Are you ready to embark on a new adventure?!
This March I want to share some awesome resources for eating just a tiny bit healthier, for discovering new seasonal march produce, exploring new recipes, and for helping your family be more adventurous in the kitchen and at the dinner table.
Why it is important to Eat Seasonal.
Focusing your meals around eating foods that are “in season” might seem like a trend, but there are some awesome advantages to eating this way! Not only will this help you save money on your groceries (because we all know strawberries in January are super expensive!) but the produce you do buy will be at its peak season – meaning it tastes better, its cheaper, and it has the best nutritional value.
How to incorporate new foods into your meal plan.
For some, adding new and different foods into your meal plan can seem stressful. Learning to cook a new recipe or with a new ingredient can seem so 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 a new ingredient.
The best place to start is the simplest – you don’t need a ridiculously fancy and overly complicated recipe. Incorporating a new ingredient or seasoning into the types of foods your family already eats will 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.
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. The more involved your family is in the entire process of trying a new food, the more likely they will be to try it!
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 peak March Produce, in a rainbow of colors. I challenge you to try ONE new food this month!
I don’t know of a more contested vegetable than beets! Either you LOOOOOVE them or you truly do NOT like them. But man, I totally hope you give beets another try if you don’t like them. Did you know that beets are an ancient food that grew naturally along the coastlines of North Africa, Asia and Europe? First just the greens were eaten (yes, you can eat the green tops!) and it wasn’t until ancient Rome that the tuber part was consumed. Around the 19th century beets started to be used as a source of sugar. Beyond being used as an alternative sugar source, beets are chock full of B vitamins, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium and potassium. Beets help to reduce your blood pressure (thanks to the nitrates), Beet greens have way more iron than spinach, and actually have more nutrients than the actual beet root itself! Think of the greens as similar to spinach and swiss chard. Beets come in ruby red, yellow, white, and even candy striped!
How to Pick Beets
Choose beets that are small and firm with deep coloring, unblemished skin, and bright green leaves with no sign of wilting. Avoid overly large beets with hairy taproots – all those tiny hairs indicate that the beet is old and tough. If you have ever been interested in growing your own beet, check out this awesome article.
How to Store Beets
To store, trim the leaves 2″ from the root as son as you can get them home. The leaves will sap the moisture from the beet. Do not trim the tail. If you want to keep and use the leaves, store them separate in a plastic bag and use within 2 days. Place the beet in a plastic bag as well and store in a crisper drawer of the fridge for 7-10 days.
- Cinnamon Roasted Beets – a generous dusting of cinnamon helps balance that earthy flavor that beets so often have. This recipe is so easy to make, and surprisingly addictive!
- Crispy Oven Roasted Beets with Herbed Yogurt Dip – If there is any way to get kids to love something, make it crispy and let them dip it! These are the perfect side dish, appetizer, or after school snack.
- Coconut Beet Noodle Wraps – filling and fresh, these fun meatless wraps make a great lunch!
- Whole Wheat Strawberry Beet Muffins – These muffins are so sweet, even though they have only a little sugar, no oil, and have whole wheat flour. They are healthy, but SOOOO good!
- Red Beet Pancakes – These are fun and vibrant pancakes your whole family will love!
Most people think of sweet potatoes come Thanksgiving time, but spring is still a perfectly great time for sweet potatoes! Note: Sometimes sweet potatoes are labeled “yams”, but this is often untrue. If you want to try a true yam you will probably need to head to an international market to find one!
How to Pick Sweet Potatoes
Find sweet potatoes that are small to medium in size – larger ones tend to be starchier. Make sure the skin is firm, smooth, and even toned. In general, the deeper the color of the potato, the richer it is in beta-carotene, which is an anti-oxidant. If you want a sweet potato that is sweeter and moister, pick one with orange or red skin. If you are looking for drier/starchy/more like a russet, try a variety with tan or purple skin.
How to Store Sweet Potatoes
The best place to store your sweet potatoes is in a cool, dry place that is well ventilated. A basement or root seller away from strong heat sources is best. Storing them in the fridge will cause them to have a hard center and an unpleasant taste. The fridge is actually too cool and changes the structure of the cell walls in the sweet potato. Don’t do that!
Sweet Potato Recipes
- Mexican Sweet Potato Casserole – This meatless meal is packed with veggies and loaded with flavor – no one will even realize there isn’t any meat!
- Sweet Potato, Spinach and Cashew Curry – warm and comforting, with so many amazing flavors and textures, this dinner is amazing!
- Braised Chicken Thighs with Sweet Potatoes and Leeks – Sweet potatoes and leeks star in this rich and comforting stew-like dish. A slow (but not all day) braise, makes for a full flavored, lick-the-plate kind of meal.
I have a new found love for Plantains and I hope this month you discover them, too! They are like weird cousins to bananas – but ones that you really want to cook before you eat. Raw they are kind of bitter and have a weird texture, but cooked they are soooo good! Plantains have lots of fiber, Vitamin B6, potassium and Vitamin A. They also boast some Vitamin C, magnesium, and small amounts of calcium. They are also a good choice for complex carbs,
How to Pick Plantains
Choose plantains that are firm when green and yield a little to gentle pressure when yellow and slightly soft when ripe (or black speckled). You can use plantains in all stages of ripeness – green is perfect fr shredding and making latkes/fritters, fried for chips, or making to stones. A ripe plantain (mostly yellow and speckled with black/brown), can be grilled, mashed, fried, or baked.
How to Store Plantains
Store plantains at room temp in a well ventilated area, like you would a banana. Green plantains will ripen slowly over several days. Once ripe, use within a few days.
- Caramel Cinnamon Baked Plantains – These sweet plantains are an excellent dessert by themselves or use them to top oatmeal, ice cream, or yogurt. You can also use this recipe to pan fry them in some coconut oil.
- Stuffed Baked Plantains – Like a baked potato, but waaaaay better!
- Tostones Nachos – Turn the plantains into chips and use them as the base for an awesome nacho recipe!
Artichokes! Do you love them, or have you only ever eaten them when combined with spinach and a creamy sauce in a dip? Artichokes are one thing that need to be brought out from the drudges of dip-land and into your regular meal rotation. These babies have a whopping 6 grams of dietary fiber (that’s more than a cup of prunes!), have 4 grams of protein, contain a unique form of fiber known as Inulin, which is one of hte most available and more promising probiotics in the food supply. Watch this video for the correct way to cut a fresh artichoke. Artichokes are available in two seasons – in the early spring and again in the fall/winter.
How to Pick Artichokes
You can find artichokes fresh, frozen, and canned. Knowing what you are doing with them will help you decide what kind of pick up. If looking for fresh, make sure the artichoke has tightly packed leaves. A few brown spots os fine, though. Give it a nice squeeze – if the leaves squeak a little, you know its fresh!
How to Store Artichokes
Artichokes will keep best when stored in a plastic bag with a few holes in the coldest part of the refrigerator. They will last this way for one week.
- Grandma’s Baked Artichoke Hearts – Any recipe labeled “grandma’s” is sure to be a winner, and these artichoke hearts are no exception. Don’t wait until a holiday to make these!
- Tuna Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad – This is wholesome and fresh, perfect for a lovely spring day.
- Oven Roasted Artichokes – there isn’t a vegetable alive that doesn’t turn into magic with a little roasting, and the artichoke is no exception. Simple but delicious!
Turnips! These lovely purple and white root vegetables are a sip and fun vegetable to include in your meals. They can be eaten raw – add them to a crudite tray or slice them and add them to a salad. They are also delicious roasted, mashed, baked, or in soups. Turnips contain lots of calcium, magnesium, and potassium and Vitamin C. Turnips are in season October – March. Turnips found in the fall tend to be larger and fresh, and turnips in the spring are small and sweet.
How to Pick Turnips
Select turnips that are firm and free of blemishes. If the greens are still attached you want to make sure they are still vibrant and not wilted. Try to find smaller turnips (they will be longer and sweeter) because larger ones tend to be woody.
How to Store Turnips
Turnips have a high water content and tend to spoil quickly. They are often waxed to help retain their moisture. Store them in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. If you have purchased turnips with the greens attached remove them when you get home.
- Mashed Carrots and Turnips – a little sweet, beautifully colored, and a fun side dish!
- Fancy Herb Roasted Root Vegetables – a great way to introduce a variety of veggies, these roasted slices are gorgeous and easy!
- Turnip Au Gratin – I mean, can you really turn down a veggie when its smothered in cream and cheese?
Description of ingredient and health benefits. Whether you enjoy them raw or cooked, mushrooms are a great addition! Mushrooms have a lovely woodsy flavor and aroma,
How to Pick Mushrooms
For the freshest selection and the best quality, select mushrooms that are loose at the store instead of wrapped in plastic. Choose ones with fresh and unblemished skin. You want to make sure there are not any discolored, dry, or wrinkly spots. Mushrooms should feel firm and supple. Ever thought about young your own mushrooms? My Dad keeps trying to transplant Morels into my yard, lol.
How to Store Mushrooms
Mushrooms don’t last long. Storing them loose in a perforated glass or ceramic bowl is idea so they get enough air circulation. Gently wrap them in a paper towel. Do not store in a sealed plastic bag. You can store them in a paper bag, but make sure you poke a few holes in to allow some air circulation.
- Bacon and Mushroom Soup with Rosemary – This easy and meatless soup is hte perfect answer to those still-crisp March nights!
- Best Ever Meaty Mushroom Chili – if your family still needs some mushroom convincing, try this amazing chili!
- Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Chicken – this is a quick and delicious meal.
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 peak Mark Produce items this month!
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 by the end of March!
- Post a photo onto social media (for example, Facebook or Instagram) and tag me (@GingeredWhisk) and use the hashtag #ProduceAdventurers.
- At the end of each month I will go through the submissions (they HAVE to have the hashtag so I can find them!) and I will randomly pick a winner for a PRIZE! (Note: Everyone in the world can join in the challenge, but prize winners will need to be in the USA! Sorry to exclude people, but shipping is expensive!).
Leave a comment below telling me what you are going to try!