Learn to Love Your Vegetables

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A few years back, I interviewed Mollie Katzen—the vegetable guru—for a profile in Prevention Magazine and she spoke about a concept that really resonated with me. She talked about teaching to love vegetables rather than just telling people to eat more of them and—flash—I realized that the shift from “gotta do” to “want to do” was precisely when everything changed for me.

love your vegetablesClockwise from left: Roasted Winter Veggies; Sauteed Radishes with Mint; Garlic Parsnip Fries; Fennel and Granny Smith Salad with Blue Cheese

Sure, I’d learned through my writing that vegetables were incredible allies in health and weight management. Yes, I’d become aware of their role in eco-clean eating, and those reasons alone made me want to eat more of them. But it wasn’t until I began experimenting with a variety of veggies in ways I hadn’t thought of before—often inspired by people like Mollie—that I discovered the most compelling reason to eat vegetables yet … they can be downright delicious. And this from someone who detested vegetables (other than lettuce, raw carrots and cucumbers) well into her twenties, so was against all odds we became an item.

Here, in one neat little package, are the reasons I fell in love:

Vegetables reduce risk of heart disease

Several studies around the world have concluded that people who eat more vegetables are less prone to heart disease. One of the most wide-ranging studies, looking at nearly 85,000 women over a period of eight years, concluded that each additional serving (1/2 cup for most, 1 cup for leafy ones) of veggies a day reduced risk of heart disease by 4%. Pretty significant! Vegetable’s cocktail of micronutrients (called phytonutrients) are probably a major contributor.

Vegetables can help you maintain a healthy weight

Many studies have looked at associations between diet and weight, but some are now beginning to specifically analyze whether people who eat more vegetables weigh less. Initial results look like indeed they do. One of the theories behind why this is so is that vegetables are less calorically dense (or energy dense) than other food groups (and, at the same time, more nutrient dense).

Eating more vegetables (and less meat) can reduce your carbon footprint

Many people don’t recognize that livestock farming—the intensive concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)—that most of our meat comes from produces more greenhouse gas than all forms of transport combined (18% of global, man-made greenhouse gas emissions). It also uses a great deal of water. It takes an average of 22,000 gallons of water—22,000!—to produce just over 2 pounds of beef.

Eating vegetables is FUN!

Eating seasonal, locally grown vegetables opens up whole new worlds of foods to play with. It’s like a Dr. Seuss book—your carrots can be orange, white or purple, and your cauliflower the same. Radishes can be red hot and spicy, or icy white and sweet or a gorgeous hue of magenta. If you don’t like steamed broccoli, try roasting it. If you don’t like boiled carrots, try sautéing them with a bit of spice.

Don’t just eat more vegetables (boorrrinnng) … fall in love with them.

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Braised and Seared Fennel Wedges

These fennel wedges are the ultimate crossover food. Served warm, they’d be be lovely side dish on a cold night with Simplest Roast Chicken or Spiced Pork Roast. Served cool, they’re terrific finger food appetizer for a picnic. This recipe is based on one from the Gotham Cookbook, by Alfred Portale. I’ve always loved how the braising in this dish makes the fennel silky and tender, while the finishing sear gives it savory caramelization; a luscious juxtaposition.

Braised and Seared Fennel Wedges

51

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 8

Braised and Seared Fennel Wedges

Ingredients

  1. 3 pounds fennel bulbs
  2. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  3. 1 cup chopped onion
  4. 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  5. 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  6. 2 bay leaves
  7. 1/4 cup dry white wine
  8. 2 cups vegetable broth
  9. 1 cup water
  10. Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Trim a sliver off the ends off the fennel bulbs, but not enough so that it falls apart. Then cut the bulb into 1-inch wedges lengthwise (like the wedges of an orange).

In a large, high-sided saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5-6 minutes, until soft and slightly browned. Stir in coriander and bay leaves and cook for a few seconds, until fragrant.

Pour in the wine and scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour in broth and water and bring to a boil. Nestle the fennel wedges in the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low, so the liquid maintains a medium simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the tip of a sharp knife can pierce the stem-end of the fennel easily.

Use tongs to remove the fennel wedges to a plate and pour off liquid (the liquid makes a tasty soup base or enhanced vegetable broth). Return the pan to medium-high heat. Swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and return fennel to pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, turning occasionally, until fennel is slightly caramelized on all sides.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Cook Time: 35-45 minutes

http://nourishnetwork.com/2010/05/25/love-your-vegetables/

  • http://couscous-consciousness.blogspot.com/ Sue Busch

    I so agree with you. I eat lots of vegetables, because I actually like vegetables better than any other food group – they’re pretty hard to beat on flavour and versatlity, not too mention variety.

    Those fennel wedges look divine by the way.

  • http://nourishnetwork.com/members/liahuber/ Lia Huber

    Sue … you’re one up on where I was until about a decade ago. But so on board now. Enjoy the fennel wedges!