Eat Your Vegetables!


Growing up, I was a picky, picky eater.  The closest things to vegetables I ate were jarred pickles and French fries.  It wasn’t until high school that I started eating salad, and even then, it was always just a basic Caesar salad, which is really just lettuce and croutons.  Oh, and I also ate broccoli when it came in Chinese food.  That counts, right?

In college, my horizons were broadened as I started trying all kinds of foods with my new friends who had all different tastes.  It was suddenly exciting to try new foods and “make-your-own” salad.  I learned to cook a bit and experiment with stir-frying, roasting, and boiling veggies to have with any meal.  Later, my sister—also an anti-veggie girl from birth—came to me asking advice about getting more vegetables into her diet.  She was ready to eat these nutrient-powerhouses, but didn’t know how to cook.



Enter: Roasted Vegetables.  The easiest cure for vegetophobia.  (It's really called lachanophobia, but my word makes more sense.)  Basically, you take any vegetables, season them with herbs, and stick them in the oven.  It’s that simple.  They soften up, their natural flavors come out, and they go well with ANY meal!  It’s really so easy that you no longer have an excuse to not eat your vegetables. 

To learn why and how, read more...



WHY is it important to eat vegetables?  You get the most nutritional bang for your caloric buck!  These foods are low in calorie (read: won't bust your diet) but are high in health value.  Vegetables give your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs to function, and studies have shown over and over again that vegetable-based diets result in countless benefits:
-       It’s no secret that vegetables are “good for you”, but there’s real science backing this up!  Whether or not you’re pre-disposed to a certain disease or condition, eating a well-balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of heart disease  and protect against certain types of cancers.
-       Forget “Emergen-C”, just eat vegetables!  Getting the right nutrients can boost your body’s immune system to fight a cold, the flu, or other illnesses.  In the recipe below, the pairing of red bell peppers andoregano provides you with vitamin C in the peppers (to prevent and resolve symptoms) and antioxidants and antimicrobials in oregano.  I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like a way tastier prescription than pink foamy water.
-       Make your skin glow.  You know your friend whose skin always seems to look flawless?  Instead of shelling out the big bucks for her name-brand cleanser and face mask, try loading up your plate with fruits and vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots, and tomatoes.  You’d be surprised just how much eating produce can improve your skin tone.
- Keep the weight off.  Vegetables are packed with water and fiber, so they not only fill you up, but actually keep you full until your next meal.  This is great for diet and weight loss!

Now that you know the why, here’s the how.  Personally, I like to cook a bunch of different vegetables all at once and then mix them up to roast and serve.  They make a colorful addition to any meal; my sister reports her friends being impressed by her veggie platter at potlucks.  She also says, “The most amazing part of this whole thing is that within minutes of dumping spices on raw veggies, my apartment smells like a four-star kitchen.” Here, I’ll list the vegetables and spices that we typically use, but feel free to try your own favorites and let me know how they turn out.

The Newbie's Guide to Roasted Vegetables:

Ingredients:
  • Vegetables-the tried and true: squash, zucchini, red (or yellow or orange or green) peppers, potatoes (sweet or white), carrots, portobello mushrooms, brussels sprouts, cucumbers,  ... anything, really!  Go wild.
  • Olive oil (or other cooking oil) in spray can [UPDATE 7/13: I now use and recommend *coconut oil* instead of olive oil for high-heat cooking.]
Directions: 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the veggies up however you like. Cut the round ones (potatoes, squash, cucumbers) into circular slices, but leave the baby carrots and button mushrooms as they are.  Red peppers and Portobello mushrooms get sliced lengthwise into strips.



2. You have two options for seasoning them: (1) you can put all the veggies in a bowl, pour in the seasonings, and shake it up, or (2) you can lay out the veggies on the trays first, then season (flipping to cover both sides) .  If you don't have a large bowl, I'll proceed with the 2nd option, which is generally quicker and easier, but might result in less even spice coverage.
  • Spray oil on a cooking tray.  TIP: Line the tray with aluminum foil; you'll thank me later.  
  • Arrange the vegetables, flat as you can, although overlap is okay.  Fill the tray completely, because they will lose water and shrink down in the oven.
  • Sprinkle on seasonings as you like.  Generally you could use a little olive oil (optional--or PAM the tops again), salt and pepper, garlic powder, oregano, a little red pepper for a spice, basil… those are my staples but add whatever you like!  The basic three to use for “my” roasted veggies are pepper, garlic powder, and oregano.


3.  COOK!  Put ‘em in the oven at 350 F for about 20 minutes.  Then check on them, flip them over best you can, and cook for another 15 minutes or until they're softened and slightly browned, or even crispy depending on your personal taste.  Some vegetables finish sooner than others, so you might pull out, say, peppers and mushrooms, long before carrots and potatoes.


Enjoy!

 
See how easy and flexible this is?  Whichever veggies and spices you choose, this is such a simple way to cook a ton of vegetables at once.  The hardest part about cooking them is not gobbling them all up before they make it to the table!


PS: Remember how we lined the tray with foil?  See the gunk that got left behind?
Now pull off the foil...


MAGIC!  All clean.  You're welcome.


Now what? You can mix these babies up to serve a large bowl at a dinner party; your guests will thank you!  Toss them in pasta, rice, or omelets to add more nutrients to existing recipes. Put 'em in salads, on sandwiches, under a protein like fish or chicken, or eat them on their own!  After cooking, just store them in the refrigerator to add to meals throughout the week.  Doesn't get much simpler than that.


Prepping these tasty, good-for-you foods ahead of time will make getting in your daily servings a cinch.  So go ahead—get chopping, roasting, and eating your vegetables!  My sister and I did it, so can you.  I dare you!

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