Healthy Children - November 2016

Fall Vegetables Bring Colorful Nutrients to the Table!

With the weather turning colder, it is a great time to enjoy seasonal fall vegetables. Buying vegetables in season is more cost effective and means you get the best quality produce. Four fall favorites in Illinois are broccoli, kale and collards, sweet potatoes and winter squash. These green and dark orange vegetables are packed with vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin C. These vitamins play a central role in supporting our immune system, making them a great choice as we had into the cold and flu season. Squash and sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber which supports heart health.

Below are some tips and idea of how to prepare these nutritious colorful veggies for your family.

Make sure to clean and use broccoli in 4-5 days for best results. After removing crowns from the stem, leave it in larger chunks, or for younger family members, you can separate the florets into small pieces. It can be enjoyed raw with dip or can be added to soups, stews, and pasta dishes. Try roasting broccoli for a warm savory treat. Heat oven to 400 degrees and toss broccoli with small olive oil and your favorite herbs, and cook for 20 minutes. Be sure to place broccoli in a single layer on baking sheet to get nice crispy edges.

Kale and Collard Greens:
Make sure to refrigerate greens as soon as you get them home. They can be stored 5 days for best results, and you can wait to wash and clean them until you are ready to cook with them. Some are packaged pre-washed or ready to eat, so the following steps aren’t necessary. When preparing greens, pull off any outer leaves that are yellow or bruised. Place leaves in a bowl of water and rinse well, making sure to swish water around. Drain and repeat rinse again. Once water is clear, pat dry or you can even use a salad spinner. You can chop greens to add to stir-fry, soups, or even pasta sauce. You can even add a few leaves to your morning smoothie!

Sweet Potatoes:
These can be stored at room temperature for 5 to 7 days, but in a cool dark area will keep for about a month. Sweet potatoes can be roasted in a variety of ways. They can be roasted whole by placing them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or can be prepared in the microwave by piercing the skin and cooking for 5-8 minutes. Sweet potato fries are a great way for younger family members to enjoy them. Wash and cut sweet potatoes into matchsticks. Toss with olive oil and arrange on baking dish. Cook for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

Winter Squash:
These can be stored in a cool dark place for a month, but once you cut into them, they should be eaten within 3 to 4 days for best results. Like sweet potatoes, you can roast these in the oven or microwave. Microwave: Pierce the outside of the skin and microwave 6 to 8 minutes before turning. This will soften it, but allow time for it to cool off before cutting it in half. After scooping out seeds, place halves face down in a baking dish with about an inch of water. Cook until flesh is soft and can be pulled away easily with a fork. Oven: remove peel and chop into one inch cubes. Combine with carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with olive oil and herbs and lay flat in one layer on baking sheet. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 425 degrees.

Please see links below for additional fall vegetable recipe ideas:
Sweet Potato Casserole
Roasted Root Vegetables:
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip:
Baked Acorn Squash:
Fall Vegetable Soup:

Sherri Ambrose
University of Illinois Extension
Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) Educator