This is probably going to seem obvious and “well, duh” to a lot of parents out there, but this parenting stuff is all very new to me (see: Blending). Our three kids are all active in sports and are busily shooting upward like jungle weeds. Phil and I are careful to be sure that they drink their milk and eat relatively healthy breakfasts; I try to cook healthy meals.
But we have been lax in one area: vegetables. This food group is loathed and devoutly avoided in the Frank family. Even Phil grimaces at the thought of [cue Psycho music] BROCCOLI. On the other hand, we decided that we should live healthier this year. With this goal in mind, I made a New Year's resolution to include a serving of veggies on the dinner plate every night—a.k.a., the "veggies resolution". That’s not hard, right?
So, how’s that going?
I broke my veggies resolution almost immediately.
Here’s how it went down. My business partner was on vacation and a client needed some files immediately. This triggered a frantic, last-minute, 90-mile round trip to my partner’s house to locate the files and send them to the client. By the time it was all said and done, it was 5:30 and I was staring a 45-minute drive in the face.
I called the hubster and asked him to pull a pizza out of the freezer and make a salad (already bad, bad, BAD). I got home, tired and cranky, to find that we were out of salad greens. I really did not have the energy to go back out into the cold (-2º, no joke!) to raid the produce section at the grocery store—let alone make anything else.
So, we ate our pizza slices and called it dinner. Veggies resolution broken. I felt completely rotten.
The next morning, I gave myself a pep talk.
I decided to change the way I think about New Year’s resolutions (NYRs): specifically, that rather than being broken, they are simply in need of some fine-tuning. Here’s what I mean: most NYRs are unrealistic to begin with and only set us up to fail. Then we tend to drop them altogether and go back to doing what we were doing before.
Think of all the sad, lonely, broken NYRs floating out there in space after hardly even getting a chance!
I decided to rescue my veggies resolution by making it more realistic. And I am happy to say that I do have strategies for keeping my new-and-improved eat MORE veggies resolution. Here they are:
Prepping ahead. I shop on the weekends and use weekend time to do some vegetable prep. For example, I’ll buy a couple of pounds of green beans and par-boil them, then let them dry and portion them out into zip-top bags. Some stay in the fridge to be used during the week and the rest go into the freezer so that I can pull them out on nights when I haven’t been quite so savvy with my veggie planning. If I’m feeling especially industrious, I’ll pull out my Food Saver for the portions that will be living in the freezer.
You can always buy pre-washed salad, but keep in mind that you’re paying extra because the prep has already been done for you. Last summer, I had lettuce growing in my garden—it was a delight to simply walk outside and snip my salad. But—HELLO?!—right now it’s 6º outside. SO: I like to buy a head of whatever lettuce looks good and prep it myself. I chop it, wash it, and dry it, then put it in my favorite zip-top bags. It’s mind-blowingly easy to bang out a vinaigrette—make extra and store it in a squeeze bottle, then give it a shake before using it. Chop some toppings in advance, and you have a DIY salad bar any night of the week!
WHO KNEW?! We discovered that when our kids understand that they MUST eat some salad, but that they can make it any way they want from the DIY “salad bar,” they actually end up eating more than they would if we just put the mandatory blop of salad on their plate.
- Another trick is to slice up some bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms in advance for a quick stir-fry side when you need it. Or, serving stir-fry as the main dish—add tofu, egg, chicken, beef, or pork for protein—ensures that the serving of vegetables is mixed in!
Grilled vegetables are another easy way to get veggies on the table. I like a mix of zucchini, summer squash, and red onion. You could also do eggplant—although it’s technically a fruit—but it’s roundly despised in the Frank family (well, I like it, but I’m alone!).
Roasting or broiling vegetables is also easy and quick. Asparagus works well for this, as does cauliflower, a mix of root veggies—even scallions. Toss everything in a mix of EVOO, S&P…maybe add dried or fresh herbs. Another favorite trick I use is the one-pan or one-pot approach, where I rest the meat on top of a bed of vegetables, which can include onions or shallots, carrots, potatoes, fennel—let your creative side run wild. This approach is incredibly flavorful because the veggies are infused with the juices from the meat. (If it’s a weeknight, the “pot” is, of course, the crockpot.)
I have a final, crafty—even diabolical—trick up my sleeve for sticking to my improved veggie resolution. It's known as the "hide the veggies" maneuver. Oh sure, our kids might THINK they’re getting away with not eating veggies for one night, but…
BWA-HA-HA-HAAAAAA!!!!! The veggies are hiding.
Cauliflower is my favorite partner-in-crime for this nefarious deed. On its own, cauliflower has very little flavor, which makes it very easy to sneak in. I have been known to puree cauliflower and hide it in loaded “baked potato” soup (which cleverly has some actual baked potato chunks floating throughout, but is primarily composed of cauliflower). The puree can also masquerade as mashed potatoes. I have even mixed it into my ricotta cheese for lasagna and baked pasta casseroles!
Below are some links to some of my favorite veggie-loaded recipes. Good luck with your own veggies resolution!
Carne Asada with Fajita Vegetables: an incredibly easy meal with a little meal-prep. Delicious skirt steak rendered tender and flavorful by a mojo-inspired marinade is served with sautéed, spiced fajita vegetables. Serve it buffet style with tortillas and condiments for a fun, easy dinner!
Baked Pasta Casserole: one of my favorite strategies for keeping my veggies resolutions. All the creamy, comfort-food goodness of a decadent baked pasta casserole...except that veggies are hidden right in the dish! They'll never know!
Crusted Pork Tenderloin: a one-skillet meal in which root vegetables are roasted right along with the meat!
Loaded "Baked Potato" Soup: in this lightened-up twist on the comfort food classic, puréed cauliflower brings the creaminess normally imparted by the potato.