Your Winter Time Cooking Guide
February 15, 2021
Plant-based eating in the winter may seem difficult. Follow our guide for keeping your dishes creative and interesting this winter.
The few farmer’s markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) during the winter months don’t attract many proprietors. The options are slim. You’ll find root vegetables, leafy greens, maybe some apples, and not much else. It can seem dull and uninviting. Sending you straight to the nearest supermarket to buy blueberries in February from who-knows-where and with little knowledge of how this plant got to you, let alone how it was grown, or pretty much anything about it.
Food is essential, we need it to live. Yet we do more research on the best selfie light or phone case to buy than we do on the food we eat. When I hear stories of recalls on products at supermarkets for reasons such as metal in baby food or e.coli in romaine lettuce, I wonder how we got so far removed. Where our food comes from and how it got to us, from seed to plate, it matters and we should let nature guide our diets.
Here are some winter veggies that may be on your shopping list and how to keep your dishes fresh:
- Let’s start with Butternut Squash. This orange delight is full of important micronutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin C, that are associated with strong immune function, eye health, promote wound healing, and energy. We usually think of soup when we think of butternut squash and there are some great recipes out there to turn this into a savory appetizer but simply roasting cubes of the flesh with some olive oil, salt, and pepper on high heat, can be a filling side dish or snack. A sweeter take on this versatile veggie is a butternut squash bread. Vegetable-based desserts are all the rage.
- Next we have Apples. The fruit that keeps on giving from September through March. But we are far from disappointed. Apples are also loaded with vitamin C, and are rich in fiber, making it a go-to for feeling fuller longer, lowering cholesterol, improved gut and immune health. Apples are your go-to snack and dessert. They are easy to slice up and dip in some almond butter or peanut butter. Or turn into a decadent apple crumble. But apples can also be a delicious spread as apple butter. Slather that on your whole-grain toast or as a dressing on your protein for a sweet kick on your savory dish.
- If you’re lucky to live near a farmer’s market or be part of a CSA that has Mushrooms and Tomatoes, year round, then take advantage! Mushrooms are our plant-based vitamin D resource, essential to bone health. While tomatoes are packed with potassium, crucial to blood pressure control. These veggies are salad staples. Throw them into your go-to salad or this DWN salad to enrich flavor and nutrient profile. Mushrooms can also be made into a stuffed-mushroom appetizer or roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper and dipped in hummus. My favorite dish to make with tomatoes is vegetarian chili. I love to roast my own tomatoes, instead of buying them canned, and using them as a base for a fresh pot of chili. They are also a wonderful filling for a galette.
- Lots ‘n lots of potatoes, beets, carrots, parsnips, onions and garlic! It’s a root vegetable party from December through March. I am far from bummed out about this. The list of nutrients and benefits is too long! Most familiar are fiber, vitamin C, vitamin Bs (energy booster, brain function, and skin/hair health), vitamin A, vitamin K (bone health and wound healing), potassium (blood pressure control), etc. Convinced yet? Roasting any of these tubers with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, is always delicious and a great go-to when you are short on time or want to keep it simple. I also recommend making baked fritters with a combination of any of these goodies. Onions and garlic are easily added to almost any dish. Nothing beats caramelized onion in combination with squash or potatoes. Any for those with a sweet tooth, fresh carrots in a carrot cake, bread, or pancakes is a fantastic finish to a meal.
- We can’t forget about our greens! Kale & Spinach are the two leafy greens you’ll most often find this time of year. Kale is loaded with vitamin K (easy to remember!) and vitamin C, while Spinach is full of folate (heart health, fetus development, and some cancer prevention) and vitamin A. I start every morning with a leafy green sauteed in a splash of olive oil, on the side of my plate. Kale and spinach is a great addition to almost any dish, you can even throw them into a juice or smoothie. Toss them into a salad as the base green or into any soup. We love a green that goes with everything!
- And let’s finish off with Whole Grain Bread! I know we go back and forth on whether we like bread or not, but I could watch a video of whole grain sourdough being made on instagram for hours. We all went through a sourdough craze at the start of quarantine, yet we still want to get our bagels scooped out when we go to the bagel shop. So which is it!? Let me just say for the record, I love bread. It’s a fantastic source of whole grains and you can buy it easily from a local source, like Bread Alone in New York. Whole grains should be a staple in our diet and we should enjoy it. Whole grains are loaded with important fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron (blood oxygen), zinc (immune system, taste and smell, growth), and on and on. Toasting up a slice of whole grain bread, adding a light schmear of hummus, sliced tomatoes, and handful of spinach is a delightful afternoon snack. Besides the numerous toast combinations out there, whole grain bread can be run through the food processor for homemade bread crumbs or used as a bread stuffing with celery and the sort.
What we buy as consumers, what we demand, can dictate supply. It can have the power to decide what our farmers grow. We also want to let nature tell us what our earth can grow now. We should listen. There are so many ways to get creative with the food that nature is telling us to eat, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.