It's the same thing every year. We overindulge during the holidays, then make solemn (and quickly abandoned) promises to eat healthier and shed pounds in the new year.
So here's a sane and simple resolution that will help you achieve both goals in a single stroke - eat more vegetables.
It's no secret that almost all vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. Most also are good sources of dietary fiber, potassium, folate and vitamins A and C. If you did nothing more than pile your plate with vegetables, add a small portion of lean protein, and ramp up your daily exercise a bit, you'd probably find all that extra holiday baggage dropping away without having to count calories.
The only problem with eating more vegetables is that it can take a significant amount of time to prep them, and even more time to cook them. Messing with root vegetables is often a marathon. Beets require 45 minutes to steam or an hour to bake. Carrots or parsnips also can be pretty time-consuming. You can cut the cooking time if you first slice them into smaller pieces, but not all of us are aces with a knife.
This is why I love my food processor. If you use it with the grating disk attachment - as I do for this trio of recipes - you're home free. Those marathon beets? You can grate and saute them in minutes. Same for the carrots and parsnips. Best of all, having cooked up your grated veggies in a bit of oil, you have maximized their flavor, as opposed to steaming or boiling them, which dilutes it.
As an added psychological benefit - at least for me - there's something crudely satisfying about the raw power of the grater. After a bad day at the office or a rough afternoon with the kids, it's a pure pleasure to noisily grind down those vegetables chunk by chunk.
Enhance the finished product however you want, with nuts, your favorite spices or herbs, or a squeeze of citrus or other acid. Just be sure to put a mix of colors on the plate; for the most part, the brighter the color, the better the nutrition.
And on a night when you are truly squeezed for time, you don't even have to cook your shredded veggies. They're equally delicious raw. Just toss them with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Have fun with your vegetables. You'll be delighted with what happens when you move them to the center of your plate.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and grated using the large grating disk of a food processor
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
Fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped
In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the carrots and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in a bit of lime juice and the scallions and peanuts.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound parsnips, peeled and grated using the large grating disk of a food processor
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
Fresh lemon juice
In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the parsnips and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring often, until the parsnips are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, raisins, sage and a splash of lemon juice.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound beets, peeled and grated using the small grating disk of a food processor
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried cherries
In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the beets and a pinch of salt and cook, covered, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cherries, then cook, covered, until tender, about 2 minutes more.