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Published: Monday, 1/10/2011

New year, new you? Then don't forget to eat fruits and vegetables

The new year is bright and fresh and filled with good intentions. New Year's resolutions abound, so I'll add one to the list: Eat your fruits and vegetables, not because your mother told you to or because the food pyramid prescribes it, but because it's the simplest and most delicious way to keep all those other pledges to lose weight, eat better, and feel better.

They also taste great.

I have seen the wrinkled noses when I extol the virtues of Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I have watched children eat doughnuts while they lob apples and oranges in an impromptu game of catch.

I also know that when the same fruit is turned into kebabs, the kids will eat it.

Setting out a fruit bowl or a vegetable platter is not going to change eating habits in your house. The way to lure takers is to make those foods appetizing. Preparation is key, so here's my list of suggestions to get you started.

• Always have fruit ready to eat. Cut oranges, apples, pears, bananas, and pineapple into bite-size chunks or slices before you offer them. Wash and quarter big strawberries. Separate a bunch of grapes into small clusters and offer them like gifts.

• Do your vegetable prep in the morning. What takes 15 minutes when you get home at night takes less time in the morning; I'm not sure why, but I know it works for me. So trim the green beans, wash and dry the salad greens, shred the cabbage, and dice the onions. You'll be about a thousand times more likely to cook the vegetables when you get home.

• Buy prepped items. Find vegetables cut, sliced, and diced in packages in the produce section and in the supermarket salad bar. Fresh fruit comes in snack packs. Frozen vegetables come in steaming bags ready for the microwave.

• Give vegetables some love. Simple steps can make a huge difference with relatively little effort. Roasting vegetables enhances their flavor. Fast dressings made with a little oil and some citrus juice can enliven humdrum salads. Chopped garlic, cooked slowly in olive oil that's then drizzled over almost any steamed green vegetable, can make that vegetable happy.

• Liberate fruit from the dessert course. Mix diced fruit into salsas; serve with grilled fish. Saut and season apple slices as a side dish or sandwich topping. Puree leftover fruit for a first-course soup. Add orange wedges and strawberry slices to salads. Roast pears, then toss them with bitter greens and a slightly sweetened vinaigrette.

• Be crafty. On cold days, make simple vegetable soups with whatever you have on hand; who can tell what's in a pureed version? Packaged low-sodium chicken broth tastes better when it is simmered with added onions and diced vegetables. Use vegetable juice as a cooking liquid; it counts as a vegetable serving. When diners are hungry they tend to be less picky, so serve the salad before the main course instead of after.

• Try new things. Broccoli might be more appealing when it is incorporated into a pasta dish. Quick saut s of cabbage have lighter flavors than long-cooked versions.

• And my final piece of advice: Your previous excuses do not apply in 2011.

Black Bean and Tropical Fruit Salsa

4 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into 1/4-inch dice (scant 1 cup)

4 ounces peeled mango, cut into 1/4-inch dice (scant 1 cup)

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (if using canned beans, use a no-salt-added product)

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped (3 tablespoons)

Freshly squeezed juice from 1 or 2 limes (2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt

Combine the pineapple, mango, black beans, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro, sugar, and salt to taste in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This salsa can be served as a sauce over grilled, broiled or roasted poultry, meats, and fish, as a dip for chips, or as a side salad. It’s best served within 24 hours, but it will keep, refrigerated, for up to 48 hours.

Yield: 3 cups

Source: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Arugula and Roasted Squash Salad with Pears

1 pound butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium (about 9 ounces each) ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cut in half and cored

Salt

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2-3 teaspoons honey

Freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces baby arugula

Preheat the oven to 375 . Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick cooking oil spray.

Toss the butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon of the oil: transfer to one side of the lined baking sheet. Place the pear halves, cut sides down, on the other side. Sprinkle the squash and pears lightly with salt.

Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until tender, stirring the squash pieces every 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the pears over after 25 minutes. When the pears and squash are tender, remove them from the oven; they might not be ready at the same time.

Transfer one of the roasted pear halves to a blender along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, the vinegar, 2 teaspoons of the honey and salt and pepper to taste; puree until smooth. Taste, and add the remaining teaspoon of honey as needed, along with any seasoning adjustment.

Divide the arugula among individual salad plates. Top each portion with equal amounts of the roasted squash and pears. Drizzle about 1 tablespoons of the dressing over each salad.

Top each salad with a grind or two of black pepper, if desired, and serve.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Avocado with Grapefruit and Orange Salad

Make ahead: The citrus salad needs to sit for 30 minutes before serving. It can be made and refrigerated a day in advance, but the avocado should be sliced just before serving.

2 large ruby red grapefruit, segmented, with juices (see cook’s note)

3 large navel oranges, segmented, with juices (see cook’s note)

1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into small dice (1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Flesh of 2 1/2 to 3 avocados

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Cook’s note: To segment the citrus, slice off the bottom and the top. Stand the fruit on a cutting board with one of the cut sides down. Use a serrated knife to cut the peel and the pith away from the fruit, top to bottom. Then, holding the fruit in your hand, cut the orange segments away from the membrane. (The idea is to leave behind all of the membrane and white pith).

Combine the grapefruit and orange segments plus their reserved juices, onion, vinegar, oil, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Cut the avocados into thin slices, then divide them equally among individual salad plates, fanning the slices out. Spoon the citrus salad over them.

Top with the chives and an additional sprinkling of pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 servings

Source: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Winter Vegetable and Barley Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into small dice (1 cup)

1 large rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (3/4 cup)

1 pound assorted root vegetables, such as parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, and/or turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup pearled barley

1 cup frozen sweet peas

4 ounces cooked ham, cut into 1/4-inch dice

3 tablespoons chopped chives

Heat the oil in a 4 to 6-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery; cook for 3 minutes, stirring, then add the diced root vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables start to soften.

Stir in the broth and barley. Once the liquid begins bubbling at the edges, cover the pot and adjust the heat so the liquid maintains a little movement. Cook for 45 to 55 minutes or until the barley is done and the vegetables are tender.

Uncover; add the peas and ham. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the peas are tender. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chives.

Divide among individual bowls; top each portion with a sprinkling of the remaining chives.

Yield: 12 servings

Source: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick

Quick-Braised Cod in Vegetable Broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium sweet onion (such as Vidalia) cut into thin slices

1 medium red, orange OR yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into thin slices

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup vegetable juice, such as V8

Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (1 teaspoon zest, 2 tablespoons juice)

1/2 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste

1 pound skinless cod fillets OR any other firm-fleshed white fish, cut into 1 1/2 -inch chunks

2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil in a 10 to 12-inch saut pan, preferably one with straight sides, over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper to taste; stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened but not browned.

Add the wine; increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 2 minutes, then add the vegetable juice, lemon zest and sugar. Once the mixture comes to a full boil, immediately reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a low boil.

Add the fish; cover and cook for about 10 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a low boil. The fish should be cooked through.

Add the lemon juice and parsley; taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings

Source: Stephanie Witt Sedgwick



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