FSI – The Case of the Winter Veggies

The time is upon us once again, when there is a chill in the air, the snow starts to fall, and we cannot wait to spend the cold days inside, warming up with a steaming cup of hot chocolate.

As you and your family are preparing to celebrate your favorite holidays, there is no doubt that your dreams are filled with sparkling lights, towers of presents, and flying reindeer.  And, of course, you cannot forget the promise of a delicious holiday meal your family will cook and enjoy together.  Year after year, Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie,  Aunt Sally’s Sweet Potato Casserole, and Mom’s Cranberry Sauce are traditional dishes that are familiar to many holiday tables.  But, have you ever wondered, Why?  It is time to put your Food Scene Investigators hat on, and find out what is behind our holiday menus!

Each season has tastes, smells, and activities that create the feelings stamped into our hearts and minds. Summer brings thoughts of bathing suits, iced tea, grilled hot dogs, and watermelon eating contests. In Winter, it’s warm sweaters, sitting by the fire, slow roasted turkey, and mashed potato volcanos.  What you might not know is why we’re eating Zucchini in July, and Turnips in December.

Winter might not seem like the best time to garden, but different fruits and vegetables need different climates and temperatures to grow.  Some prefer Summer’s long, hot days, and some flourish in the cooler weather we get in Fall and Spring.  The change of the season dictates what we should eat to give us the variety and nutrition that we need.  So, when we are eating ripe, juicy tomatoes in August, we are getting the most Vitamins & Minerals, and the Sweetest Taste the tomato has to offer.  Likewise, in Winter we are getting the very best, most developed nutrition and flavor from that season’s bounty.

Winter Veggies include hefty root vegetables and hearty green vegetables that can stand up to frosty mornings while their still in the ground, and will warm us up and keep us full when we eat them on cold days.

Can you discover some Winter vegetables at your local grocery store or farmer’s market??   Look for colorful & sweet Beets, Parsnips, and Carrots, and robust Kale and Collard Greens.  See if you can point out Sweet Potatoes, and different types of squash, including Pumpkin, Butternut, and Acorn. And, don’t forget fruits like Apples and Pears!

When roasted, cooked in soups and stews, or sweetened up and baked in pies, these substantial veggies give us that warm & cozy Winter feeling that we love about this season!

Winter Lentil Soup with Root Vegetables & Kale

3          carrots, diced

3          parsnips, diced

3          celery stalks, diced

1          large onion, diced

1          clove garlic, minced

1          small fennel bulb, diced

1          small white turnip, diced

1          head of Kale, leaves only, rough chopped

1          bag of lentils

1          tablespoon curry powder (optional)

4          quarts chicken stock

3          tablespoons oil

1          teaspoon salt (plus more salt & pepper to taste)

Over medium low heat, cook onions with 1 teaspoon salt until translucent (about 5 minutes)

Add carrots and celery, cook 5 more minutes

Add garlic, (add curry powder now, if using) cook 1 more minute

Add lentils, remaining root vegetables (save kale for later), and stock

Bring to boil & lower to simmer

Cook 20-30 minutes until lentils are soft, stirring occasionally, add water if needed

Add Kale and salt and pepper to taste

– Chef Colleen Lukas


  Colleen Lukas is a personal chef in Westchester County, NY.  She trained at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC where she had the opportunity to observe amazing professional kitchens at Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Tavern, Spice Market, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and X2o Xaviar’s on the Hudson.  She gained further experience working at Moderne Barn and most recently rounded out her skills working in the kitchen with Chef Peter Kelly.  Chef Lukas now takes everything that she loves and learned and brings fresh, seasonal ingredients, healthy delicious meals, and beautiful dining experiences to people in their homes.  You can learn more about Chef Colleen Lukas at www.chefcolleenlukas.com

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