There’s a bright side to these cold, winter days — there is a whole new set of produce available to college students for relatively cheap. Even better news? Seasonal winter produce packs in a lot of nutritional stuff that can help us out with things such as energy, immune function and cell growth. Plus, they’re not too hard to cook with. Read on to see a few of the foods that are in season, plus ideas for how to prepare them or where to find them while out and about in Eugene this winter.
The goods: Known as a “superfood” by many, this leafy green is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins K, B6 and iron, according to Jessica Wilson, Nutrition Services Director and Health Educator at the University of Oregon Health Center. Kale is also believed to be a good source of other vitamins and minerals such as:
— Vitamin A, an antioxidant which helps maintain eyesight, protects skin cells from damage and helps promote growth of skin, teeth and skeletal tissue.
— Vitamin C
— Calcium, a mineral perhaps known best for its importance to formation and health of our bones and teeth, also helps with muscle contraction.
— Easy: Sauteed Kale. This simple idea only takes about ten minutes to cook. All you need is some olive oil, garlic, balsamic or red wine vinegar and some vegetable stock or water. Cook the garlic first. Then add the kale and the stock or water under high heat until the liquid has evaporated. You can saute the kale in the vinegar for a minute, or just add it on after to help season. A tasty addition for the meat lovers out there is sauteing the kale with bacon or ham.
— Other ideas: Both Bon Appetit and Cooking Light experts have found a variety of creative ways to use kale in main dishes for winter meals. Bon Appetit’s Kale and bean bruschetta may make for an easy and filling appetizer, while something like Cooking Light’s Farfalle with sausage, cannellini beans and kale recipe offers a relatively simple main dish with few ingredients. Kale can also make a good addition to winter soups and stews or casseroles.
The goods: While not strictly a seasonal winter food, carrots are available year-round and pair well with much of the winter produce while still remaining relatively cheap. “Carrots, raw or boiled, are a good source of fiber and very good source of Vitamin A,” according to Wilson. Carrots also contain:
— Vitamin C
— Vitamin B6, which is needed to make hemoglobin in red blood cells and works to metabolize protein, according to Wilson.
— Vitamin K
— Thiamin, which “participates in the B complex of vitamins that gives you energy,” according to Wilson, who also mentioned that it “metabolizes carbohydrates and protein for energy.”
— Manganese, an antioxidant, helps to boost immune function and healthy bone growth, as well as benefits functioning of the brain and nervous system.
— Easy: Glazed carrots. There are plenty of options here to help make an easy side dish. Alton Brown, a celebrity chef from Food Network adds ginger ale and chili powder to his recipe (on top of butter, salt and parsley), while other recipes make the glaze based with things like chicken broth, maple syrup or orange juice. All you have to do is add the carrots and the other ingredients in a skillet or saucepan and let simmer until the ingredients are reduced to a glaze.
— Another idea: A dish that’s easy to make and keeps well, carrot salad doesn’t take too much time to prep and generally features only a few ingredients (the most common is peeled and shredded carrots with a lemon juice or mayonnaise-based dressing). Keep it classic by adding raisins or cranberries into the mix, or change it up by adding a dash of curry powder to the dressing.
The goods: Hearty and versatile, sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber. This root vegetable can also be a good way to pick up vitamins A and B6, as well as Magnesium, and a few others:
— Vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps protect the body against free radicals and aids the body in absorbing non-heme iron (iron that is not from meat-intake), which is especially helpful to the student age group, according to Wilson.
— Potassium, which is a mineral that keeps up the health of multiple organs and muscular strength in the body, as well as lowers blood pressure.
— Easy: For something simple, you can’t really go wrong with roasted sweet potatoes. Thinly slice sweet potatoes and coat in olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe just a dash of cumin. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the potato slices over and bake for another 15 minutes.
— Other ideas: If you want to bring out the “sweet” in the sweet potato, go for a baked sweet potato with melted butter and cinnamon. If you’re really feeling sweet, top it with marshmallows, or experiment with sweet potato pie. For more of a main dish, consider pairing sweet potato with chicken or pork and cooked apple, or get out your blender and try a sweet potato soup (Cooking Light combined sweet potato with things like leek and ham or carrots and ginger to make a creamy soup).
The goods: High in antioxidants, this fruit is also good source of dietary fiber, Vitamins C and others, including:
— Vitamin K: “The primary function for K is blood clotting,” Wilson explained. Vitamin K also helps to maintain bone health.
— Folate, which aids in creating new cells and prevents things like heart disease. “For women of this age group, folate helps prevent neural tube defects in unborn children, which is why it’s gotten so much press and why it’s added to our food,” Wilson added.
— Easy: Also considered a “superfood,” pomegranate goes well in fruit salad, if you’ve got the time to prepare it. Food Network’s “Antioxidant Fruit Salad” pairs the tangy pomegranate seeds with mango, blueberries and a little lime juice. Pomegranate also goes well with kiwi and grapefruit.
— Other ideas: If fruit salad isn’t what you’re feeling, pomegranate adds to regular salads, like spinach salad with pomegranate and walnuts, or something like Bon Appetit’s arugula salad with fennel, apple, mandarin orange and pomegranate. Your options here are pretty numerous.