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Sneaky Ways to Use Winter Vegetables

Sneaky Ways to Use Winter Vegetables

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Updated on Nov 19, 2010

Delicious, healthy, and kid-friendly are not terms that go together naturally. Throw a family gathering and a major holiday into the mix and things get even more difficult. With Thanksgiving looming, and lots of parties on the December calendar, many parents are wracking their brains to figure out how to sneak some veggies into the festivities. Poring over cookbooks and scouring Internet recipe sites turns up plenty of healthy or delicious or kid-friendly options, but dishes that combine all three elements are elusive.

Fortunately, this season's produce provides plenty of natural sweetness and hearty richness to satisfy everyone at your holiday table. Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are packed with enough natural sugar and flavor to perk up salads, soups, side dishes, and even desserts. Our creamy pumpkin apple soup, mashed sweet potatoes, and pumpkin créme caramel tweak traditional fare just enough to be healthier but still hearty in a soul-satisfying, comfort-foody way. Buttered nuts make steamed broccoli infinitely more appealing. Pecans, apples, and cranberries mix it up for a satisfyingly warm and sweet crisp just begging for a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.

Feeding the clan during the holidays doesn't have to be a trial by fire. Here are seven kid-tested, parent-approved recipes that we're certain will fit the bill. Rest assured, this holiday season, you can please everyone – at least at the dinner table.

Butternut Squash, Roasted Garlic and Goat Cheese Spread

This dish is super easy to prepare if you buy diced butternut squash. You can roast the garlic and squash up to 2 days ahead and keep covered in the refrigerator. Just throw everything into a food processor the morning of your event.

4 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Olive oil spray

1 whole head of garlic, top cut off

2 teaspoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1 (5-ounce) package goat cheese

1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 large baguette, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Spray baking sheet with olive oil. Spread the squash out on a baking sheet in a single layer and spray with olive oil. Place the whole garlic head on a square of foil, drizzle the 2 teaspons of olive oil over it, and wrap tightly in the foil. Place the foil-wrapped garlic on the pan with the squash and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash and garlic are tender. Cool slightly. Place squash into a food processor. Squeeze garlic cloves into processor. Add lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and cheese and process until smooth. Spoon mixture into a bowl, and sprinkle evenly with pecans and serve with baguette slices.

Pumpkin Apple Soup

Low-fat evaporated milk gives this soup a rich, creamy texture without a lot of added fat. Make this soup up to 2 days ahead, leaving out the milk. Add the milk and heat the soup just before serving time.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 crisp green apples, peeled, cored, and diced

2 cloves garlic, pressed

3 cans pure pumpkin puree

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup apple juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, apples, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin puree, broth, apple juice, salt and ground ginger. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

Puree the soup in batches in a food processor (allow to cool slightly first) or using a hand blender. Return mixture to the pot and stir in the evaporated milk. Heat soup over medium heat just until heated through. Be careful not to boil the soup after the milk has been added. Serve hot.

Serves 8.

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