Editor's Note: The Busy Kitchen is a Monday column written by two area chefs - Tiffany Poe and Valarie Carter - who also happen to be mothers of young children. They explore nutrition, cooking for kids and more.
If you, like so many people this time of year, made some sort of resolution concerning food and body weight, I'm here to help.
I usually have some variation on this resolution, but this year I'm going to do something a little different. My resolve is to help you carry out your resolution. Each week through April 1, I'll be including a recipe for a vegetable dish aside from the regular topic of the week.
By including an additional vegetable daily, you'll add a host of vitamins, minerals and fiber for maximum satiety with minimum calories.
Root vegetables are generally inexpensive, so if finances are part of your resolve, you're in luck.
I'll be presenting vegetables in a new or different way that the whole family can enjoy, as well as paying homage to some old classics like roasted root vegetables - which is where we'll begin today.
Though roasted root vegetables might not seem special, they have great potential. Roasting vegetables, when done properly, can bring out the sweet, caramelized flavors that your family will devour. Instead of potatoes, try carrots, turnips, beets, rutabaga and parsnips.
Now it's time to accessorize. When the vegetables are halfway roasted, try tossing them with different vinegars.
The old standbys like balsamic, apple cider and red wine vinegars are great but there are many interesting vinegars out there. Allessi makes several, but I particularly like the white balsamic pear-infused vinegar and the orange blossom honey balsamic vinegar. Vinegar adds a touch of sweetness along with the acidity.
Also try tossing the uncooked vegetables with dried, ground spices like chile powder, curry powder, paprika, adobo powder or Chinese five-spice powder.
After the vegetables are roasted but still hot, experiment by dusting on fresh, chopped herbs like basil, parsley, thyme, mint or any of your favorites. A small crumble of cheese - like feta or blue - can add a huge punch of flavor with only a few additional calories. Chopped or whole nuts like pecans, almonds and pine nuts are also great additions.
So try a couple of roasted root vegetables this week and stay tuned in the weeks to come for other veggie tips and recipes I hope your family will love.
Tip: A great way to get your family involved is to have a vinegar tasting.
Sampling vinegar alone is too acidic, so use sugar as a medium for your experiment. You'll need a box of sugar cubes and several vinegars.
Place a few drops of one vinegar on a sugar cube and then suck the liquid from the cube. You'll be able to taste the flavors of the vinegar without the astringency.
YELLOW CURRY ROASTED CARROTS
1 pound carrots
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
Salt and pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
on the convection setting or 425
2. Wash and peel the carrots,
removing any blemishes. Remove
the tops and trim the tips if
necessary. Dry carrots well to
3. You may leave the carrots
whole, slice them into rounds or
cut them into sticks. The smaller
the cut, the faster they cook.
Just make sure that the cuts are
uniform for consistent cooking
4. Lightly rub a sheet pan with
vegetable oil. Add the dry carrots
and toss in the vegetable oil using
more as needed.
5. Add the curry powder and
toss well, coating the carrots in
the oil and spice. Allow plenty of
space between the carrots to prevent
steaming. Sprinkle liberally
with salt and pepper.
6. Place in oven and roast until
carrots are tender and golden
brown, stirring every 10 minutes
or so, until done. About 30 minutes.
Roasting is a dry-heat cooking method. Adding liquid, covering the vegetables, cooking them on too-low heat, cooking them too close together, or not drying them properly will result in steamed vegetables. The advantage of roasting root vegetables is that it allows the natural sugars in the vegetable to caramelize, resulting in a rich, sweet flavor.
Adding a bit of salt also draws out moisture, concentrating the flavors. If you have a convection setting, it is particularly beneficial for roasting since the swirling hot air doesn't allow escaping steam to disrupt the roasting process.
ROASTED BEETS WITH BLUE CHEESE, BALSAMIC AND PECANS
Vegetable oil or PAM cooking spray
Salt and pepper
1. Choose firm, smooth beets without blemishes, about 1 per person. Pre-heat oven to 400. I like to use the convection setting at 400 but beets are pretty adaptable so 375-425 convection or conventional will do the trick.
2. Scrub the beets well and trim them of any stray small roots as well as the beet tops. Dry them well with paper towels.
3. Place the beets on a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment paper (see note below) for easy clean-up. Leave plenty of room between the beets so they don't steam. Rub the dry beets with a little vegetable oil or spray them with a bit of PAM. Sprinkle with salt.
4. Place vegetables in pre-heated oven and allow to roast until a knife easily pierces the beet all the way to the middle. (About 45 minutes using medium size beets at 400 degrees on the convection setting.)
5. Allow to rest until cool enough to handle. (Use gloves to prevent stained hands.) Peel the beets to expose the flesh. Discards the skins.
6. Cut the beets into bite size pieces and transfer beets to a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, blue cheese and pecans. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Note: Parchment paper and waxed paper are not the same thing. Waxed paper is coated with paraffin and will burn easily while parchment paper is coated with silicone and can withstand high temperature roasting.
A native Oklahoman, Valarie Carter earned a bachelor's degree in English from Oklahoma State University and an associate of arts in culinary arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She, her husband and their children live in Muskogee.