Updated: Aug 24, 2018
Whether they're baked, fried, steamed, roasted or grilled, eating the same vegetables every week can get quite boring. How can we make it interesting? Variations in flavor, color, cooking method, and shape all make a huge difference. Check it out!
This past spring was a great season for brussell sprouts. I saw them everywhere. Having a new baby and not much time, and also trying keep up with my health goals, I bought 5 pounds worth of these little green gems, peeled and trimmed. I would quickly roast these in the oven in a big tray along with seasoned potatoes and chicken quarters. They were delicious the first time, and this was a quick meal that I could just throw in the oven and ignore for an hour. Without much effort or creativity I could have a healthy, balanced and inexpensive meal for my family. Total Win! Right?
I did this once a week for half of April, and after seeing the third serving on my plate in one month, I thought, "Seriously, Nina. These, again?" I still had 3lbs left, and I was already disgusted by them. What to do?
How can you use maximum creativity and minimal effort to make a gourmet healthy meal?
Vary the Shape
I tried slicing my brussel sprouts in the food processor with the mandoline attchment. It shredded them like cole slaw. So I decided that I could use a pound fresh in slaw. It was amazing.
Using other vegetables, you can make #foodart: shred them, spiralize them into thin spaghetti-like strands, cut them into rice-sized grains (cauliflower rice), julienne cut, turn them into dips, or make creative french fry shapes. In most stores now you can find a lot of these veggies pre-cut in noodle or cauliflower rice form. I often buy pre-cut. No washing or prep necessary. Time is money.
Try these at party time: a trendy roasted eggplant dip called baba ghannouj or a Mediterranean sweet bell pepper dip like muhammara.
Go Cultural What's your favorite food culture? Are you trying to eat healthfully but sometimes miss the flavors of home or your favorite ethnic restaurant? You can probably do it at home with just a little extra creativity and some partial substitutions if necessary. What makes the biggest difference culturally are spices and flavorings, be it lime and cilantro or fenugreek and cumin, you can modify nearly anything to give it a cultural twist.
So with the last 2 lbs of my brussel sprouts, what did I do? I went Italian. I roasted some in halves and dumped them into a homemade bolognese sauce with lean ground beef and fresh oregano. Seriously an experiment, but with a delicious outcome.
Another example, Have you ever tried stuffed grape leaves? Some consider these Greek, but they're also popular in Turkish, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Typically they're stuffed with rice and either vegetables or ground meat. This week I made grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of cauliflower rice, meat, and spices. It definitely exceeded expectations.
What about adding more finely diced or shredded vegetables to your seafood paella, making a Better Biryani, or adding veggies to your tacos or quesadillas? It's not hard, and within each country there are many plants that you may not think to eat but may actually be very common if you take a little adventure. Travel off the beaten path without leaving your home. Its awesome. Ping me for more ideas.
Change the Color
Tired of just tomato sauce? Try a pesto, mushroom or roasted bell pepper sauce. Or add spinach to your pesto to get more nutrient variety.
Want to eat a different pasta? Bean-based pastas and Japanese soba noodles instead- they're higher in fiber, using buckwheat as the main carbohydrate source, and the 100% buckwheat types of soba are also gluten free.
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Honestly, I often try to trick myself: I'll hollow out a vegetable I love and stuff it with other things: another vegetable that I don't like as much, or meat and grains to make it a more complete meal. The trickery works. It changes the look, color, texture and most importantly, taste. Typically, I'll bake the stuffed goodies in tomato sauce, shred over pizza, or wrap in dough. Try: stuffed bell peppers, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, or stuffed eggplants.