Expand Your Veggie Options This Year

You know you’ll feel better, reduce your risk for many diseases and conditions and live longer if you eat more veggies. But doing so might seem to be easier said than done, especially if you’re not a great cook or your family members don’t like seeing unfamiliar foods on their plate. Take a look at the vegetables below to see which ones you want to try adding to your diet and dishes this year. With dozens of choices, you can easily add more variety to your meals and snacks this year, and serve vegetables that people actually want to eat.

expand veggie options this yearBrussels Sprouts

These hard, small, round greens can be tough little suckers if you undercook them. Roasting or sautéing them until they’re tender and sweet will completely change their texture and flavor and have your kids asking for more. Use a little olive oil to pan fry them over medium heat, add some garlic, salt and pepper, and combine with onions for a sweet and savory side. Try heating them for five minutes in the microwave in a sealed plastic bag. Brussels sprouts also pair well with other root vegetables, such as carrots, turnips or parsnips, when you make a beef roast or roast a whole chicken.

Beets

This root vegetable has an earthy flavor but is also one of the sweeter veggies if cooked correctly. Sweet beet juice is a favorite of juicing enthusiasts, who add it to their smoothies and shakes. As a side dish, it’s tasty with some lemon juice, salt and pepper. Roast it with other root vegetables underneath the meat to let it catch the drippings from beef, chicken or turkey. You can also dice it into small pieces to make it less pronounced in soups and stews. Try making your first batch of borscht this year, or try pickled beets.

Other Root Vegetable

Root vegetables add sweetness to savory dishes and provide a host of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Add diced turnips, parsnips, beets, and rutabagas, along with traditional root vegetables like onions, carrots, and celery to soups for more flavor and nutrition. Roast them with meats or add them to your crockpot meals.

Artichokes

Yuck – they look like Armadillos! If you don’t eat artichokes, you’re missing a restaurant delicacy and farm table favorite that provide so many health benefits they’re almost like medicine – but you won’t want to eat them if they taste like a doctor’s prescription. Artichokes are a fun side dish to serve when you have guests over, especially if you want to make your dinner party memorable. Add them to your next cookout by grilling them. You know you love artichoke dip when you’re at a party or in a restaurant – try making your own, or buy a jar of artichoke spread to pair with crunchy bruschetta. Look for marinated artichokes and serve as part of a pre-meal antipasti.

Here are some artichoke preparation and serving tips from Ocean Mist farms, complete with a video to make it easy to serve these tasty veggies.

Sweet Potatoes

If you like potatoes, you’ll love adding sweet potatoes to you weekly meals. You can make sweet potato fries (baking or deep-frying them), sweet potato casserole, mashed sweet potatoes, or just serve them as chunks with a little butter, salt, and pepper. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and minerals and are an excellent source of beta-carotene and dietary fiber.

Broccoli

Just a little Ranch dressing turned one of baby boomers’ least-favorite vegetables into one of Generation X’s favorites. Don’t overdo it with high-fat dressings as broccoli dips, but dipping is a great way to introduce kids to this Super Food. Serve the freshest broccoli you can find if you’ll be serving it raw. Steam it lightly and pour just a tablespoon of melted cheese over a serving for a tasty side dish. As people get used to broccoli, serve it plain with a little salt and pepper and add it to stir-frys. Keep a bag of frozen broccoli in your freezer to add to rice dishes, use as a pizza topping, or for a quick side dish with a piece of chicken.

Greens

Greens are a great source of iron and dietary fiber. They’re delicious as a side dish, an ingredient for juicing, or the basis of a salad. Try experimenting with the following greens this year:

  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Kelp
  • Mustard
  • Collards
  • Microgreens
  • Bok choy
  • Sprouts

Rhubarb

This sweet plant is often used in desserts, especially pies (try a strawberry rhubarb pie for a classic) and crumbles. It has long, leafy green stems and reddish stalks. In some cultures, the stalks are eaten with either sugar or spices.

Cauliflower

You’ve probably run into cauliflower at parties on your raw veggie tray or in soups or salads. It’s another good source of fiber, as well as vitamin C. Try cooked cauliflower with Indian spices for a tasty side dish, or serve it raw in salads for a crunchy kick. Add it to casseroles, where it will soften and sweeten. As a side dish, it’s a low-carb, low-starch substitute for potatoes or rice.

Okra

This Southern favorite may be 90% water, but it’s tasty and a good source of vitamin C and K and dietary fiber. You’ve most likely tasted it in gumbo, or as an okra-and-tomatoes side dish.

Mushrooms

Raw or cooked, mushrooms add flavor and nutrition to salads, pizzas and casseroles. They are a favorite vegetable to pair with steak, especially sautéed with onions. There are many white and brown varieties and you can purchase them whole, sliced, or in pieces in cans. If you haven’t tried a Portobello mushroom burger with pesto and cheese, you’re missing a veggie burger treat.

To make stuffed mushrooms, buy large whole mushrooms, cut off the stems and scoop out the center for stuffing. For a vegetarian version of this appetizer or snack, dice the stems and combine them with other veggies, then bind the ingredients with breadcrumbs and olive oil and fill the center of the mushrooms. Bake them until the ‘shrooms are moist and the stuffing is crispy.

Cabbage

Cabbage seems so simple it’s almost – meh. Try making cabbage bhaji with onions, tomatoes and Indian spices for a tasty, out-of-the-ordinary side dish. Make your own fresh Cole slaw to serve with burgers or barbecue. Sauerkraut not only tastes great with almost any pork dish, it’s also one of the few foods that promotes gut health. Cabbage soup is low in calories and high in vitamins A and C.

Eggplant

Sliced and served in a tomato parmigiana with gooey cheese, diced in a stir-fry or pureed and seasoned, eggplants are healthy and hearty. A staple of Indian cooking, these firm veggies are great addition to your menus. They are not high in any particular nutrient, but provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, especially if you use the skins. Sauté them with onions, tomato and Indian spices, puree them with vegetable oil, and then add cooked peas to create a tasty alternative to mashed potatoes.

To decrease the bitterness of eggplants, open them with a knife and salt them, letting them sit for 30 minutes before rinsing. This will remove some of the bitter-tasting compounds. Buy firm eggplants for the best taste.

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