If cooking vegetables isn’t your thing, you might frequently resort to heating bland canned and frozen vegetables, which can contain added sugar and salt and barely resemble their fresh counterparts. Fresh vegetables feed your body the nutrition it craves, and fruits and vegetables are the primary ingredients of a heart-healthy diet.
According to the American Heart Association, fruits and vegetables are “high in vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in fat and calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and your blood pressure.”
Further, “The more colorful your diet, the more antioxidants you get,” advises Prevention magazine.
Calculate your exact daily requirements with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calculator and try the three delicious vegetable ideas below to add more fresh foods to your diet. These ideas are versatile because they aren’t, strictly speaking, “recipes,” and you can substitute vegetables, cheeses, citrus, and herbs to suit your taste.
Note: You can use a salt substitute in place of salt.
Caramelized, Roasted Vegetables
This simple technique for cooking vegetables requires nothing more than several vegetables of your choice, olive oil, salt, and an optional pinch of imagination. Cooking vegetables at high heat makes them luscious and sweet. Use different vegetable combinations such as butternut squash and shallots or green beans, onions and fingerling (tiny) potatoes for a different dish every night of the week.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place chopped vegetables (any colorful combination) on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper, and toss and cook for 15-20 minutes. Watch Ina Garten from the Food Network roast vegetables.
Bright and Lively Asparagus
Simple techniques often produce spectacular results, and this method is quicker than steaming.
Add about half an inch of water to a frying pan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, trim the bottom of the asparagus stalks. Place asparagus in a single layer in the pan, cook for a few minutes until the asparagus turns bright green, drain and serve. Optional sauce: Melt a pat of butter and an equal amount of orange juice in the microwave and pour over the asparagus. Top with crushed pistachios.
You can use this technique with many vegetables — think: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans. The acid in the citrus (any citrus) brings out the flavor. Watch the color — when the color is vibrant and the vegetables are tender but firm, the vegetables are done.
Newfangled Mashed Potatoes
The next time you make your favorite mashed potato recipe, start by substituting one-quarter of the potatoes with fennel bulbs. Trim the fennel stalk and bottom and cut into thin slices. Boil the bulb with sliced potatoes. Increase fennel bulbs and decrease potatoes each time you make the recipe. You can spice up this dish by blending in garlic paste, mascarpone cheese, and mint to taste as you mash or process the potatoes and fennel. This recipe also works with cauliflower instead of fennel. You can see the original recipe at the Food Network.
You’ve probably cooked all your life, and thus you know your taste preferences. With the wide variety of vegetables available today, there’s no reason to settle for ho-hum or to be bothered with complicated vegetable recipes. Give your creative juices a little kick, make a few substitutions and additions to your standby recipes, and you’ll grow to love cooking vegetables (not to mention eating them).