Friday, February 4, 2011
Week 4 - Eat your vegetables!
This week, we are going to concentrate on eating a large serving of vegetables with dinner. In fact, our goal will be to fill half our dinner plate with vegetables!* This amounts to roughly 1-1/2 cups. Traditionally, Americans take a large serving of meat, an even larger serving of a starchy side dish such as rice, pasta or potatoes, and a modest serving of a vegetable which is often topped with butter or cheese. With a new mindfulness on improving our health, we are going to rethink the way we assemble our dinner plates. We will focus on limiting our starchy side dishes and instead choose a wide array of colorful vegetables and learn exciting new ways to prepare them and make them appealing and delectable.
One reason many people don't like vegetables is they have fallen into the trap of preparing them with no additional healthy oils, spices or flavorings. They pile broccoli or green beans into a steamer basket, put the lid on, cook them WAY too long, and then serve up a mushy offering that is overdone and flavorless. Alternatively, they open a can of limp veggies which are loaded with sodium and plop those onto their plate. No wonder no one wants to eat this! Properly prepared vegetables are bursting with flavor and crunch and still retain most of their nutrients because they have not been overcooked. My favorite method for cooking fresh vegetables (and this method works for almost any veggie you choose) is to place them in a single layer in a 12-inch skillet, add a scant 1/4" of water -- just enough to cover the bottom of the pan -- and drizzle a teaspoon or two of extra virgin olive oil over the veggies. Season with a few shakes of garlic salt and lemon pepper, or use a sodium-free substitute such as Mrs. Dash if you are watching sodium intake. You can also tuck a few cloves of fresh garlic in among the veggies for added flavor. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover for a mere 5-6 minutes or less. Tougher veggies such as green beans or thinly sliced carrots may take slightly longer, but only a minute or two. Watch the heat on this -- if your heat is too high the water will evaporate. A gentle simmer will allow the veggies to release their own water and they will steam beautifully while the small amount of oil adds tenderness and a delicious flavor. The beauty of this method is you can toss almost anything you have in your fridge together and cook it all at the same time.