How many of you love eating veggie? Chances are, not many of you said yes to that question. The truth is, many people think vegetables are gross! Most children think vegetables are gross and most adults think they are gross! In the last few years I have grown to truly love eating vegetables. In fact, it is a rare dinner that vegetables are not a central, important part of the dish. The reason is because I believe that in most cases, vegetables are not meant to eat raw, they are meant to be incorporated with other things to enhance flavor. I always used to see eating vegetables as if you have to eat raw broccoli dipped in ranch, and then when I heard that ranch wasn’t necessarily good for you, I gave up on it altogether! Who wants to eat raw broccoli? Not I! A question that seems to be on parent’s minds is, “How do I get my kid (or even my spouse!) to eat their veggies?” To answer that question, I put together a list of a few veggies that you can put in pretty much anything.
Let’s be honest about spinach. When you were a kid and watched Popeye eating his spinach and it making him strong, they really didn’t make spinach look very appetizing. The spinach that Popeye ate looked like sludge! Nobody wants to eat that. Would you believe that for years I believed that is what spinach was?! I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer… Spinach (for those of you who still do not know) is a leaf, it is a dark green color. By the way, when it comes to leafy greens, the greener the better. A lot of people use iceberg lettuce for their salads, but really they should use spinach or some other dark green leaf. There are a ton of nutrients packed into spinach (Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, calcium, potassium, fiber, etc). But a great thing about spinach is that it is practically tasteless, it will take on the taste of whatever you pair it with. Here is what I enjoy doing with spinach: I blend up a cup of spinach until it is very fine and then incorporate it into my soups. It adds practically no calories, but tons of nutrients. When you put blended spinach in soup it makes it look like a seasoning instead of a veggie, your kids will not be able to tell a difference. I also will take a cup of spinach and put it into my smoothies that I drink as a snack. The smoothie will turn a green color, but would you believe that you really cannot taste the difference!
Ok, I LOVE zucchini! I started eating zucchini about 4 years ago and I have been loving it since! In fact, I might just go ahead and say that it is my favorite vegetable. Do people normally have favorite vegetables or am I just weird? I digress. My wife and I incorporate zucchini into a lot of meals. My favorite meal (you will probably get the recipe for this pretty soon) is mostly zucchini. Zucchini, again, is mostly tasteless and requires seasonings to enhance the flavor. So really, it serves as a blank slate to test out different types of flavor. We also make noodles out of zucchini, and they are delicious. Sometimes I will even dice one up and add it into some tomato sauce whenever we have spaghetti. Zucchini chips and zucchini cakes are a real winner in our family. Also, did you know that chocolate and zucchini make a very good pairing?! Next time you make chocolate cupcakes, add a little bit of grated zucchini, it will make your cupcakes more moist, but will not change the flavor. What in the world! How can a vegetable taste so good in so many different ways?!? Try it, you will never, ever regret it.
Can I be honest with you, I dislike broccoli almost as much as I love zucchini. But broccoli is so good for you! It is rich in many vitamins and other nutrients such as Vitamin D, A, and K (basically the whole alphabet!) also magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and a bunch of others that I do not know the name of or how to pronounce. Here is a way that we incorporate broccoli into our meals: if you are eating a casserole, blend up 8 ounces of broccoli until it is very fine and put the broccoli into the casserole before stirring. I promise you will barely (if at all) be able to taste the difference. My wife’s favorite meal has 8 ounces of broccoli in it, we eat this dish every week, and it tastes the same as it would without broccoli, but it is much more nutritious.
I remember my first encounter with avocado. When I was in college, I worked for a sandwich shop that was not very clean and did not have very good customer service. We had several avocado’s lined up on top of the sandwich making station in order to entice people to put some on their sandwich. I tried a sandwich one day and put some of that avocado on it. Little did I know (since I had never had an avocado before) that it was not ripe. If you do not know, unripened avocado’s are not very tasty, they are hard and are very difficult to eat. My first experience with avocado was horrible. Several years later I found myself working at Panera Bread. They require at Panera Bread for each person on the team to try every food on the menu. One day, I had to eat the Turkey Avocado BLT (this may not be the healthiest thing to say, but avocado and bacon work VERY well together) and I was worried. “I hate avocado!” I told myself. But once I took a bite, I fell instantly in love. Ripe avocado is the best thing in the world (hyperbole much!) Ever since that day, I have consumed ungodly amounts of avocado, be it in the form of guacamole, incorporated in meals, or just sprinkling some salt and pepper on it and eating it as is. Sadly, some people do not have the same love for avocados as I do, and this is sad because avocados are rich in “good” fat (more on that in a different post), fiber, vitamin C, Potassium, and others. How can you get avocado into a meal? Well first, let me be honest about avocado’s tastiest offspring, guacamole. Do you know why most people say they do not like guacamole? Because they have never tried it! They look at it and think, “Ew! It’s green and chunky!” And never try it. Do yourself a flavor (see what I did there!) and try it before passing judgment on it. Chances are, you will like it. But if you do try it and don’t like it, then blend some avocado into a smoothie, it will go well in a fruit or a chocolate smoothie, and, unlike spinach, it will not greatly effect the color of your smoothie. Also, consider just putting small slithers of avocado on top of tacos, enchiladas, and inside burritos. The avocado will add a burst of creaminess, but will not greatly effect the taste. Go ahead and give it a try, and when I am proven right and you run to the grocery store to buy ALL THE AVOCADOS, let me know so I can gloat in the fact that I was right (for once).
Now is honesty time: Nobody likes carrots. I used to watch people eat their little “baby carrots” with Ranch Dressing and see the misery on their faces get worse and worse with every bite. Nobody enjoys carrots, and if someone says that they do, then they are liars and should not be trusted…
Author’s note: I would like to make an apology to all of those people who actually do like eating carrots, including my wife. You are not liars, you can be trusted, this was an attempt at humor on my part, I have been told in the past that I am not very funny, and this may be one of those instances where I failed at joking.
But the truth is that, again, carrots are very good for you. What can you do with carrots? Our family puts carrots in just about every meal, would you believe that carrots may be our second most used veggie! It is true. We add carrots to casseroles and to soups. The carrots greatly enhances the flavor of our chicken noodle soup in particular. A word of warning though, when it comes to carrots, I like mine to be very soft in a dish. When I eat my chicken noodle soup I do not want to be chomping on a carrot. So in soups, be sure to put the chopped carrots in very quickly so that they have plenty of time to soften up in the soup (normally it takes about 45 minutes for our soup to be finished). In a casserole, I will sauté my onions and carrots in a separate skillet and put a lot of water into the skillet until the veggies are almost completely submerged, stirring it periodically. Often once the water has mostly evaporated from the skillet the carrots and onions have an incredible tenderness to them and go very well into a casserole. You can also make nice, little snacks with carrots: carrots fries and carrot chips. Or, you know, you could always just chomp on a carrot raw and do your best imitation of Bugs Bunny.
As you can see, there are plenty of creative things that you can do with vegetables. I used to hate vegetables, but I have learned that you can do great things with them. You don’t have to drink carrot juice from a food processor or eat a raw stalk of broccoli, you can do things to those veggies to make them enjoyable. How about you? What ways are you able to incorporate veggies into your meal?