Thursday, September 30, 2010

Roasted Roots for Family Mealtimes

Some amazingly delicious things happen when you roast some very inexpensive (and under-appreciated) fall vegetables. They get sweeter, more tender on the inside, and a little crisper on the outside.

Roasting vegetables is simple, simple, simple! All you have to do is scrub the veggies and then toss them in a little olive oil. Beyond that, you can tailor the flavors of your roasted roots to your family's taste buds ~ with minced garlic, rosemary leaves, chopped fresh parsley, freshly ground pepper, or the zest of some chili powder. (I always add a little lemon juice to my roasting beets.)

Them cook the veggies in a hot over for 45-60 minutes. For a page of deliciously simple instructions, download the October Healthy Families Newsletter from Eat Right Montana.

While your roots are roasting, you can make the rest of your dinner, like baking chicken breasts or cooking a small beef roast at the same time.

What to roast? Here are five of my favorite fall roots ... and coming up next: Turning Your Roasted Roots into TACOS!

Aside from carrots (one of the most popular veggies in the US), most other root vegetables don’t get the nutritional respect they deserve. These often forgotten residents of the produce department are packed with important nutrients, tasty in a variety of dishes, low in cost, and able to be stored for long periods of time.

1. Carrots

While most of us are very familiar with the bright orange version of this “rabbit food,” carrots also come in purple, white, red, and yellow. They are delicious and crunchy when eaten raw - whole or grated into salads. Carrots are great in soups and they can also add nutrition, color, and sweetness to desserts, like muffins, bread, and cakes.

2. Beets

Beets also come in multiple colors - purple, gold, and white. Small beets are usually sweeter and more tender, with greens that are perfect for adding to salads (raw), stir-fries, and soups. Beet roots can be stored the fridge for up to 3 weeks, then steamed in the microwave, roasted in oven, or grilled outdoors (in thick slices or on a kabob stick).

3. Sweet potatoes

Talk about nutritious, delicious, and versatile, sweet potatoes (sometimes labeled as yams) are a best buy in any produce department. Substitute these nutrient-rich veggies for their pale white cousins in almost any dish (peeling them first): baked, mashed, roasted, boiled and chopped for salad, or sliced, oiled, and baked for oven fries.

4. Turnips and rutabagas

While these roots come from the same family, rutabagas are usually larger and sweeter. Turnip shapes vary from round to cylindrical and come in colors from rose to black, as well as white. Both can be cooked like potatoes (baked, boiled, roasted, and mashed). They can be grated like cabbage into slaw and stir-fried with more colorful veggies.

5. Kohlrabi

One of the lesser known root veggies, kohlrabi tastes like a delicious, crunchy cross between a cucumber and mild broccoli (it’s from the same family as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower). Look for purple or green kohlrabi bulbs. Both have white inner flesh, which can be eaten raw (like jicama) or cooked. Leaves can be used like beet greens.

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