Squash soup

Squash soup is usually a big cold-weather hit that includes many healthful nutrients.

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Q: Now that the weather is getting colder I’m kind of tired of salads. How can I make sure I get enough fruits and vegetables for my family and myself?

A: As it gets colder and we have fewer hours of daylight, I typically turn to my kitchen for comfort. Think warm, savory soups and stews, slow-roasted foods, and homemade baked goods.

Fall is my favorite season for that very reason; the seasonal produce also often conveniently lasts a long time if kept properly, contains plenty of nutrients and fiber, is reasonably priced, and is versatile and delicious. Some of my favorites include squash, pumpkins, beets, cabbage, leeks, turnips, pears and apples.

Recently I’ve made a few soups and one-bowl meals that feature vegetables to save time and clean-up work. Add your ingredients and relax while they cook into a warm, inviting soup, side dish or one-pot meal.

Creativity is the key with vegetables. Use what you have on hand, don’t be afraid to try new produce and different cooking methods, and learn what you and your family prefer. Hopefully some of the following ideas from our favorite veggies and fruits will inspire you to eat healthy this fall and winter.

My family loves butternut squash. We roast it with chopped pecans and apples (yes a little brown sugar and butter are fine, especially if they inspire us to eat more squash). Squash soup is always a big hit too. Squash comes in several varieties, is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, is a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, calcium and magnesium, and a very good source of vitamins A and C, potassium and manganese.

Cabbage is another versatile favorite. Cabbage also comes in many varieties, so experiment to find what you like. I recently made a stir-fry with cabbage, carrots, onion, peppers, ginger, garlic and chilies and served it with brown rice and a little leftover roasted pork (meat is optional of course if you’re getting enough protein from other sources) and was actually quite sad when the leftovers were gone.

Nutritional benefits of cabbage: it’s an excellent source of vitamins K, C and B6; a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper; and a good source of choline, phosphorus, vitamin B2, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin.

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Apples and pears are great snacks and the perfect options for baking homemade treats. Think pies, tarts, muffins and crisps. To increase nutrients and fiber in baked goods, look for recipes that substitute oatmeal and whole grain flours for white flour. Plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg are usually a big hit with these fall fruits as well.Many recipes don’t use enough, in my opinion, but you can suit your tastes by experimenting.

I often use apples in roasted vegetable mixes. I particularly love pairing them with sweet potatoes and squash and roasting the medley at high heat with a little olive oil or ghee and rosemary or thyme.

If you have a lot of veggie odds and ends in your refrigerator, it’s a sure sign you should make vegetable soup. Throw in some beans, legumes, barley, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, or other substantial complex carbohydrate and you’ll have a delicious, nutritious dinner.

The key to getting enough vegetables during the colder seasons is to try different cooking methods, flavor profiles and seasonings. Be creative and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Terri Ward is administrator of the University of Wisconsin-Extension FoodWIse Program.

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