Saturday, January 8, 2011

Back to your roots...

I am definitely a seasonal food craver. Freezing cold temperatures and snowy days translate into longings for heart-warming, hearty meals. But after this holiday season, I don’t want to eat rich, calorically dense foods. Time to get creative and trick my taste buds! I want to feel like I’m eating something decadent when I’m really giving my body a nutritiously satisfying meal.

Take mashed potatoes as an example, a traditional favorite in comfort eating. As much as I adore roasted sweet potatoes, sometimes you just want the sweet creamy flavor of good old mashed potatoes…and pureed cauliflower on its own just doesn’t taste anything like it. My solution? Get back to your roots, root vegetables that is…

Why have you done a good thing?

Winter root vegetables, including celery root or celeriac, carrots, rutabaga, jicama, radishes, parsnips, and turnips are the ugly-ducklings of the vegetable world. Although they are not too pretty to look at, this family of vegetables packs a whole lot of nutrition. Serving as the storage organ of nutrients for a plant, root vegetables are a great source of complex carbohydrates. Parsnips are a great source of folate. Radishes, rutabagas, and turnips are cruciferous veggies like broccoli, which means they contain the cancer fighting compound called sulforaphane. Jicamas, rutabaga, and celeriac are high in vitamin C. Parsnips and rutabagas are high in potassium, which is important for blood pressure control amongst other things. Turnips and carrots are a great source of vitamin A. All root veggies are also very high in fiber, which helps with regularity, blood glucose control, and keeps you full when trying to lose weight.

How to prepare these root veggies:

As they grow underground, these veggies tend to be filthy, especially if purchased from the farmer’s market. Clean them well with a veggie brush. Other preparation tips…

Parsnips: Need to be cooked. Scrub and peel the outer tough skins before cooking. Cut immediately or add lemon juice to prevent from discoloring.

Celery root/celeriac: After scrubbing, trim the root end to create a flat surface. With a sharp knife cut away the thick skin following the contour of the root. Cut immediately or add lemon juice to prevent from discoloring.

Turnips/rutabagas: After scrubbing, cut one end to create a flat surface. Peel and trim with a pairing knife following the contour of the bulb.

Comfort Food Fake-Out: Mashed Roots (adapted from EatingWell)

Serves 8

2 lbs celery root, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 lb rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 tbsp unsalted butter

¾ cup nonfat buttermilk

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

¼ tsp nutmeg

Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a large pot. Place celery root, rutabaga, potatoes in a steamer basket over the water. Cover and steam for 20 minutes or until fall-apart tender. Remove the veggies, drain the liquid and place veggies in pot. Add 2 tbsp butter and mash. Gradually stir in buttermilk, salt, pepper, nutmeg. More buttermilk may be needed depending on root veggies you bought. Aim for a creamy, mashed potato consistency!!

**Only 200 calories and 6 grams fat per serving. A lot healthier than mashed potatoes…

Turnip, Apple, Potato Soup

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt and ground pepper

1 lb turnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch chunks

2 tart apples, like Granny Smith or Jonagold, peeled, cored and quartered

½ lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

2 tbsp fresh parsley

In a heavy pot, heat oil and add onion, thyme, bay leaf, and a pinch of salt until onion is tender. Add the turnips, apples, potatoes, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup of stock. Cover and cook until tender. Add 4 more cups of stock, bring up to a boil and reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Let cool slightly and puree the soup in batches in a blender or use an emersion blender to puree. Thin with water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. Top with fresh parsley and serve.

Roasted Parsnips with Pears and Walnuts

Serves 6

1 lb parsnips

3 pears

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp unsalted butter

3 tbsp walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut parsnips into 3-inch pieces. Quarter pears and remove cores. Put on a baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and salt, coating evenly. Roast until tender and browned, about 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and cook until butter slightly browns. When pears and parsnips are done, brush the melted butter onto parsnips and pears very lightly and top with walnuts. You do not have to use all the butter; it’s just for a flavor. Serve warm.

Other ideas:

Make fresh salads with jicama and radishes.

Thinly slice root veggies and bake your own chips.

What are your ideas?

Stay warm everyone!

--Amy Santo, MS RD

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