Serving vegetables need not be boring

Our mothers' mantra for better health turns out to be true. Eat your vegetables.

Nutritionists say that we need at least five servings a day. While that seems daunting, consider this: One serving equals 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw. Our vegetable choices have also expanded. Ethnic cooking and farmers markets have introduced us to vegetables beyond the familiar peas and corn, like mustard greens, kale and kohlrabi. Whether organic, seasonal, exotic or humble favorites, vegetables are in the spotlight.

Some of our reluctance to follow the vegetable directive is our own fault. We tend to serve the same vegetables the same way — boiled or microwaved. Boring. Thanks to creative chefs and cooks there are more interesting ways to serve them up.

Twigs Tavern and Grille, 401 Sixth St. S.W., Rochester, has recently introduced some interesting vegetable options. Manager Taryn Ferguson describes the Twigs Saute as a blend of peppers, mushrooms and onions. Twigs also offers rutabaga sticks, lightly fried and served with a raspberry curry sauce. In addition to their award-winning butternut squash ravioli, there is also a cucumber bruschetta made of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers.

You can easily boost your vegetable intake by experimenting with some new ways to fix your favorites. Roasting is one. Almost every vegetable benefits from this easy preparation.


Brush your chosen vegetables with a little olive oil (1/4 cup or so), place on a shallow-rimmed sheet pan and bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes. Adding more vegetables — a mixture of cauliflower, sweet bell pepper chunks, asparagus, little red potatoes, mushrooms, onions, whatever you feel like — makes a colorful and healthy main course or side dish. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness you might not get from other preparations.

Vegetable kabobs cooked on the grill have a nice smoky flavor. Here you need vegetables that cook quickly — cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini slices, you could even try cucumbers. Again, brush with a little olive oil before grilling. You could even give them an extra edge by sprinkling fresh or dried herbs such as marjoram, thyme and rosemary over them.

Steaming is another way to cook any vegetable, but it does take longer. You can improvise with a saucepan, sieve and a lid, but it works best with a steamer.

Here's a way to get those veggie nutrients you might not have thought of: Juicing.

"In the Backroom Deli here the big trend is vegetable smoothies made with chard, collard greens or kale," said Noah Doose, produce manager at The Good Food Store, 1001 Sixth Street N.W., Rochester. "We add some yogurt and fruit with a natural sweetener like an apple or banana. Customers also come in and buy 25 pound bales of carrots to juice. It is a great way to get those nutrients."

Thanks to the popularity of Asian cuisine, stir frying vegetables gives you an abundant amount of vegetables in no time. Great stir fries can include beans, mushrooms, onions, squashes, pea pods, grated carrots, celery and asparagus.

You can also saute vegetables. Simply melt a small amount of butter or olive oil and add your chosen vegetable. Brussels sprouts really do well prepared this way. Cut them into thin slices, add them to the pan with garlic, salt and pepper, cover with a lid, and let them cook slowly for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Another way to ramp up your vegetables? Salads. Put the lettuce aside for awhile and mix lightly cooked or raw vegetables with grains like quinoa, millet, rice and bulgur. Mix with a simple dressing. What is left over can go into a pita sandwich tomorrow.

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