The NY Times reported Saturday that only 23% of American meals include a vegetable. In that statistic, fries don’t count as a vegetable, but paradoxically a piece of lettuce on a hamburger does. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that merely 26% of Americans are eating vegetables 2-3x/day.
Many reasons play a part: chiefly households with both adults working full time and the onslaught on convenience foods. Family dinner might be pizza or fried chicken picked up on the drive home at the end of the workday. Children complain and tired parents give in rather than fight for eating healthy meals. Junk food so dominates in American diets, that a consortium of farmers put together an ad campaign using junk food packaging to sell baby carrots.
Another reason given that many wouldn’t ordinarily think about is Americans do not know how to cook vegetables properly. If you see yourself in this category, talk to a vegetarian friend, or look at some of the plant-based, healthy & yummy vegetable recipes.
Here are a few more suggestions on tasty and easy ways to enjoy veggies:
Roasted Root Vegetables
In the autumn & winter season, when the weather chills, yin dominates. Yin & yang are polar opposites. Yang is upward, warm, sun, male, activity, etc. Yin is female, dark, quiescence, deep, downward, cool. Spring and summer are yang seasons, and fall and winter are yin seasons. Root vegetables, which grow downward, deep in the cool earth nourish yin, so Chinese dietary advice recommends eating them in the fall & winter. Baking and roasting are recommended cooking techniques in the cool seasons as it warms cool yin.
Roasted root vegetables are delicious, easy and a great choice for autumn & winter. I like to do a medley of several different vegetables: beets, carrots, rutabagas (there’s a vegetable most people won’t eat), yams and winter squash. Whatever is available and you like will be fine. You can also roast by combining: oregano with potatoes, beets with rosemary, or baked yams & squash.
Peel the veggies & cut into 1-inch pieces: cube round veg, like rutabagas, cut carrots into 2″ segments, halve or quarter beets, depending on size. Put them into a Pyrex dish (9×12 or 9×9, or larger if you are making a big batch) and drizzle with olive oil. You could add a few above-ground vegetables for flavors, such as garlic cloves and quartered onions. Cover with foil and roast @375 for about an hour, shorter cooking time in convection ovens. Bake until tender and fragrant. I make a large batch as the veggies store well and can be reheated easily.
To include the value and often missed trace minerals – a rich source is found in sea veggies – toast a sheet of nori, crumble and sprinkle over the top. Nori has little fragrance or flavor and it is used for sushi rolls and. Find nori in packages in the macrobiotic section of the natural food store.
Nori is high in Vit A (a breathtaking 11,000 iu’s per 100g) is rich in Calcium (470mg) and phosphate (510mg). Many sea veggies, such an s wakame, hijiki, arame & kombu are high in calcium (800-1300mg/100g). For comparison, cow’s milk and spinach have 118 & 93mg/100g, respectively. The calcium in sea veggies is an easier form for the body to digest and do not cause stone formation. In the Chinese herbal medicine hai zao and kombu – two sea veggies are used to dissolve cysts, masses and tumors. Sea vegetables are important, especially for perimenopausal women, a dietary source of calcium.
Also of note is the high level of potassium in many sea veggies, such as kombu (5800mg/100g), wakame (6800mg), dulse (8060mg), hijiki (get this: 14,700mg) & arame 3860mg). spinach: 470mg, cow’s milk: 144mg.
You can use a few crumbles of wakame in miso soup, with green onion slices, grated ginger, a tablespoon of cooked rice and some tofu cubes for a calcium-rich lunch.
The Chinese Kidney system rules the yin, winter season, so this the optimal time to nourish the Kidney. The flavor of the Kidney is salty and its element is water. The optimal choice for nourishing the Kidneys are the black sea vegetables. Based on the Chinese philosophy our system holds our deep, reserve energy, called jing qi, in the Kidney. The western go, go, go lifestyle depletes Kidney jing, so we must take advantage of every opportunity we have to supplement jing.
To bake winter squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds and put a pat of butter in the cavity. put on a cookie sheet, cover with foil and bake 365 for about an hour until tender and fragrant. acorn, spaghetti & delicate and butternut bake well.
Yams can be baked whole or make yam fries: peel & slice vertically into 1/2 – 3/4″ x 3″ strips. Put strips in a glass dish, drizzle with olive oil, lightly salt & cover with foil. Bake at 375 for about an hour until tender. yummy.
Quarter & core the apples and cut yams into 3″ segments. Add cinnamon stick, 1/4 – 1/2 a whole nutmeg, a few cloves (don’t overdo them: they have a strong flavor) and whole anise. Either pressure cook on high for 8 min (add enough water to fill the pot to 1/3 of the fruit level) or put in a glass dish, cover with foil and bake at 365 for about an hour until tender and fragrant. Then puree in the food processor (yes, a chance to use it). No sweetener is necessary: this dish is plenty sweet on its own.
Toast broken pecans and sprinkle over the top. I make a fairly large batch and reheat for breakfast & a guiltless dessert.
Vegetable soups are easy and warming in the winter. I enjoy a bowl with a piece of fresh-baked bread for lunch. (slow bread recipe from Mark Bittman: NY Times food writer.) Butternut and rutabaga work well in pureed soups, as do zucchini & broccoli. I’ll include soup recipes in future posts this fall and winter.
Use vegetable stock in place in the water when cooking grains: it adds lots of flavors. You can keep your vegetable & fruit scraps and cooked spices and herbs in a bag in a freezer. When the veggie bag is full I put them in a pressure cooker with some fresh carrots, onion, garlic, celery and herbs, salt & pepper & the onion/garlic peels. Cover with water bring to pressure and cook for 12min or so to make vegetable stock. I then store it in the freezer in 1 1/2 – 2C containers to use for cooking grains, beans, or as a base for soups and sauces.
Any vegetable or fruit peels, seeds and scraps can be used for this purpose, such as the seeds and pulp from the squash, yam peels, apple and pear cores, parsley stems, etc.
Using the stock in your cooking will get in a few more veggie servings each day.