Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lemon Thyme roasted root veggies

It's somewhat strange how quickly the first month of the year always passes. It always seems like we celebrate the first of the year and before I can blink an eye, it's February. Not that I'm complaining, mind you - these winter months feel so dark and lifeless that it's nice to have them over with relatively quickly. In just a few weeks, daisies will start popping up here in Portland, followed by the tulips in the end of February or first week of March.

It helps that I have been incredibly busy lately, working four days a week in my new research position and spending the other three days a week tirelessly examining alpha levels and p-values, computing regression equations, and discerning what it all means. I have been typing up the results and discussion sections of my dissertation as fast as humanly possible and it certainly makes the days feel short. In good news, it seems as though my hypotheses are supported; that challenging oneself to participate in activities that may feel somewhat risky (e.g., going to school, getting married, joining a sports club, quitting your job to travel for 3 months) are related to good mental health. Although my research is only correlational and cannot tell me whether learning a new hobby will improve mental health once you're already feeling down or whether it's only those who have good mental health who frequently try out new things, I think it's still worth it to give it a go if you're feeling ho-hum. I feel it couldn't hurt to be more active and involved in life - even something as easy as trying out new things in the kitchen.

In many ways, I'm glad I have this project to keep me busy. The days are so short and it seems the only fresh fruits and vegetables available are those which have been shipped from half-way around the world - not exactly an inspiring season for a foodie like me. I'm torn between wanting to eat fresh blueberries and knowing the enormous carbon footprint that comes with that tiny little container from Chile. I have turned my attention to fresh herbs and seasonings to add variety to those winter root vegetables, both in roasting and in adding to soups.

My latest? Lemon thyme. It seems somewhat appropriate as I think about it's homonym, time, and how quickly it has been passing.

Lemon thyme produces a wonderful aroma of lemon, filling our whole apartment with a fresh, inviting scent. Seriously, it's amazing. It has been used to treat cough and bronchitis, as well as respiratory infections, so it seems appropriate to cook with in abundance during cold and flu season. Who knows? maybe it will help with that sniffly nose you've been fighting?

I recently roasted some sweet potatoes with parsnips as a quick and easy meal to go along with the chicken I had cooking away in the crockpot. I put together the following seasonings for my roasted veggies:

Several sprigs of fresh lemon thyme (I used a sharp knife to carefully scrape off the leaves)

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup pine nuts, ground with a mortar and pestle, or used whole

olive oil

about 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Chop up some sweet potatoes and parsnips (I used two small of each) or your favorite winter veggies and toss with the above in a large bowl.

Pour veggies out into one or more baking dishes (so you have close to a single layer of veggies) and roast at 375F for about 40 minutes, until tender. I served mine with some shredded, cooked chicken and some baby spinach, but they would also be lovely for breakfast with some sausage or bacon or eggs.

How do you keep yourself inspired in the kitchen during these seemingly life-less winter months? What are you experimenting with?

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