Vital Veggies

Gregg’s Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Cranberries, and Swiss Chard

Gregg’s Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Cranberries, and Swiss Chard

When a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool meat eater starts claiming a vegetable dish is his favorite meal of all time, that’s when I know I’m onto something. I made this for my husband, Gregg, and he went absolutely ga-ga over it. (And no, Gregg’s not one of those guys who would say it’s great just because I made it. He’s an honest food critic.) I’ve noticed that a lot of people who avoid vegetables gravitate to this dish. It could be because it’s colorful or comes in its own bowl, but I really think it’s because the hearty taste elicits a comfort food response. Squash has so many things going for it. It’s easy to digest and has numerous qualities—anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immunity-boosting—that make it a boon for anyone dealing with cancer. Squash is also a natural vessel for all sorts of wonderful fillings. And if you aren’t in the mood for roasting squash, this quinoa pilaf makes for a yummy dish all on its own.

My Friend Jo’s Special Sauerkraut

My Friend Jo’s Special Sauerkraut

I’ll admit it: I’m a ham. Take the last time I demonstrated how to make sauerkraut. The recipe is pretty basic: pulverize some cabbage, pour some salt over it in a crock, cover, and ferment. Not the most exciting of demos—unless you’ve got a friend, like my friend Jo, with a great sense of humor and knowledge of moi. I told her I needed a mallet for the demo; she lent me her mother’s mallet. It was about eighty years old and five feet tall, and was so big I had to get on top of a milk crate to wield it. It was chancy—the room was filled with three hundred health care professionals—but we all got a good laugh out of it. Hijinks aside, sauerkraut is easy to make—and it’s a great probiotic, leading to a sound gut, which, as scientists are learning, makes for a sound mind.

String Beans with Caramelized Shallot, Rosemary, and Garlic

String Beans with Caramelized Shallot, Rosemary, and Garlic

I can’t imagine any green bean more maligned in American culture than the string bean. The canned versions often resemble a Seattle drizzle and are about as tasty as a one-note piano (salt...salt...salt). The restaurant versions are at least pretty to look at (sometimes), but they’re still bland. I’m here to tell you that string beans can have pizzazz. I start by giving them a special bath: a quick dip in boiling salted water followed by an even faster plunge into a cold pool. This parboiling cooks the beans and brings out their beautiful color.

Sweet Potato and Zuccini Pancakes

Sweet Potato and Zuccini Pancakes

These potato pancakes, unlike the typical holiday fare, are a light delight! Sweet potato, zucchini, onion, egg and spices cooked with just a little olive oil make them especially nourishing, and they reheat beautifully. Shred the basil just before adding it to retain its bright green color. Here’s a convenient way to shred it: Stack the basil leaves, roll them into a cigar shape, and snip it with scissors or cut thin slices with a sharp chef’s knife.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Assorted Toppings

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Assorted Toppings

I always think of baked sweet potatoes as little rafts of nutritious delight. Unto themselves, they’re quite tasty and full of fiber, a wonderful blood sugar regulator. But what they’re best at, at least when they’re baked and the top is slit open, is carrying numerous other healthy ingredients along for the ride. Chopped herbs, chutneys, veggies, nut creams, yogurt…all are great variations (see below). Many people gravitate towards a sweet potato when they feel like eating but aren’t over-the-top hungry. I like the simplicity with which they can be prepared. Bake four, eat one, put the rest in an airtight container, and they reheat in a flash. A great go-to food!