Saturday, January 10, 2015

In Defense of, Vegetables

Vegetables get a bad wrap, whether children or adults, all too often you see people turn their nose to vegetables. Why? That's a good question. Perhaps an auto response remembering the years of pureed baby food. Maybe it has something to do with parents nagging children to "eat their vegetables" since their toddlers years, like a mental block that won't allow you to enjoy certain veggies. Whatever it is, it doesn't make sense why people neglect their vegetables and I felt it necessary to spread a little veggie love. In defense of vegetables...

Take a few moments and think, do you eat your vegetables? No seriously, go ahead. I can wait. This article isn't late for anything. What vegetables do you like the most? Do you like them for comfort reasons? For instance I love peas. They remind me of my mom, she always made the best peas. Unlike certain comfort foods, peas don't have to be prepared "mom's way" in order for me to enjoy them. To be honest, my mom used a lot of butter and salt in her peas which isn't healthy. Now when cooking peas, I use olive oil and dill versus butter and salt to season my peas. Same great nostalgia, but healthier.

Okay, back to what veggies do you like the most. What I really mean is, what vegetables do you crave? There's got to be at least one. Think about it. I got a laundry list of veggies I'll devour any day, though what I really tend to crave are leafy like veggies. Stuff like cabbage, bok choy, and brussels sprouts. Yum, just typing that makes me want to bust out the wok, oyster sauce, and start flash firing some bok choy. If you know the veggies you really crave, you're at a good place in becoming far more vegetable tolerant and appreciative.

Next question, do you seek out vegetables in your meals? I don't mean salads. We'll get to those in a minute. Do you build your meals around meats or vegetables? For instance, I'd like some steak, pork, or chicken and build from there or I'd like some artichoke and build from there? You really should be starting with the vegetable. Now I'm no health guru but vegetables should make up a bigger portion of your meal than any meat you put on your plate. Every meal cooked at home we try to have at least two vegetables on the plate. Carrots and broccoli, green beans and corn, bok choy and spinach, brussels sprouts and asparagus. The combinations are endless.

Alright let's talk salads. If I got a nickel for every time I heard someone say I want to eat a healthy lunch, order a salad and then proceed to drown the salad in dressing, I'd have a lot of nickels. Seriously though, eating a salad doesn't immediately make it healthy. Most salads use lettuce with barely any nutrients. Worse, people skimp adding on vegetables but instead top it with meat, croutons, cheese, and dressing. You might as well just eat a cheeseburger at that point. What kind of greens are you having for your salads? Don't just stick to iceberg lettuce. Try to add in one or two nutrient rich greens like spinach or kale with the iceberg. What kind of dressing are you putting on your salad? Have you ever tried simply lemon and salt? Try a plain salad. You know the one you get at every diner in America. Iceberg lettuce and a couple wedges of tomato. Instead of ranch, thousand island or blue cheese try just lemon, salt and pepper. Much healthier than the gallon of ranch dressing you dumped. I had a hard time pulling myself from ranch and blue cheese dressings as I started making more healthier eating choices, but once I did, I find the milk or dairy based dressings overbearing on a salad. Now I prefer vinegar and oil based dressings like a vinaigrette. Something highlighting the veggies versus covering them.

Preparation. Preparation is super important to enjoying veggies. We all have our own quarks. Overcook squash or broccoli and it is likely to make me gag. One method that I think really keeps vegetables full of flavor is blanching. Blanching is an easy process with only a few shorts steps to making great tasting plate for some of the more pesky vegetables to cook. As stated earlier, I'm a big fan of cooking with a wok. Grilling veggies with a little oil and the right seasoning in a wok makes for some tantalizing flavors and dishes. One last thing on preparation, all you butter lovers, try not to use it to cook your veg. Use an oil instead, preferably olive oil or canola oil.

Ugly Vegetables. Have you heard of this movement to reduce food waste in Europe? Apparently farmers throwaway a ton of fruits and vegetables because they are misshaped. In some areas up to 40% of produce is tossed out over retailer's cosmetic standards. These are deformed fruits and vegetables in look not in taste or nutrients who are thrown out over eye appeal. A sad process that is happening everywhere around the world. Europe wanted to stop this wasteful process and started buying inglorious vegetables that didn't meet previous standards, then began selling them at discounted prices. The line of thinking is, why be wasteful and I'm all for it. These are good vegetables that should be feeding us versus being thrown away because they look out of the norm. Start looking into and asking about inglorious vegetables in your local grocery stores.

Vegetables are cool. Think about it, you can plant a seed and eventually you'll have something to eat. Better than meat, there's no killing involved. Unless you like that sort of thing. Not that many sit around worrying about the animals being butchered for their consumption. Nor is this an article saying you shouldn't eat meat. I eat meat. I love meat. Meat. Meat. Meat. Still as much as I love meat, I think we need to be a little more veggie friendly. Try more of them. Try them in new and inventive ways. Invite more than one over for dinner on a regular basis. What I'm trying to say is, eat your vegetables!

Recipe: Here's an easy salad you can try I adore, you'll need cucumbers, fresh garlic clove, bell pepper, salt, pepper, olive oil, chili oil, and sesame oil. Slice cucumbers in quarter inch slices. Peel one clove of garlic and slice the garlic as thin as possible. Chop the bell pepper into bits. Add chopped and sliced veggies to a bowl that can be later sealed and stored in refrigerator. Add two teaspoons of sesame oil and one teaspoon of olive oil. Add salt and pepper. You may also add chili oil or Sriracha sauce for an added kick. Mix and place in refrigerator until chilled. An easy salad to make the night before and take to work for lunch the next day.