Like wintry gray skies, could your winter menus use a little brightening?
Think the vivid produce of winter: Oranges, tangerines, pumpkins, and butternut squash. Not only do these colorful fruits and veggies brighten your winter cooking, they're packed with nutrients, too.
Bright Winter Produce: Citrus
Winter is the time for fresh citrus, with tangerines, navel oranges, and ruby red grapefruit all coming into their own during the chilly months. These tart-sweet powerhouse fruits boost your diet with a big dose of vitamin C and potassium, as well as fiber, folate, trace minerals -- and all for only about 100 calories a cup.
When shopping for citrus, select fruits heavy for their size, with bright, colorful skin. It should store just fine on your countertop for about two weeks.
Then experiment with citrus in your favorite recipes. Brighten stir-frys, salmon, asparagus, and succulent shrimp. And citrus' acidic sweetness makes it a natural for sweets, from parfaits to pudding.
Want to cook up a few great appetizer, meal, drink, and dessert ideas? The Florida Department of Citrus web site has dozens of recipes to get you started.
Bright Winter Produce: Squash
A cup of winter squash -- like butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and Hubbard -- has fewer than 100 calories, is bursting with fiber, a quarter of your daily B-6, and about one-third of your daily vitamin C and magnesium.
And "all the winter squashes are rich in beta-carotene," says David Grotto, RD, LD, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association and author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life. "There's not a bad squash in the bunch."
When buying squash, choose those that are heavy for their size, with dull skin. You can store uncut squash for up to three months in a cool place (50-60 degrees).
You can also microwave, bake, boil, steam, or sauté winter squash. Cubed squash cooks up fast in stir-frys too, gives body and flavor to soothing winter soups and stews, and goes great in breads, dips, casseroles, and pies.
To tickle the kids' squash fancy carve, stuff, then roast mini-pumpkins, suggests Grotto.
However you enjoy them, why not give your body and your menu a boost this year with winter's bright produce?