Rants, Musings, and Mental Meanderings of a former Conservative Christian Mother. Standing Strong against ignorance, preconceptions, labels and excessive housework. Celebrating original thought, religious freedom, parenthood, free enterprise and chocolate.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Eat Your Veggies!

I'm not going to list all of the research studies touting the benefits of eating lots of fruits and veggies. Surely we've heard it, and many of us know we should be eating more fruits and veggies. My rule with my kids is, "What do I have to do to this to make you eat it?" (It could be as simple as giving them some ranch to dip it in or sprinkling it with cheese.) I will eat just about anything, but it has to be prepared in a way that is appetizing to me. If you have veggie-phobia, do me a favor and don't pass this on to your kids!!! Offer them a wide variety of nutritious foods, and don't push your own dislikes onto them. If you wrinkle your nose at peas, your kids will more than likely do the same. We owe it to our kids to put the effort into giving them as healthy a start in life as possible, so stop being lazy, GROW UP and improve those eating habits!! ;0) I paged through the book "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfield, and it has a lot of yummy ways to disguise veggies.

I get a newsletter from http://www.savingdinner.com/. In one issue, they featured veggies for each letter of the alphabet. Also, she gives a smoothie recipe... using spinach!! Basically, you just throw a handful of spinach (about 1/2 cup) into your favorite smoothie recipe, and she promises you won't even taste it. I love new ideas, so I thought I'd share them with you. I've italicized the quoted portion which follows:

Have you noticed your produce department doesn't look the same as it did, say, 10 years ago? There is a new game in town with new stuffhitting the shelves daily. We all know what broccoli, green beans and lettuce look like, but what about some of the more obscure vegetables? Let's make a list of some little known veggies you may have seen lurking in your produce department that you know nothing about.

Arugula is a wonderful salad green that has a distinctly peppery taste, sort of radishy-like. That's because it'srelated to radishes, actually. At only 20 calories for 3 cups, this nutrient-rich green is wonderful mixed into your lettuce for a salad with a lot more flavor.

Bok Choy is a Chinese cabbage that looks like the celery and cabbage decided to have a baby together, LOL. I find baby bok choy to be a little tastier. The leaves on bok choy taste more like cabbage while the stalks are much milder. You can add bok choy to your stir fry to boost your intake of beta carotene, vitamin C and iron.

Collard greens. A traditional Southern green (along with turnip greens, creasy greens, etc.) these huge cabbage-like leaves have avery distinct flavor and do well to be handled like kale; tough stems removed, chopped, steamed, then sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Collards, like all greens, are high in folate, vitamin C, beta carotene and calcium.

Delicata. Delicata is a thin-skinned winter squash with a yellowish skin. This oblong squash lives up to its name with a sweet, delicate flavor. Another nutrient rich veggie, you're going to get lots of fiber, vitamins A & C, as well as potassium and thiamine! Yum!

Escarole. If you're not careful, you could mistake escarole for a head of green leaf lettuce. Escarole is mild in flavor and is delicious sautéed in olive oil, garlic and sprinkling of pine nuts. Another nutrient rich veggie, it's high in fiber, too.

Fennel. Do you like licorice? If so, you will love fennel! The huge bulb and dill-looking leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. I love it sautéed in olive oil till caramelized and topped on my fish. The flavor is terrific; a lot of bang for your buck!

Ginger. Nothing beats fresh ginger. It's weird looking—I've often said it looks like an alien root-mass of sorts. But the very thin skin doesn't even need to be peeled! Just wash it well, grate it like you would cheese and then add it to your stir fries. You will never go back to dried ginger again. I store mine in a freezer quality ziplock bag in the freezer. It works. Ginger is good for an upset stomach too.

Haricot Verts. These are, essentially, green beans (if you took French 1, you'll remember this as a vocabulary word, lol). They aren't just any green beans though. Traditionally, haricot verts are beautiful, skinny, luscious green beans that require no string removal, no steaming, just a quick sauté in your skillet with a generous portionof garlic, a little butter and olive oil and some salt and pepper to finish. Honestly, these green beans are simply delicious!

Italian parsley. This parsley's flavor is much stronger and brighter than standard issue parsley. It looks more like cilantro than regular parsley and if you're cooking Mexican, you need to be careful when getting your cilantro because often times, grocery stores have these two items together on the produce shelves (I've bought Italian parsley accidentally before). Try chopping this parsley and adding it to soups, potatoes and stews for an extra bonus in flavor and to garnish your plates a bit, too.

Jicama. Jicama is a tuber with crisp, white flesh that is nice and crunchy in salads. You gotta get rid of the bumpy, fibrous brown skin to uncover the fun that's beneath. You can also cut the jicama up into sticks and serve with your favorite dip, right alongside the celery and carrot sticks.

Kohlrabi. That's what I said, kohlrabi. Say that fast ten times! Kohlrabi isn't the most attractive vegetable, but the flavor? Well, it's two in one. The big bulbously green root tastes similar to broccoli stems with a touch of horseradish-y like flavor. The leaves are a lot like turnip greens…delicately flavored and delicious.

Lamb's lettuce is also known as Mache. The reason they call it lamb's lettuce is that the leaves resemble a lamb's tongue, believe it or not. This rich tasting salad green is rich in iron (it has a third as much iron as spinach!) and lots of B vitamins and C, too. Try it in a salad this week, you'll love it!

Mushrooms are nothing new, but there is more than just the white mushrooms you grew up with. There are portabello, cremini, enoki,morels, porcini to name a few. Just slice a few up, sauté them up and serve them over a piece of grilled chicken, fish or steak. Mushrooms, no matter how you slice them, are delicious!

Napa cabbage is a favorite of mine. You've seen this, I'm sure. Bought it? Probably not. But Napa cabbage looks like an elongated cabbage with pretty, pale green, crinkly leaves. Napa is mild and sweet and wonderful in everything from a stir fry to soup. You can easily use it in a cole slaw too. Like other vegetables in the cruciferous family,it is high in vitamin C, assorted B vitamins and has a good dose of calcium, too.

Okra. Well known in the South, but obscure elsewhere in the world. Okra is a deliciously mild veggie, used in gumbos, soups and stews. Generally, the younger the okra (as in, the smaller the okra), the less glutinous it will be. The nutritional value of okra? Well, it’s high in fiber, vitamins A & C and a smattering of B vitamins as well. So enjoy!

Parsnip. It looks like a white carrot, but the taste isn’t as sweet and there is more of an “earthiness” to it. Used in stews and soups, parsnips can also shine on their own as a side dish. Simply steam them up, toss in a little butter, thyme and salt and pepper for a deliciously different side dish.

Quinoa, a grain you aren’t going to find in the produce department, but I thought I’d throw it at you anyway, after all, it’s something worth seeking out! Quinoa is an ancient grain high in amino acids, creamy in flavor, nutty, slightly crunchy and a great side dish diversion from the usual rice and potatoes. Check it out and give it a try!

Radish. Not the common red radishes we all grew up with, but black radishes. They’re much bigger than the red ones (about the size of a turnip) and the flavor is just as pungent as a red radish, but the flesh a little drier. Great grated into your salad!

Shallots are one of my favorite veggies. I like to think of these cute little onion like tubers as the love child of garlic and onion. Shallots have a sweet flavor, yet it’s complexity and deep flavor are favored by chefs all over the globe. Chop some up, sauté them in a little olive oil and then do your skillet chicken. You’ll be surprised at the punch these little gems can deliver to your food!

Tomatillo. The lovely tomatillo looks like a green tomato in its own brown paper packaging. Tomatillos are prized by Hispanic cooks for their tart, distinctive flavor. Green enchiladas and chile verde are both made with tomatillos.

Upland cress is also known as watercress. Watercress is prized in Europe more so than in the United States. The delicate, peppery taste makes for a wonderful soup, a nice addition to salads and a lovely garnish. Watercress is a good source of B vitamins, beta carotene and calcium.

Vidalia onions are sweet onions grown primarily in the South. These lovely onions earn high marks in flavor and are best used in dishes where they are raw and they can shine. Nothing like a Vidalia onion in your potato salad!

Wasabi is Japanese horseradish. More commonly seen in a powdered form, this root is grated to make a paste that accompanies sushi and sashimi, however, it is also delicious made into sauces and used on grilled meats, poultry and fish. Yum!

X, Y, and Z….well, there is zucchini, right? You know about that. Why not try a different type of zucchini this week? The round yellow zucchini have often been called scallopini zucchini. They are dense, seedless (just about, anyway) and layer beautifully with your pounded chicken breasts, drizzle with butter and capers. You’ll love this zucchini!

That’s it folks, that’s all I’ve got in the veggie dept. Stay tuned…I’ll be giving you some more in the fruit section! For more help putting dinner on your table check out her website www.SavingDinner.com or her Saving Dinner Book series published by Ballantine and her New York Times Best Selling book Body Clutter, published by Fireside. Copyright 2008 Leanne Ely.


Anonymous said...

I always wondered what that Mache lettuce was. I buy it all the time at Meijer. I tried all sorts of different organic lettuce and the Mache is my favorite. I am really getting into buying organic. The Mache organic lettuce from Meijer is so convenient...I just pull out a handful and wash it. (It is prewashed but I wash it anyway.) I use my own homemade dressing put a few olives of course and sometimes I will throw a handful of shredded cheese on it. My homemade salad dressing is 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup lemon juice. I usually put in a little bit of seasoning salt. I just love it, it is healthy, and I know exactly what is in it. Meijer is getting a big variety of organic foods. A few weeks ago I tried their organic ice cream. Wow! that was delicious. It was on sale 2for$6. Meijer puts their organic stuff on sale so it really isn't more expensive. Plus if you slowly replace things with organic then you don't feel the crunch.


Angela said...

We tried the harico verts, which we call the "skinny green beans," and they are YUMMY. Of course, my kids loved them, since they love green beans anyway. I just steam (or boil) them till they are tender enough for my choke-happy toddler to chew, splash with some balsamic vinaigrette and chow down. Surprisingly, I found them frozen at ALDI, so they weren't pricey at all.