Nutrition Matters – March 2022

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What’s in season in March? During the spring and summer North Carolina has a wide variety of seasonal produce available in the grocery stores and farmers’ markets. I look forward to seeing large bunches of beets, juicy peaches, and fresh okra during the warm months. Do you ever wonder if anything can grow during the cold winter months? There’s less variety in the winter, but in North Carolina we’re lucky to have seasonal produce available all year long. Two local items you can find in stores and farmers’ markets this month are sweet potatoes and greens, such as collards and kale. Buying produce that’s in season often costs less money, so its’s a great way to stretch your food dollars. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I picked up sweet potatoes and kale for less than two dollars! The sweet potatoes cost .79 per pound and the kale .99 per bunch. I like to have sweet potatoes on hand to use as an easy side dish of baked or mashed potatoes. And I love to add kale to soups and stews for added nutrition. Since the weather has been cool, I decided to warm up by making this delicious lentil soup that features both sweet potatoes and kale.

Recipe for Lentil Minestrone

Ingredients:  1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil, 1 yellow onion (peeled and chopped), 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced), 3 carrots (scrubbed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces), 1 celery stalk (diced into 1/4-inch pieces), 1 sweet potato (scrubbed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces), 1 Zucchini (diced into 1/4-inch pieces or 1 cup of frozen zucchini), 2 cups canned low-sodium, diced tomatoes (including liquid or fresh tomatoes, 1/2 cup lentils (brown or red), 8 cups water, 1 cube low-sodium chicken bouillon, 4 cups kale (washed and chopped into 1/4-1/2-inch pieces)

Directions: Put a soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat. When the pot is hot, add the oil. Add onion and garlic and cook about 7 minutes until golden. Add carrots, celery, sweet potato and zucchini and cook about 10 minutes until slightly tender. Add tomatoes, lentils, water and chicken bouillon cube and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low, cover and cook 40 minutes. Add the kale and cook an additional 20 minutes. Serve right away or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.