Winter Foods to Warm the Soul - Almeda

Have no fear, winter might be here but that doesn’t mean no more fresh produce! Hearty winter produce including squash, winter greens, root vegetables, cranberries, citrus and pomegranate add a variety of colors, nutrients and flavors to winter meals.  From soups and stews to warm salads and roasted vegetables the variety of winter produce is nothing short of the summer and spring harvests!

The rich orange and green hues of winter produce quickly reminds us of the nutrient density of a vibrant acorn squash or a robust bunch of kale, and better yet they pair so perfectly together to create warm hearty meals that will not disappoint. Winter produce highlights several nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and fiber to keep you healthy through this chilly season.

Squash is probably the most well known seasonal vegetable in the winter and while there are several varieties you might notice that they all have something in common.  Acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash as well as several other varieties are all orange or yellow.  This is great news because this means that they contain several antioxidants including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin A and vitamin C.  Each of these nutrients offers our body the building blocks to maintain optimal health and avoid sickness.  

Winter greens, including kale, collards and chard, are hearty and rich in flavor.  Dark green leafy vegetables are nutrient powerhouses and are often noted for their countless nutrients.  These vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.  Moral of the story… Include winter greens in your diet and you will never fall short of your recommended nutrient intake and better yet increase your chances of avoiding winter illnesses.  

It might be hard to imagine fruit growing during the winter, but believe it or not there are actually several varieties that flourish in cooler temperatures.  Citrus, cranberries and pomegranate are a few examples of fruits that are in their peak growing season through the winter.  Pomegranate is not only a standout for its tart flavor, it has also been shown to help reduce inflammation as well as reduce the risk of several heart related conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart attack.  

Winter can be a dreary 3-4 months for those living in the northern and northeastern states, but with such rich variety of colors and nutrients the full flavors of winter produce gives us something to look forward to.  Just imagine, it’s a chilly day in January and you come home to a hearty chicken stew made with rich butternut squash, leafy greens topped with a sprinkle of pepper bacon.  Hmm.. maybe winter isn’t so bad.  

 

Winter Harvest Buddha Bowl with Avocado Lime Dressing

Ingredients:

1 bunch of kale (~ 1-1.5 pounds)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 avocado
½ lb. bacon (turkey or pork)
½ pomegranate kernels
1 large sweet potato (~ 1-2 pounds)
Olive oil for roasting
Salt and pepper to taste

Other ingredients to consider adding or substituting:

Pumpkin seeds
Roasted butternut squash
Roasted acorn squash
Toasted sesame seeds
Roasted chickpeas
Sprouts
Roasted beets

  

Directions:
 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.  Cut sweet potato (or squash) into coins or cubes for roasting.  Arrange on baking sheet and coat with olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Bake for 30 min or until edges start to crisp.

2. Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Quinoa typically takes about 15-20 minutes to cook.

3. Cook bacon until crispy and cut into small pieces.

4. Put kale in a medium sized mixing bowl and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil on top.  Using your hands or tongs massage oil into kale until kale is soft and bright green.  Set aside. 

5. Prep avocado, by cutting lengthwise and removing the pit.  Cut avocado into slices. Cut the top of the pomegranate off and then run a paring knife along the outer skin to cut only the surface of the fruit. Make 4 cuts around the diameter of the fruit. Using your fingers pry apart the sections to reveal the kernels.

6. Layer 2 cups of kale, ¼ – ½ cup cooked quinoa, ¼ cup pomegranate, a ¼ of the avocado, and ½ cup of sweet potato in a large salad bowl.  Sprinkle with bacon.

 

Avocado Lime Dressing

Ingredients:
1 Avocado
1 clove Garlic, peeled
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro
¼ cup low-fat sour-cream or greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice (or white vinegar)
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt
¼ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

 

Directions:

Blend together all ingredients in a blender or with a stick blender. Add a splash of water if mixture is too thick.