Monday, October 28, 2013

Sneaky Vegetables

I'm not a vegetarian. If you look around the blog, you'll see plenty of recipes with meat. But that doesn't mean I dislike vegetables, or think they are unimportant. Veggies are the most important part of a diet. I sometimes have a hard time with my vegetarian patients because too often these "vegetarians" live on rice, beans, and soymilk.

When I ask people, vegetarian or otherwise, why they don't eat more veggies, usually the problems are the time it takes to cook multiple vegetables, or the trouble fixing things the rest of the family will eat.

I have similar problems. My husband does a lot of our cooking, and he gets impatient with cooking several vegetable dishes. I often cook for others who are used to fast food, and are not used to eating vegetables. Here are some of the ways I creatively get veggies into people:
  • Puree them. Sauces are a great way to sneak vegetables into the veggie-resistant. Mild tasting vegetables blend easily into any kind of sauce or soup. 
    • Spaghetti sauce is especially easy way to sneak in multiple vegetables, since the sauce is usually strongly flavored. Cook squash, sweet red or green peppers, carrots, or tomatoes, then blend with your regular spaghetti sauce. 
    • Veggie purees also make great soups. Blend cooked veggies with flavorings. Here's a quick sample recipe: 3 cups cooked yellow squash, 1 sweet potato, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp salt, 1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth, 1 tsp oregano, 2 tsp basil, 1/2 cup heavy cream. Blend, then bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Chop them up.  The Darling Beloved, as my husband is known, does not like squash. Does. Not. Like. But squash is usually one of the most economical vegetable choices out there. Besides, I like it. So he eats a lot of squash. In order to make the process less painful, I sneak the squash in. Making chili? I saute a finely diced squash along with the onion, garlic, and any meat I may be using. Stir fry? At least half a zucchini is chopped in there. It works for any other mild veggie as well. I've also taken brussels sprouts, shredded them, then sauteed them with carmelized onions and butter. They don't look like brussels sprouts, so people are more likely to try them--and if they try them, they often like them! When in doubt, chop it fine and run with it.
  • Flavor them up. Too many people only think of vegetables as steamed, boiled, or baked--with  little flavoring other than some butter or salt. How about sauteed with some garlic, broiled with fresh basil and cheese, or mixed with other vegetables or even fruit? I use the kale and squash my husband doesn't care for in an Italianesque blend. I mix kale, squash, onions, garlic, tomato, basil, and chickpeas together. It's unusual, and tricks his tastebuds into thinking "different" instead of "yuck." Carmelizing is another great trick. Carmelized onions are a revelation--sweet and deep and rich tasting, they can almost make it into a dessert. Mixed into any other vegetable dish, they lend a level of flavor nothing else can give. And they don't look like onions, so people who usually reject onions find they like them. Carmelize any other veggie by roasting or sauteeing--the natural sweetness will come through and make them appetizing to even die-hard veggie haters.
  • Make them a treat.  I love fried food. Ok, I've admitted it. I'm southern. But I want to be as healthy as I can with my love of grease. So when we go out to eat, if I'm craving a grease fix, I'll look for eggplant parmigiana rather than fried chicken. It's not exactly healthy, but I'm getting some extra veggies. Tempura vegetables instead of chips or french fries, veggie lasagna instead of meat (or added to a meat sauce), and that ultimate veggie treat--the tomato sandwich--turns vegetables from a chore into an indulgence. Now that I'm gluten free, I've had to be a little more creative, but I've found restaurants that make amazing gluten-free dishes with vegetables.
I hope this quick list of suggestions helps you get more vegetables eaten in your house. If you have ways you get more veggies into you, your friends, and family, please share. Vegetables are the basic building block of nutrition, any way we can get more into people, the better!

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