Get Back to Your Roots

During December we gravitate towards cozy, soul-satisfying foods to balance the cold winter temperatures. We also enjoy holiday dishes that are filled with memories and traditions. Root vegetables often find a way into these hearty and rustic recipes that can warm your body and soul from the inside out. It is no coincidence that December is National Root Vegetable Month.  

Roots vegetables are defined as an edible plant that grows underground. As a result, root vegetables absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil. They are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Root vegetables are filled with fiber, helping with blood sugar regulation, digestion, and satiety. Rich in nutrients and low in fat and sodium, these nutritious vegetables complete or complement any winter meal. 

Potatoes, carrots, beets, and onions are just a few examples of root vegetables. However, the list of root vegetables is quite long. Think celery root, daikon, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, kohlrabi, parsnips, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and yams, just to name a few. Root vegetables are available all year long, but most varieties reach peak season between September-January. When selecting root vegetables, choose vegetables that are firm, without soft spots, scars, or cracks in the outer layer. Store root vegetables in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. 

Enjoy root vegetables and the multitude of ways you can prepare them! 

  1. Mash: Give your mashed potatoes a makeover by including some root vegetables, such as parsnips, turnips, and rutabaga. Simply slice and dice your potatoes, along with your root vegetables. White root vegetables will blend right in, and picky eaters may not even notice the recipe “upgrade.” For a pop of color and a bit of fun, include sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, or beets to your potato mix. Just a few tips when making mashed root vegetables: 
    • Cut all root vegetables into roughly the same size – about 1 – 1 ½ inch cubes. If using carrots, slice them a bit thinner as they take a little longer to cook. 
    • To boil, be sure to cover vegetables completely with water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium. Gently boil the veggies for 15-18 minutes, or until soft and easily pierced with a fork.   
    • Drain vegetables in a colander and return to the pot. Mash with a fork, potato masher or use a food mill for a smooth consistency. Note: Using a food processor or immersion blender may lead to a sticky, gummy dish. 
    • Add milk, butter (or whatever you like to add to your potatoes), and season to taste.  
  2. Roast: Toss peeled and diced root vegetables in a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Streamline the cleanup by lining your cooking sheet with parchment paper. Try this Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet dish or this Harvest Vegetable Medley.
  3. Grill:  Slice root vegetables and grill for a healthful and tasty side. Include sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, and beets for a colorful array of nutrition. 
  4. Make Chips: From potato chips to beet chips. Thinly slice root vegetables, drizzle with olive oil and season to taste. Bake at 425° until crisp, about 30 minutes.  
  5. Make Pancakes: Jazz up a potato pancake by including a variety of grated root vegetables.  
  6. Make Fries:  Just about any root vegetable can be used for homemade fries, from sweet potatoes to parsnips. For a fun variety, try making curly fries with the help of a spiralizer. 
  7. Make Hash Browns: Once again, any root vegetables can be added to the traditional potato.  
  8. Make a Soup: This Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup is creamy and tasty. Enjoy as a first-course or a hearty dinner.  
  9. Enhance a Soup or Stew: Slice and dice any root vegetable and add into a hearty stew or soup.
  10. Make a Dip: This tasty Beet Dip is bursting with color, flavor, and healthy ingredients. 

There you have it. Celebrate root vegetables and enjoy all year long. They can be cooked in every way you can think of – mashed, grilled, braised, and roasted. 

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