Happy New Year! Everyone has now vowed to eat only healthy food, and it’s all salad all the time.

As always, that won’t last long — interesting salad takes time to prepare, and, more crucially, it’s not really salad season. There are no lovely tomatoes, no fresh local corn, none of the tender little baby vegetables that make summer salads exciting.

It would be much better if everyone made a resolution to just eat their 8-to-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. There’s a multitude of ways to reach that goal without the punishing feeling of eating a sad winter salad as your lunch every day. Here are some of my favorites:

Quick Applesauce

I’ve recently been making applesauce to take in my lunch. Yes, you can buy applesauce, but it has sugar added and the peels taken out so it’s not nearly as good for you.

Ingredients:

4 apples (about 2 pounds)
¼ cup apple juice or water
a 3-inch strip of lemon zest
pinch of salt
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup

Putting it together:

Wash, core and cut the apples in chunks as for mashed potatoes. With a vegetable peeler, peel a large strip of the yellow zest from a washed lemon. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook everything except cinnamon and sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are very soft, 20-25 minutes. Fish out the zest. Mash with a fork for chunky applesauce or run through the blender* for a smooth puree. Taste and add sweetener as desired. Sprinkle cinnamon over top. Serve the applesauce warm or chilled.

* Hot things in the blender can be dangerous! Follow the instructions for your blender.

Rosemary Glazed Carrots

Carrots are lovely in the winter. Look for Nantes carrots at the Davis Farmers Market. They’re not grown by big produce companies because they have to be hand harvested, but they are infinitely more delicious than the common imperator carrot.

Ingredients:

¾ pound carrots
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary or ¼ teaspoon dried, crumbled
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel (yellow part only)
salt and pepper to taste

Putting it together:

Scrub or peel carrots, depending on your taste. Cut into 2-inch lengths and half or quarter as you like. Put carrots in a small skillet with water just to cover. Cook over high heat, covered, until carrots just start to soften. Remove lid and continue to cook until almost all of the water is evaporated and carrots are tender. Add remaining ingredients and cook a minute or two more over low heat until carrots are nicely glazed.

Chard with Beans and Bacon

This recipe has been kicking around for a long time, but it’s one that people often mention to me. It is good, and easy, and inexpensive, so there’s a lot to like about it! For a vegetarian/vegan dish, substitute a bit of olive oil for the bacon fat and garnish with toasted nuts or seeds for crunch. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

2 strips bacon
1 onion, minced
1 clove garlic
½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs oregano
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
salt to taste
2 bunches chard or any other green
1 cup or more of any beans, cooked

Putting it together:

Rinse chard under cold water. Tear out stems and cut them into chunks, then cut chard into strips.

Heat a large skillet. If using bacon, cut into small pieces and cook until crisp. Take bacon out of pan and reserve. Add onion and chard stems to bacon fat in skillet and cook over low heat, stirring, until stems are crisp-tender. Press or mince garlic and stir into onions. Add spices, vinegar and honey and bring to a boil. Add chard leaves, cover, cook, covered, until chard is cooked to your taste. (Anywhere from 10 minutes for tender to 25 minutes for cooked-to-death.) Stir in beans and heat through. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed. A little hot sauce is good in this as well.

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes

Don’t avoid sweet potatoes for fear of the word “potato” — they’re nutritional powerhouses, full of vitamins A and C as well as fiber. Also delicious!

Ingredients:

1 onion (1½ cups/150g.), peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup (185g.) dried lentils
1 pound (1½ cups/225g.) fresh sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced, ¼ inch
2½ cups peas (frozen is fine)
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspon pepper
3 cups vegetable broth
chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
sour cream (optional)

Putting it together:

Heat a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Add oil and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add garlic.

While onion cooks, sort lentils and discard debris, then rinse and drain.

Add cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper to onions and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add veggie broth, lentils and sweet potatoes. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Cook until lentils are tender to the bite and sweet potatoes are tender when pierced, another 25-30 minutes. Stir in peas. Garnish with mint and sour cream, if desired. Serve over rice or with pita — extra points if either are whole grain!

Roasted Roots

Any roots can be cooked this way — use what you like! I make extra of this to reheat later in the week, possibly with cheese. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

1 pound garnet yams
1 pound yellow onions
1 pound carrots
¾ pounds parsnips
1 bunch beets
olive oil
salt
dried thyme

Putting it together:

Wash and peel vegetables. Cut into cubes. Toss with oil, salt and thyme. Spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake about 90 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring twice, until tender and caramelized.

Beet & Citrus Salad

This keeps well, so make extra for later in the week or your lunch box.

Ingredients:

6 small beets
1 grapefruit
1 orange
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
pinch dried thyme
¼ teaspoon prepared mustard
pinch salt

Putting it together:

Wash beets and cut off top and tail. Roast in a covered pan at 350 degrees or steam until tender. Let cool until you can slip off the skins, and slice. Cut citrus in half and use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out bites of membrane-free citrus, or supreme. Add the citrus to the beets. Mix remaining ingredients and shake vigorously. Dress salad to taste.

Twice-Baked Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This is an excellent dinner. You can make them ahead of time, then refrigerate, covered. Add an extra 15 minutes or so to the baking time. Serves 2.

Ingredients:

2 large, similar sized sweet potatoes that are rounded more than pointed at the ends
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
about 5 ounces (half a bag) frozen spinach (or a cup or more of shredded kale)
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
(2 strips of crumbled cooked bacon)
¼ cup plain yogurt
5 green onions, sliced into thin circles

Putting it together:

Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for about 35 to 50 minutes, depending on the size. The bigger, the longer it takes. Don’t bake to the point of them being extremely soft to the touch. They should bend at the touch but not mush. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, squeeze the spinach to remove excess water. Cook the garlic in the oil until fragrant and add the spinach. Cook until spinach is heated through and any water has evaporated.

When cool, slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh into a large bowl. Make sure there is about a half-inch perimeter left in the sweet potato. Mix the scooped sweet potato with all the remaining ingredients.

Fill each sweet potato with this mixture. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until hot through and browned.

By  — Julie has left the restaurant world, but will always want to have fun with food – email her at jacross@dcn.org or follow her on Facebook and Instagram at Julie Cross Cooks.

Crossposted from the Davis Enterprise

Printed in the January 16, 2019 edition on page B8 | Published online January 15, 2019