Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Vegetables

My son stated that he longer wanted sweet desserts during the week. He wants to eat healthier and worries about some winter weight. It seems that our family has fallen into a familiar trap for those who try to eat more organic, local and seasonal.

Our meals have become lazy. We use pasta, grilled cheese and comfort food to help us make it through the dreary winter. It just seems that there is a lack of passion around making supper in the winter. It is as if the extra clothes and dark mornings and nights have dragged us down into a perpetual stupor of the non drunken kind. (Thanks Ford for making that into our family lexicon).

One of the problems is lack of vegetables. Sure, we have the cruciferous veggies, beets and carrots but I miss the wide range of late spring to early fall. We can do much with broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts that make them enjoyable - roasting, dry pan frying until lightly charred, raw with dips - but most preparations take time.

My sons eventually tire of raw carrots on their lunch and look for a little more variety. Cooked carrots in every way are always welcomed at the table. Once again, it takes forethought and preparation. Beets work well for the adults of the family but the kids still haven't taken a shine.

It is so strange that the simple task of peeling carrots or beets, trimming cauliflower and broccoli seems so much more onerous in the winter. In the summer, I think nothing of prepping peas, beans and tomatoes for a quick fry-up. The fifteen minutes to get a veggie tray ready with a dip for the kids and a quick chop salad for us seems like a inevitable and joyous task. Five minutes to peel some carrots and a few minutes in boiling water in the winter doesn't seem worth it.

The cabbages and turnips that reek of sulfur when cooked have never seemed to be a favourite of most kids. We have been able to dress up other members of that stinky family by frying with bacon, not the healthiest option. Dry frying broccoli and cauliflower until the ends blacken and then tossing them in olive oil and salt works well. Roasted squash works and I wonder if maybe roasting turnip and glazing it would provide the sweetness and avoid the stench? Then again, selling the smell as desirable may be easy to a couple of young boys. Maybe I need to work on the approach.

If you stretch the definition of your resolution of local, organic and seasonal, you can get other bits and bobs of vegetables that are not at their best in terms of flavour. Greenhouse produce sometimes lacks in flavour. The best way to boost and enhance the vegetable, other than bacon, is to remove water. Drying, roasting, dry frying, making a sauce or soup and reducing are some of the more common ways of drawing out the best of a bad batch. Not perfect for a weeknight when you have half an hour and no willpower.

I like to take time on weekends for these time laden processes. I mean, when you are outside shoveling the snow, yet one more time, you might have the oven do some work for you. Put a whole bunch of pans in the oven and get all sorts of stuff roasting. During the week, these can become lifesavers where you can quickly warm some up for a side, create a roasted vegetable salad, make a quick soup, add some to pasta sauce, create a sauce or dip for meat or raw veggies.

Hell, it is easy enough to put a bunch of vegetables into a soup on the weekend and spend some of the early part of the week reheating. Soup and chiles always taste better after a few days. I miss those hearty soups in the summer and it is too hot to make them. Baked beans work well as a low meat option. A bowl and a bread slice fills you up without adding a ton of winter weight.

You know, I think I may have just blogged my way out of winter vegetable blahs...

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