RECIPES: Warm up to these hearty, healthy winter dishes

Winter’s bounty of root vegetables and winter squash provides Tatiana Gonzalez with a rich source of inspiration for hearty, nourishing meals planned around soups, stews and salads packed with vegetables and grains.

Inspired by watching her Puerto Rican family in the kitchen, Gonzalez appreciated home cooking, but it wasn’t until she was working on her master’s in public health that cooking became a regular part of her routine. “I was studying the link between urban agriculture and public health, and that fueled my passion for cooking and incorporating seasonal produce into my daily meals,” Gonzalez said.

With her degree acquired in May 2022, she became a service member with FoodCorps, partnering with the Wylde Center in Decatur as a garden and nutrition educator at Parkside and Cleveland Avenue elementary schools in Atlanta. “I help the schools create community garden spaces and educate students on how to grow food and what it means to eat seasonal produce.”

She teaches students how to grow things like sweet potatoes, and then teaches them recipes to use what they grow. “That’s a really wonderful experience. Eating what they grow connects them to their food. It helps them want to know more about what they’re growing and learn more recipes.”

Those experiences plus her occasional shifts helping Athens-based Woodland Gardens at its farmers market booths broadened her exposure to seasonal ingredients, and when she wasn’t sure what to do with something, she searched for ideas. “When I wanted to cook something new, I would look on the internet for options, choose the most appealing, and adapt to my taste. What could I do with leeks? What about recipes using cannellini beans?”

She started doing chef demos with Community Farmers Markets, which broadened her exposure to seasonal produce as she shopped at a market’s vendors and then developed recipes to demonstrate on-site, offering samples to market shoppers and encouraging them to shop with the farmers and adapt her recipes at home.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Her White Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes is an example of her creativity in the kitchen. “I wanted to do something with cannellini beans which I hadn’t cooked before. I searched for recipes and found some ideas for Mediterranean-flavored dishes. I love cherry tomatoes, so I added those. The result is a dish full of nutritious vegetables, as well as protein and fiber, that I love to eat so much that I make it every week.”

She developed her Potato Leek Soup as a result of coming home with leeks from Woodland Gardens. “The leeks looked delicious but I had never cooked with them. A little research at Once Upon a Chef for inspiration, some tweaks and I ended up with a tasty, nourishing, super-simple soup.”

One day when she was craving a salad and had butternut squash and beets on hand, she scrolled through social media for ideas for salads using root vegetables. She was inspired to create her Butternut Squash, Beet, Couscous and Arugula Salad, which she particularly loves for the toasted chickpeas. She says they turn into “crispy protein croutons.”

If you’ve resolved to cook more and eat well in the new year, her recipes offer a great place to start.

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RECIPES

To satisfy appetites during the cold months of a Georgia winter, Tatiana Gonzalez shares three recipes for hearty dishes that incorporate the season’s most bountiful vegetables. Her recipes call for Italian seasoning. She uses a mix that includes basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and parsley.

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Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

White Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes

At first glance, this might not look like a standard chili recipe. But the adobo seasoning, with its mix of salt, cumin, garlic, black pepper and oregano, provides the expected chili punch.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Potato Leek Soup

Gonzalez adapted the concept of the French classic cold soup, vichyssoise, and created a lighter version to be served hot. She suggests using your own vegetable broth or if you don’t have homemade broth available, making broth from a vegetable soup base like Better Than Bouillon, available in the soup section of the grocery store.

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Credit: CHRIS HUNT

Butternut Squash, Beet, Couscous and Arugula Salad

This salad, with its colorful mix of roasted vegetables and chickpeas, is hearty enough to serve as the main dish for lunch or dinner. Gonzalez suggests using your own vegetable broth or if you don’t have homemade broth available, making broth from a vegetable soup base like Better Than Bouillon, available in the soup section of the grocery store.

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