The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 19, 2013

Swiss chard to Brussels sprouts: A world of winter veggies

Q: I do a great job of eating my vegetables during the spring and summer, but now that fall is here and winter soon to follow, what are the best vegetables?

A: Fall vegetables are hearty and full of vitamins and fiber. Most will hold up well to cooking and will keep for a lot longer than more delicate vegetables like lettuce, beans and tomatoes. Let's take a look at the top fall vegetables, along with some suggestions on how to prepare them.

Swiss chard looks similar to rhubarb, but the leaves are the edible part. A good source of vitamins A and C and iron. Add to cooked dishes like eggs, casseroles, soups and pizzas for a nutrient boost.

Broccoli rates high among fall vegetables in that it contains calcium, vitamins C, E and K, and a healthy dose of folate, a B vitamin. Instead of steaming, try roasting broccoli in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes after it has been coated with oil, salt and pepper. Before serving, top with fresh lemon juice and parmesan cheese.

Sweet potatoes have high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Slice them lengthwise and then cut into fry-size strips. Toss them with olive oil, salt and paprika, then bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, turning them over after 15 minutes. The potatoes should be brown and crispy when done.

Winter squash is readily available this time of year and contains high levels of vitamin A. For an easy side dish, cut acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place squash in a baking dish with cut sides up. Place olive oil and maple syrup in the cavity of each squash. Add dried fruit and nuts. Bake at 400 degrees for one hour.

Parsnips which resemble carrots but are lighter in color, are a highly underrated vegetable. A good source of fiber, they're also rich in potassium. They can be added to stews, mashed with potatoes or pureed in soups. To really bring out their sweet, nutty flavor, try roasting them along with carrots. Just slice carrots and parsnips, sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and little dried herbs. Roast at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

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