Hooray! You survived the holidays!
Welcome to 2018!
So January is typically all about making resolutions, right? But how often do we actually see those resolutions through the end of the year? If you are anything like me, the chances that I even remember what I picked come next December is pretty slim. So this year I wanted to do something different. Instead of making a resolution about getting to a certain number on the scale or only eating a specific and completely unattainable new diet, or stop drinking as much coffee or wine (yeah, right!) – this year I want to ADD something to my life, and I hope you will join me!
Are you ready to embark on a new adventure?!
Everyone always talks about “Eating the rainbow” and how you should choose foods in a variety of colors for a nutritional diet. This year I want to be your resource for discovering new foods, exploring new recipes, and for helping your family be more adventurous in the kitchen and at the dinner table. Each month I will highlight just a few of the peak seasonal fruits and vegetables available in an array of colors! My hope is that you will pick one (yes, just one!) and give it a few tries during the month.
Will you join me?
Why a Produce Challenge?
- Introducing new fruits and vegetables into your family’s diet means its easier to find awesome food to eat, no matter where you are
- Eating a varied and colorful diet is healthy
- Teaching your children that the world is food is bigger than chicken nuggets and french fries will start them down the road to being a healthy, happy adult with a positive relationship with food
- Eating seasonal is awesome – Not only will your produce cost less, have a smaller footprint, but it will also taste better and have more nutritional value!
How to incorporate new foods into your meal plan.
Learning to cook a new recipe or using a new ingredient can seem daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start, if your family is picky, or if you aren’t even sure what to do with it. The first time I brought home an eggplant I felt the exact same way (ok, I still do!)
- Start Simple! You don’t need a ridiculously fancy, overly complicated recipe.
- Incorporate a new food into the types of foods your family already eats to help ensure that they are more likely to try it. That way it seems like a trusted, well known “safe” food and not something scary and alien.
- Pick only ONE new recipe to try a week – and make sure it is on a night when you aren’t rushed for time or trying to impress dinner guests
- Don’t hide it in super sneaky ways – There is a difference between adding pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes or mac and cheese to see what it is like and telling your family it is “real” mac and cheese. Don’t lie – that only creates trust issues with you and trying new foods down the road.
For more information on how to make meal planning easy, read my post about How to Meal Plan Like A Boss (and download the awesome free printable workbook!).
How to get kids to try new foods.
Knowing how your kids respond to food is super important here. Do they tend to love roasted or grilled vegetables but won’t touch them if they have been steamed? Will they eat anything if there is something to dip it in? Will they eat anything covered in cheese, or baked into a casserole? Knowing this information and incorporating it into your new food experiences is seriously key!
Getting your kids involved in this experience is really important, too. Have them help you pick out a recipe to try, take them to the store with you to find the ingredient, and have them help you prepare it. Talk with them about it – what does it look like, feel, and smell like? What does it remind them of? The more involved your family is in the entire process of trying a new food, the more likely they will be to try it!
And remember – sometimes HOW a food is prepared totally makes or breaks it. My oldest daughter is totally anti-potato. Unless it comes in the form of a Chick-fil-A wale fry, she won’t touch it. She won’t eat them mashed or roasted. She won’t eat them as a tater tot or a hash brown. She won’t eat there here or there, she will not eat them anywhere. Except, one year for Easter we made this Cheesy Potato Casserole. I didn’t even put any on her plate, because I didn’t expect her to eat any. But she noticed how fast it was disappearing and she asked to try some. And SHE LIKED IT! So just because you don’t like something prepared one way, doesn’t mean you won’t like it prepared some other way!
For more information on how to get your kids (and spouses, too, maybe!) interested in trying new foods, read my post on Raising Adventurous Eaters.
Below you will find just a few of the awesome produce that is available at its peak for January. I challenge you to try ONE new food this month!
Pomegranates are sweet and tangy and totally worth all the work it takes to eat them! Filled with anti-oxidants and Vitamins C, E, and K, as well as Folate, and Potassium, these little jewel like seeds have been shown to reduce blood pressure, help prevent cancer, and sooo much more! No wonder they are called a super fruit!
How to Pick Pomegranates
Look for a fruit that is hard on the outside and feel heavy. Make sure there are no cracks or bruises. You want the biggest one you can find (that means it is juicier!).
How to Store Pomegranates
Store on the counter for a week or in the fridge for two. Once you have removed the seeds you can store those in an airtight container for about 5 days. Here is a great tutorial on how to peel a pomegranate!
- Charred Green Beans with Garlic and Pomegranate Seeds – The roasted flavour of the green beans with the pop of sweetness from the pomegranates will make these charred green beans with garlic and pomegranate seeds your new favorite!
- Cucumber Pomegranate Salad – This fun salad is fresh and crunchy and sure to be a hit!
- Winter Fruit Salad with Cinnamon Vanilla Dressing – This is like dessert, guys. Dessert you don’t have to be ashamed to serve with dinner.
Oranges are often thought of as a snack food, or an addition to a fruit salad, but they are great additions to meals as well! Oranges are packed with Vitamin C, they are high in Folic Acid (so eat up if you are expecting a new baby!), and tons and tons of other nutrients that your body needs! Including them in dinner is a brilliant idea!
How to Pick Oranges
Select oranges that are firm, smooth, and thin skinned. Color is not a good indicator of quality, surprisingly! Instead focus on how the orange feels – make sure it is plump, firm, and doesn’t have soft or moldy spots. It should feel heavy in your hand when you pick it up. The heavier it is, the juicier it is (which is kind of the point, right?)!
How to Store Oranges
Store oranges either open on the counter or in a bowl for 1 week, or in the fruit crisper drawer of a fridge for 2 weeks.
- 30 Minute Healthy Orange Chicken – This is one of my favorite meals to make on busy weeknights! It is easy, fresh, and bursting with flavor. Plus my kids actually eat every bite, which always means its a winner at my house!
- Sheet Pan Za’atar Chicken with Orange Couscous is a fun and flavorful sheet pan meal!
- Orange Glazed Carrots are a fun alternative to boring plain carrot side dish!
- Grilled Pork Chops with Orange and Grape Salsa is a totally unexpected, easy, and totally fun recipe that you are going to fall in love with!
You either love them or hate them. But if you have never tried these baby green cabbages before, or never found a recipe that you really liked them in, don’t give up! There are sooo many ways to cook these beauties, and so many amazing flavors to pair them with! Plus, they cook up quickly, which makes them a great addition to any meal. These little green gems contain about 50% of the Vitamin C you need each day, a good amount of fiber, and about 12% of of the Folate you need!
How to Pick Brussels Sprouts
Pick Brussels Sprouts that are vivid green and tightly closed. They should be tightly compacted and feel firm when squeezed. Smaller sprouts tend to be sweeter and and larger ones tend to be more cabbage-like. It doesn’t really matter if you buy them on or off the stem.
How to Store Brussels Sprouts
Store Brussels Sprouts in the refrigerator. They should last several weeks! There is some debate whether you store them uncovered in a bowl or in a tightly sealed bag. Either way seems to be fine, but leave the other leaves on until you are ready to prepare them.
Brussels Sprouts Recipes
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Cranberries and Barley – This is a great side dish for a special meal, dinner party, or whenever you want. It only takes 10 minutes to make and is packed with fresh cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, toasted pecans, and barley. Its a seriously hearty, drool-worthy and comforting side dish!
- This One Pan Maple Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts is a great sheet pan meal for any night of the week. With almost no work involved, and tons of awesome cozy flavor!
- This Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Apple and Walnuts is the perfect choice if your family will prefer some crunch and smaller pieces that doesn’t look so “cabbage” like. My kids LOVE salads with tons of ingredients, and they are usually less picky about trying new ingredients in salad form.
- Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts are awesome if your kiddos love to dip things! Technically they are an appetizer, but you could totally get away with serving these at the dinner table alongside something a little healthier. Anything to get kids to eat brussels sprouts, right? And, there is bacon. Plus, the balsamic mayo dipping sauce is pretty much magical.
Kale has seen a huge popularity spike lately, and for good reason! It contains manganese which is good for your brain, it has tons of Vitamin K to help with your bones and blood, lots of iron to help your bones and muscles, potassium, AND its low in calories and fat. Everyone always talks about how you should eat more dark leafy greens well guess what – this is it! Try making some Kale Chips, blend it into a smoothie, etc! Check out this post for even more ways to get more kale into your family’s diet!
How to Pick Kale
If you want a tender and more mild kale, choose bunches with smaller leaves. You want to look for moist, crisp, unwilted leaves, and make sure they don’t have blemishes of insect holes or yellow/brown spots. The stems should also look to be in good condition.
How to Store Kale
Kale should really be washed as soon as you get home from the grocery store. If you are prepping it for smoothies and salads, its a lot easier to wash if you chop it, first. Make sure to get as much of the water out as you can, either with a salad spinner or with paper towels. Then store it in an airtight container in the fridge (a big ziplock bag with all the air squeezed out is best). Place some paper towels in the bag between layers of the kale ot help it stay fresh for longer. It should last between 1 and 2 weeks.
- Thai Kale Salad with Chicken and Peanut Dressing – We love this salad!!! Its filled with ALL KINDS of things! It’s one of those salads you sit down to and swear you won’t be able to finish – it actually keeps you full and satisfied! The Peanut dressing is a big hit with my kiddos, too!
- Spicy Garlic Kale Chips are a fun way to enjoy kale because you feel like you are eating a chip. Seriously, my kids can put this stuff away!! I usually skip on the red pepper so they aren’t spicy for little mouths.
- Kale Fruit Smoothies are an excellent way to pair kale with tons of fruit in a sugar free recipe kids will love!
- Tuscan Kale Bites are a fun and cheesy way to get your little eaters into kale!
Cauliflower often gets relegated to the un-eaten parts of a fresh veggie tray. But don’t let it lounge around in despair! Cauliflower provides tons of antioxidants and phytonutrients which help protect against cancer, fiber to help aid in digestion, and choline that is headful for learning and memory. Plus its such a versatile vegetable – there are so many things you can do with it! Try roasting it in the oven, mash them like potatoes, sneak them into homemade mac and cheese, and more!
How to Pick Cauliflower
It used to be that cauliflower only came in a boring white/beige color, but today you can find it in a host of colors – including orange and lavender! What is so fun about the colorful cauliflower is that the beautiful colors last through cooking! But no matter which color you choose, make sure that the color is uniform, the heads are firm and tightly closed, and the leaves still look good. There should be no dark or soft spots.
How to Store Cauliflower
Cauliflower is pretty perishable, no matter how hardy it seems. It should be stored unwashed and uncut, loosely wrapped in a sealed plastic bag, and kept in a crisper drawer in the fridge. Keep it upright to prevent moisture from collecting n the surface. It will let between 2-5 days.
- Crispy Cauliflower Cakes with Herb Sauce and Arugula Salad – This recipe takes a little more prep time than I normally like, but it turns out such a great healthy dinner that I don’t mind sticking it into the meal rotation now and then. These crispy cauliflower fritters are paied with an easy arugula salad with a light and fresh dressing and a great herbed dressing (its kind of a homemade ranch) that your kiddos will love dipping into!
- Roasted Garlic Cauliflower is so easy to prepare, but so tasty!
- Loaded Cauliflower Bake are like a loaded potato casserole, except with cauliflower. Its delicious.
- Cheddar Cauliflower Tots are an easy recipe that kiddos will love to help you make!
I loooove me some parsnips! A cousin to carrots, these beautiful root veggies are perfect for roasting, but are also great when shredded thin and eaten raw. They contain fiber, folate, potassium and Vitamins C. Their best flavor (which is similar to carrots but sweeter) is found right below the skin, so don’t go too crazy with the vegetable peeler! They will oxidized when exposed to air (just like an apple), so leave them whole until you are ready to cook them.
How to Pick Parsnips
You can find parsnips year round, but they are best in the dead of winter when frost converts the starches to sugars. You will want to find firm roots that are smaller – medium in size and uniformly ivory in color and nice and firm – don’t pick ones that are limp or shriveled looking. The larger ones tend to have a fibrous woody core that you will want to remove before cooking. Most grocery stores sell parsnips covered with a thin layer of wax to help them keep for longer.
How to Store Parsnips
Store parsnips the same as carrots – in a cool, dark place. If the greens are still attached when you buy them, remove those before storing.
- Chardonnay Braised Chicken Thighs with Parsnips – This chicken recipe might seem like a super fancy special occasion only type thing, but its actually ready in about 30 minutes, and totally delicious!
- Honey Soy Glazed Carrots and Parsnips are an easy skillet veggie with a perfect savory-sweet combo of soy sauce and honey.
- Easy Roasted Parsnips with Thyme is a fantastic 4 ingredient way to enjoy these veggies!
- Dreamy Creamy Pureed Parsnips are a fun alternative to mashed potatoes!
Rutabagas are a cross between a turnip and a cabbage. And they totally get left in the dust when it comes to eating veggies. I can pretty much guarantee that the majority of grocery store clerks have no idea what this vegetable is, so I imagine its hard to think about what to do with this or how to get your kids to try it. But you definitely need to give these guys a try – they are rich in Vitamin C, dietary fiber, potassium and have lots of antioxidant compounds. And they are awesome mashed, roasted, steamed or sautéed!
How to Pick Rutabagas
Rutabagas should feel heavy and firm and not have soft spots. Pick ones that have a pale yellow skin. Sometimes people get rutabagas and turnips confused – a turnip has a white skin and a purplish top. Like Parsnips, rutabagas are mostly sold with a thin layer of wax covering them.
How to Store Rutabagas
Store rutabagas in a large unsealed plastic bag in the fridge. Do not wash until ou are ready to use them.
- BBQ Baked Rutabega Chips are a healthy alternative to the potato chip, and kids LOVE them!
- Roasted Rutabagas with Italian Herbs are a gorgeous side dish that really bring out the flavor of the rutabaga (ts a good one!)
- Creamy Mashed Rutabegas are a fun cousin to mashed potatoes
And now, my friends, I have a challenge for you! If adding new fruits and vegetables to your meals is important to you and your family, you are totally going to want to join in on this monthly challenge! I challenge you and your family to try ONE of these in season produce items during the month of January!
Will it be something you have never attempted before? Will it be something you once tried & didn’t like?
Whatever the case, I challenge you to get your whole family on board and try something new!
HOW TO JOIN:
- Pick one of the produces highlighted above and make something delicious with it this month.
- Post a photo onto social media (for example, Facebook or Instagram) and tag me (@GingeredWhisk) and use the hashtag #ProduceAdventurers.
Leave a comment below telling me what you are going to try!