We all know how important it is to eat our vegetables, but not all veggies are created equal. So what can we do to make sure we're getting the most nutritious veggies possible? Hint: it has to do with where your food comes from and how it's grown. I'm sharing what you can do to get veggies that are full of nutrients and my friend Tom Mills is joining us to share some of his tips as well.[x_video_embed type="16:9"][/x_video_embed]
Today's recipe celebrates some of the best veggies of summer that won't be around much longer. I figured it's time to give them a nice farewell as we start to move closer to fall. But, first things first, I wanted to give a little update about what I've been up to. Over the past few weeks I've been in the process of preparing, moving, and getting settled for my dietetic internship. Yippee! I'm super excited for what the year has in store and know that I'm going to learn so much during that time. I just can't wait to get started! Also, I somehow misplaced my camera in the move, so, until I find it, we're going to be working with cell phone pictures. Not the best, but do-able. Now, back to the recipe. First, I have a confession: I messed up when I made this. You see, I am a severe onion-crier. I've read that cold onions don't make your eyes tear up as much, so I usually put however many onions I need in the freezer when I start cooking and save them to chop last. Well, this time around, I totally forgot the onions in the freezer, so I had two frozen onions and no onions in the oven. Oops. However, the end product still tasted incredible and I'm sure it tastes even better if the onions are included! This veggie packed, vegan dish uses flavor packed basil and cilantro to season some summer super stars, including eggplant and tomatoes. They all bake together to create a delicious dish that has definitely made itself a place on my list of favorite recipes.
Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Stew
adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison
1.5 pounds of waxy potatoes sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 large red or yellow bell peppers
1 cup packed basil leaves
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
3 large cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
1 pound eggplant cut into 3-inch x 1-inch wedges
2 or 3 large meaty red tomatoes, seeded and diced
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the broiler. Prepare a steamer basket by bringing water in lower-pot to a boil. Steam potatoes until fork-tender.
2. Halve the peppers lengthwise, press to flatten them, then brush with olive oil. Broil, cut side down, on a baking sheet until blistered but not charred. Stack them on top of one another and set aside to steam. When cool, remove the skins and cut the pieces in half, Set the oven temperature to 350°F.
3. Coarsely chop the basil, cilantro, and garlic, then puree in a small food processor with the olive oil, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
4. Toss all the vegetables with 1 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and herb mixture. Using your hands, rub the herb mixture into the vegetables, especially the eggplant, then add the chickpeas and toss once more. Transfer everything to a large casserole dish. Rinse out the herb container with 1/2 cup water and pour it over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1.5 hours. Remove the foil, brush the exposed vegetables with the juices, and bake for 20 minutes more. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve alone or over brown rice, whole wheat couscous, or quinoa.
As I've mentioned before, one of my favorite, go-to methods for cooking any vegetable is roasting. It's simple and, once you know the basic recipe, the possibilities are endless. In general, you toss whatever vegetable(s) you've chosen with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other spices or herbs you like. Then you spread them out in one layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 °F oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cooking time will depend on the vegetable(s) you're using and how big or small you cut the pieces.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Broccoli
1.25 lbs butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
3/4 lb broccoli florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1. Preheat over to 400 °F.
2. Toss squash and broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Spread mixture in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
This weekend, I attended the wedding of two of my friends and it got me thinking, events like these can be a challenge for those trying to lead a healthy lifestyle. The combination of an endless sea of delicious food and an atmosphere of overindulgence can send even the most health conscious heading back for another helping at the buffet or contemplating a second slice of cake. With that in mind, I've outlined a few simple strategies that you can use to enjoy your party, wedding, whatever without that "I should have worn bigger pants" feeling or a regretful trip to the scale the next morning.
1. Don't show up hungry
Many people will restrict their eating or not eat at all before a big event in an effort to "save" calories for the night ahead. This plan backfires however, because, when you're ravenous, you end up over-eating in the end. Also, your brain actually makes the food you're eating taste better so you want to eat even more! Instead, eat really clean before your party with a good mix of produce, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grains. This way, you'll only eat what you really love at the event and you can counteract any less than stellar choices you may make later on.
2. Drink up! (water, that is)
Keeping you water glass full can be a big help for a number of reasons. First off, many of us confuse our thirst and hunger cues. You may think you're hungry, but what you really need is a little hydration. Also, water helps to keep you full, so you'll naturally eat less food. Lastly, the food at your event may be saltier than what you would usually eat at home. You can combat that gross, bloated feeling by balancing the extra sodium with a little more water.
3. When it comes to hors d'oeuvres, eat one of everything
You shouldn't feel deprived when you go to any celebration, but you also don't want to eat freely, because all those little bites are easy to loose track of and can really add up. Instead, follow the rule of one: you can have one of each hors d'oeuvres you want. The first taste is always better than the tenth, so using this strategy allows you to eat what you love, without over-doing it. Then choose unlimited fruits and veggies and listen to your tummy. Don't stuff yourself.
4. Fill half your plate with vegetables, then eat them first
By loading up on veggies (no, mashed potatoes and french fries don't count) you'll fill up on low calorie fare that's chock full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Then, you can enjoy the other options, and your belly full of vegetables will stop you from over-eating.
5. Move your body!
A great way to counteract party eating is to get some exercise. Before your event, try to get a workout in. Not only will you burn off some extra calories, but you'll feel great about yourself (there's no better accessory than confidence) and engaging in a healthy behavior may make it harder for you to shovel down more than your share of spinach-artichoke dip. You can also remain active at your event. Walk around and mingle, stand up, and shake your booty on the dance floor. It may not seem like much, but all of that extra moving really adds up and it's way better than sitting on your tush all night.
I must admit, I'm a veggie lover. My mom even says that, as a child, while everyone else at a birthday party headed for the cake, I would make a beeline for the vegetable tray. As I grew, I began to realize that not everyone had the same adoration for broccoli florets and celery sticks as I did. However, there is one preparation method that can make veggies a little easier to eat, even delicious, for those who don't share my passion for produce: roasting.
Just about any vegetable can be roasted with mouth-watering results. Bell peppers, onions, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, winter squash, potatoes, brussels sprouts, and beets are just a few of the many possibilities. No matter what vegetable or mix of vegetables you choose, the result will be sweet, caramelized gems. To roast vegetables, you simply cut up whatever veggies you're using and toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other herbs or spices you might like. You can even add a little fresh squeezed lemon juice. Lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer and pop them in the oven. Softer vegetables will cook more quickly while harder ones will take a little longer. For best results, make sure not to over-crowd the baking sheet. If the vegetables are not in a single layer, they will steam rather than roast. Steaming means not a ton of flavor and that's exactly what we don't want. Whether a planned dish or a way to use up leftover produce in the fridge, roasting will take your vegetables to another level and may even make a vegetable lover out of you.
Roasted Vegetable Medley with Brown Rice
2-3 lbs of mixed of vegetables for roasting such a zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions, green bell peppers, eggplant, and potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or enough to lightly coat veggies
1/2 teaspoon of salt
Pepper to taste
2/3-1 cup cooked brown rice
Meat/protein of your choice
Any condiments or sauces you like (soy sauce, hot sauce, etc.)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add any other herbs or spices you might like at this point as well.
3. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet. Don't hesitate to use more than one sheet if necessary. Cook vegetables in oven for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Serve vegetables with rice and your meat or protein of choice. Salmon, chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, and beans are all great options. Sometimes, I just have the veggies and rice by themselves.
Feel free to change up the grain as well. Wheat berries, bulgur, quinoa, or even whole grain pasta would work beautifully. Think of this as a general outline and be creative or just use what you have on hand. There are no rules here. Happy roasting!