When I look back on our journey to enjoying more REAL foods, there is a key breakthrough that really stands out. This breakthrough opened up a whole new world for us and is what helped our son start eating more vegetables. What was this monumental moment?
Yes, it was as simple as learning to prepare vegetables in the oven!
So, what did we do before this discovery?
It's a little difficult to remember now, but I know it involved canned vegetables and a microwave. As I think back, we didn’t eat these nuked cans of corn, green beans and other veggies because we loved them. We included them in our meals because we knew we were supposed to eat veggies and that was the only way we knew how to prepare them.
Believe it or not, roasting vegetables is a relatively new phenomenon. I am sure chefs have been roasting vegetables for years, but the concept of roasting veggies as an everyday go-to vegetable technique is fairly new. Roasting vegetables started to receive notable attention in 1980 when two chefs opened a famous Italian restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island and were experimenting with the technique. They were featured in a Newsday article, discussing how they began roasting vegetables purely out of necessity -- they only had one cooking appliance in the beginning...an oven! In the process, they discovered this "oven magic" and how the dry heat cooking in the oven seals in and intensifies the flavor and creates an attractive golden brown, slightly crisp, outside layer. Thank goodness for this experiment! Just another reason why we should all be experimenting in the kitchen!
What about preserving the nutrients?!
Boiling, steaming, baking, sautéing...there is no one cooking method or preparation that is completely foolproof at preserving 100% of the vital nutrients that vegetables offer. The bottom line to getting the most nutrients from your vegetables is...you need to eat them! Don’t force yourself to eat something that doesn’t taste good…that will never last! And don’t get hung up on how the preparation method affects the nutrients…the key is to make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables every day! Use common sense of course…deep fried okra or cheese-stuffed jalapeños probably shouldn’t be your “go to” veggie. Raw vegetables are fantastic, but you can also get great nutrition through cooked vegetables…and roasting is an excellent option!
When our kids were growing up, I was often told "all you have to do it put a vegetable in front of a picky eater 14 times before they learn to like it." This was NOT true in our case! I put green beans in front of our son many more times than that with no success. It wasn’t until I prepared them in the oven that he decided "these taste great!" Just like that…one simple change in preparation and he started eating them! This is just another example of finding the right flavor, texture and preparation! Once we started roasting vegetables in the oven, it opened up a universe of options we didn't even know we liked! And the same happened for our kids, which is even more amazing! For more info on picky eaters, see my blog, Don't Believe Every Thing You Think.
Perfect "no thought required" side dish?
Do you ever get your main dish cooking and think "now what are we going to have with it?" Rather than just opening up a can of green beans or corn, cut up some fresh veggies and throw them in the oven. It can be almost anything...broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, squash, sweet potatoes (diced, no need to peel) -- so pick your favorite! And, it's so simple! All you need is a little olive oil (about 1 Tbsp), 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Place the vegetables in a large bowl and stir with the oil, salt and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees (asparagus will only take 10 minutes!). It's a good idea to stir halfway through the cooking time so your veggies will brown evenly and you can check for your desired tenderness. Like magic, you will have an ideal side dish of vegetables that taste crazy good!
Seasonings, herbs and sauces!
Olive oil, salt and pepper are enough to provide great flavor, but to give veggies another level of flavor, you can add your favorite seasonings, herbs or toppings. This is where it can be fun to experiment! Pesto is an awesome topping for roasted vegetables! You can also add seasonings to give it an ethnic flair – Indian, Asian, Middle Eastern, Mexican…the possibilities are endless!
Fire up the grill!
One additional tip since we are in grilling season is...grilling can be just as delicious! Not only have we yet to meet a vegetable that doesn't taste incredibly good roasted in the oven, but we feel the same way with putting vegetables on the grill! For example, I thought I didn’t like turnips (after all, my only memory was the bitter, steamed turnips that show up on Thanksgiving)! We sliced turnips and placed them on the grill with a little salt, pepper and olive oil...and WOW! I couldn't believe it -- they became sweet and tasted fantastic!
If you or a family member are struggling to like (let alone love) vegetables, try roasting them! The flavor and texture will blow your mind and might be exactly what you need to move from eating veggies because you “HAVE to” to eating them because you “WANT to!”
Try any of these to go with your next meal!