In honor of the Vegan Month of Food, I thought I would include a couple of short how-to's on the blog, as every plant-based kitchen (and plant-based cook) should have a couple of easy essentials under their belt to help make meal prep simpler, more time efficient, and more enjoyable.
One of those is roasting root vegetables, which can be an awesome staple in a meal, particularly if you're staying away from gluten and the many starchy carbohydrate-laden foods it tends to be found in. (When I went gluten-free, finding equally as filling, equally as toothsome foods was key to staying on track. It helps that these options are plant-based, chock full of nutrients, and easy to prepare!)
Sweet potatoes, turnips, squash and rutabaga are also hard winter veggies that are just coming into season now. When buying root veggies, aim for ones that are heavy for their size (less chance they're starting to rot somewhere inside), and also aim for color. While regular potatoes are inexpensive and definitely easy to find, their white starchiness doesn't offer us a lot in terms of nutrients. Their orange or deep yellow cousins have more plant-power nutrients and often more flavor. Keep this in mind next time you're checking out the produce aisle, too! What catches your eye? There might be a reason for that! (Thanks, nature!)
Of all of the deeply colored vegetables, I have to say I love beets the most. They have a gorgeous color and rich flavor, and this time of year, they're just coming in into the farmers market in a big way. Bonus: they keep well in cold storage (ie. under the sink or in a pantry) and can last into the winter if you pick them up in autumn.
Have a dark-colored towel on hand when handling these little guys: the pink juice is beautiful, but there's a good chance it will end up everywhere. It would be a little sad to ruin a favorite set of white vintage tea towels with little droplets of fuschia (could be a nice art project, though...). I like to tell myself (when the pink juice is all over the floor) that the dark color is a great indicator of just how packed with nutrients beets are. :)
Here's a quick tutorial on prepping these little balls of goodness. You can make at them at the beginning of the week if you're doing a week's worth of prep and add them to other meals as you go.
Preheat your oven to 425F. (See below for rack placement instructions if your oven is tricky.)
Start with your raw beets, skin on (shown in the top-most photo here). Then, get to work with a peeler, removing the outer tough skin. Rinse and set aside (again, in a bowl that won't take on the very tenacious dye!)
Cut an 8" x 8" piece of foil for each beet. Set each one on its own square of foil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and pepper (if you like), and wrap up tightly. Try to get the edges all in one direction so any juice or oil stays inside the packet as it bakes.
Place your beets on the lowest rack in the oven, which should be 2-4" above the bottom of the oven itself. Place a baking sheet underneath just to be safe. If your oven vents from that space, don't cover it with a baking tray. Instead, arrange your racks so the lowest one is as low as possible (put the baking tray on there), with another rack positioned an inch or two above that. Put the beets on that one.
Bake at 425F for 60-70 minutes. You will know they're done when you pierce the foil with a sharp knife and the beet feels soft.
Remove from the oven with oven mitts and let sit for a couple of minutes before opening each packet. Peel back the foil and remove beets with tongs.
These make a great addition to a salad, tossed with quinoa, or just on their own as a side dish. (Heck, it's Vegan Mofo: eat them as your main dish if you'd like! They're that good!)
These roasting directions can also apply to sweet potatoes (washed with skins on) or squash (cut your squash in half, remove the seeds, and follow directions above).
Enjoy some very versatile ingredients, all!