MISSION NUTRITION: Root veggies: Nutritious, delicious and versatile

There are many healthful ways of consuming root vegetables.

Root vegetables are the underground food storage parts of edible plants. Members of diverse botanical families, they include different types of roots: tubers, rhizomes, taproots and corms. Examples of this large group of vegetables brimming with nutrients, are potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, turnip, radishes, carrots, yucca, beets, rutabaga and many others. The highly starchy roots, namely potatoes, sweet potatoes and yucca should be consumed in moderation.

And let’s get to the root of the matter: potatoes’ bad reputation and calories come from fatty fries, highly processed chips or some folks’ habit of dousing their potatoes with vats of butter and/or sour cream.

There are infinite healthful ways of consuming root vegetables. The following are some ideas: Turnip root peeled and halved, red radishes, whole peeled garlic cloves, and peeled yellow onion halved, can be steamed and enjoyed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Finely grated red radishes add nutrients and a big flavor to a salad dressing. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, finely grated peeled clove garlic, salt and pepper and drizzle on steamed or baked potatoes. Add any of the root veggies (chopped), to soups and stews.

Here are some helpful how-to tips: If you have never eaten yucca, try this delicious and naturally creamy root. Using an ordinary vegetable peeler, and with firm strokes, peel the yucca. Rinse, dry it with paper towels and cut into 3/4 inch pieces and steam for 17 minutes. Mix with olive oil, salt and pepper right on your plate. A fully cooked yucca will feel firmer than a cooked potato or sweet potato. There is no need to peel carrots. Just scrub with a small brush then rinse well. A teaspoon peeled and finely grated ginger root, olive oil, lemon juice and salt added to cooked vegetables lend them a magnificent flavor and nutrition to boot. Try these easy and delicious recipes.

HERBED MASHED POTATOES

2 servings

1 pound red or white potatoes (2 large potatoes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 cup water, or skim milk, or unsweetened soy milk

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and peel potatoes. With the tip of small sharp knife, remove the “eyes” and blemishes. Rinse potatoes, and cut into equal bite-size pieces. Place potatoes and whole garlic cloves in steamer and steam 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain. Transfer cooked garlic and potatoes into medium bowl or pot and add all other ingredients. Using a hand masher, mash potato mixture until smooth. Mix mashed potatoes with a large spoon, as mashing does not evenly blend all the ingredients. If too dry, add 1 – 2 tablespoons milk or water. VARIATIONS: The sky is the limit. Try mashing other smooth, cooked veggies with the potatoes, such as carrots, turnip root etc., or using a different herb.

OPEN-FACE AVOCADO-RADISH SANDWICH

2 servings

¾ cup avocado flesh

4 slices whole wheat or multi grain bread

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

5 small red radishes

Toast bread slices. Cut avocado open and remove the pit. With a spoon, scoop out avocado flesh to fill the measuring cup. With a fork, mash avocado on a plate, and transfer to bowl. (Refrigerate remainder of avocado in an airtight container). Mix in oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Evenly spread a thick coat of the avocado mixture on one side of each slice of bread. Trim the radish top and bottom ends, rinse well and dry. Slice radishes. Cut each bread slice in half and top with radish slices, gently pressing them a bit into the avocado spread to “glue” them to the sandwiches.

INDIAN-STYLE VEGETABLE STEW

2 servings

1 1/2 cups water

1 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 medium sweet potato, cut into small pieces

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

Place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan, except the oil. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes. Mix in the oil and cook 5 more minutes.

Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food/health columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor and speaker.

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