As parents, teachers and relatives, we nag children and teens to eat healthy. We remind our parents in senior residences to eat healthy. We manage up, we manage down but, all too often, we are the ones who live on fast foods, granola bars, lattes and yogurt.
Fear not, there's a way to practice what we preach.
Now is the perfect time to tap the bounty of fall/winter vegetables that provide high nutrients, antioxidants and other essential ingredients for a healthy diet. Cooking fresh vegetables need not be an ominous task, especially "root" vegetables like beets, brussels sprouts, etc.
With minimal effort, most cool-season vegetables will practically cook themselves, providing many options for mixing with other ingredients for a variety of dishes. In fact, the key to preparing vegetables is not to over cook them, making them soggy and destroying their valuable nutrients.
Once you master basic recipes for each vegetable, you can vary the recipes to add more spices and complementary ingredients. Here is a batch of simple recipes for my favorite cool-weather vegetables. Cook, eat and be healthy!
---Jacqui Love Marshall lives in San Ramon with her pug, Nina Simone, and volumes of cookbooks and recipes. Her column runs every other week. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sauteed Spinach and Garlic (serves 6)
4 Tbsp olive oil
8 medium sized cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 pounds of spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp lemon juice
Toasted pine nuts
1. Wash spinach thoroughly and pat dry; remove stems.
2. Toast the pine nuts in a skillet and set aside. Watch the pine nuts carefully while toasting as they can quickly burn.
3. In a large skillet, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and then spinach.
4. Sauté spinach until it is wilted but still bright green, about 2 min. Turn with tongs to cook evenly. Remove from heat and top with lemon juice and pine nuts.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (serves 4)
30 brussels sprouts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp kosher Salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash sprouts, remove outer leaves and spread out in a 19-inch by 11-inch roasting pan.
2. Drizzle sprouts with olive oil until lightly coated; sprinkle with salt.
3. Place pan in preheated oven and roast for about 20-25 min. turning occasionally. Remove from oven when outer leaves are golden brown.
Zucchini Pesto Pasta (serves 6)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 pound organic zucchini, a mix of green and yellow, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices
1 medium tomato, chopped in large chunks
½ pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
½ cup prepared pesto
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan until hot; add the onion and sauté until slightly brown. Add the zucchini slices to the pan and cook until tender, stirring frequently to insure even cooking. Add the tomato until lightly cooked.
2. Add the pasta to the pan and toss with the zucchini; add the pesto (and a little water if necessary) and blend well.
3. Serve hot in individual bowls with a generous topping of Parmesan cheese.
Roasted Winter Vegetables
1 medium pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped into chunks
3 medium potatoes, unpeeled and cut into chunks
2 onions, cut into wedges
2 turnips, peeled and cut into wedges
2 beets, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the prepped vegetables in a roasting pan. (Place the beets separately from the other vegetable on parchment paper so they don't stain the other vegetables.)
2. Combine garlic, cumin seed, extra virgin oil, lemon juice, brown sugar and pepper. Pour this mixture on the vegetables and toss to coat evenly. Season everything with salt.
3. Bake for about 25-35 min. or until tender and golden brown.
Roasted Beet Salad (serves 6-8)
1 pound beets (3-4 medium), scrubbed well
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Pinch of sugar
1 small bunch arugula, tough stems removed, well washed and spun dry
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed, well washed and spun dry
1 small head Boston lettuce, well washed, spun dry and torn into bite-sized pieces
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Line a large piece of aluminum foil with parchment paper. Place the beets in the center of parchment; drizzle them with 1 Tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold aluminum foil up to enclose beets. Place on a small baking sheet and roast until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour.
3. Remove beets from oven and let sit until no longer hot to the touch. Rub off skins and discard; cut beets into wedges. (You can eat them as a side dish at this point, without going further.)
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons oil, the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the roasted beets, arugula, watercress and Boston lettuce and toss to combine.