Localicious: Fall-into-Winter Vegetables

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Winter’s chilly days and overcast skies make preparing food with your kids a fun and educational indoor activity. Kids enjoy picking out colorful winter vegetables that come in unusual shapes, and adults enjoy the nutritious seasonable varieties available. Examples include leafy kale and other hearty greens; root vegetables, such as beets, potatoes and turnips; and squash, such as pumpkin, butternut and spaghetti. All but the greens keep well during the frosty months in a cool, dry place.

Fall’s hearty sage, cinnamon and nutmeg-spiced feasts are usually overwhelmingly filled with candied yams, pumpkin pies, green bean casseroles and other work-intensive dishes. Yet not all delicious meals require days of work and planning, or dirtying what can seem like every piece of cookware in the kitchen. Especially now, with a growing selection of pre-prepared vegetables available in stores.

Photos by Karrie Ann Snure, Living Shasta Photography, www.livingshastaphotography.com

Photos by Karrie Ann Snure, Living Shasta Photography, http://www.livingshastaphotography.com

Butternuts are some of the easiest squash to prepare; they have thin, smooth skin that can be easily removed with a potato peeler. Once peeled, all you have to do is slice them in half, scoop out the few seeds and pulp, and slice or cube them for recipes. An alternative that helps with busy schedules, or if you have young kids and don’t want them around sharp knives, is to buy bagged fresh pre-chopped butternut squash in 12oz bags at Trader Joe’s (Redding and Chico). These can be roasted, steamed, or used in the risotto recipe. Hint: roasting vegetables almost always makes them more appealing to kids as it brings out the sweeter flavors and reduces the “mush” factor.

If you love vegetables, and want to get your kids to think of a hard-rind squash as something besides a Halloween decoration or something you scoop out of a can to make a pie, then you may enjoy trying this Butternut Squash Risotto recipe, which is a great source of Vitamin A, plus Vitamin C, calcium and iron.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

  • 5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken* broth (3 cans or 45oz)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2″ cubes (approx. 3-4 cups or 16oz)
  • 1 1/2 cups medium grain rice
  • 1/4 tsp saffron** (pricey but essential)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2-3 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Add black pepper to taste.

* To make this recipe vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken.

** A good source of inexpensive spices, including saffron, is Cost Plus World Market (Redding and Chico).

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat broth until it simmers.

Heat oil on medium heat in a nonstick skillet, then add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

Add squash and rice, and stir for a few minutes.

Add about 1 cup of the hot broth, and the saffron, stirring constantly.

Continue to cook and stir over medium heat until broth is absorbed.

Keep adding broth, around 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until broth has been absorbed but mixture is creamy (about 30 minutes).

Remove from heat, stir in butter and Parmesan cheese, and add pepper to taste.

Serve topped with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Makes 4-6 main course servings for hungry adults, or 8 side dish servings.

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Wait! Don’t throw out those seeds.

Pumpkin and butternut squash seeds are nutritious and can be saved and roasted for snacks. Simply remove the pulp and rinse the seeds, then drain excess water. Drizzle a little olive oil on a baking sheet. Select seasonings, such as salt and garlic, or try something sweet like cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In a bowl, mix the seasonings with the seeds, then spread them out on the baking sheet. Roast in a 250ºF oven for about an hour, checking once in a while to stir them and to assess the level of toastiness. Remove and enjoy!

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About Stephanie Bird

Author Stephanie Bird recently survived going back to college for a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Sciences. She loves winter, playing bass, and talking about physiology.

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  1. […] excited about my first article, Fall-Into-Winter Vegetables, as this time of the year is my favorite and I love squash. Hope you enjoy […]

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