Extraordinary Vegetables Can Be Easy

May 1, 2012 in Blog Recipes, Cooking & Baking Hints, Diabetic Menu Item, Health, Mediterranean, Nutrition by Joyce Bunderson

Yesterday, I was at the market picking up a few items, including a few golden beets; and the checker asked what could a person do with beets. So I quickly explained how I like to make them – roasted in the oven. I told her that I cut them from the greens and scrub them with a brush. Then I rub them with a little olive oil; put them in the oven and roast until a fork easily goes into them. Then she asked how they taste. I was stumped; I looked like I went into a bit of ecstasy; I’m sure. I almost stuttered. I really couldn’t describe how delicious my roasted beets are. Now I know that some people won’t even taste beets, but my contention is that they’d love ‘um, if their first meeting with them was roasted, not pickled or boiled. I do enjoy those too, but certainly not on the level of roasted beets. So the checker said to me; “I’m wanting to add more vegetables to my diet; I’m ready to move past cheesy broccoli.”

I began to realize that maybe the advice to eat more vegetables and fruit is getting out.  But maybe the ‘how to’ is slowing people down. When I got home and began cutting the greens off, I realized how negligent I had been. If my cute checker didn’t even know what to do with beet roots, maybe she would cut the greens off and throw them away. Ouch! The greens are half the deal. When I purchased my three fairly large beets they came attached with a large bunch of greens. I got two side dishes when I purchased the beets; the roots, which I use in place of potatoes (or other starchy food) and the greens, which became our leafy green vegetable for dinner.

Beets are in the same family as Swiss chard; we’re talking nutrient powerhouse! I cut the greens using the same technique as I use to cut Swiss chard. The leaves were very large so I was concerned whether they would be tender, but I went forward anyway (they were nice and tender). After dicing the stems and chopping the leaves into one-inch strips, I sautéed them in a little extra virgin olive oil and onion in a large skillet and then covered them. Some people would enjoy some added garlic, but I didn’t do that yesterday. When the greens were steamed and tender, I put in a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, sprinkled with pepper and a very light sprinkling of salt. It really was easy and Dr. Grandpa considers it extra special.

I didn’t tell my checker girl much about beets; nothing about the big load of nutrients and antioxidants; nor did I mention that the root portion has about 58 calories for a cup and the greens about 39 calories (not counting the oil and onion). But that takes me back to the wonderful reality about vegetables: if we just eat a variety vegetables and fruit, we don’t need to worry excessively about the calories or nutrients. Our body says, “Yahoo!” for including both beets and their tops.

Maybe a little postscript to the beet story would be helpful. I want you to know how easy the roasted beets are. After I put the beets in the oven, Vic (Dr. Grandpa) and I headed out for a one-hour walk – remember they were big beets (about the size of medium apples). When we returned the beets were fork tender perfect. (Note: if you have mixed sizes, just take the smaller ones out as they get done; or alternately, cut the big ones to make the size more standard.) So when we got home, I made the greens and put on a couple pieces of rock cod and dinner was really yummy. I realize that you can prepare beets a hundred ways – think borscht, boiled or pickled – but roasted beets do have an extra special texture and flavor. It’s interesting that ordinary beets are now appearing on the fancy gourmet salads (with fancy gourmet prices). Clearly, we’re not the only ones who have discovered roasted beets are a fabulous, cost effective and easy food.

If you’re not ready to try beets, maybe start with yams. On a night when dinner needs to be really fast, sometimes I make yams. Don’t think marshmallows, brown sugar, butter and salt. Save both time and unhealthy fat and sugar calories by being simple. Scrub the yams or sweet potatoes, poke a few holes in the skins (no explosions please) and put into the microwave. When your potholder-covered hand finds the yam yielding to gentle pressure – Walla! It’s done. Instead of adding a bunch of salt or butter, try with a squeeze of lime juice. You may be surprised that the delicious taste is the result of almost no work. Alternately, you may want to try a little ginger and cinnamon.

Beets and Yams are not the only healthy and easy vegetables. Eggplant has graced the pages of our website many times, but I think people are still afraid of trying it. I wonder if you knew that you could add this vegetable to your cooking repertoire without adding any difficult techniques beyond simple chopping, perhaps you’d give it a try. The following is a technique (not really a recipe) that I use for a fairly simple meal. The end product takes the place of pasta sauce.

 Foodie meal in a big hurry

  • First, if I’m using meat, I’ll brown chicken tenders, still frozen in a skillet with a little extra virgin olive oil. When the tenders are cooked through, remove them from the skillet onto a plate.
  • Fill the skillet with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil; 3-4 cups of diced eggplant; 2-3 cups chopped mushrooms; and 1 large onion chopped; then sauté for a few minutes.
  • Add 2-3 cloves of diced garlic and a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs; and a sprinkle of pepper; then cover.
  • About every 4 minutes, stir until the vegetables are tender.
  • While the vegetables are steaming, cook some whole-wheat pasta.
  • Add a 28-ounce can of stewed, chopped tomatoes when the vegetables are tender.
  • Chop the chicken if you decided to, include meat and stir it into the rest of the ingredients.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

This is really a fairly easy way to get control of the ingredients in a tasty, chunky, and nutritious spaghetti sauce, instead of opening a jar provided by the food processors.

Like my cute checker girl you may want to consider trying a new vegetable; you may discover that you wish you had included it in your vegetable repertoire years ago. When you cook your own vegetables, you get all that real food without lots of added ingredients (salt, sugar and excessive fat, plus a long list of stuff processors put in that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce if you did). Best of all, you can do this without sacrificing taste. Another benefit is that you may be amazed with how much food you get for your food dollar. Hope you’ll give it a try - Good Health Can Be Yummy!