What the heck do I do with: Root vegetables?!

December 14th, 2010

Our third “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series installment is all about root vegetables. Everything you need to know to start incorporating root veggies into your diet is below, including nutrition and variety information, how to select, store and prepare, and links to several great recipes. Be sure to share any of your greens questions, comments and recipes below, in the comments!

Nutrition: Exact nutritional values depend on the variety (you can visit www.nutritiondata.com for specific information), so we discuss nutrition generally here. One cup of cooked celeriac, radish or turnip has 25-42 calories, while beets, burdock, parsnip or rutabaga has 66-110 calories. Each of the common varieties listed below are all very low in saturated fat and cholesterol; all but burdock root are a good or very good source of dietary fiber; beets, radish, rutabaga and turnip have higher sugar contents. Root vegetables function as the energy storage organ in a plant, and therefore are nutrient dense. Common nutrients include folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and vitamins B6 and C.

Common varieties: Besides carrots and potatoes, common varieties include beets, burdock root, celeriac (celery root), daikon radish, parsnip, rutabaga, and turnip.

Selecting: Although their growing seasons can peak from June through October, root vegetables are mostly available year-round. When choosing your root veggies, look for ones that are firm. Choose beets, celeriac, rutabaga, and turnips that are heavy for their size; parsnips should be small and crisp; burdock and daikon radish should also be crisp.

Storing: Most root vegetables, with the exception of Daikon radish, store well up to two weeks. Like leafy greens, your root veggies should be kept unwashed, uncut and dry (or almost dry) until they’re ready for use. Remove greens from root vegetables (if applicable) and store in a crisper drawer or airtight container.

Preparing: Many nutrients and minerals in root vegetables are close to the surface, and therefore can be lost through peeling the skin. However, the skin of root vegetables can also act as a sponge, absorbing pesticides and chemicals used in the growing process. If your veggies are grown organically, we recommend that you simply wash with warm water, scrubbing with a brush if necessary, and refrain from peeling. If you’re not sure you’ll like the taste or texture, experiment with leaving the peels on, or try peeling only half of the vegetable. Exceptions include celeriac, whose knobby, thick and dirty skin will need to be peeled. If your veggies are conventionally grown and/or have been given a waxy coating by the produce company (usually turnips and rutabagas), then remove peels.

Root vegetables are wonderful, easy additions to soups and stews, especially celeriac, parsnip, rutabaga and turnip. Use them the same places you use carrots and potatoes; simply cut them into chunks and toss them in the pot. Sliced Daikon radish and burdock root work great in stir-fries.

Roasted root vegetables are a warming winter favorite. Cut 6-8 cups of turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes and/or carrots into 1-inch chunks, coat with a high-heat oil and your favorite herbs, then roast on a cookie sheet at 425-degrees for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.

Mashed root vegetables are an easy dinner side dish. Steam 2-3 cups of celeriac, parsnip, rutabaga, and/or turnip until soft (usually 10-15 minutes), then blend, mash or process in a food processor with salt, pepper and herbs, to taste, adding liquid if needed. Try blending the vegetables with a bit of coconut oil and cinnamon or nutmeg for a slightly sweeter version.

Root vegetables can also be eaten raw, though this is where you’ll most likely taste the peel (it may add a slight bitterness); remember to experiment with peeling by removing only some of the skin. Try shredding root vegetables and adding them into a green salad. Cut them into matchsticks and toss in vinaigrette dressing with dried fruit and seeds or nuts. Grate root vegetables, and then dress them with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and celery seed for a coleslaw-type side dish.

As always, have fun with adding new vegetables to your diet. Root vegetables offer unique nutrition in a versatile and tasty package – the next time you’re shopping, think beyond carrots and potatoes! Be open to experimenting with the huge variety of flavors.

Recipes: Click on the names below to visit the recipe’s website.  Remember, many recipes will instruct you to peel root vegetables before use, though in most cases this is not necessary.

If you have any root vegetable tips, recipes, comments or questions to share, please do! Simply comment below.

Sources: Nutrition Data, www.nutritiondata.com; Root Vegetable List, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/root-vegetables-list.html; Cook’s Thesaurus, http://www.foodsubs.com/Roots.html; What’s Up with Root Vegetables, http://knol.google.com/.

>>> About this series: If there is a food (or group of foods) that you’ve been wondering about and wanting to try, but just aren’t sure where to start, please take the 30-second, totally anonymous survey athttp://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RMLMZ93, or email your thoughts to info@guidanceforgrowing.com. We are compiling responses for a recurring “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series, to appear in our newsletter and on our website.

What the heck do I do with: Dark, leafy greens?!

November 29th, 2010

For our second “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series installment, we’ll be addressing the nutritional powerhouse, dark, leafy greens. All the basics are below, including nutrition and variety info, how to select, store and prepare, and links to several recipes. Be sure to share any of your greens questions, comments and recipes below, in the comments!

Nutrition: Exact nutritional values depend on the variety, but generally, one cup of cooked, dark, leafy greens contains 35-50 calories, 1g fat, 3-7g carbohydrates, 3-5g fiber, 7g sugar and 2g protein. Dark greens are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Protein and Vitamin E, and a very good source of Calcium, Copper, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Potassium, Riboflavin and Vitamins A, B6, C and K. The combination of Vitamins A, C and E make greens an antioxidant superfood.

Common varieties: Beet greens, collards, kale, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard and turnip greens.

Selecting: Your greens should have firm leaves that are uniform in color with no signs of yellowing, and sturdy, un-cracked stems. Greens cook down substantially; depending on the variety, expect to lose a quarter or more of the volume with which you started. An approximate formula to remember is, 1 lb. raw greens = 1-2 cups of cooked greens.

Storing: Greens should be kept unwashed, uncut and dry (or almost dry) in an airtight container or tightly sealed bag (push air out). We’ve found the size large Tupperware FridgeSmart container (www.tupperware.com/pls/htprod_www/!tw$shop.p_category?pv_ic_code=25000) an excellent option for storing dark, leafy greens. Not only does it accommodate the big, broad leaves, but also, as with all FridgeSmart containers, you can adjust for proper ventilation and moisture, and the built-in grid keeps produce away from condensation.

Preparing: Wash your greens by placing them in a large bowl, pot, bucket or sink filled with water, and swish them around, allowing the dirt and sand to sink to the bottom. You may have to repeat this process.

Because greens are so versatile and plentiful, adding them to your daily diet really is a cinch. Simply start by choosing one and experimenting. Although kale and collards offer the most nutrition, you may find Swiss chard or spinach an easier place to start. Just pick the least intimidating and agree to enjoy the process – have fun!

When cooking greens, we love the advice given in the cookbook, Greens, Glorious Greens!, to take a “global view” of cooking them, which we’ve paraphrased here:

Tender greens such as spinach, chard and beet greens can be directly sautéed with garlic and oil or with just a bit of water. Strong-flavored greens, such as kale, collards, and turnip and mustard greens, are more assertive, and generally too tough to be wilted in a skillet. They are best cooked briefly in shallow boiling water to reduce bitterness and increase tenderness, and then drained and sautéed.

You should also avoid steaming greens, which adds bitterness and chewiness and removes their vibrant color.

Flavor dark, leafy greens as you do more common greens: You wouldn’t eat a plain, undressed, unseasoned spring mix salad, would you? All greens need a little accompaniment in the flavor and texture departments. Try sautéing with shallots, onion, leeks or garlic. Experiment with different oils such as olive, sesame or walnut. Add nuts and seeds; sesame seeds, walnuts and pine nuts go great with greens. Adding an acid like lemon juice or vinegar compliments greens, as does adding dairy like Parmesan or feta cheese.

Greens are also the perfect food to add into your existing favorite recipes. They’re a secret weapon in the kitchen, able to add nutrients to just about any meal. After prepping them, you can chop them up and add them to all kinds of dishes; spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sloppy joe mix, macaroni and cheese, lasagna, omelets and quiches… the possibilities are endless! They also make a great addition to your favorite soup or stew.

We all know that spinach can be eaten raw, but so too can the others. Massaging kale with oil produces a delicious, tender salad, and chopped collards make a yummy addition to grain salads. Swiss chard makes a great substitution for celery in tuna fish salad. Green smoothies made with raw kale, collards and/or spinach are an excellent and efficient way to get in your daily dose of dark greens.

Remember to have fun with adding greens to your diet. Be open to experimenting with the huge variety of flavors, and remember to always ask yourself when prepping a favorite meal: “Can I add a green to this?”

Recipes

If you have any dark, leafy greens tips, recipes, comments or questions to share, please do! Simply comment below.

>>> About this series: If there is a food (or group of foods) that you’ve been wondering about and wanting to try, but just aren’t sure where to start, please take the 30-second, totally anonymous survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RMLMZ93, or email your thoughts to info@guidanceforgrowing.com. We are compiling responses for a recurring “What the heck do I do with ___?!” series, which appears in our newsletter and on our website.

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