Are you already stuck in the gloom and doom of winter? Fantasizing about sunshine and 70-degree days? We all have a tendency to get a little down when the cold and snow start rolling in, but sometimes the best way to beat winter is to embrace it. And because there’s no better way to embrace winter than by cooking up some cozy winter meals, here are five winter superfoods to help you enjoy the season in a delicious way.
Number one, brussels sprouts.
I can hear you protesting already, but hear me out. Roasted brussels sprouts are seriously one of the most delicious foods on earth. Just 25 minutes in a 400-degree oven with some olive oil and salt transform these teeny, tiny cabbages into sweet, caramelized nuggets of deliciousness.
“Try roasting them with a little balsamic vinegar,” recommended Adam Goettelman, owner of Healthy Way Market in Sturgeon Bay. Customers at Healthy Way are typically very health-minded, and Goettelman has noticed that brussels sprouts have been growing in popularity during the last couple of years.
If you like a little spice, sprinkle on a touch of cayenne pepper, or toss in one tablespoon each of honey and sriracha after roasting. Serve them as a more healthful side dish in place of potatoes along with your steak or roasted chicken.
Brussels sprouts can also be lightly sautéed or finely chopped into ribbons to add to your salad greens, but trust me: Try them roasted first. You’ll never turn up your nose again at brussels sprouts.
If these tasty possibilities don’t tempt you, consider the health benefits. Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables that are high in vitamin C and K and rich in antioxidants, which help to reduce the oxidative stress on your cells and lower your risk of chronic disease. They are also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with 135 mg per half cup. Omega-3s are a powerhouse nutrient and have been shown to decrease inflammation, lower insulin resistance and support brain health.
Number two, cauliflower.
Cauliflower is another cruciferous veggie that has been getting a lot of attention lately as a low-carb substitute for rice and mashed potatoes and even as a replacement for white flour in pizza crusts and flatbreads. Did I mention that you can also use cauliflower to make a healthful version of mac and cheese? Yeah, definitely Google that one.
It’s an excellent staple to have in your diet all year round, but in the wintertime, I find the coziest way to enjoy cauliflower is in a savory roasted-garlic cauliflower soup. Simply chop a medium-sized head of cauliflower into florets, and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet, along with one roughly chopped yellow onion and four or five cloves of garlic.
Roast the mixture in the oven at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, then let it cool slightly, and add it to a blender along with four cups of vegetable broth. Blend and serve the soup immediately, topped with fresh chopped herbs such as parsley or rosemary, chunks of creamy avocado, roasted pepitas and a drizzle of warm olive oil, or whatever toppings sound delicious to you.
Cauliflower is a great source of B vitamins and is also high in choline, which supports the structure of your cell membranes and helps to synthesize DNA and produce neurotransmitters. It also packs antioxidants that help to fight inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Number three, pomegranate.
You might think of fruit as a summer staple – and a lot of fruit is seasonal in the summertime – but among the powerhouse fruits that are harvested during the winter months is the pomegranate. The densely packed seeds that form the edible part of the fruit might seem a little intimidating, but once you learn how to use these little, sweet, juicy, antioxidant-loaded arils, you’ll wonder why you were ever intimidated in the first place.
“There’s nothing more refreshing than opening up and eating a fresh pomegranate,” Goettelman said.
Introduce pomegranate to your family with this sweet breakfast recipe for blueberry-pomegranate oatmeal. Simply prepare oatmeal on the stove according to the directions. Then add a handful of frozen blueberries and fresh pomegranate seeds to the pot while the oatmeal is cooking. (Kids will love the purple color that results from the fruit blending throughout the oatmeal.) When you’ve achieved your desired consistency, transfer the oatmeal to bowls, and top it with additional blueberries and pomegranate, yogurt, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips or any other toppings of your choice.
Pomegranates are one of those foods that can help with just about anything. When consumed consistently, they can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, relieve joint pain and even fight certain types of cancer cells. You may also have seen pomegranate juice, which is even easier to add to smoothies or mixed juices, or you can just drink it straight to get all the fruit’s benefits in liquid form. If you need a sweet, fruity flavor to brighten up your winter, give pomegranates a try.
Number four, butternut squash.
Butternut squash is a nutrient powerhouse famed for its nutty, sweet flavor. Like brussel sprouts and cauliflower, this gourd is excellent roasted in cubes or fries, and it’s a great replacement for heavier potatoes.
For example, instead of mashed potatoes, try mashed butternut squash as a side dish. Cut your squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds as you would with a pumpkin. (Yes, save them for roasting later!) Then cut each half again to make four long quarters. Brush the cut sides of each quarter with olive oil, and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
Lay the four pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, with one cut side down, and roast them in a 400-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the squash is slightly browned and caramelized, and a fork easily pierces all the way through the thickest part of each squash quarter.
Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the squash to cool on the pan for a few minutes. Then, using two forks, gently scrape the skin off each squash piece, and transfer the pieces to a bowl. Using a potato masher or electric mixer, mash the squash to your preferred consistency. Add in a splash of milk and a few squares of butter or some olive oil for added creaminess, and mix well. Top with a sprinkle of dried rosemary or other herbs if you like, and serve.
As for health benefits, butternut squash provides more than 450 percent of your daily vitamin A, which supports eye health, bone health and immune functioning. It’s also high in vitamin C, beta-carotene, B vitamins, magnesium and more, which again reduce your risk of chronic disease and inflammation.
Butternut squash is also an excellent weight-loss food, with only 83 calories and seven grams of fiber per cup. There are so many ways to add butternut squash to your meals that you’ll never get bored with this delicious veggie.
And finally, number five, kiwi.
The sweet and tangy flavor of kiwi might remind you of summer, but this fuzzy, brown fruit is actually grown in California from November to January, meaning it’s best enjoyed during the winter months. Kiwi fruit is delicious as part of a fruit salad or straight from the peel, but one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is in a vitamin-packed green smoothie.
In a blender, place one kiwi, peeled and cut in chunks; one frozen banana; one cup of fresh spinach; one cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk; one tablespoon of chia seeds; and four or five ice cubes. Blend the ingredients, and serve immediately. Spinach doesn’t taste like much to begin with, but with the sweetness of the banana and kiwi added, you (and your kiddos) won’t even know it’s there.
Kiwis are full of vitamin C, which helps you ward off those winter colds. Kiwis also pack lots of fiber to aid in digestion, and they may protect against vision loss. As with apples, it turns out that a kiwi (or two – they’re small) a day keeps the doctor away.
You can find all of these healthful foods at Healthy Way Market, 142 S. 3rd Ave. in Sturgeon Bay (and moving a short distance to 216 S. 3rd Ave. in January), or check other grocery stores near you.
What is Goettelman’s new favorite way to eat one of these superfoods?
“I just made roasted-cauliflower tacos,” he said. “They were delicious!” There are so many ways to incorporate these five superfoods into your meals that you’ll never suffer from a boring weekday dinner this winter. Then before you know it, spring will be here. Happy eating!