By Laurie Barker Jackman, RD

When was the last time you tried a new food? How about tried a new way of experiencing a food? The new year is all about new beginnings, so why not set out on a produce journey to add variety to your menu and explore some new flavours and textures. You may even discover a new family favourite to add to your weekly shop.

1. Explore new mushroom varieties

The button mushroom makes the weekly grocery list for most households. They are a staple to warm soups and stews of winter, budget friendly and versatile. Next grocery trip, why not try Enoki mushrooms. They have long, slender white stems with tiny, firm caps. Their flavour is mild, and their texture is slightly crunchy. They are very delicate so should always be added at the end of the recipe. They work well as a garnish for soups, salads, and Asian inspired noodles. Learn about other varieties of mushrooms to try here – All About Mushrooms.

2. Give jicama a try

Being from Atlantic Canada, turnip makes the menu a fair bit. Why not try jicama, also a root vegetable, and referred to as the Mexican turnip. It has a crisp texture and a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. It is the perfect addition to salads or slaws for that sought after crunch. Just like turnip, you can peel the tough outer layer and cut into matchsticks for a great snack on its own.

3. Add jackfruit tacos to the menu

A unique fruit to experiment with is jackfruit. Vegans and vegetarians often use this tropical fruit as a meat substitute due to its texture, which is comparable to shredded meat. Jackfruit can be used in sweet and savory dishes, from desserts to curries. My favourite is pulled jackfruit tacos – simply shred the jackfruit, add sauteed onions and your favorite BBQ sauce, have it on a taco with slaw (using the jicama above!) and sliced avocado – delish!

4. Try pomelo as a snack

A handheld fruit is a staple in my day as a snack. I usually reach for an apple or orange – delicious and simple. Something new to try is a pomelo. Pomelo is a large citrus fruit, similar in flavour to a grapefruit but less bitter, milder, and sweeter.  They are delicious eaten raw or can be a unique addition to a salad or a dessert.

5. Spiralize your veggies for a twist

Another way to think of trying something new is to change the way you experience the food. Instead of sautéing your zucchini or boiling your carrots, why not try spiralizing them? Spiralizing is a fun and creative way to enjoy produce and the perfect opportunity to get kids involved in the preparation. You can invest in an inexpensive spiralizer or use a peeler to create noodle-like strands with vegetables. Get started with this tasty and easy Zoodles with Pesto recipe.

6. Crisp up your veggies with an air fryer

Air frying is becoming more popular as a quick way to cook and crisp food using less oil. You can literally throw any vegetable in the air fryer to cook. The difference will be the time they cook, depending on if it’s a soft or firm vegetable. For example, for tender vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, zucchini or peppers, a cooking time of 10 – 15 minutes at 375F should be perfect (with a few shakes of the basket during the cooking time to promote even cooking). Firm vegetables such as carrots, beets, potatoes, or squash  can be cooked at 375F for 20 – 30 minutes (again with a few shakes of the basket during cooking time).

7. Make your own tasty chips

Another way to use your air fryer to enjoy produce in a new way is to make vegetable or fruit ‘chips’.  For potatoes and root vegetables, cut into thin slices (I find it best to use a mandolin slicer), rinse, dry off, toss with a bit of oil and spices of your choice. Roast at 325F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. A pro tip is to not overcrowd the basket – maximum 2 layers of vegetables and shake during cooking time. From perfectly roasted squash in half the time to apple ‘chips’, the air fryer is a great way to fill half your plate.

Exploring new-to-you produce or experimenting with different cooking techniques can really help you enjoy vegetables and fruit in a new and delicious way. There are so many ways to fill half your plate, what ideas above will you try? 

About Laurie Barker Jackman, RD

Laurie Barker Jackman is a registered dietitian and media personality. She is a regular dietitian expert on CTV Morning Live in Halifax, sharing her recipes and nutrition tips to inspire viewers. Check out Laurie’s segments and recipes by following her on Instagram.

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