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How to Eat More Vegetables

January 5, 2018

Have I mentioned winter? Yep. Because, winter.

Yesterday on All Over Albany, in their story about surviving winter, I saw a picture I recognized. I took it years ago for a post I wrote called Cooking out the cold. It features a ham hock from Rolf’s in Albany, cumin seeds, a can of Coleman’s dry mustard, and a bowl full of black eyed peas. Love that image. Love black eyed peas too.

Black eyed peas are one of those traditional New Year’s dishes. In this house we don’t give any credence to superstition. We didn’t eat grapes. I did not make any resolutions. At the stroke of midnight we even eschewed the traditional Champagne toast.

Still, people make resolutions. And a common one is to eat better. This of course means different things to different people. But yesterday, I stumbled upon a tweet of someone who was specifically trying to eat more vegetables.

My answer may not have been the most helpful, but today I’m hoping to turn that around.

Although, I do have to say my answer was better than some of the others she was getting. The idea of putting vegetables into a smoothie so that you won’t taste them is deeply upsetting on many levels. And juicing vegetables removes all that beneficial fiber.

Don’t. Just don’t.

What I said, was that if you want to eat more veggies, you need to cook more veggies. Which I suppose is easy to say, maybe a little bit harder to do. Especially for the time starved. While I may enjoy spending hours in the kitchen simmering beans, it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time.

Here’s the other ideological shift one needs to make. Eating more veggies isn’t about eating more food overall. So it helps to think about how you can put vegetables in the center of the plate. This isn’t about vegetarianism, or walking away from meat. It’s a commitment to prioritizing vegetables, and thinking of meat taking a supporting role.

At this time of year, frozen vegetables are a godsend. And to that, let’s add canned beans. Although I do highly recommend making your own from dried. Should I get a small instant pot, my hope is to turn it into a lean, mean, bean machine.

With these guiding principles in mind, let’s talk quick and easy recipes.

The Emergency Bean & Cheese Burrito
Thanks to Trader Joe’s, you can buy 100% whole wheat tortillas, cans of organic black beans, a little bit of Mexican cheese blend, and a jar of Hatch green chili salsa. Want to meat that up? Easy. Want to add soyrizo? You could do that. I’ve been known to cut up an onion and a pepper and saute them in a pan to up the veggie content too.

Pasta with Vegetables or Vegetables with Pasta (either way)
The Trader Joe’s 100% whole grain fusilli and spaghetti make a great base for all kinds of vegetables. We usually go for frozen organic broccoli. Yes, you could boil it, but that’s gross. Steaming it isn’t much better. I toss it in a skillet with olive oil, salt, and then cover briefly on high heat. I’m looking to get a bit of char on the cut surfaces, but have them cook through. Then I remove the lid to cook out a bit more of the water. This goes great with either garlic and olive oil, or some nice chicken stock. Regardless, shower it with parm-reg. You can always add canned cannellini beans to up the vegetable content.

Cannellini Everything
Legumes, beans, and pulses are great for you. How can you put cannellini beans in everything? Make a bean spread. If you have a food processor, it couldn’t be easier. Toss in garlic and salt. Process and scrape down the sides. Toss in beans (save the bean water for later). Process and scrape down the sides. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and ground white pepper. Process and scrape down the sides. Taste. Thin with bean water as needed. Make sure it’s salty enough. If it’s too salty, spritz it with more lemon. Use the best olive oil you can justify buying. Its fruitiness will make this simple spread sing. Then spread it on everything. Pro tip: Make it a buffalo style dip/spread with Frank’s Red Hot. You’re welcome.

Brown Rice & Veggies
Typically, I adopt Chinese flavor profiles for these kinds of rice bowls. Fermented black beans and black bean paste help that effort. But any good Asian market will have all kinds of flavor bases to use, so if Thai is more your style, it’s stupid easy to cheat your way into a tasty version of take-out classics. A can of coconut milk, a tin of Thai green curry paste, and a few bags of frozen vegetables. That’s pretty much it. It’s certainly not the healthiest, but you can squeeze a lot of veggies in there.

Go Fermented: Kimchi Fried Rice
Especially if you have leftover rice from your rice bowls, pick up a giant jar of kimchi, a tub of Korean red pepper paste, and a bit of toasted sesame oil. Fry up the onions and garlic. Toss in old rice. Toss in sliced kimchi and red pepper paste. Finish with a little toasted sesame oil. Top with a fried egg. So easy. So good. You could even use this preparation on leftover pasta. I’ve done that maybe more times than I would care to admit.

Roasted Roots
This takes time, but it’s not so much active time. It also isn’t particularly suited for frozen veggies. But winter storage crops shine when you peel ‘em, chop ‘em up into big chunks, toss them with oil and salt, and throw ‘em into a roasting pan. Think beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic (unpeeled) and potatoes. You can use any combination of those vegetables. You can even toss in some loose pork sausage into the raw veggies, which will render out some of its fat while it cooks, and make the meal not just more filling but super succulent.

Frozen Peas
Let me tell you, the Trader Joe’s petite frozen peas are sweet, tender, and delicious. My kids will eat them cold out of the freezer, and they are picky AF. But boil some salted water, toss ‘em in for a few seconds until they warm through. Drain. Add a pat of butter, some salt, and you’ve got a quick and easy side. Or toss those into the whole grain pasta. We just had that last night. The dish was accentuated with some slices of a smoked pork chop that had been fried in olive oil that had just sauteed a couple cloves of garlic. Additionally, if you get sick of white bean spread, you can make a spread from a bag of defrosted frozen peas. It’s true.

The Most Delicious Pea Recipe in the Known Universe
Split pea soup is amazing. It’s not particularly quick. But you can make a large batch of it, freeze it, and it reheats beautifully. It is a pain in the arse to make though. The same can be said for many bean and pulse based soups. Although a quick and simple Indian dal can be pretty quick and simple.

Man, I could just keep on going. But I have work to do. So if you have any recommendations, or any questions, just leave them down in the comments.

Stay warm.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. EPT permalink
    January 5, 2018 11:08 am

    Yeah, simple to make and very satisfying is a baked onion soup. It takes a while to caramelize the onions but boxed/canned beef stock works perfectly well. Add a little chopped garlic, just a little thyme. Top with some stale bread or even melba toast a bit of cheese to top it off and you’re good to go.

    PS…add some Parmesan cheese to the soup as its cooking for extra flavor (or add just the rind). Check out Julia Child’s recipe…
    http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/authentic-french-onion-soup-courtesy-of-julia-child-356428

    https://tinyurl.com/ycvuw5j6

    • Renee Blaker permalink
      January 5, 2018 5:51 pm

      I changed things around a bit
      This New Year’s Eve
      Instead of old tradition of
      Boucheron goat cheese, shrimp
      Cocktail and a baguette I made
      French Onion Soup
      I used Julia Child’s recipe years ago
      This year tried a different recipe
      Even found some Thyme in my garden
      Scrumptious!

  2. January 5, 2018 11:20 am

    Why a small Instant Pot? Is that even a thing? Terrible idea. Go big or go home!

  3. Doug permalink
    January 6, 2018 11:51 am

    Pressure cooker pea soup isn’t a pain in any part of the anatomy, and no blending or processing necessary — the split peas simply melt under pressure.

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