I love the first few months of the year when the wind chill and indoor heater are at their peak. The weather always inspires my palate, and this time of year I love to eat lots of warm, rich, nourishing foods to keep me energized. Over the years, I’ve experimented with many different types of winter vegetables, and today I’m going to share a few of my favorites along with some of their health benefits and how to prepare them.
Yes, pumpkin is a superfood, and you can bet that I take full advantage during pumpkin-spice-everything season. The rich orange color of pumpkin is due to the high amounts of beta-carotine. The body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which in turn supports our immune system, skin, eyes, and vision. If you’re in the market for glowing skin and sharp vision, then incorporating more pumpkin into your diet is a great solution.
For most of my life I thought of pumpkin as something that came in a can or was intended to be carved, but there are several varieties of pumpkins that make a delicious meal or snack. The tastes and textures of pumpkins can vary, so a quick google consult may help you decide the best approach for the variety you are able to get your hands on. My personal favorite is the sugar pie pumpkin, which gives a sweet, deep, and earthy taste.
I generally approach cooking a pumpkin the way I do a butternut or acorn squash, by roasting at a high temperature. I love the way roasted pumpkin tastes, plus it makes for relatively easy prep work. I like to start by cutting down the center and scooping the seeds out (pumpkin seeds make an awesome snack and have loads of health benefits in their own right, so don’t miss out on roasting them up… check out this recipe). Next, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the pumpkin halves upside down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 until soft and caramelized. You can eat the pumpkin straight out of the oven with a drizzle of olive oil or honey, toss into a salad (try apple cider vinaigrette over arugula, goat cheese, walnuts, and quinoa), or puree for a delicious pumpkin soup.
Endives are bitter leaf vegetables that resemble mini hearts of romaine. For being relatively small, endives are packed with health benefits. They are rich with potassium, folate, and antioxidants which contribute to heart and brain health. Dovemed.com states that just one cup of endive meets 43% of your daily vitamin A intake! I’ve found that incorporating endives into my diet has been a super easy way to eat more fiber and veggies with very little effort.
In their raw form, endives are a sturdy and delicious vehicle for Asian chicken salad bites, hummus, or dipping sauces. Try adding them to your next charcuterie board for extra texture, greenery, and nutrition. Another way I love to consume endive is to brush them with olive oil and fresh herbs and throw them onto the grill or under the broiler – the roasting process softens them up, brings out the flavor, and reduces their size making for a perfect bite.
Beets provide a powerhouse of good nutrition. Beet juice in particular is incredible for boosting immunity, increasing b-vitamins, and reducing oxidative stress on the body. Juicing half a beet a day is remarkably sufficient to cleanse the liver and detox the blood and body, which reduces your risk for all kinds of ailments.
If you’re more into cooked veggies, my all-time favorite way to eat beets is inspired by a salad I used to eat at my favorite weeknight restaurant in NYC. It makes the perfect small meal or side dish and is packed with flavor and nutrition. Simply slice your beets into cubes and roast them until they are just soft enough to eat, then toss with arugula or mixed greens, hefty chunks of goat cheese, walnuts, and an olive oil vinaigrette. Voila, enjoy!
I do want to give fair warning for all who venture into beet territory- the juice from beets can stain your fingers and your clothes, so consider wearing gloves when handling them. Also, you shouldn’t be surprised if your urine or stool comes out a bit red after eating a lot of them, it’s a side effect that is totally normal. On the plus side, this same property also makes beets a great dye for icings for baked goods, so if you’re looking for a natural way to dye your buttercream this is a great alternative.
If you’re not familiar with parsnips, they are a delicious and easy-to-prepare vegetable that taste awesome solo or as a hearty side dish. Similar to carrots in look and texture, parsnips are creamy, off-white in color and taste a bit sweeter. Parsnips are loaded with vitamin C, so they help prevent the common cold during the winter months (shout out to mother nature for stacking winter with vegetables that help our our immune system). They’re also just as packed with Vitamin K, which works with vitamin D to keep muscles and bones healthy and strong.
My favorite way to enjoy parsnips is to roast them on high heat (around 425 degrees) on a parchment-lined baking sheet with carrots, rosemary, s&p, and olive oil. Roast until golden and caramelized, and serve beside lamb shank or chuck roast for a delicious, sweet, and nutty side dish. You can also try mashing them after roasting them as an alternative to potatoes.
Last but not least, radishes are a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower and broccoli. They are a great source of potassium and aid greatly in detoxification of the liver and urinary tract. One of my favorite things about radishes is that they make adding extra fiber to your diet incredibly easy.
When I have fresh radishes on-hand, I generally add them to just about everything – salads, soups, eggs, tacos, enchiladas, you name it. These little treasures are best eaten raw, although you can experiment with roasting or grilling them slightly if that’s more your style. Try thinly slicing them or finely chopping them to top your favorite meals, hot or cold, and see what you like.
To wrap things up, I love to take advantage of eating seasonally and am always looking to incorporate more local and seasonal produce into my family’s diet. Pumpkin, endives, beets, parsnips, and radishes are some of the most delicious and nutrient-dense foods out there, and some of the ‘recipes’ I mentioned make it easy to make them a staple in your home during the sluggish months. I hope you’ll give some of these veggies a try. And if you’re already a fan, comment below and let me know what your favorite ways to eat them are.