Happy National Nutrition Month! Throughout the month, I’ll be sharing information about practical ways to eat a healthier, balanced diet. And when I say diet, I mean it in the sense of a meal plan – not a crazy restrictive way of eating or anything.
Today, I want to focus on varying your veggies. The majority of Americans fall short meeting the daily recommendations for vegetables – in fact, only about 26% of Americans are eating vegetables 3 or more times per day. The average American eats only about half the amount of veggies they should be each day.
I often hear my clients tell me that they just don’t know what to do with vegetables besides the standard plain side or salad. If you fall into that rut, below are some ideas for ways to utilize different vegetables in your diet, including both sides and main dishes:
- Steam and squeeze lemon juice over it
- Toss raw broccoli with a little olive oil; roast in the oven
- Steam (or boil) broccoli then mix while warm with garlic hummus (using hummus like a thin sauce rather than a dip)
- Sauté with onion, garlic, and parsnips and add to whole wheat pasta; toss with parmesan cheese
- Along the same lines, sauté with garlic and add to gnocchi – toss with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese
- Cook swiss chard and mushrooms in a skillet and mix with brown rice or barley
- Make kale chips: Toss in olive oil and a pinch of salt, bake in the oven
- Add kale to vegetable soups and stews
- Use in a stir fry recipe with other vegetables
- Make beet chips: Slice thin, toss in olive oil and rosemary, and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes
- Roast, slice, and place in a salad with mixed greens and feta cheese
- Add chopped cooked beets to smoothies
- Toss in olive oil and roast in the oven
- Sauté in a pan with olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest – after cooked, top with a squeeze of lemon juice
- Add roasted Brussels sprouts and other roasted veggies to whole wheat pasta
- Add pureed cauliflower to macaroni and cheese
- Mix steamed/boiled cauliflower and broccoli with quinoa, cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese, and milk for a casserole that works as a side or main dish
- Mash cauliflower with milk and parmesan cheese as a substitute for mashed potatoes
- Sauté with garlic and onion
- Blend into smoothies
- Include as a side salad topped with sliced strawberries, pecans and a vinaigrette dressing (add some grilled chicken and this easily turns into a main dish!)
- Chop and sauté – include in pasta as whole chunks or pureed into sauce
- Use thinly sliced zucchini as “noodles” in lasagna
- Add chopped zucchini to chili
- Grate into muffins and quick bread mixes
- Toss with a little olive oil and roast in the oven
- Chop carrots and sweet potatoes, cook in a skillet filled with chicken broth
Pumpkin and different types of winter squash
- Roast and puree – add to pancake batters, muffin batters, quick breads
- Puree into soups or creamy sauces for pasta (you can use regular milk instead of cream)
- Roast and eat as is, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and/or cinnamon
- Boil and mash with milk and parmesan cheese
- Sauté with onions, garlic, rosemary and pepper in a skillet
- Add to vegetable soups
Share with us: What’s your favorite vegetable and how do you like to use it?
- Mix with tomatoes and feta cheese for a greek style side
- Create a salsa to top fish or chicken, or eat on its own with tortilla chips – 1 chopped cucumber, 1 chopped tomato, 2 chopped green onions, ½ chopped jalepeno, 1 can mandarin oranges
- Blend peeled chopped cucumbers into smoothies
On Plum District a few weeks ago, I decided to buy a voucher for a one week vegetable CSA trial at a Pakeen Farm
in Canton, MA. I typically do a lot of shopping at farmers markets for produce, but I love the ideas of CSAs as well. In these programs, you agree to pay a certain amount at the beginning of the season for weekly boxes of produce. You typically don’t get a choice the items each week, but are guaranteed a variety of items. CSAs can be a fun challenge, because you might receive ingredients you don’t frequently use, so it gives you a chance to experiment with them.
Case in point – in my trial share, I got some fresh beets. I’ve done a little experimenting with beets in the past and enjoyed it (try my mango beet smoothie recipe
for delicious proof!) but haven’t cooked with them much since.
I was brainstorming how to use these, and remembered that Terra Chips had a variety that they sold which I really liked, and it included sweet potato and beet chips. So I decided to experiment with that idea by making my own beet chips!
I started by washing and scrubbing the beets, then slicing them. Wow, isn’t that color just fantastic?!
After that, I tossed them in olive oil, rosemary, and a tiny bit of salt, then put them in the oven to bake. Twenty or so minutes later and voilà – my snack was done!
The chips didn’t look very beautiful after cooking – partially because I didn’t have a mandolin slicer to get those nice, very thin chip-like slices – but they tasted fantastic.
And they’re super healthy. Beets pack in lots of potassium to support heart health and muscular health. They are also rich in folate which is important for pregnant women to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. And since we leave the skin on in this recipe (yes, you can eat beet skin), you’ve got a great source of dietary fiber – important for a healthy digestive system!
Here’s the recipe – give them a try! Baked Rosemary Beet Chips
Makes 1-2 servings, depending on if you like to share Ingredients:
4 fresh beets
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary (you can use more or less depending on your taste preferences)
A dash of salt (optional) Directions:
Nutrition Analysis (for total recipe):
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Remove beet greens, stalks, and the bottom part of each beet. Wash and scrub beets well.
- Cut beets into thin slices. I don’t have a mandolin slicer, so I just used a sharp knife, but the mandolin would definitely be quicker and make it much easier to get a uniform size.
- Toss in a bowl with olive oil, rosemary, and salt.
- Spread onto a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 15-25 minutes, until beets are crisp. Keep an eye on them, as cooking time will depend on the size of your beets and thinness of the slices.
- Let cool for a couple minutes and enjoy!
227 calories, 10 grams of fat, 354 mg sodium, 33 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein
I look forward to the Field’s Corner farmers market in Dorchester every summer. Unfortunately now I live a lot further away from this market, but today I was lucky enough to do some shopping there (and during National Farmers Market Week, no less!). My favorite part of this market is that it serves a large Vietnamese population from that neighborhood, so the vendors have a unique variety of fruits and veggies that you might not see elsewhere.
And each year, I can’t wait to get squash blossoms at this market – one of the only markets in the area that carries them! They’re priced well at that market too; $3 for a bunch of them.
Squash blossoms are the beautiful orange and yellow flowers that grow on squash and pumpkin plants, and are actually edible. Now, the most common way these are cooked – and the first way I tried them – was stuffed with cheese and deep fried, like a mozzarella stick. Of course, I wanted to find a much healthier way to cook these delicious delicacies.
I found a few soup recipes and decided to make some adjustments to make a super healthy version. The result? An amazingly delicious recipe that utilizes so much of what’s in season right now! I love this because it tastes super creamy even though you don’t use any actual cream. Instead, the combination of pureed potato with 1% milk gives that creamy texture you crave in a soup like this. And because you’re using some spicy peppers and the uniquely flavored squash blossoms, you get awesome flavor without tons of calories. Plus lots of veggies in one dish! What more could you ask for?
Okay, enough rambling – get to your market and make this asap!
Ok, crappy picture, I know. Photographing soup is actually surprisingly difficult.
Inspired Squash Blossom Soup
Original inspiration from The Vegetable Gardner
, but I’ve made lots of changes!
Makes 4 servings Ingredients:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 Cubanelle pepper, diced
1 long hot chile pepper, diced
1 Anaheim chile pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 red potato, chopped
1 bunch of approximately 20 squash blossoms
1 cup of milk
1 zucchini, chopped
1 ear of white corn
Black pepper to tasteDirections:
1) Heat olive oil in large pot. Add onion and peppers and sauté for 5 minutes until soft. A note on the peppers: I used what was at the market and what I already had in the fridge. You could easily substitute with poblanos, jalepeno, etc - whatever you like. My dish came out with just the right amount of spice!
2) Remove a large spoonful of onions and peppers (about 1/4 to 1/3) and reserve for later.
3) Add garlic to pot and sauté with remaining onions and peppers for another 1-2 minutes.
4) Add chicken broth and potato. Cover partially and simmer for 20 minute or until potatoes are tender.
5) While broth is simmering, prepare the squash blossoms. You’ll need to remove the stamen (that yellow fuzzy thing) from the inside. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to just chop of a bit at the bottom of the flower and then shake it out (see the picture earlier in this post). Rinse the blossoms gently then slice into thin strips.
6) When potatoes are tender, add squash blossoms to the pot. Simmer for a few minutes and then use an immersion blender (or do batches in a regular blender) to puree until smooth.
7) Add milk, zucchini, and the kernels from 1 ear of white corn. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add reserved onions and peppers back to pot.
8) Add black pepper to taste and enjoy! Nutrition Analysis per serving
: 178 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 491 mg sodium, 29 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein
Vitamin A: 16%, Vitamin C: 168%, Calcium: 12%, Iron: 10%
Plus tons of other vitamins and minerals!
That's right, our mystery vegetable from our giveaway last week is tatsoi
! When the farmer told me the name of it, I'd never heard of it before. I was happy he gave me a little taste and couldn't wait to bring some home to try.
Tatsoi is a leafy green that is sometimes also called Japanese spinach, and is a relative of Chinese cabbage and bok choy. And it is a nutritional powerhouse
! One cup contains just about 30 calories, meets your daily needs for Vitamin A (important for healthy eyesight) and Vitamin C (for proper immunity), contains a heaping helping of folate (essential for pregnant women!), and has smaller amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. It's an amazingly nutrient dense food that's great to add to any meal.
- You may have a hard time finding tatsoi at the grocery store, but local farmers markets or Asian supermarkets may carry it.
- Tatsoi will last about 3-4 days in the fridge after you purchase it.
- You can eat tatsoi raw or cooked. Some people feel the leaves are slightly bitter raw, but I actually liked them that way as well as cooked.
- Consider trying tatsoi in salads, soups, stir fries, or on a sandwich!
I made my tatsoi rather simply - sauteed in olive oil with tomatoes, garlic, onion, and little pepper. I've included my recipe at the bottom of this post, but I've found lots of other great recipes online too. Be sure to check out these:
OK, so I made a simple Tomatoes & Tatsoi side dish. You start with these ingredients...
Saute with a small amount of olive oil in a large pan. Add some pepper to taste.
After 5 to 10 minutes, dish out and enjoy!
Tatsoi & Tomatoes Side Dish
Makes approximately four 1/2 cup side dishes
1/2 bunch of tatsoi
1/2 yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1) Coarsely chop tatsoi and tomatoes.
2) Chop onions and mince garlic.
3) Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a large pan. Add all veggies. Add pepper to taste.
4) Saute for 5-10 minutes, or until tatsoi starts to wilt slightly. You can alter the time depending on if you like crisper greens (shorter time) or softer greens (longer time). Enjoy!
Last but not least, congrats to Patti for guessing correctly in our initial post to win a $10 Amazon.com gift card! We raffled off the second gift card to the remaining incorrect answers, and Lynda was lucky enough to win that one. Be sure to visit again soon for more great nutrition tips, fitness information, recipes and giveaways.
Yesterday I was working at a local farmers market in Boston, handing out some healthy food samples and recipes highlighting seasonal produce. As you know from my last blog post about farmers markets
– I love shopping at them since I know the food is fresh, it often tastes better, and I like supporting fellow local businesses.
After working, I did some shopping there and picked up a ton of food – raspberries, blueberries, summer squash, peaches and more! I also got the item in the photo below. This was the first time I’d ever seen or heard of this item, so I chatted with one of the farmers for a bit about it. He let me take a taste – so good! –and I picked up a bunch to bring home.
So you tell me – what’s the vegetable?! Enter your answer in the comments section below by Monday, 7/23/12. We’ll randomly draw two names from all the correct answers and each will win a $10 Amazon.com gift card.
Plus, after I pick the winners I’ll share the recipe and pictures for how I cooked this yummy veggie and a few other recipes I found too!
Fine print: You must be 18 years of age to enter. Only one entry per person. You must enter your email into the email field (which is not published) when you comment so we can contact you if you win. Two names will be randomly selected from those with correct answers. Each winner will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card by email. If no one answers correctly, we will randomly two draw names from all those who commented to win.
This weekend, I realized around lunch time that I was pretty low on groceries (don't you hate when that happens?!). Looking around the fridge and cabinets, I found these ingredients and decided to throw them together. Turned out to be a super delicious and nutritious option!
Black Bean and Pineapple Quesadillas
Makes 6 servings
15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
15 ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed (preferably no added salt)
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 jalepeno, chopped
¾ cup of fresh pineapple, chopped (or chopped pineapple canned in juice, drained)
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese (12 tbsp – 2 tbsp per quesadilla)
6 tortillas (preferably whole wheat - unfortunately we only had white left this weekend, as you can tell from the photo above!), approx. 7-8 inches diameter
Nutrition Analysis per serving
- Mix first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
- Heat a skillet on low-medium heat. Spray skillet with a little cooking spray. Place tortilla on skillet, and fill one half with 1/6th of the black bean mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. Fold over empty half of tortilla.
- Cook for 2 minutes, then flip (ingredients may fall out a bit in the flip - just push them back in the tortilla) and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and ingredients are warm.
(will vary slightly depending on the type/brand of tortillas):
372 calories, 9 grams of fat, 59 grams of carbohydrate, 10 grams of fiber, 16 grams of protein
Also provides the following vitamins and minerals, shown as a % of their daily values: 18% Vitamin A, 69% Vitamin C, 51% folate, 16% calcium, and 22% iron
Have you eaten Brussels sprouts recently? Some of our 2012 Challenge
participants have! Earlier this week, they conquered a challenge to cook & eat some of these nutritious miniature cabbages. Brussels sprouts contain only 28 calories per half cup while still providing 2 grams of fiber, 81% of your daily Vitamin C needs, and 137% of your daily Vitamin K needs.
Check out some of these great photos from their nutritious conquest. John Mancini, president of AIIM International
, and otherwise known as my Uncle Brav, whipped up these delicious looking brussels sprouts!
Joseph Szafranski, a Buffalo cop who trains for Ride for Cancer 2020
(his cycling mission to raise money for a camp for children with cancer) added a side of brussels sprouts to his plate, meeting the recommendation to make half our plates full of fruits or veggies.
And Amy Collier, a friend who is tackling our 2012 challenges like a champ, cooked up this recipe which she shared with us. I think the combination of flavors in this recipe sounds great, so I look forward to trying it myself!
"Brussels Sprouts with Chickpeas and Grapes”
From "Power Foods Cookbook" from WeightWatchers PointsPlus.
1 pound brussels sprouts (trimmed and halved)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups halved seedless red grapes
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon dry sherry or white grape juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1.) Place brussels sprouts in steamer basket and set in large skillet over 1 inch of boiling water. Cover tightly and steam until tender, about 10 minutes.
2.) Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Add grapes and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 3 minutes.
3.) Add brussels sprouts, chickpeas, sherry and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until chickpeas are heated through, 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon zest.
**Haven't joined our 2012 Challenge yet?? Join today!