It seems easy, fun, and even exhilarating to seek out local, in-season foods in the summer when farmer”s markets are hopping and the sun is bringing nourishment everywhere you look.

In the dark days of winter, whether your hometown is covered in snow four feet deep or just stuck in “gray day” syndrome, eating locally, seasonally, or even just finding a vegetable to grace the dinner table can be a bit more daunting.

In a perfect world, you would have canned tomatoes and dehydrated produce last summer, and you”d have an attic filled to the brim with home-preserved food reminiscent of

Little House in the Big Woods

, but if you”re living in my world, that”s probably not the case.

It”s all too tempting to rely on comforting grain-based foods like bread, pot pies, quick breads, and sweets when it”s cold outside. The problem, of course, is that all those carbs can wreak havoc on your system, which is most likely more idle at this time of year than when the sunshine is calling you and your bare toes outside to frolic.

Here are four simple ideas for keeping healthy with real food when all you want to do is cuddle up with hot chocolate and toast:

1. Use Squash

Photo by monado

Spaghetti Squash

We”ve turned to spaghetti squash instead of pasta so often in the past few months that my 2-year-old offered me a plastic plop of play food the other day with the endearing phrase: “Mama, you want some spaghetti squash?”

I recommend baking it in advance, preferably the day before when your oven is on for something else anyway. This is just for “quick meal” factor the day you want spaghetti.

Simply wash, halve, scoop out the seeds and place facedown in a glass baking dish with a little water. Bake anywhere between 350-400 until you can puncture the skin with a fork, usually 30-60 minutes. Use that fork to scoop out the stringy insides.

Either immediately or after refrigerating, mix and heat in a pot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and anything else you”d use in traditional spaghetti: meatballs, sausage, ground beef, pinto beans, etc. You can almost imagine you”ve just boiled up a box of pasta, but with far more vitamins and fewer carbs. Spaghetti squash can also be served with butter and salt and pepper as a side dish, but I always prefer the tomato sauce option.

Squash Pancakes (aka “Pumpkin Pancakes”)

Photo by Katie Kimball

I usually refer to these babies as “pumpkin pancakes” simply because people are used to sweet pumpkin treats, but they give me skeptical looks if I offer “squash pancakes.” They have almost no grains in them, so they”re a great substitute for all the carb-loaded breakfast options we”re used to.

1 c. cooked, pureed squash*
4-5 eggs**
¼ c. coconut flour OR whole wheat flour OR 1/3 c. sourdough starter
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. ginger
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1-2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
Method: Separate eggs. In one bowl, whip egg whites a few minutes until frothy/foamy. In a separate bowl, combine yolks with squash, flour, sweetener, vanilla and spices. Fold in egg whites. Fry slowly in lots of fat in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat OR on a griddle with a bit of butter at about 300-350F. Watch for the bottoms to begin browning when the edges look dry and flip once. If you find the pancakes are very thin and breaking apart, add a bit more flour or sourdough starter to the batter.
The lazy way: Instead of separating the eggs, just mix everything together willy nilly in one bowl. The pancakes might not have as much height or fluff, but they’re still perfectly fine, especially for a weekday morning!
Makes about 20 small pancakes.
*I recommend a sweeter squash like buttercup for these pancakes, and butternut would work very well also. I bet pumpkin puree, even from a can, would be simply delicious and still get excellent super food veggie nutrition into Hvis du er interessert i a l?re mer om  Roulette  Strategier, kan du lese mer om det her. your breakfast.
**Note on eggs: The recipe works with either 4 or 5, which you may choose depending on how large your eggs are or how many you have on hand.

Butternut Squash Instead of Potatoes

Squash also makes a great pseudo french fry (try these directions if you”ve never made your own), as do sweet potatoes. Again, more vitamins, lower carbs.

2. Go Beans!

Photo by WordRidden

If you feel like you”ve overdone the holiday season and need to cut some weight and get more energy, beans (the legume kind) are a great way to go. They”re also easy on the budget, which can get a bit taxed in December as well.

Beans are high in fiber and protein, tend to fill you up and stick with you, and they also shine in important categories such as B Vitamins, folic acid, zinc and iron. Legumes are a great way to buy a vegetable without wandering the produce aisles wondering in what country the green thing on the shelf was grown.

Skip the starchy potatoes and add beans to your stew instead, like this slow cooker beef and bean stew that we just love. We try to eat legumes at least once a week. Here are some of my favorite recipes:

Sometime this month I”m publishing an entire ebook filled with bean and legume recipes, as well as tips on how to cook and use dry beans.

3. Don”t be Afraid of Meat

Photo by Katie Kimball

Did you know chickens are actually in-season in the summer and fall, and eggs in the spring and summer? It seems crazy to us who have all-access to anything we want at our local grocery store, but if a farmer wants his chickens to lay eggs when the days aren”t long enough, he has to provide artificial lighting to trick the bird”s systems. Two hundred years ago, folks just went without eggs most of the winter.

Winter meats include beef (usually slaughtered in the fall, then frozen or dried/smoked), pork, and venison. So have a comforting stew, a slow-cooked roast, or even a beef stir fry or fajitas (maybe you froze some summer peppers?), and you can still pat yourself on the back for eating seasonally. We love these simple beef and cabbage pockets dipped in Dijon mustard, which can also go over rice with soy sauce for a gluten-free option.

On the other hand, since I can get chickens and eggs in the winter, I”m going to embrace them and run with it! We eat a lot of scrambled eggs for breakfast, and if I run out of homemade chicken stock I can hardly function when trying to meal plan for a week. It”s wonderful to have incredibly nourishing, frugal chicken stock in the freezer for our once and twice weekly soup nights. Soup is the perfect winter food and a great way to stretch both your meat and vegetables, and even include beans when you can. Here are some of my ultimate favorites:

4. Grow Something

Photo by Lindsey T

Even in the coldest of winters, you can have living foods and real, green chlorophyll in your very own kitchen with a few simple items to make a homemade sprouting kit:

  • glass jar, any size
  • tulle, bag from onions, or similar mesh with small holes
  • rubber band
  • seeds for sprouting (find them at your health food store) or legumes

Here are some photos and my complete directions for sprouting.

With little attention, you can grow your own sprouts for munching, salads, or sandwiches, adding live enzymes and huge nutrition to your diet. Sprouted legumes decease the carbs and add vitamins to any bean dish; simply sprout and use in your recipe as directed like dry beans (you do cook them). Sprouted lentils are pretty good raw, on salads or as their own salad with some sliced carrots, cucumbers, and vinaigrette dressing.

I admit I”m still turning to breads and rolls a lot and enjoying toast for breakfast, but we can strive for vegetables and hearty soups when we can! I just got a copy of Shannon of Nourishing Days” new eBook, Simple Food {for winter}, and I”m learning so, so much. Shannon, who also writes for Simple Bites is very knowledgable about enzyme pairing and lacto-fermentation. I highly recommend it.

I”m also encouraged by this post on “Getting to Know Your Food” with some good challenges for goals for the year and links to probiotic food resources.

What are your favorite healthy winter staples?