Timeless Nutrition Tips...
Most people think raw vegetables are healthier for you than cooked vegetables. This is true IF you cook them until they wilt and lose their bright color. However, cooking tomatoes and tomato sauce and carrots improves the amount of available antioxidants.
Steaming vegetables is fast, preserves nutrients, and it works best for fresh and frozen vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach and roots like beets, parsnips, peas and beans.
Vegetables can also be cooked by the steam produced by their own vegetable juices. In a fry pan, add a little olive oil, sliced vegetables and your favorite seasonings. Cover the pan, put it on medium heat, and within 5 to 8 minutes you will have spicy and crispy vegetables. Stir often. Panning works best for carrots, beans, summer squash and shredded cabbage.
Roasting is quick, simple, and is an excellent way for cooking vegetables as it preserves the vitamins, flavors and minerals. Stir-frying is another very good flavor and color preserving cooking method.
Roasting softens the flavor and texture of vegetables, making them much more palatable. Plus, cooking condenses them: One serving of raw spinach leaves is a full cup, but steam or stir-fry them and a serving shrinks to half a cup.
Roasting vegetables can be a satisfying, healthful way to create a hearty meal. Roasting gives vegetables a richer, sweeter flavor. Roasted in a hot oven (400-degrees), just about any vegetable takes on a sweet, caramelized flavor. Even asparagus and squash.
Mixed Vegetable Tips
Combine a variety of seasonal vegetables i.e., corn, onions, peppers, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, zucchini and summer squash. You can also add root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips and rutabagas.
Cut large vegetables into bite-size pieces, brush with a little olive oil and add herbs and spices. Dill goes well with tomatoes, potatoes and beets. Mint is nice with corn, zucchini and red bell pepper. Rosemary is a good complement to onions and mushrooms, as thyme is to eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, potatoes and summer squash.
Place the vegetables in a roasting pan that is large enough but not crowded. Overcrowding steams vegetables and leaves them limp rather than tender. They should be basted occasionally while cooking, with broth or juice (orange or apple), and stirred gently.
Vegetables have varied cooking times, depending on their density and size. If roasting different types together, cut the denser ones in smaller sizes so that all vegetables cook and become tender at the same time.
Tomatoes, summer squash and eggplant need less cooking time than corn, rutabaga, onions, bell peppers and winter squash. Parsnips, potatoes, carrots and some squashes and beets can take up to an hour or more.
Roasted vegetables can be more than a side dish. Mound roasted vegetables on top of a cooked grain like quinoa, millet, rice, couscous, bulgur, or in a chef's salad of leafy greens and strips of grilled fish or chicken.
Shopping for Your Vegetables
Many frozen vegetables have added salt. Fresh vegetables are a better choice; you control the added fat and salt. Vegetables comes in many containers. Shop the produce section for fabulous sources of Vitamin C including peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, greens (collard, mustard and turnip), cantaloupe, honeydew melon melon, kiwifruit, mango, papaya and strawberries.
Fiber is where you find it. Don't scrap that potato skin - scrub it! Edible skins of fruits and vegetables and seeds (berries, tomatoes, Sunflower seeds) are good sources of natural fiber. Vitamin A comes in colors. Look for deeply colored green, yellow, or orange vegetables, and you've found your vitamin A. Try for a dark orange or leafy, deep green vegetable every day.
Selecting and Storing Greens
Following is a partial list of "super" greens. Green leafy herbs like basil, Italian parsley, cilantro, and mint provide many of the same benefits.
- Beet Greens
- Bok Choy
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Lamb's Quarters
- Mustard Greens
- Swiss Chard
Greens are easy to grow, so if you have even a small yard, you may wish to consider growing your own. Most greens can be planted in spring after all frost is gone, and harvested July through August. Kale, collards, and mustard greens can be planted again in the fall. They winter nicely and produce fresh growth again in early spring.
If growing your own greens is not a viable choice for you, try your local farmers' market or local natural foods market. Look for bright-colored, perky-looking greens. Pass by any bunch with brown spots, yellowing edges, or limp-looking leaves, and choose the more vitalized ones. Smaller leaves indicate a more immature plant, which means the greens may need little or no cooking. Their flavors will be milder and more delicate. Larger, thicker-leaved greens require a little more care but will have more robust flavors. You could also choose organic greens for the best possible flavors.
Storing Your Greens
Vegetables are respiring, which means that they need moisture and air to survive. If you store wet greens in a sealed plastic bag, they will rot. If you toss a bunch of greens onto the bottom shelf of the fridge without a bag, they will dry out and wilt due to moisture loss. The best way to store vegetables is slightly wet in an open or perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Fresh herbs do well if you trim off about 1/2-inch from the root ends, place them in a jar of water with a plastic bag over the top, and store them in the refrigerator. Stored properly, greens should keep about three days.
The following recipes make good use of vegetables. For the Autumn Roasted Vegetables, substitute freely, depending on what's fresh at the market.
Autumn Roasted Vegetables
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
9-10 pearl onions, peeled and trimmed
2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved if large
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-1/2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped pecans for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400-degrees. In a mixing bowl, toss the vegetables with oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Transfer vegetables to a roasting pan. Add broth to pan. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring and turning carefully every 10 to 15 minutes. Check frequently for tenderness. When vegetables are almost tender, turn oven up to 425-degrees and roast 10 to 15 minutes more, until vegetables are lightly browned and tender. Serve hot, garnished with pecans, if desired. Recipe makes four servings.
Nutritional information per serving:
Calories: 121; Carbohydrates: 21g; Protein: 4g; Sodium: 260mg; Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: Less than 1g; Fiber: 4g
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Vegetable, 1 Fat, 1/2 Bread/Starch
Roasted Vegetable and Rosemary Soup
This is a detoxifying soup! But it is easy to forget how detoxifying this soup is while you are enjoying the savory taste. It is packed with cleansing vegetables and nutritious extra virgin olive oil.
1 sweet potato or yam
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 average sized potatoes
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig of fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme (dried)
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Chop all the vegetables (excluding the garlic) into medium sized pieces. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl. Toss them with the marinade until coated. You may need to do this in two stages, depending on the size of the bowl you are using. Spread all the vegetables on a large baking tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until vegetables are soft. Puree in a food processor or blender, adding hot water or stock to thin to desired consistency. Serve. Add Celtic sea salt to taste.
Vegetables have a major place in the balanced, mostly plant-based diet recommended by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) to protect against many types of chronic diseases.