If there’s one thing I like about fall it’s the variety of new vegetables that appear in the produce department. Summer has its peaches, raspberries and cherries, but how can anyone not love things like squash, and root veggies such as parsnips? These vegetables not only taste great, but are kind to the budget too. Here’s why I think a budget smart cook should use them in every day meals.
High in Fiber
Most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diet but an easy and low cost way to change that is to consume things like root vegetables. Fiber laden foods fill you up faster so you end up not eating so much, and hence, lose weight and trim the food budget.
Make the Most of the Season
At this time of the year the produce section and farmer’s markets are overflowing with root vegetables and all types of squashes and pumpkins. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen the price of squash, gradually go down to about 69 cents a pound.
They Taste So Good
Even if you’re not a big veggie fan, there’s just something about things like a sweet potato or baked parsnip that can convince just about anyone that they’re not so bad. Try making homemade fries from sweet potatoes instead of regular ones. I slice them just like French fries, toss them in oil and then sprinkle on spices like curry powder, cumin and coriander and bake them for about 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven. You can also cut them into round slices just like potato chips. And one thing I’ve loved since childhood is roasted parsnips. I always cook them along with roasted potatoes at just about every holiday meal. Even people who thought they hated them go back for a second serving.
They Make Great Soups
One of the things I like about fall is a welcoming bowl of soup when I step inside after spending the day raking leaves. Just last week I’d purchased some squash from the farmer’s market and decided to give a new soup recipe a try. It was roasted squash and tomato soup with thyme. Delicious, low cost, and was so satisfying that paired with bread it made a meal in itself.
Classic Roasted Vegetables
These days just about every cookbook has at least one recipe for roasted vegetables…potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots. They make wonderful side dishes for even the plainest and cheapest cuts of meat. And if you really want to make a budget meal, try them on their own with a sprinkling of cheese on top. One cheese I feel really compliments roasted veggies is feta. They’re sweet and caramelized, while the feta is tangy and salty.
No More Boring Mashed Potatoes
Not that I ever think mashed potatoes are boring, but we all like variety when mealtime rolls around. Try a combination of mashed white and sweet potatoes. Or even a combination of potatoes and parsnips. And how about putting some carrots in with the potatoes? If you have children who just refuse to eat their veggies, but love mashed potatoes, it’s a great way to hide just about any vegetable you can think of. You can combine leftover potatoes and veggies with shredded cheese, make them into patties, roll in breadcrumbs and lightly fry on each side until their golden brown. It’s a quick supper and is also a great way to use leftover root vegetables.
Keep the peels from root vegetables because they make ideal stock. However, be careful not to use too much of the peel from parsnips because they make the stock really sweet.
Fall Vegetable Stew
This is a great recipe for the slow cooker. It’s one of my favorites when the weather turns cold. And a special treat when you’ve been outside raking leaves.
(Serves 4 as a Main Dish or 6 as a Side Dish)
•1 ½ cups dried lentils
•3 cups of water
•2 cups chopped butternut squash
•1 cup chopped sweet potato
•1 26 oz. jar of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic pasta sauce
•1 small onion, chopped
•1 cup chopped zucchini
•1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
•½ teaspoon dried basil
•½ teaspoon dried thyme
1. Rinse lentils and place in at least a 3-quart slow cooker with the three cups of water. Add the squash, sweet potato, onion, pasta sauce, basil and thyme and stir together.
2. Cover and cook either 8-10 hours on high, or 4-6 hours on low. About an hour before serving stir in the chopped zucchini and just before serving stir in the garbanzo beans. Fresh chopped basil is a nice addition sprinkled on top once the dish has finished cooking.
You can serve this as a vegetarian dish with Italian bread, or as a side dish with a grilled chicken breast or pork chop.