Getting back to your roots

To keep your health on track, there is no better step to take than upping your veggie intake.

A 12-year study published in 2014 by University College London, for example, found that increasing servings of fruits and vegetables to 7 to 10 per day significantly lowered the risk of premature death; and that vegetables are 4 times more beneficial than fruit.  

Prof Simon Capewell, of the department of public health at the University of Liverpool, commented that, “Humans are designed to be omnivorous: a handful of nuts, seeds, fruit and the occasional antelope. We’re not meant to be eating junk food.”

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Upping veggies is easy to do in summer, when fresh and delicious salad ingredients are plentiful. Salads are easy, variations are endless, and who wants to cook in hot weather anyway?

But what to do in winter? It’s amazing to see what you can do (easily!)  when you concentrate just on vegetables, and just how creative you can be. Have fun with all the possibilities! Think of the produce aisle or farm market as your box of Crayola crayons. Try some of the other colors.

Roasted root vegetables are particularly nourishing in winter. They’re great carriers of flavor, when tossed with healthy fat and fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Some tips for your own winter veggie field trip:

  • Roast big trays of vegetables and store in the frig. You can just as easily do 2 trays at a time as one. Stock up! Roasted vegetables can quickly becoming toppings for freshly sauteed dark leafy greens, quinoa or wild rice; stuffing for omelets; Cozy Roasted Vegetable Soup and other warming soups and stews; side dishes or winter salads to take to work (quite delicious room temp).

    This is what I call “family cooking” -- easy for everyday and inexpensive. All you need is a vegetable peeler and a sharp knife. Nothing fancy schmancy! But quick, delicious and colorful, and pretty much goes with everything.
     

  • Play with roots! rutabaga, turnips, beets, carrots, parsnips, celery root -- see what you like. Or dig even deeper and explore Diana Morgan’s cookbook Roots, the ultimate culinary homage to roots and what to do with them.
     

  • Prep ahead. Cook roots in advance! Chop up roots and store in ziplock bags ready to roast, or roast and store in a container ready to use. A great Sunday project, while you’re making a big pot of soup for the week, too.
     

  • Roast sweet potatoes!  They’re underused and underrated. Plus they’re the perfect longevity food, helping with blood pressure regulation, cardiovascular health and immune support. Bake and load them with different toppings, such as any of the Global Greens, black beans, chickpeas, hummus, cherry tomatoes, ghee, sprouts, cilantro, scallions, avocado, and beyond!

Sometimes you just want some crunch in your life, and boy, do these parsnip chips fill the bill! Sliced paper-thin, lightly tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and curry powder and baked at a low temperature until delightfully crispy, they make a transcendent garnish for soup or salad. Culinary bliss!

In sum: winter is the season to connect with roots, to hunker down, to get grounded.

For an extra dash inspiration, I’ll leave you with a quick video of Jamie Oliver whipping up a tray full of roasted vegetables, variously seasoned. Note: I don’t parboil roots before roasting, but think you’ll enjoy his vegetable and seasoning ideas!

COMMENT BELOW AND TELL ME: WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE VEGETABLES TO ROAST? HOW DO YOU SERVE THEM? ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH ROOTS? HOW DO YOU USE THEM? AND -- WHAT’S STOPPING YOU FROM COOKING WITH MORE ROOTS?