Pumpkins, apples and fallen leaves on wooden background

Pumpkins and apples are among the superstar fruits and vegetables to keep in your diet year-round.

Fruits and vegetables are easier to come by in the summer months than in the fall and winter. But to stay healthy and ward off diseases, it's important to include fruits and vegetables in your diet year-round.

Here are some of the superstar fruits and vegetables of the fall and winter months.

Apples: A traditional fall favorite, apples are easy to find in the supermarket, or you can pick your own at a nearby orchard. They're a quick, easy snack and can be paired with peanut butter or cheese for protein.

Apples contain antioxidants -- which may help protect against certain cancers and reduce levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol -- and are high in vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber.

Broccoli: This is one vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold, by itself or with other foods. It can help prevent cancer and heart disease, and boost the immune system. Nutrients in broccoli include vitamins A, B-6, C and E, plus iron, calcium and magnesium.

Green Beans: High in vitamin K, which protects red blood cells and helps reduce the severity of asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, green beans also contain vitamin C, potassium, folate, iron and magnesium.

Pumpkin: A great source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that is good for the eyes. It also contains potassium. Canned or prepared fresh pumpkin can be made into a variety of soups, baked goods and desserts.

Spinach: Dark green veggies contain a variety of nutrients that a healthy body needs. Spinach is packed with vitamins A, K, C and E, iron, folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium and fiber. It also has antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Frozen or fresh spinach can be added to just about any meal.

Sweet Potatoes: They are loaded with beta-carotene (which the body makes into vitamin A), vitamin C, potassium, fiber, iron and vitamin B-6. Sweet potatoes have more nutrients than regular white potatoes and can replace white potatoes in some recipes. Try them mashed, baked or as a dessert.

Try this wonderful recipe for Pecan Pork Chops with Pumpkin Apple Butter using these superstar fall fruits and vegetables.

PECAN PORK CHOPS WITH PUMPKIN-APPLE BUTTER

You can substitute canned sweet potatoes that have been drained and mashed instead of the pumpkin, if desired. Any remaining Pumpkin Apple Butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or you can freeze it in an airtight container for up to three months.

It's also delicious on bread, pancakes or waffles. If you're pressed for time, a good quality, commercially made jar of apple butter mixed with 1/2 can of pumpkin puree also works well for this recipe.

4 (1/4-inch-thick) boneless pork chops

1 (14-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1/2 cup apple juice

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, stevia or agave syrup

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg or cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup Panko whole-wheat breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten with 3 tablespoons of water

1/4 cup oil for frying

1. Whisk together pumpkin puree, apple juice, water, brown sugar, stevia or agave syrup, nutmeg or cloves, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the mixture has reached the consistency of applesauce, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, sprinkle the pork chops with 1/2 tablespoon of the poultry seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper, and the cayenne pepper.

3. Pulse pecans, breadcrumbs and the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of the poultry seasoning and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper in a food processor until the pecans are finely chopped. Pour into a shallow dish. Dip the pork chops in the egg, shake off excess. Press the pork chops into the pecan mixture to coat on both sides.

4. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add breaded pork chops and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

5. Place 2 tablespoons of the pumpkin apple butter on each plate. Place the pork chops on the pumpkin butter. Serve with a side of steamed spinach, green beans or broccoli. Serves 4.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children's author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is "The Kitchen Diva's Diabetic Cookbook." Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

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