I have worked in a few different kitchens that served food to lots of kids. And the stereotype that kids hate vegetables? Well, its a stereotype for a reason. Whatever good intentions put that frozen-then-boiled assortment of carrot bits, green bean chunks, and corn nubs on the kids’ plates, I guarantee that I was toting 80% to the dumpsters by the end of the meal. And frankly, as much as I was rankled by the heaps of uncomposted waste that these dinners generated, I couldn’t completely write the kids off as just ungrateful little beasts.
Everyone: even though boiling is the most common way to prepare veggies, for the love of all that is tasty and nutritious, ITS TIME TO STOP. Save the boiling pot for tea or pasta, and give your poor vegetables a chance.
Because let’s be honest: Boiling vegetables is probably THE WORST thing you can do to them. Even the brightest, crispest, most fresh broccoli becomes a gray, mushy shadow of its former self after being boiled to oblivion. And if that was the only way I knew vegetables, I’d probably hate them too! Not only do all the potential flavors and textures go up in steam, much of the nutritional content gets left behind or destroyed in all that hot water, especially if you dump it after cooking.
And especially If you are putting in the time to grow, tend, and harvest your own vegetables, It should be a homesteading crime to let any of them come near to a boiling pot. I know it’s really easy. I know you’re busy. I know that cooking shows make it seem like you need to be a trained chef to do anything beyond a PB and J sandwich. But happily, there are plenty of really good, easy ways to keep the flavor and, just as importantly, the nutrients in your veggies. You just need to add some new techniques in your toolbelt!
Try some of these on for size, and just see if your vegetables start to shine with flavor in gratitude. For most of these ideas, you need minimal cooking experience--if you can use a knife, turn on an oven, or handle a skillet on the stove, you’ve got all you need.
Root vegetables and squash love being roasted. Slice into quarters, toss with some oil, salt, pepper, and spices (if desired), and throw into your oven at 400 degrees for at least half an hour (or until nicely browned on the edges.) You may want to give the pan a little shake-a-shake halfway through to make sure everything cooks evenly. I love to do this with beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and ESPECIALLY brussel sprouts. If you think brussel sprouts are gross, you’ve never had them roasted!
If you’re up for getting a new pan (after making sure you have some cast iron, of course) consider getting a wok! These high-sided pans hold up really well to high heat, can hold a ton of vegetables, and are perfect for stir-frying. Slice your vegetables into thin, uniform shapes, add some coconut or peanut oil, heat on the highest heat your stovetop can hande, and cook while stiring (“stir-frying” isn’t quite rocket science). Veggies cook up really fast this way--and they come out hot, slightly “al-dente,” and intensely flavorful when seasoned just right.
4. Raw with good oil, vinegar, and spices
I’m not talking about Cobb salads here--lots of vegetables are amazing when given minimal treatment. Have you ever tried tabbouleh? Israeli Salad? Caprese Salad? Sometimes, all it takes is some fresh herbs and good olive oil to make something absolutely delicious. Many cuisines from around the world have mastered good combinations--its worth it to check out a cookbook or two and get some ideas!
5. Spring Rolls
Have you ever tried making your own spring rolls? It’s surprisingly easy and fun way to eat some of your garden-fresh produce (and I guarantee kids would love designing their own colorful rolls). Any asian market should have these stocked; I like using this brand. Slice your vegetables as thin as you can, and lay them on top of the prepared spring roll skin. Add some rice noodles (we sometimes cheat and use whole-grain spaghetti!) or slivered omelette, roll up, and dip in a spicy peanut sauce, and you are in for a treat!
Check out our friends’ blog at Fermentools--you’ll find more tried-and-true fermenting recipes than you can shake a stick at. If you’re new to fermenting, it may seem a little scary, but it is completely worth it. You’ve never really tasted sauerkraut until you’ve had your own homemade sauerkraut. Not only are vegetables transformed in a delicious way, they come loaded with beneficial probiotics. Your gut and your tastebuds will thank you!
Pickling isn’t just for pickles. Try making refrigerator pickles with carrots, celery, beans, cauliflower, okra, or whatever your garden throws at you. Crisp, with a fantastic vinegar bite, and the crunch that keeps you sneaking down the stairs at midnight just to get one more pickle. Everyone does that, right? Right?
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I hope it does get you started if you’ve never experimented with your vegetables beyond the stock pot. What other ideas do you have to give vegetables the royal treatment?
We are a husband and wife who are trying to live simply. We are learning much as we transition from life in the city to life in the country. Come along with us, and maybe you can also learn a thing or two as well.
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Simple Life Homestead