My Veg Fix (and the cookbook that is inspiring our family dinners)
I made a New Year's Resolution to eat more veggies, not just for me but for the whole family. It's a simple goal with layers of benefits. Of course, the health benefits of eating more vegetables are at the top of my list of motivating factors. Eating a variety of vegetables is a surefire way to get all the nutrients, vitamins, and fiber we need in our diet. Plus, the more we fill up on healthy vegetables, the less of other not so-good-for you foods we will eat. I am a terrible dieter and as soon as I try to restrict or cut out certain foods, I immediately feel deprived and the effort backfires. A positve approach to healthy eating works much better for me - so by virtue of trying to eat more vegetables, I will automatically eat less foods that offer little nutritional benefit.
I want my kids to have a positive approach to food as well. I don't want any foods to be off limits or completely banned (like I posted last week, French Fries are fine if you have them only occasionally). And exposing kids to a wide variety of vegetables is the best way to eventually find some they love. Ryan and I already eat a lot of vegetables, but I need to do a better job of fixing them for the kids - too often my fallback options during the week are frozen peas, roasted broccoli, sauteed green beans. All good choices, but not much variety.
Here is a sample of some of the veggie dishes we've been enjoying.
Herby, peanutty, noodly salad. I made this for Ryan and I to have for lunch and it was very satisfying with a punch of red chile and some texture from the roasted peanuts. I gave some to the kids before I added the red chile and they both liked it. I think the key to getting my kids to eat something new is for the dish to have a component of something familiar (here, green beans and cucumbers), and also something curious and unexpected for them, like the peanuts.
New potato, tomato, and boiled egg salad. I made this as a side salad for a potluck dinner party just after the holidays. While probably best as a summer dish, this was a real rich and creamy tasting salad due to the "soft hard-boiled egg" that is mixed in with the potatoes and cherry tomatoes. It was a twist on a comforting and familiar dish (and Ryan liked it because it doesn't contain any mayo, something he hates).
Chachouka, a spicy North African pepper and tomato stew with eggs baked on top. This dish was very simple - tomatoes and red peppers sauteed with onion and garlic, smoked paprika and a pinch of saffron. The flavors were wonderful. And what dish isn't improved by simply adding an egg on top? We had this on its own for dinner, but thought it would also make a great lazy Sunday brunch wrapped in a warm tortilla and a side of black beans.
Quick chickpea pasta. This was a weeknight pasta dish I made for the kids - they already love orecchiette ("little ears") pasta and chickpeas so it was an easy sell. I later made a variation on this dish that included spinach and cumin, and would probably always add spinach or kale to this dish to punch up the nutritional value in the future. This recipe is from a new cookbook I received for Christmas titled Veg (see below) and from a section labeled "Pantry Suppers." If I'm thoughtful about how I stock our pantry, I can make a recipe from this section once a week when I'm in a pinch for time.
Chiles stuffed with beans. These chiles may not be Pinterest worthy (or are they?), but they were mouth-watering. The chiles were a challenge to stuff as the skins were thin and easy to tear (and I don't have the best patience for something delicate like this - next time Ryan will do this step), but if you don't care about looks, these were divine. This was another recipe we thought would taste great with a side of eggs and a tortilla. I'm getting hungry...
Cauliflower and chickpea curry. I like cauliflower when its roasted and seasoned well, but I always have to sell Ryan and the kids on it. This dish, served over rice, was warm and filling and perfect for a Winter meal.
White beans with artichokes. I forgot to take a picture of this easy salad, but wanted to mention it since it was the first thing I made out of my new favorite cookbook. It was from the "Pantry Supper" section and I made it the day after Christmas when we were tired of heavy, rich foods and loathe to go to the grocery store for the umpteenth time in a week. This salad, like many of the recipes in this book, was simple and full of flavor. I'm making it again this week, this time for lunch.
And here it is, my new favorite cookbook which contains all of these yummy recipes. It isn't that different from how we usually cook, except that it is completely vegetarian. So in the past I would've put chopped pancetta with the orecchiette, or added some grilled salmon to the artichoke salad (both additions would be good, no doubt). We aren't vegetarians and don't have to always omit the meat or fish, but we didn't miss it with any of these dishes. This goes back to the positive approach we're taking to eating in our household. By intentionally eating more veggies in these satisfying recipes, we are eating healthier without really trying.
One section of the cookbook that has changed my approach to feeding the kids is called "Raw Assemblies" and the philosophy is that "sometimes the best thing you can do for the fine, fresh produce in front of you is next to nothing." The recipes, if you can call them that, are very simple and because of this are kid- and mom-friendly. I've made the carrot, orange and cashew salad (again, that familiar and unexpected combo that is working for my kids), marinated cucumber with mint, avocado and ruby grapefruit with chile, and this week I'm making Brussels sprouts with apple and cheddar. The recipes take next to no time to prepare, so if the kids hate it I don't feel disappointed and put out. Sometimes they will eat just parts of the dish (like the apple and cheddar, and skip the Brussels), but I'm noticing they are eating more of the vegetables each time. And even better, they are growing curious and asking questions about the new foods they are trying. This can only be a good thing.
This book also has a great section called "Bready things" and contains four or five pizza recipes that are really different and tasty - beet pizza with cheddar, asparagus pizza, pizza with new potatoes, rosemary and blue cheese, and my favorite so far - kale and onion pizza.
Yum! There is a very simple pizza dough recipe that has made me a convert - never again will I buy a prepared pizza crust from the store. The recipe takes about 10 minutes to mix and knead and then another hour to rise. I can make it on the weekend and stick it in the frig or freezer until I want to use it for a quick weeknight pizza. The kids also love making their own pizzas and rolling out the dough (with a little help).
This homemade dough tastes so unbelievably fresh and goes back to the idea of eating whatever you want, as long as you cook it yourself. Pizza dough made with flour, water and a little salt and yeast is healthy - but load it with preservatives like the store bought version, and drown it in meat and cheese and it becomes something you should only eat occasionally. The simple solutions is to cook it yourself...and eat more veggies!
I could include a few of the full recipes here, but really, you should just get the book. It is that good.