Bored with Vegetables?

It’s no wonder “dieting” never worked for me. Even to this day I associate “dieting” with carrots and celery sticks and salads at every meal. The very word evokes images of bunnies munching on lettuce and carrots. Plain, crunchy, bland, boring vegetables. And don’t forget fruit… Apple slices, pears, bananas, grapes… B.O.R.I.N.G. Then, when I started exploring new foods and new cooking methods I realized that the food wasn’t boring. I was just stuck in a food rut.

So what changed? I started shopping at the farmers market and learning about local and seasonal eating. My eyes were opened to a new world of food that I had either never bothered to pay attention to, or I had never bothered to try, or had thought was to complicated to prepare or too extravagant for my taste. The blinders were off and I even noticed and purchased new foods from the grocery store. A year and a half later, I’m still tasting new foods weekly, sometimes even daily and there’s no end in sight. Here’s Linsey taking her first bite of red corn:


Yeah. Red corn. That you eat, not a Thanksgiving table decoration. How was it? Meh. Tasted like corn that’s not quite in season yet – and corn isn’t in season yet around here. So if I can find it again when it is in season, maybe I’ll give it another taste. But it was fun to try. I also found multicolored popping corn in a bulk bin at Healthy Home Market. Can’t wait to try that. I especially love to see the confusion on my family’s faces when I bring home something that doesn’t look like the standard variety.

I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to cook. But I can’t help but wonder how that’s possible if you like to eat. I mean, most of us eat at least three or four times a day. Cooking takes some talent, but mostly it just takes practice, patience and a good cookbook or recipe website like allrecipes.com or epicurious.com. Don’t be afraid to try. Tell your guinea pigs (aka family) to be patient, open minded and supportive. (And if they aren’t, then tell them to shut up and eat.) They’ll learn to like these new foods and so will you. It’s normal human behavior to be skeptical of trying new foods. It’s what has kept us alive for thousands of years. You might have to attempt a recipe two or even three times to get it right, but it’s worth it. I strongly urge you to pay attention to ratings and reviews in the recipe websites. They’ll give you great hints and tell you how to avoid mistakes or make them better. It’s like free cooking school. Just get in there and do it. Eventually, you’ll gain confidence and learn which flavors and cooking methods work and which don’t.

Here’s a list of some veggie dishes we’ve had this week. Some of the recipes are new for me.

Braised Fennel

We had this tonight and it was delicious and easy. Skip the water and just use broth. Fennel is so good for you. Click here to read about it’s health benefits. By the way braised simply means to cook (meat, vegetables, etc) by lightly browning in fat and then cooking slowly in a closed pan with a small amount of liquid (from dictionary.com).

Tonight's dinner: Ossabaw pork chops, roasted smashed potatoes, kale and swiss chard, and that's the braised fennel there in the front.

-Smashed Potatoes

I got the idea for this on Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. He boiled the potatoes (I used the microwave) and then gently smashed them once with a spoon on a cookie sheet, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned them and then popped them in the oven. I used salt, pepper and chopped garlic. I put them under the broiler until the top starting turning golden brown and then sprinkled them with spring onions after I pulled them out of the oven. It’s so easy and good. You have to try this.

-Greens

Do not put vinegar on my greens. A squeeze of fresh lemon or lime, maybe. But no vinegar please. I like to saute them with onions and garlic in olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Can’t get any simpler than that. Okay maybe you could add some shredded parm or goat cheese or you could cook them in a little chicken broth or add some soy sauce. Kale and swiss chard are in season now. Early spinach is here or just around the corner.

From my garden - kale and rainbow chard, along with some oregano and spring onions that I used for tonight's dinner.

And that was all from tonight’s dinner. Last night I made zucchini. I sliced it lengthwise about 1/4 inch thick and then soaked it in homemade dressing (balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, shallots, salt and pepper) for about 15 minutes. Then I grilled it (in a grill pan). Linsey raved about it. Brian and I both ended up giving her a few of slices from our plates because what parent says no to a child when they want more vegetables? We also had avocado and mango salad. I roughly cut them into one inch pieces and then squeezed a lime over it and threw in some chopped cilantro from the garden.

Salads don’t have to contain mostly lettuce or any at all for that matter. Use your imagination. I like a little fruit (dried or fresh) and nuts in my salads. Adding fresh herbs can transform a salad to something extraordinary. Quality dressing is a must. I strongly suggest you try making your own. It’s so easy and the taste is superior, so why not? My favorite is one part olive oil, one part balsamic, a little honey (more if you like it sweet, but try to cut back on the sweet stuff), salt and pepper. I put the ingredients in a mason jar and give it a shake. Make enough for the week (or more). Sometimes I add garlic, shallots or fresh herbs. You can use any oil, any vinegar or even fresh squeezed citrus. Use cheeses, buttermilk, mayo, sour cream or yogurt to make creamy dressings. Find healthier homemade recipes for your favorites online. The Joy of Cooking has tons of recipes and ideas for homemade dressings. The best part is that you can tailor dressings to suit your taste and standards.

Make fresh produce the norm at home. Save a few frozen bags for emergencies, and don’t even bother with the canned (maybe some tomatoes, occasionally). To keep things interesting, try new fruits and vegetables every week. Find out what’s in season right now, and start there. Produce that’s not in season will be low on quality and taste. Dig a little deeper in the produce department, but also try to find a farmers market that sells organically grown, local produce. The taste of produce this fresh and clean might surprise you. You should also try growing your own. It’s never too late to start a garden. Produce grows year round. Just search the web to find out what you should plant this time of year in your area. Start with container gardening if you are short on experience, time or space. Again the web has all kinds of info on container gardening. Harvesting food from your own garden then preparing it in your own kitchen and sitting down with your family to eat it feels so innately human and satisfying.

Try new cooking methods and recipes too. Before this journey I used recipes for the main dish and usually steamed veg then added oil or butter, salt and pepper. Steamed veggies are classic, but you can spruce them up with new flavors (pretty much the way you would a salad – vinegar, oil, herbs, etc.). Give roasting a try. Simply toss vegetables in olive or coconut oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees until they start to brown. Mmmm…

And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Vegetables are not boring.

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About Michele
Wife and Mom of three girls doing her best to lead the family into a healthier lifestyle and evolve gracefully.

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