New Ways to Get Your Vegetables

Low in calories, packed with vitamins and minerals, and essential for good health--vegetables are a powerhouse food! Nutrition experts say you can never have too many veggies in your diet but most of us aren't eating enough to reap their benefits.

In addition to simple side dishes, there are many familiar and easy ways to enjoy all kinds of vegetables, including soups, salads, pastas, stir-fries and even desserts. (Carrot cake, anyone?)

Veggies for Breakfast.  Breakfast needn't be limited to bacon and eggs. Think vegetable (mushroom, broccoli) omelets, scrambled eggs with spinach or kale, hash brown-style potatoes with peppers and onions, asparagus with eggs on toast, and veggie breakfast burritos.

Roasted on High.  In a large, shallow baking dish, toss cauliflower, baby carrots, sweet bell pepper slices, mushroom chunks, quartered onions or asparagus pieces in just enough olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, salt and pepper and roast in a preheated hot oven (450 degrees) for about 15 or 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Use the same method to make homemade sweet potato fries.

Spruced-up Salads. Double the flavor and the nutritional value of hearty vegetable salads by adding fresh fruit. Some compatible bowl mates include cold steamed broccoli with scallion and orange sections; shredded raw cabbage, carrot and apple; baby spinach or romaine lettuce leaves with red onion and grapefruit; warm or cold roast sweet potato cubes with jicama, orange and avocado.  Most any type of fruit and veggie salad combo can be dressed up with lemon, orange or balsamic.

Think Outside the Box. Serve the same old vegetables in a completely new style. Instead of tossing sliced cucumbers into a salad, sauteé them in vegetable oil and serve as a hot side dish. Finish them off with a  sprinkle of dill or lemon juice. Roast your beets, but serve them sliced cold, with a topping of crumbled goat cheese or yogurt and horseradish sauce. Use a swivel-blade peeler to slice long veggies, like summer squash and carrots, into lengthwise "ribbons" before steaming.  Mash or puree cooked root vegetables like turnips, carrots and beets, just as you would potatoes.

Veggies in the Raw. Who says vegetable side dishes have to be cooked?  Most veggies, like carrots, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and tomatoes taste just as good raw as cooked and to some people's taste, even better! Simply slice and serve as a crudite side dish with a little dip or dressing on the side, if you like. Fresh salsa made with finely chopped raw veggies counts as a nutritious side dish, too.

'Tis the Season(ing). No matter which vegetables you choose to use as side dishes, or how you prepare them, matching veggies with herbs and spices is sure to enhance their flavor. Try rosemary with mushrooms or potatoes, marjoram with steamed zucchini, and thyme with carrots or mushrooms. For a sweet touch, brush cinnamon and oil on baked winter squash or sweet potatoes. For a little spice, try cauliflower, green beans and corn with curry powder, or sauteé spinach with a dash of nutmeg.

Other easy ways to add flavor to plain vegetables include cooking them in vegetable bouillon or adding a splash of lemon juice or flavored vinegar or a grating of Parmesan cheese before serving. And don't forget the sea salt and seasoned pepper!