Last updateMon, 16 Oct 2017 11am

Food & Wine

Inspire your holiday menu with festive veggies

If you're like most people, the holidays provide countless occasions to overindulge in a sea of decadent and fattening foods. But there's a secret to eating your way through the season that will make the holidays one of the most enjoyable culinary occasions of the year without the worry over your waistline - and that secret is to pile on the veggies!

According to the current U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Americans should eat between five and nine servings of fruit and vegetables a day - and there's a good chance that number will be increased to as many as 13 servings per day when the guidelines are revised in early 2005. The reality, however, is that most people find it difficult to eat the minimum five servings a day due to busy schedules, a lack of time to cook, the cost of fresh produce (especially when some veggies are out of season) or the belief that vegetables are boring and can't taste good.

"Americans drastically underestimate the power of vegetables as delicious, inspirational foods that can help them feel great and maintain a healthy weight - especially during the holiday season," said Sandra Woodruff, registered dietitian and author of 16 books, including "The Best-Kept Secrets of Healthy Cooking" and "The Good Carb Cookbook." "Thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day sounds challenging, but it's actually quite easy if you know some simple tricks.

"Frozen vegetables in particular provide an easy and convenient way to eat more vegetables, and they offer the same nutritional value as fresh. Frozen vegetables promise market-fresh taste all year round, offer dazzling variety and eliminate time-consuming prep work like washing, peeling and chopping."

Here are some quick tips for making frozen vegetables part of your holiday menu:

-Try frozen vegetable blends that add colorful variety and diverse tastes to your holiday recipes. Experiment with holiday colors, such as red and green combos for Christmas.

-Incorporate frozen vegetables into holiday soups, dips, stews, stir-fries, pasta dishes, casseroles, pilafs and frittatas.

-Add a variety of frozen veggies (lightly steamed or blanched) such as chopped onions, celery, peppers and mushrooms when preparing baked stuffings.

The recipes below may be used to incorporate more vegetables into your holiday menu.

Polynesian Vegetables

Cook time: 8 minutes

Prep time: 5 minutes


1 package (16 ounces) baby mixed beans and carrot blend

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup pineapple tidbits, drained

1/4 cup coconut

1/2 teaspoon ginger

In saucepan, combine vegetables, butter, pineapple, coconut and ginger. Cook according to package directions. Serve hot as a side dish.

Serves 5

Celebration Pasta

Cook time: 20 minutes

Prep time: 5 minutes


2 cups fresh tortellini pasta

1 bag (16 ounces) frozen broccoli, corn and peppers

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh or canned diced tomatoes

In large saucepan, cook tortellini according to package directions; drain and return to saucepan. Cook vegetables according to package directions; drain and add to tortellini. In small bowl, combine oil, salt and lemon juice. Stir in tomatoes. Stir tomato mixture into pasta and vegetables; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4

Squash and Apple Soup With Goat Cheese Croutons

Cook time: 30 minutes

Prep time: 10 minutes


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced thin

24 ounces vegetable stock or chicken stock

16 ounces apple cider

2 packages frozen cooked winter squash

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped fine

Salt and pepper

8 slices baguette (1/4 inch thick)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons goat cheese

Heat oil in heavy-bottom soup pot; add onions and cook until translucent. Add apples, stock, cider and squash. Bring to a simmer and cook until apples and onions are very tender (about 10 minutes). In small batches, carefully puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot and stir in thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Brush slices of baguette with olive oil and broil until toasted on both sides. Immediately spread goat cheese on crouton and serve on soup.

Serves 8

-Recipes courtesy of


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