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5 Creatively Healthy Twists to Your Favorite Veggie Recipes

vegetables, vegetable variety

You have certainly heard the advice to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, choosing from the wide range of colors and types of plant-foods available. Unfortunately, the American diet is notoriously lacking in variety. We tend to choose the same types of foods over and over, and many of them are not very rich in nutrients, leading to deficiencies and low intake of health-promoting antioxidants and other phytochemicals.

A study by the Economic Research Service of the USDA found that even when people are presented with 24 varieties of vegetables, the average family only chose about half of the options. The reason? Primarily, unfamiliar foods present a challenge: How do I prepare them? How will they taste? Will I be wasting money on foods my family won’t eat?

There are several broad categories of vegetables:
• Dark Leafy Greens – Spinach, chard, kale, romaine lettuce
• Cruciferous Vegetables – Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower
• Tubers – Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes
• Root Vegetables – Carrots, turnips, parsnips and beets
• Squashes – Summer squash, zucchini, pumpkin, butternut, acorn
• Lily Family Vegetables – Onions, leeks, garlic
• Nightshade Vegetables – Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers.

Author Lora Krulak has traveled the world in search of creative vegetable recipes that even the most dedicated meat-and-potatoes guy would enjoy. Many of her recipes include a combination of familiar foods with a little twist to make it more healthful and flavorful.

Garlicky Red Pepper Sauce (page 32)
Pizza is America’s favorite food according to a survey conducted by Oxfam International. Obviously, any dietitian would advise to limit the amount of greasy meat and order more veggie toppings to increase your intake of vegetables. But there is another way, and it may be a good way to sneak in a few nutrients to the picky eaters in your home.

Instead of a tomato-based sauce for your pizza, try a puree of red peppers and roasted garlic. Roast garlic cloves in the oven, blanch the peppers and blend both into a thick sauce along with olive oil, sea salt and herbs.

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“Secret” Guacamole (page 47)
Guacamole is gaining ground as a favorite appetizer or condiment in America. Yes, the avocado is a very healthful, well, fruit (although we tend to think of it as a vegetable). But of course some are worried about fat and calorie content. Ms. Krulak has a secret ingredient in her guac recipe that adds fiber and makes the dish lighter. Would you believe that it is celery?

Most of the ingredients in The Secret Guacamole are familiar – avocado, cilantro, lime, jalapeno. But prior to blending them together, add some chopped celery for crunch. Other ingredients that could be added to guacamole for variety in taste and texture include roasted garlic, roasted corn, ground pumpkin seeds, pineapple, mango, and grilled onions.

Roasted Carrot Hummus (page 49)
Hummus is a Middle Eastern food dip/spread that is traditionally made from cooked, mashed chickpeas. For a twist, try another vegetable that might be even easier to get your hands on – carrots. Roughly chop the carrots and process in a food processor along with onion, garlic, and tahini. Spices, olive oil and salt add flavor and creaminess.

Sweet Pea Soup (page 59)
Certainly you’ve heard of split pea soup. This version of pea soup uses sweet peas that offer a brighter green color. If that isn’t “green” enough for you, the healthful secret ingredient blended into the soup is raw organic spinach.

Roasted Root Fries (page 92)
There is probably not an American who has not had French Fries made of potatoes. Most of us have probably also had Sweet Potato Fries, as restaurants are increasingly offering these as a “healthy” option. Why not try another type of sturdy root vegetable, such as beet, carrot or parsnips instead? Cut the vegetable into wedges, thick slices, or French fry shapes and sprinkle with oil and sea salt. Bake for about 45 minutes and serve with a delicious dip.

Krulak, L. Veggies for Carnivores – Moving Vegetables to the Center of the Plate. 2012, Changing Lives Press
United States Department of Agriculture: What Determines the Variety of a Household’s Vegetable Purchases? October 2004
Oxfam International – Global food survey reveals world’s favorite foods.

Note: The author was provided a copy of “Veggies for Carnivores – Moving Vegetables to the Center of the Plate” from the Changing Lives Press. at no cost for this review..