Get your kids to eat more veggies

Prepared right, these are vegetables your kids will want to eat

Raw or roasted, root vegetables can be used in a wide variety of dishes or served on their own.

There’s not much that’s appealing about winter. It’s cold, it’s icy, and it is seemingly dark 23 hours a day.

But this long, dreadful season has at least one redeeming quality: root vegetables. From carrots to rutabaga, these gems are popular during the colder months here in New England.

They are hearty and easy-to-store (perhaps you’ve heard the term “root cellar”), perfect for when fresh vegetables grown above ground are hard to find.

Root vegetables are a treat for many reasons, including their winter cold-fighting nutritional benefits. Because they grow underground, they absorb an impressive number of nutrients from the soil, packing them with antioxidants, vitamins A, B, and C, and even iron.

In addition to the nutritional punch they pack, root vegetables can also be used in a wide variety of dishes.

“The carrot is incredibly versatile — juice it, shred it, dice it, raw, steamed, roasted. It’s a true staple in my fridge,” said Kath Gallant, chef and owner of Blue Moon Evolution in Exeter. “I have been enjoying slow-roasting whole rainbow carrots for one-and-a-half hours and serving them with a chimichurri as a vegan entree alternative.”

Even family-favorite side dishes can be given a facelift with varying root vegetables.

“Rutabaga can be made kid-friendly by preparing it mashed with a little sour cream and fresh dill,” said Kasia Lojko, co-owner of All Real Meal in Manchester.

If you’d rather stick with the humble potato, they, too, are in abundance this time of year, with purple, sweet, and fingerling varieties being just a few you can find in your local grocery store. Potatoes can even take on an entirely different flavor depending on how they’re prepared.

“Potatoes, in general, are so fun to work with because each one has a unique flavor, color, texture, etc., and there are limitless ways to prepare them,” said Lojko. “Roasting is probably our favorite way to prepare [them] because that process brings out the natural sweetness, which creates loads of flavor when combined with some salt.”

Roasting any root vegetable is not only a super easy way to prepare them, but this cooking method also yields some exceptionally delicious results.

“My favorite way to prepare pretty much any root vegetable is to roast it,” said local food blogger Heather L. McCurdy at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond (www.realthekitchenandbeyond.com).

“Baking them at a higher temperature means they cook faster (hit with mom) and it also brings out the natural sweetness in them (bigger hit with kids).”

While carrots, onions, and potatoes are typical staples in most home pantries, there are some root vegetables that are mistakenly underutilized in many home kitchens. Vegetables such as rutabaga, parsnips, yuca, celery root, and kohlrabi, to name a few.

“The hidden gem in root vegetables for kids is the quirky, kind of ugly kohlrabi,” Gallant said. “At one of last year’s winter’s markets there was a tasting of root vegetables, and the kohlrabi won….The kohlrabi is easy to grow from seed, crisp and crunchy, with a hint of apple – it’s a delicious addition to any salad.”

McCurdy points out that many root vegetables, whether familiar or not, can be prepared in kid-friendly ways – without losing much of the vegetables’ nutritional value.

For instance, she suggests “ricing” carrots as a lower-carbohydrate alternative to rice, frying vegetables into “nuggets,” and hiding root vegetables in soups and stews.

“Chop those veggies small and they’ll have no idea. In fact, that’s one of the key ways I always got my kids used to new ingredients,” McCurdy said. “I added them in subtle amounts pureed or minced so they could start acclimating to the flavor, then slowly worked my way up to them eating [the vegetables] as a main component.”

No matter which root vegetable you choose, and how you choose to prepare it, there’s no more delicious way to get through the winter.

Michelle Lahey is a food writer who has been writing about (and eating) food in New Hampshire for over 10 years. Outside of food, you can find her sipping on a good IPA, correcting other people’s grammar, or hiking in the White Mountains.

Categories: Food news, Recipes

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