Normally in this issue I’d be reviewing a restaurant, but the early holiday deadline combined with odd restaurant schedules made that a more difficult task than I’d thought. In place of a review, I’ve decided to talk about making our meal planning a little healthier. More fish, less pork, minimal cheese and a good bit of exercise are the go-to recommendations, but my focus at home and on the town will be more vegetables.

With this job it’s tough to go vegetarian for any length of time, but I could at least make an attempt when I’m not on the clock. I’ve already replaced the burgers of Butch Cassidy’s and Callaghan’s with their grilled shrimp salads, and at other restaurants I usually order fish when available. However, a recent visit to Red or White has me lusting for roasted root vegetables for two weeks now.

When I’m visiting the Dauphin Street location I have little to complain about, except I’d love longer hours and a lunch menu. I’m usually there to blindly order a special, whatever oyster dish, charcuterie, chicken board or cheese, and have Erin pick out a bottle of wine that suits the meal. The other night I was feeling sluggish and finished my oysters with the veggie board.

It was one of those times where my body was telling me to eat my veggies like some “Time for Timer” Saturday morning cartoon. My ten-gallon hat was feeling five gallons flat, and I needed to get away from anything fried, covered in sauce or held between two giant slices of bread. This veggie board was the cure for what was ailing me, with roasted cauliflower, tiny beets, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with a teaser of manchego aioli.

I couldn’t get it out of my mind and began crafting my own at home. Little experiments here and there got me closer to the meal I’d had and things began to take shape with my own spin. Hey, this is pretty simple and open to interpretation, but great results are easily achieved just by eating for the season.

You hear that a lot, but it’s true. Right now the root vegetables are perfect and our grocery stores are providing a decent selection. Don’t forget farmer’s markets and produce stands such as Old Shell Market. Go outside of your comfort zone and pick up something you don’t normally buy. You’ll discover flavors you didn’t know you love.

This was also a chance for me to use some of my Christmas gifts, so I’ll pepper a few of those in with the instructions as sort of a mini-product review. Let’s start with the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch baking sheets. I got some of these last year and more this year. You can’t get enough of these golden beauties. In the over $30 range, they are durable, cook evenly and are the best I’ve ever had.

I lined two of them with Chic Wrap parchment paper. The sturdy box and sliding button provides the perfect cut. It’s the box that makes parchment paper cool without being too “gadgety.” They claim to be the world’s best, and though I’d normally not splurge on something like this, it was a gift from my mom. I’m now a loyal customer. Find it anywhere from $13-$19 online but the dispenser is refillable. How much parchment paper do you use annually, anyway? Treat yourself.

For veggies, I found an incredible selection at the grocer. Organic Gold beets from California, red beets from Mexico, local turnip root, sweet potatoes, one fennel bulb and a white onion jumped into the buggy. Sweet potatoes, onion and fennel were cut into long slices. The beets and turnips were first peeled with a vegetable peeler then cut into quarters, keeping a little bit of the stems for a handle. This was a lot easier with a brand new set of German-made Wüsthof knives.

I was lucky enough to receive some products from the Bodacious Olive of Pensacola fame this Christmas. I can’t wait to try the black mission fig balsamic vinegar, but tonight I had to stick to the olive oil. Just a quick toss of the veggies is all you need. Visit them at 407 S. Palafox or at

If you’ve never had Penzey’s Spices you should seek them out. There’s one in Homewood but I was treated to a boxful of jars from their Memphis store. The Fox Point Seasoning is a new favorite mix of shallots, chives, garlic, onion and green peppercorns, and was perfect for my roasted vegetables.

In a 400 F. preheated oven, the two trays got the hour-long treatment with the heavenly aroma filling the east end of my house. Sprinkled at the finish with pinches of Maldon Salt, a gift from the aisles of Fresh Market, the dish was almost complete.

We cheated on the dip. Our holiday cheese was a huge hunk of Humboldt Fog left over from a wine and cheese party we participated in last week at Priscilla Belle Jenkins’ house. This California goat cheese is creamy and light. Mixed with a little bit of mayonnaise and a sprig of dill, our veggie dip was smooth and nearly perfect.

Even if you aren’t looking to make a meatless meal, this can be a great starter at your next get together. Seek out the beets right now. I am an onion fan and fennel freak, but out of all the things on the plate I will say the sweet potatoes might have been the best.

Sometimes you just need to reset. Post holidays, I am craving that gastro-reboot. This just happened to be a delicious way of hitting the button. Thanks, Arwen and crew, for the inspiration! Happy New Year.

(Photo | Wikimedia) Incorporate more seafood, lean meats, roasted vegetables and greens into your diet to help shed pounds in 2018.