Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Brothers From Another Mother: My Favorite Root Vegetables!

Image courtesy of saltandspatula.com
I don't know about you, but I can't walk two feet without running into a cookie... a cake... or a pie. It's that time of the year! Watch out pearly whites, Santa's got a sweet tooth and so do I! 

My mother has been making my favorite holiday cookie (Russian tea cakes) for as long as I can remember. Wait, hold on. I should actually give credit where credit is due, my mother's friend (and former college roommate) Carolyn is actually the one who's been making tea cakes for as long as I can remember.

...my mother just stole the recipe and claimed it as her own.

As lovely as tea cakes are, eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner is clearly not the best move for optimal health (or desired waistline). Today I'd like to fill you in on a easy (and sneaky) way to curb that holiday sweet tooth... roasted root vegetables!

Now before I lose you to the cookie jar, hear me out. Roasted root vegetables give you that same feeling of satisfaction without leaving your body in crisis mode. When I'm craving something sinful, I just head to the organic produce section for some carrots and parsnips.

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which when converted into vitamin A, improves your vision, aids your skin in repair and slows down the aging process throughout your body. Carrots are also high in the carotenoids alpha-carotene and lutein, which have been shown to lower the risk of heart disease. Then to make matters even more spectacular, carrots produce a natural pesticide called falcarinol. Falcarinol protects the carrot's roots from fungal disease but has also been studied for its anti-cancer properties. Lastly, eating carrots stimulates your gums and triggers the production of saliva. The alkalinity of saliva works to counteract the destructive acidic bacteria that can cause cavities!

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Parsnips are just as exciting! If you're not familiar with parsnips, they look like carrots but are usually larger and more creamy in color. They have a nutty sweet taste and contain a bit more potassium than their brother the carrot. Your body uses potassium to control your blood pressure and fight the negative effects of sodium intake on your body. Parsnips also contain more folate than carrots, which you will remember is needed to prevent birth defects in babies and to ensure healthy cell creation and cancer protection throughout life. In addition to potassium and folate, parsnips have both soluble and insoluble fiber, helping to reduce your blood cholesterol and keep your digestive track healthy! And if that wasn't enough already, parsnips are full of vitamin C, which helps you maintain healthy tissue, teeth and gums, while also scavenging your body for cancer-causing free radicals.

On top of all their nutritional benefits, carrots and parsnips are exceptionally delicious when roasted. The process of roasting allows their natural sugars to release, making them sweet as can be! Some people even propose that because they're grown underground, root vegetables can help you feel grounded when you're feeling scatterbrained, confused or 'all over the place'. I know when I eat them, they make me feel calm and peaceful (maybe because they remind me of my grandmother's kitchen and the comfort I felt there). 

Today, I'm sharing my former roommate Katie's recipe for roasted carrots and parsnips (see? I know how to give credit where credit is due). She's one hell of a cook, and this recipe is just too delicious not to share. Thanks, Katie!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and gather your ingredients (a bunch of fresh dill, 1 huge parsnip, a small bunch
of carrots, 1 lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper).
Wash and grate the outer, dirty layer off both the carrots and parsnip (especially if they're not organic!). Slice the
carrots in half lengthwise, then in half again, then cut into thirds (you want thin bite size slivers).
Do the same thing for the parsnip. Because it's larger, you'll have to make a few more cuts. You want both vegetable pieces to be similar in size so that they cook at the same rate.
In a large mixing bowl, lightly coat the mixture with extra virgin olive oil or your choice of oil (you'll need just enough
so that they don't burn, around 2 Tbs. or so).
Salt and pepper them to taste and mix well.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (you won't need much) or line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Pour the vegetables over the tray and spread them out as best you can. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes total.
While your veggies are roasting, wash and finely chop a few sprigs of dill and cut your lemon open.
After about 20 minutes, flip the veggies and place back into the oven.
You'll know they're done when they start to brown and slightly crisp after about 40-45 minutes. They should have the
texture and consistency of a french fry.
Squeeze half a lemon over each cookie sheet (this recipe makes about 2 sheets worth) and sprinkle with fresh dill.
These roasted veggies make the perfect side dish, or like I said before, can easily substitute for dessert!

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