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Serving: IL
Butternut squash and Brussels sprouts dish
YUM: You can almost taste the goodness in this dish of roasted Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and dried cranberries.

Balancing life and vegetables

What's Cooking in Illinois: We all wear a lot of hats, and they can wear us down. Here's one way to recharge, with a dish packed full of nutrients.

I recently finished a whirlwind weekend putting on the county fair convention, held each year at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, Ill. It’s one of many hats I wear, serving as secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, which exists to help the state’s 104 county fairs. The convention includes a trade show, an entertainment showcase, speakers, a talent show and the crowning of the Miss Illinois County Fair Queen. In total, about 3,000 people attend, and half of them stay for the banquet and queen crowning.

I often get asked, why do I wear all these hats? Today, I’ve got full-time dietitian, college instructor, writer, part-time dietitian and IAAF point person, just to name a few.

Simply put, I’ve never had a job I didn’t enjoy, and growing up on a farm, I learned to embrace the work ethic.

I also believe in each of the jobs I take on. Tim Norman, bureau chief of county fairs and horse racing for the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said it best at our Saturday morning breakfast. “In 2019, county fairs in Illinois collectively had over 2 million people in attendance, with over 200,000 entries. County fairs are the face of agriculture. For a lot of people, that’s the only time they spend with agriculture and the only picture they get of agriculture. The product Illinois county fairs put out is spectacular.”

Our keynote speaker, Dayna Steele, a radio broadcaster and author from Houston, Texas, shared her “Rock Star Principles of Success,” gleaned from her years of spending time with people like Mick Jagger and Van Halen. Her principles include believing in ourselves, having passion for what we do, reading to gain knowledge, networking and showing appreciation. (Tip: A handwritten thank you note is still best for that.)

Cost of success

As I reflect, it was a very successful convention. But like so many things we do, it comes with a cost.

We push ourselves sometimes to the point of exhaustion — all for a good cause, but nevertheless, we often try to do too much. Fortunately, I have a husband who understands and knows me, and when it was all over, we headed south for a few days of rest — and good nutrition.

It’s amazing how good fruits and vegetables taste when you neglect them for a few days, especially when you’re not eating at home. You just don’t consume the healthy meals you need.

You can fill your nutritional “bank account” prior to a busy week, but it’s just as important to refill that nutritional account once you get back to normal.

I’m sharing my favorite recipe for butternut squash: a powerhouse of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E and fiber, as well as magnesium and calcium, all for just 63 calories a cup. Make it easy on yourself and purchase the squash already cut up. This recipe is from hy-vee.com.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash With Dried Cranberries

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¾-inch chunks
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon kosher sea salt
Black pepper, to taste
¼ cup dried cranberries

Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon honey
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place squash chunks and Brussels sprouts on large baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper; gently toss with until well combined. Spread vegetables out evenly on baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing gently once or twice throughout cooking, until caramelized. Sprinkle dried cranberries onto baking sheet during last 5 minutes of roasting. Toss vegetables with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and allow them to cool slightly while you prepare vinaigrette.

In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Place roasted vegetables in large bowl. Pour on vinaigrette and gently toss until lightly dressed. Enjoy warm, lukewarm or cold. Serves 4.

Per serving: 240 calories, 5 grams protein, 30 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fat, 8 grams fiber, 280 milligrams sodium

Fargo is a dietitian for Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill. Send recipe ideas to her at charfarg@aol.com.

TAGS: Farm Life
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