Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eat Colorful Winter Vegetables

I noticed as I went back over the last few posts that color was lacking in the food pictures -- bar green.

Green is good, in fact eating green in the form of spinach, kale, chard, celery and broccoli is fantastic because these vegetables are nutritional powerhouses.

Yet sitting down to a meal dominated by green is not always appetizing. Though, I have to say the spinach saag I blogged about yesterday and last week is yum by virtue of all the spices, onion, garlic, and milk or cream added.

Despite that I think spinach and kale can be appetizing, I had a conversation with a friend who is determined to include kale in her diet and as she talked about her good intentions, the look on her face said "yuk."

It's with that in mind that I thought today and tomorrow, I'd offer tips for preparing colorful vegetable dishes. Easy-to-cook and tasty sides that make use of in-season veggies, like winter kale, that are abundant and therefore priced well.

When grocery shopping, 80% of your food should come from the edge of the store, for example, whole, unprocessed food like fresh produce, protein items, some dairy and bulk items like grains, nuts and seeds.

And then the greatest volume of your groceries should be fresh produce -- both for health and economy.

According to a USDA study, in 2007 a family of four on average spent about $189 on groceries a week. Yet, according to that study a family who chose a healthier meal plan consisting of inexpensive protein items, whole grains and fresh produce was actually able to reduce its grocery bills by about $20 a week.

Braised Veggie Medley (top pic)
1) To a skillet add about a tablespoon of light oil, eg. olive or canola. Heat on med to high.
2) Add a smashed clove of garlic and if you have it, some peeled and chopped fresh ginger.
3) Now toss in half a peeled and sliced Spanish onion, a red or yellow organic bell pepper, a couple sticks of celery, and some broccoli florets (check my list for produce best bought organic).
4) To the skillet add a selection of winter greens, and gently saute. Add a little water and quickly place the lid on the skillet, allowing the greens to steam cook for a few mins.
5) Optional: If you want to enrich your braised veggies, you could pour a little cream into the skillet at the last minute, and with the heat on high, let the cream and veggie juices gently boil and thicken before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I tend to buy Whole Foods braising greens. The mix consists of 2 types of kale, radicchio, chard, collard greens, beet greens and mustard greens. I like this combination because it's colorful (see top pic), I'm buying the small succulent leaves only (the woody stalks have been removed), and I can buy it in bulk so I pick and pay for only what I want.

Additionally, the braising greens are right next to the bulk spinach and arugula and they're all the same price so often I add spinach and arugula to my bag of braising greens for an even tastier mix.

To Serve: Eat braised veggie medley for lunch or dinner over a grain or pasta topped with toasted seeds or nuts or sprinkled with feta or grated Parmesan. Or serve as a side with your favorite protein item.

Roasted Winter Root Veggies

1) Onto a baking tray add a selection of washed and chopped root vegetables such as fingerling potatoes, carrots, beetroot, acorn squash, butternut pumpkin, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, onion and garlic.
2) No need to peel the potatoes, squash, pumpkin, celeriac, sunchokes or the garlic.
3) Drizzle olive oil over veggies; use your hands to coat the veggies well with oil.
4) Put baking tray in a 350-degree oven for about 45 mins to 1 hour. Check progress at the 30-min mark, turning veggies so they brown evenly.
5) A few minutes before they're done, toss fresh rosemary over veggies and roast just a little longer so rosemary turns slightly crispy.

To Serve: Turn veggies onto a platter and top with your choice of ground salt. I have a sesame seed and sea salt mix that I love to use on vegetable dishes. You might like to serve veggies with crusty bread or crackers, if so, remove the skin from the garlic and spread the garlic, which is like a paste when it has been roasted, onto the bread or cracker, and top with a soft white cheese, like goat or feta.

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