We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. They have lots of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants and all that. They also are very low in calories, and when you eat more of them you tend to eat less of other things, so eating more can help you lose weight. There are lots of articles out there on how to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, but I hope this one is a little more inspired.
I’m a member of a CSA, which is where you pay a lump sum at the beginning of the season and each week you pick up your “share,” which is a box or a few bags of in-season vegetables. You normally don’t get to pick what you get, so you end up with stuff you’re not sure what to do with. Also, a “share” is designed for a family of four, so many people split a share. However, my husband and I are able to eat most of a share ourselves, with very little being sacrificed to the refrigerator. Even people who eat a lot of vegetables ask how we can possibly eat so much. OK, we DO eat a lot, but I think a big part of it is that over the years of participating in CSAs I have learned to think a little bit differently about fruits and vegetables, and I hope some of these tips may help you.
- Smoothies. Basic recipe: 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or kefir; 1 cup of fruit (bananas, frozen or fresh berries, other frozen fruits); 1 cup of greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, etc.) You won’t even taste the greens. Blend in a blender. I really like the blenders where it is blended in a cup – makes cleanup a breeze and you can take it with you if you’re in a hurry in the morning.
- Oatmeal. Add bananas, berries (fresh or dried), raisins, cranberries, stone fruits (pears, peaches, etc.). If you don’t have time to make oatmeal in the morning you can try baked oatmeal recipes, crockpot oatmeal, or refrigerator oatmeal.
- Fruit. If you’re really not a breakfast person, at least cut up a piece of fruit (like an apple, for example) and add almond butter or peanut butter to it.
- Eggs. You can put just about any vegetable in scrambled eggs. Whenever I had a CSA vegetable I wasn’t sure what to do with, or just a little of something leftover, I would saute it in a pan and then add the scrambled eggs. Think beyond mushrooms, green peppers, and onions–you can use greens, shredded carrot, leeks, etc. Of course, if you have extra time you can also make quiches with various vegetables.
- Pancakes and waffles. Who hasn’t heard of blueberry pancakes or root vegetable waffles? These are great breakfast-for-dinner or weekend options. Collect and try various recipes for both the pancakes/waffles/breads and the fruit toppings.
- Spruce up your salads. I’m not a lettuce person, but when it’s in season I try to at least throw other cut up vegetables in there. Add cheese (feta is my favorite), hard boiled eggs, and homemade dressing. What, you’ve never made homemade dressing? Start collecting dressing recipes. They are great and make you look forward to salads. Plus, lots of them can be used in stir fries and as marinades.
- Sandwiches. Again, meat and cheese does not a sandwich make. Think outside lettuce and tomatoes; why not sprouts or peppers?
- Soup. Another great packable choice. Double your soup batches on the weekends. When making soup, extra veggies never hurt!
- Pasta/whole grain salads. Pasta, orzo, couscous, pretty much any grain can be the base for a great veggie salad. Cook the grain, add whatever vegetables you have on hand (cut up, of course), and then use one of your homemade dressings or Italian dressing. Feel free to mix and match. If you’re feeling creative, branch out and add cheese, olives, chicken, tuna.
- Hummus and other dips. Not only are hummus and other dips great for dipping raw vegetables, they are great for hiding greens in!
I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, dinner seemed to consist of a big hunk of meat, some sort of starch, and a little bowl of green beans. Not only is that expensive, but almost all diet advice recommends that if you have a smallish plate, half should be vegetables, one quarter meat or protein, and one quarter starch. This can be achieved in other ways besides always making meat the centerpiece. For example stir fries or most of the recipes in Simply in Season put the emphasis on the vegetables, not the meat. I’m not saying that you have to become a vegetarian, but if you explore ethnic dishes and venture into vegetarian or vegan cookbooks and websites, you’ll discover a whole bunch of tasty dishes that are just as filling and much more exciting than the traditional model. In fact, sometimes I’ll make dinner and not even realize that there was no meat in it until we’re halfway done.
Expanding Your Creativity
Learn to cook without using recipes, or at the very least become comfortable with adding/substituting/not measuring. One of the things I love about cooking through Simply in Season is that they often provide options. For example, they will often give a recipe that calls for a certain amount of vegetables (for example, 8 cups) and then provide a list of vegetables that you can choose from. One example is the Roasted Summer Vegetables recipe. Or they will list vegetables that you can use in a recipe and put (optional) behind the ones that are optional. After cooking through these recipes for awhile, I have learned to apply those principles to other recipes.
As for not measuring, this is something your grandmother probably did. I started to realize the value in this when recipes in Simply in Season would call for one onion or two peppers, whereas recipes from other sources would specify one cup or half a cup of peppers or onion. But really, if you only had a little onion left after chopping it and measuring it, wouldn’t you just throw it in? I thought “hey, that makes a lot of sense.” After all, a smidge over or under isn’t going to make or break the recipe.
Do you have any helpful tips? Please feel free to post them!