cupcake liner is filled 2/3 of the way up. Repeat until all liners are filled.
  7. Take a toothpick and gently swirl through each cupcake a few times to create a marble effect.
  8. Bake until tops are golden and an inserted toothpick releases cleanly for the center of cupcake, about 15-20 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool completely before frosting.

Bon Appetite!

To order a copy of our very own Out Cooking It with First Descents cookbooks, explore our FD Store.

Please note that First Descents does not conduct nutritional research studies, nor does FD encourage readers to ensue any dramatic dietary or nutritional shifts without first consulting a doctor or certified nutritionist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How to Clear Cancer BS and Enjoy the Ride

Previous Post

Challenge By Choice: From FD to the AT

Next Post