Our Resident Nutritionist Loves Vegetables and Shares Her Favorite Holiday Recipes

I love vegetables. My family and friends make fun of me, but when I look at their kaleidoscope of colors and shapes, they delight my senses in ways I can’t explain. So imagine my joy when I opened my CSA box yesterday and pulled out this Romanesco cauliflower!

Now I’m a registered dietitian and have been touting the benefits of eating your veggies for years, but I had never seen anything like this fluorescent green head of swirling spirals. I actually squealed with surprise when I pulled it out of the box. My husband and daughter came running to see what all the excitement was about. They both burst out laughing when they saw the thrilled look on my face, although you’d think they would be used to my exclamations by now.

This is why I started subscribing to a CSA three years ago. I delight in opening my box every week to see what's inside. I’ve eaten vegetables I’d never seen before except in pictures. Below is just a sampling of some of the veggies I’ve gotten in my box recently from Featherstone.

And the flavors! Last night I boiled up some of the potatoes, mashed them with a little of the cooking water, and added a dash of kosher salt and some butter for an easy, healthy side dish. And the coleslaw made with the fresh cabbage and carrots was even better. Their beautiful colors are the result of phytochemicals that protect the plants from pests and diseases — we eat them, and voila - they boost our immune systems, destroy cancer cells, and remove free radicals that cause aging. Some of these phytochemicals in freshly harvested plant foods may be destroyed or removed by modern processing techniques, so getting the veggies right from the farm allows us to maximize the benefits of these plant chemicals.

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s a good time to give thanks for the rainbow of vegetables available even now in the fall. Try tossing a mélange of root vegetables like acorn, butternut and sugar loaf squashes, rutabaga, turnip, beets, carrots, and celeriac with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh minced herbs and some salt and pepper. Then roast them at 375° for 45-60 minutes (stir once or twice) until they’re tender and nicely carmelized. I like them right out of the oven but some people prefer them at room temperature. (You can also make these a day or two ahead and reheat them in the oven until they’re warm.)

If you’ve never tried making a pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin, give it a whirl this year. It’s really very simple and the result is so delicious you’ll definitely want to do it again. Take a small sugar pie pumpkin (not the kind you carve jack-o-lanterns with), cut it in half, scoop out the seeds (save them for roasting later), and place the cut side down on a rimmed pan. Place it in a preheated 375° oven, pour 1-2 inches of hot water in the pan to cover the bottom of the pumpkin. Bake until the pumpkin is tender, about 1 hour. Keep an eye on the water level, so it doesn't get dry. Remove from the oven, turn the pumpkin halves over, and let cool for about 30 minutes. Scoop out the pumpkin and mash it up. Now you can refrigerate it or freeze it for later.

Here's a delicious - and healthy - pumpkin pie recipe that I love. I made it four years ago for a cooking class on healthy holiday eating and it was a huge hit. I’ve been making it every year since at the request of my friends and family.

Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust

A gingersnap streusel topping adds crunch to traditional pumpkin pie.

  • 20 gingersnap cookies (I cheat and BUY these!)
  • 1 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups fresh mashed pumpkin
  • 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites

Preheat oven to 350°.

Whir 10 ginger cookies in a food processor until crumbs are formed. Spray a 9” pie pan with cooking spray and dust with the crushed gingersnap cookies. Place another 10 cookies, 1 tablespoon sugar, and flour in the food processor; process until cookies are ground. Add butter. Pulse until crumbly. Reserve for topping.

Combine the 1/3 cup of each sugar and remaining ingredients. You will get a smoother texture if you process the mixture with a handheld mixing wand, mixer, or blender. Pour mixture into the pie plate that has been dusted with the crumbs. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over pie; bake an additional 20 minutes or until center is set. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

Yield: 8 servings

Nutrition Facts per serving: 250 calories, 6 gms total fat, 3 gms sat fat, 0 gms trans fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 43 gms total carbohydrate, 3 gms fiber, 29 gms sugar, 8 gms protein

Sharon Lehrman, MPH, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a private practice and corporate wellness business in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can subscribe to her monthly nutrition newsletter at Nutrition, Health, and Wellness.