Easy recipes for seasonal produce in the winter

When you think of fresh produce, your mind might jump to the rich, leafy greens of late spring or sweet, vibrant fruits in the summer. Winter doesn't exactly exude a lively vibe - especially since most plants are void of leaves for the season. However, there's quite an assortment of fruits and vegetables that ripen as the days grow colder each year.

Root vegetables are bountiful in the winter, from turnips and parsnips to beets and sweet potatoes. Greens such as kale, leeks and collard greens are also in season. This variety of produce makes for excellent winter soups and hearty stews, as well as interesting salads. Citrus fruits, including blood oranges, kumquats and lemons, are popular in the winter as well. Pomegranates and cranberries add a splash of color and sweetness to any winter recipe. 

"Root vegetables are bountiful in the winter, from turnips and parsnips to beets and sweet potatoes."

While fresh produce is often preferred, you can find canned, frozen or dried fruits and veggies that will provide the same nutritional benefits through the cold months, the Produce for Better Health Foundation explained. 

This winter, experiment with seasonal produce in the kitchen and try one of these recipes.

Pickled beets
To pickle your own beets, you only need a handful of ingredients. For every pound of the vegetable, use 1/2 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

Wash the beets, then bring them to a boil and let them cook until they're tender. When they're ready, drain and rinse the beets, then remove the skin and cut each one into thin slices. In a separate saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil. After the vinegar boils for five minutes, add salt and pepper for more flavor. Pour the mixture over your cooked beets and let them soak in the refrigerator until you're ready to eat them.

Roasted winter vegetables
You can really use any vegetables for this dish, but consider including seasonal produce such as parsnip, turnip, Brussels sprouts, carrots, rutabaga and onions. Simply wash and cut the vegetables, then toss them with olive oil, thyme, parsley, sage, pepper, salt and garlic. You may want to include a splash of balsamic vinegar for a bit of an acidic kick.

In a preheated oven, cook the vegetables at 400 degrees for about an hour, stirring them occasionally. When they're tender yet lightly browned, let them cool and serve as a side dish. 

Kale is chock full of vitamins and nutrients.

Kale chips
This crispy little snack is the perfect healthy alternative to potato chips - and they're easy to make yourself.

Wash the kale leaves and cut off the stems, then rip the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Make sure they're completely dry before you spread them out on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Drizzle the kale with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, garlic and any other seasoning flavors you enjoy. Bake your kale chips in an oven that's been preheated to 300 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the edges start to brown.