A few years back, my adult daughter moved to a toney Virginia suburb, where she found it challenging to live on her modest salary.
One evening the phone rang. “Exciting news, mom! I finally found a fresh vegetable I can afford here—a gigantic bag of kale for only 99 cents! It will last me a whole week.”
I wondered why the kale was priced so modestly, when a head of broccoli in the same store cost $2.50.
“Well, I don’t think people actually eat much kale around here. The bag was labeled ‘decorative greens.’ I guess they figure people only use them around the edges of serving platters.”
More is better
I’m always on the lookout for ways to add veggies to our meals. This works out well with my growing passion for vegetable gardening (despite a 2-person household).
It’s not only healthy to eat more vegetables, but also research shows it’s beneficial to eat a wider variety of vegetables (and fruit). As a gardener, I enjoy trying new crops and varieties.
But many folks can’t muster much enthusiasm for vegetables other than potatoes. Sadly, only about a quarter of American adults eat the once-recommended three servings of vegetables a day. And new government recommendations up the daily dose to five or more vegetables a day.
Some fresh ideas for veggies
So, here are a few suggestions for getting more vegetables into your menus:
- Main-dish salsa Chop lots of fresh tomatoes, green and red peppers (heat if you like it), a bit of raw onion and minced garlic, and herbs and spices to taste. Serve hot or cold, topped with a few spicy black beans, cold chicken, or a wedge of cheese.
- Try roasting Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash (all with skins intact), asparagus, peppers, carrots, parsnips–if you’ve only eaten these vegetables steamed or boiled, you haven’t begun to enjoy their flavors. Roasting deepens and improves the flavors of almost any sturdy vegetable.
- Extra lettuce? Steam or stir-fry outer lettuce leaves or a handful or mild mesclun mix with stronger-flavored kale, collards, or chard.
- Salad for breakfast? Try this: a whole sliced beet, a chopped hard-boiled egg, a serving of berries, sliced melon or orange sections, topped with a splash of honey mustard dressing.
- Winter-squash smoothie If you love pumpkin pie, try this quick breakfast or anytime smoothie. Blend a cup of cooked winter squash (or pumpkin), a cup of plain or vanilla yogurt, a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey, and pumpkin-pie spices to taste. Add milk to thin if needed. Variations include adding half a frozen banana or half a cored pear.
- Love pickles? Create a “perpetual-pickles” crock for summer snacking. Especially good if you have a large vegetable garden, but useful even it you don’t. Partially fill a large jar or small crock with half water and half vinegar, a few peeled garlic cloves, a few sprigs of fresh dillweed, and pickling salt to taste. Toss in small cucumbers, peppers, tiny onions, baby carrots, cauliflower florets, green beans. Keep in a kitchen shelf and snack at will. Add new vegetables every day or two. Discard the old brine and make a fresh one every two or three weeks. (Use the discarded brine for household cleaning.) Here’s more about perpetual pickling.
- Try a new spice mixture. You could try making baharat, a middle-eastern/north African mixture of sweet, warm, and resinous spices and herbs that comes in many regional variations and goes with everything. We especially love it on bean-grain dishes that incorporate a lot of chopped greens. Another mid-east favorite, za’atar, transforms vegetables and pretty much everything else. The sumac listed as a major za’atar ingredient is none other than the dried, red berries of the staghorn sumac that grows in dry waste places around here as a weed.
For when you get the crunchies
Find more ways to use fresh vegetables in Cooking Fresh With The Old Farmer’s Almanac!