Ways to Cook Vegetables

vegcooking 2

The Best Way to Cook Vegetables

Most vegetables can be enjoyed raw in a salad or as part of a crudité platter, but many vegetables are more tender and flavorful when cooked. While you could throw basically any vegetable into a pot of water and cook until soft enough to eat, you risk losing out on many nutrients, which leach into the water, and you end up with mushy, water logged vegetables. Doesn’t sound too appetizing, does it?! There are a variety of cooking techniques you can use to make your vegetables shine as a side dish or added to a mixed salad.

Roasting: By far my favorite technique, roasting brings out the sweetness of any vegetable due to the caramelization that happens during the cooking process. Toss any vegetable with a little olive oil and seasoning of choice and cook in a 400 degree oven until vegetables are tender on the inside and crunchy and caramelized on the outside. Cook time will vary depending on your vegetable, for example asparagus needs less cook time than root vegetables like parsnips and sweet potatoes.

Grilling: Like roasting, the high heat of a grill caramelizes vegetables, but what the grill adds is a deep, smoky flavor your oven won’t provide. As with roasted vegetables, toss with olive oil and seasonings and lay directly on grill grates, or for more delicate vegetables, place in a grill basket or on a piece of aluminum foil over the grates. Try grilled leeks, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Sautéing: A great way to cook greens and other delicate vegetables like mushrooms, peppers, and onions, sautéing requires little time, although it is all hands-on. Place a small amount of oil in a sauté pan or skillet, heat over medium-high, and when oil is hot add evenly cut vegetables to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender.

Steaming: One of the quickest and easiest ways to cook vegetables, steaming is great for delicate vegetables and ones you want to preserve the color of, such as broccoli and asparagus. Plus, there are no added calories from the steaming process! Once steamed, add a bit of flavor with a pinch of salt or herbs of choice and a squeeze of lemon juice to maintain the virtues of steaming.

Blanching: Another one of my favorite methods, blanching, which literally means “to whiten,” is a technique used to soften food, brighten it, or remove a strong taste from the food. Blanching is especially good for vegetables added to a crudite platter like broccoli or snow peas, which can look dull and are fibrous when raw. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil, add vegetables for 30 seconds to a minute, and transfer to a bowl of ice water to “shock” the vegetables and stop the cooking process. Drain, dry, and serve!

Find all of our Salad Swap recipes online at http://www.saladswap.com/

By Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN for Fresh Express

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Go For The Grain!

FRESH EXPRESS GRAINS

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes whole grains as a key component of a healthy diet, and over the past few years, ancient grains have become a culinary trend that keeps on growing. Most whole grains are a good source of fiber.[i][ii]

To reap the whole grain health benefits, open yourself up to a world of flavor and options with different whole grains and a variety of ways to enjoy them. Whole grains can be simply cooked as a side dish, added to dishes like meatloaf, soups, and stews, serve as the base of salads, or used in place of some or all of the refined grains in baked goods. Give these three whole grains a try in your next salad!

Barley: Barley is one of the oldest grains and its fiber content is one of the highest of all whole grains[iii], with the fiber available throughout the whole grain, not just in the outer layer like other grains. When shopping for barley, look for hulled or hull-less varieties, which don’t have the inedible hull, but retain most of the fiber of the grain.

Corn: Corn may get a bad rap, but recent research shows certain varieties of corn have the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with eye health. [iv] Plus corn is a gluten-free food, which means corn and foods made with corn products are good choices for those suffering from celiac disease and other gluten intolerances.

Quinoa: Related to beets and Swiss chard and technically not a grain, quinoa is cooked and eaten like grains and has a similar nutritional profile. In addition to being a good source of fiber[v], quinoa is the only plant food that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. And it’s a gluten free food!

Find all of our Salad Swap recipes online at http://www.saladswap.com/

By Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN for Fresh Express

[i] http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-an-important-source-of-essential-nutrients

[ii] http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/what-are-the-health-benefits

[iii] http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/fiber-in-whole-grains

[iv] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18937488

[v] http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-an-important-source-of-essential-nutrients

In Season: Summer Produce

EATING BY THE SEASON
Summer is almost here and that means a whole new crop of produce will be hitting farmers markets and groceries soon! Bright colored fruits and vegetables like strawberries, asparagus, and sugar snap peas may catch your eye, but maybe you don’t know what to do with them. Don’t fear: Believe it or not, you can enjoy most fruits and vegetables raw – what’s better than savoring a perfectly ripe strawberry straight from the stem?! But if you want to get more creative, you can add them to a variety of dishes. Here are some ways to use the best of the season.

Asparagus:

  • Blanch and add to a crudite platter or salad
  • Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and grill for your next BBQ
  • Chop and add to quiche or frittata

Cherries:

  • Make a chutney to top fish, chicken, and steak
  • Add to whole grain muffins
  • Chop into a chicken salad

Sugar Snap Peas:

  • Mix into a stir fry
  • Blanch and top a salad
  • Roast with sesame oil

Strawberries:

  • Quench your thirst with a strawberry yogurt smoothie
  • Add to a spinach salad
  • Top low-fat ice cream with strawberries and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Corn:

Find all of our Salad Swap recipes online at http://www.saladswap.com/

By Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN for Fresh Express