Add Color to Your Winter Meals

Posted December 26, 2014 | Nutrition & Health Tips

By Adriane Angarano, MS, CN

Now officially winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are shorter, colder, and the scene outside is likely monochromatic with various shades of brown and grey. It may also seem like there is less variety and vivid color at the grocery store (and on your plate) compared to the bounty of summer and fall. Cooking with color during the winter months not only makes your kitchen cheerful and welcoming, you will be adding a hefty dose of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to your meals.

This guide will show you all the variety that does exist this time of year and will hopefully inspire you to spend more time in the produce section, less time in the aisles with boxes and cans, and get back in the kitchen to whip up some easy dishes.

ROOTS

Root vegetables include tuberous roots and taproots; does not include tubers, rhizomes, corms or bulbs. They are a hearty addition to any meal this time of year.

  • Beet– comes in a variety of colors (red, purple, orange, white) and sizes. The smaller the size the more tender it will be. Scrub clean and chop to roast, shred into a salad, or make a very colorful soup.
  • Burdock root– pale brown in color similar to a parsnip, can be sliced and added to stir fries or soups.
  • Carrot– ranges in color from orange, to white, purple, or red. Can be eaten raw or cooked in any manner (sauté, steam, roast, boil, etc.)
  • Celeriac (celery root)– may look very knobby, somewhat hairy, and brown; this is a great less-starchy replacement for potato in any dish. Makes a wonderful creamy soup. Always peel before preparing.
  • Daikon– is a radish with black or white skin, mild and sweet flavor, and crispy texture; is best eaten raw and shredded in a salad or added to a stir fry.
  • Jicama– a large bulbous brown-looking vegetable that has a sweet, nutty flavor that can be peeled and cut into “sticks” and eaten raw or steamed, baked, or fried.
  • Parsnip– looks like a large white carrot, has a sweet flavor, and can be boiled and mashed like potatoes or roasted for an even sweeter caramelized flavor.
  • Rutabaga– resemble a large turnip that have a beautiful beige and purple skin. The flavor is somewhat sweet and can be prepared much like a parsnip.
  • Turnip– their skins are both white and pinkish-purple and can easily be mashed, stir fried, or added raw into salads.

HEARTY GREENS

Hearty greens are available almost year ‘round unlike more tender lettuces which grow in the warmer months. The dark leafy greens listed below are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and a plethora of minerals and are super easy to prepare- making them an easy choice for adding in color and nutrients to your diet. Greens may be steamed, sautéed, braised, roasted (kale chips!), and even massaged into a salad.

  • Arugula
  • Baby bok choy
  • Beet greens
  • Collard greens
  • Escarole
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

OTHER VEGETABLES available in the winter

These vegetables are available in abundance during the winter months and provide a surplus of nutrients to help support our immune systems during the cold and flu season. They also offer a variety of flavor and textures that can add seasonal diversity to your meals.

  • Brussels sprouts– a member of the cruciferous family, these mini green cabbages can be shredded and sautéed, cut in half to roast, or steamed whole.
  • Cabbage– comes in a variety of types and colors- green, red, savoy, and napa to name a few. Make wonderful hearty raw winter salads, shred and use as a topping for chili, or stir fry.
  • Cauliflower– another member of the cruciferous family, this too can come in a variety of colors from white to orange and purple. Chop up and toss with olive oil to roast, steam, stir fry, or add to soup. Can be used as substitute for lower carb mashed potatoes.
  • Leeks– long white onion-like vegetable with hearty green stalks can be used as an onion. Slice, dice, sauté, or roast. Makes a flavorful addition to soups.
  • Mushrooms (all varieties)– some varieties are known to be medicinal such as shiitake, reishi, and maitake and can be very supportive to the immune system. The small (and sometimes large such as portobello) edibles are actually part of the fungi family and not considered vegetables. Slice or chop and add to a stir fry or soup. Can be pureed into a gravy or sauce.
  • Potatoes (all varieties)– as the number one vegetable crop in the world, these tubers come in a variety of colors and can be mashed, baked or roasted, and fried.
  • Winter squash (all varieties)– its peak season is late fall and winter and is considered a starchy vegetable. Most varieties can be peeled and de-seeded before cooking, however some varieties such as delicate can be cooked with the skin on. Roast, steam, sauté, or add to soup.

Sometimes creating an interesting yet simple meal can be challenging for many families. Here are a few examples of our favorite winter meals:

Menu 1– Light and Lovely

  • Butternut squash soup w/ toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Sautéed kale w/ leeks
  • Baked white fish in winter greens pesto

Menu 2– Hearty and Healthy

  • Beef chili w/ avocado
  • Colorful cabbage salad
  • Jicama sticks

Menu 3– Familiar Favorite

  • Turkey burgers in cabbage leaf “buns”
  • Roasted sweet potato fries
  • Massaged kale salad

For a list of Washington State’s vegetable seasonality: http://agr.wa.gov/AgInWa/docs/SeasonalityChartHUSSCVegetablefinal.pdf

Resources

“Get Back to the Roots” http://www.foodandnutrition.org/November-December-2014/Get-Back-to-the-Roots/

The World’s Healthiest Foods database http://www.whfoods.com/

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