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Aug 25, 2010 06:20 AM

Please help me add veggies to my meals

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family. Vegetables at my mom's table was always (and still is) limited to an iceberg salad with bottled Catalina dressing. As I am now married and trying to eat better, I have tried to add veggies into my meals. Given my lack of knowledge, I am in a rut of steamed everything. Cauliflower, beets, green beans, kale, spinach, it all just gets steamed.
Please save me (and DH) from this rut.
So how do you prepare your veggies and what do you serve to round out a meal?

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  1. Have you tried roasting veggies or grilling them? Beets are wonderful roasted, as are brussel sprouts, carrots, asparagus, parsnips and really all root veggies. I would look to get a cook book focused on vegetables- Chez Panisse Vegetables is a good one to check out for inspiration.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cassoulady

      Thanks, I have roasted carrots before and they were good. I will try the others.

      1. re: cassoulady

        I love roasted brocolli and cauliflower....out of this world!
        Try different lettuces....we always have some type of lettuce salad on goes with eaverthing!
        Mexican corn on the cob is yummy!
        Tomato pie is a great meal or side.
        Stuffed veggies...eggplant , squash , pepper,tomatoes etc.
        dip them raw or lightly blanched in homemade dip.

      2. Roast! Seriously, just about any veggie roasted is fantastic. I love potato & onion, broccoli, cauliflower (which I normally don't like), all sorts of squash (winter & summer). I just cut the veggies into large chunks, toss with a little olive oil, season with salt & pepper, and throw them on a cookie sheet (foil-lined for easy clean up) or in a shallow baking dish. Around 425-250 degrees, til fork tender (maybe 1/2 hr, depending on chunk size & veggie).

        Other ones my family like are mashed acorn squash, fresh green beans sauted quickly with lemon & garlic (no real recipe, just oil/garlic/beans & squeeze a lemon), potato sliced thinly & topped with onion & butter then wrapped in foil on the grill.

        Don't underestimate a good salad - variety of greens, lots of chopped any veggie. My husband hated salad, til he realized he really just hated a bowl of lettuce. As long as there is a bunch of carrots, cukes, celery, red pepper, broccoli, red onion on it, now he loves it.

        5 Replies
        1. re: elfcook

          Thanks, what do you dress your salads with? Olive oil and Red Wine Vinegar? Something else?

          1. re: nuts4food

            hate to admit it, but husband likes bottled dressing - current favorite is Newman's Honey Mustard, which I have to admit is not bad. The Roasted red pepper italian from Kraft is also ok for prepared dressing. I will make up a vinaigrette sometimes, although if it is just for me, I will do straight vinegar. I am sure there are tons of people here with great dressing recipes to share.

            1. re: nuts4food

              Really good basic vinaigrette: 1 chopped shallot, 2 T lemon jiuce, 2 T rice vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, mix and allow to steep together for 15 minutes or so (to take the bite out of the shallot), then add 1/3 cup of olive oil. I do this in a screw-top jar and shake the heck out of it to blend. You can change it up using different citrus juices and different vinegars (if strong, start with less than 2 T) and adding herbs, etc. Keeps a couple days in the fridge. Here's the thread I got this from:

              1. re: nuts4food

                You mentioned growing up with Catalina dressing, but you didn't mention if you like it. You can very easily make your own Catalina-like dressing with tomato paste, sugar (or honey), vinegar (I use cider) and veggie oil. Just throw it in a small blender or shake vigorously. I like being able to control the amount of sweetness, but the lack of all the preservatives and chemicals and such is a nice side benefit.

                1. re: nuts4food

                  Your steamed vegetables can be gussied up with just a drizzle of whatever salad dressings you like. I am partial to a little light ranch atop broccoli.

                  Greens of any sort are good braised. Brown chopped bacon, sweat onions in the fat, then add the greens and cover while they wilt. Then add a splash of vinegar (I like balsamic for the sweet element) and chicken broth (a bit of Better Than Bouillon base is handy here), and reduce till almost evaporated. Add red pepper flakes if you like them. This works for purchased greens like kale, spinach, chard, mustard greens, but is also good for the "freebie" green tops of radishes, turnips, and beets.

              2. Soups are great ways to add veggies to your diet. I love really any type of pureed veggie soup. Once you learn the basic recipe you can use the technique q with really any veggies you have one hand.

                4 Replies
                1. re: cassoulady

                  I could not recommend any single technique that is more useful than learning to make vegetable soups as cassoulady suggests. I usually put a chopped onion, the vegetable, water or stock, on the stove, and puree when it's all very well cooked. I finish with either cream or yogurt, depending on my fattitude that day.

                  A caveat: butternut squash is a great soup option, but peeling them when they're raw can be painful for your hands. Instead, I cut the squash in half from top to bottom, seed it, cut it into chunks, and roast those with the skin still on, making sure all skin surface is exposed in the oven. The skin comes off easily when roasted. When you have that done, you can cook the squash chunks like the other soups, only you add the veg at the end, and then puree. You can cook everything in apple cider instead of water.

                  Another one I like to make is with frozen peas and onion, then cream and mint at the end.

                  I like using my blender more than my cuisinart for pureeing soups, but you also now have the option of using an immersion blender.

                  I just discovered roasting vegetables lately, i.e., within the last two years. That's another good one, and not just for potatoes anymore.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    Prepping butternut or other hard squash: microwave on high for a few minutes to soften the skin, peel when cool. Easy-peasy..

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Awesome tip. I hate peeling butternuts but oh do I love them once they're peeled!

                      1. re: greygarious

                        Oh, that's nice. I never think to use my microwave for anything except reheating and melting chocolate (and I hardly use it for that, even).

                  2. Steaming is just about the most boring way to prepare vegetables!

                    As cassoulady points out, roasting is good. Cauliflower and broccoli are also great roasted, ditto for green beans. I like to toss them with EVOO, salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Sometimes I'll throw in some dried ground thyme, or a handful of fresh thyme sprigs or rosemary sprigs. Cauliflower also roasts very nicely also tossed with curry powder, or just some tumeric, cumin and coriander. For roasted green beans and asparagus I usually omit the herbs and just roast with oil, salt & pepper and finish out of the oven with a squeeze of lemon juice and chopped tarragon or dill (fresh only) if I've got it in the garden or on hand.

                    Another really nice treatment for green beans is tossing cooked beans in a skillet in which you've sauteed sliced or roughly chopped onion or shallot, sliced mushrooms, both onions and mushrooms, onions and tomato, or sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts, using butter as the medium for the saute. I usually boil the trimmed beans for three to seven minutes, just til tender but with a bit of crunch and then toss the drained beans into the skillet. Bacon is also very good with any of these bean add-ins.

                    For greens, I like them simply sauteed with oil, garlic, crushed red chile pepper, and topped with pan-toasted pinenuts. Sometimes I'll toss in raisins, or chopped sun-dried tomato. Bacon/bacon fat is also a good saute medium here. To prepare greens like chard, kale, collards, turnip, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, and escarole, just rinse well, cut across the bunch to create three-inch wide ribbons, and put into the sauteed garlic with just the moisture clinging to the leaves from rinsing. Sometimes you need to add a bit more liquid, which can be water or chicken broth/stock. Then cover, and simmer for several minutes to maybe ten or 20 minutes, depending on the green. Spinach is done in a flash, kale takes a bit longer, next is escarole, while rapini, mustard and turnip greens take a bit longer, while collards take longest. Occasionally a splash of balsamic or lemon juice once plated brightens the flavor. The key with greens is to cook just until tender, don't overcook.

                    Another great treatment for asparagus is to toss in oil and S&P and grill them (a treatment which also is great for scallions). Eggplant, sliced 1/2 thick and brushed with oil & S&P is another great gilling candidate. Don't forget about grilling peppers and onions too.

                    Our dinners always include either one or two vegetables, or a salad, or a salad and a veg. For salads think variety in greens and toppings. Go beyond iceberg and romaine with spinach, arugula, red leaf and oak leaf lettuce, mizuna, endive, radicchio, etc. and explore making your own vinaigrettes with good oils and vinegars. I'm especially fond of a salad made with boston lettuce, apples or pears, blue cheese, and walnuts or pecans, tossed simply with walnut oil and fig-infused vinegar. But romaine is my go-to salad green.

                    Hope these give you some good ideas.

                    1. Congratulations on your decision.

                      I don't think anyone has mentioned stir frying yet? It's one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest ways. You don't absolutely HAVE to have a fancy wok etc, just a stove burner capable of good high heat, and a big pan that can sit comfortably on it.

                      There are so many web sites that will give you simple recipes for seasoning your stir fry, often with aromatics like ginger, garlic, red chilli, (among lots of other options), along with soy sauce, corn starch, etc. to thicken if needed.

                      Serve with just about any Asian themed meal ....

                      Do report back on what you liked.

                      What veggies do you and DH like anyway? What kind of cuisines do you like?