Winter is in full swing and although I wish it were almost over, we’re only about half-way through! It can be hard to continue finding creative ways of incorporating fresh vegetables during this time but we know how important it is during flu-season to make sure we get those vitamin-rich foods in our diets! So I’ve assembled some of our favorite ways to eat our veggies in the winter and maybe some of these recipes will give you a mid-winter “boost” in your day to day dinners! 🙂
(By the way, this post contains NO advice on how to get your kids to actually eat their vegetables. I wish I was an expert on that! But I will say that presenting them pleasantly and flavorfully goes along way in our house! I’ve also found that serving dinner “family-style” and letting the kids scoop their own food themselves from serving dishes on the table seems to motivate them to eat more of their food.)
Here are some vegetables that offer powerful vitamins and nutrients to your diet and some yummy ways to serve them up…
KALE is very rich in vitamins K, A, and C (hello, immune booster)! It’s also a great source of fiber, calcium, and iron. Besides chopping it up and throwing it in a fruit smoothie, we love to have it in a sausage-and-kale-strata (follow the link for the recipe) for breakfasts and zuppa toscana, one of our favorite soups! I chop the kale up pretty fine for both of these dishes because I have small children so it’s easier for them to handle. Plus, the finer it’s chopped, the harder it is for them to pick it out of anything! 😉
SPINACH is very similar to kale in the nutrients it provides, but offers a little less vitamin C and more iron, actually. Both of these leafy greens are great raw in smoothies and salads. When I cook them, I prefer to cook them IN a dish so no nutrients are lost in the form of steam or boiling water. Spinach is a great substitute for kale in that strata recipe (just like you could swap bacon or ham for the sausage). I also love to chop spinach really fine and add it to lasagna, stuffed shells, or calzones. This tortellini soup is a really good winter warm-up and is excellent served with xButtermilk Cheddar Biscuits!
Here’s a fun grilled cheese to try: mix a bag of cheddar jack cheese, a half stick of butter, a couple handfuls of baby spinach, and a few leaves of basil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Spread this mixture between two slices of bread and grill as usual. This is an amazing accompaniment to tomato soup (which is also rich in vitamin C!) and as long as your kids can get past the “green” cheese that results, the whole family will love it! It’s our favorite way to have grilled cheese!
BROCCOLI is rich in vitamins K and C and fiber! According to “World’s Healthiest Foods” it’s also a great anti-inflammatory. I often put broccoli in a strata as well, in place of kale or spinach. We LOVE broccoli cheddar soup and it’s great in a stir-fry. But beyond those things, broccoli is probably one of my favorite vegetables to serve as a side and I do it a couple ways:
Prepare a balsamic vinaigrette by whisking together one minced clove of garlic, a dollop of dijon mustard, 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, and some drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. Steam, roast, or par-boil your bite-sized broccoli and then add it to the vinaigrette when cooked. Squeeze a half of lemon over the hot broccoli and season with salt and pepper, then mix in with the vinaigrette so all the flavors are incorporated. My kids DEVOUR broccoli when it’s prepared this way!
When I want a FRESH side, I’ll simply steam my broccoli and then squeeze a lemon over it and season well with salt and pepper. Or simply add some sesame oil or soy sauce to it if you’re serving it with salmon or other seafood.
Here are some other side dish options:
Cooked brussel sprouts with bacon and apple “ju.” Slice up some bacon and start frying the “bits” in a cast iron skillet. Slice sprouts in half and add to the cooking bacon and season with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, reduce about a cup of apple juice and 1-2 TB apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar (whichever you have on hand) by boiling them together in a pan for a few minutes until the mixture is reduced by about 1/2 and then pour the ju over the brussel sprouts.
SWEET POTATOES are another super-food rich in vitamins A, C, and others, as well as beta-carotene. We enjoy the traditional mashed sweet potato with some butter, a little orange liqueur, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. But our all-time favorite way to enjoy these healthy roots are in fry-form! We have sweet potato fries almost once a week and our kids ask us to have them more often than that! We peel and slice our sweet potatoes into fry “sticks” and then I soak them in cold water for a little while. (1 hour or longer is recommended for crispy fries.) Then I dredge ours in a mixture of 4 parts flour, 1 part corn meal, seasoned with seasoned salt. Fry in canola oil until golden, then remove to a paper towel-lined bowl. These are great dipped in a mixture of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce!
Hope these ideas and recipes inspire you! Maybe they’ll appeal to those picky eaters in your life, too… 😉