Repairing Relationships…with Vegetables

In my previous post, I mentioned that I haven’t always gotten along with mushrooms. Things have gotten much better between us, but that doesn’t mean I reach for new fungi every time I’m in the store. In fact, during my last weekly grocery run, I realized that mushrooms aren’t the only vegetable this vegetarian had avoided until recently, “recently” meaning within the past five or so years. (This revelation kind of made me think that I’ve been subsisting on iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, green beans for the past twenty years – bland, boring, and American, by golly!) And I’m not talking about utterly fantastical veggies like kohlrabi, salsify, and fiddleheads. I’m talking about fairly run-of-the-mill produce that I spent a long time skipping over simply because I didn’t know any better. Thankfully, vegetables tend to be quite forgiving after being long ignored, and here are five veggies with which I’m currently making, or trying to make decent inroads.

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Brussel sprouts

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Long the butt of jokes concerning their taste and general odiferousness, the first time I ever had brussel sprouts was three years ago. And I’m really not kidding about that. My parents never made brussel sprouts (that I can recall), and I never sought them out on my own. But then, a few years back I was looking expand my traditional holiday dinner fare and found a recipe for roasted brussel sprouts that couldn’t have been simpler. Sprouts, olive oil, salt pepper. Clean the sprouts, cut them in half, toss them in the oil and seasoning, roast a 400 degrees from 15 or so minutes. I was amazed at the tender, nutty, and flavorful results! I’ve since tried to make brussel sprouts more regularly. Granted, the smell from cooking them does linger, but the immediate deliciousness of eating them is worth the price of a few air fresheners.

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Olives

olives

Unlike my childhood that resided with the lack of with brussel sprouts, I did grow up with olives, LOTS of olives because my Dad really, really likes them. If there was one thing that was always, without fail, in our fridge, it was olives. And particularly the green Spanish olives with the pimento centers. (Perish the memories!) And because of that, olives ended up in so many recipes…so many recipes that I avoided because I hated olives! Oh my, how I couldn’t stand them as a kid! To me, they smelled bad and tasted worse, all sour and salty and yucky! Since becoming an adult, I have tried very hard to rectify this hatred, but it’s tough. Though I now don’t mind the way olives taste, their texture just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve managed to accept sliced black olives, and only sliced black olives, on pizza and in pasta salad. But that’s as far as it goes…for now.

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Asparagus

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Asparagus is another vegetable that simple wasn’t around in my house growing up. As an adult, it was never on  my grocery radar – green beans, peas, broccoli – those were my “green” staples. But asparagus? Don’t you have to prepare it in some complicated manner? Doesn’t it smell funny? Isn’t it hard to cook? No, no, and no were the answers I discovered when I made my first batch of roasted asparagus about five years ago. Since then, it’s become my first “green” staple, when it’s in season, that is. (And even when it isn’t, the imported stuff isn’t that bad.) I’ll admit that I haven’t strayed too far in terms of asparagus recipes as I just like it roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper, but there’s plenty of time to get more esoteric.  Asparagus Lemon Gelato, anyone?

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Avocados

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In my early years of vegetarianism, I discovered that avocados were good for more than just guacamole. They were just as excellent in their naked form cut to top a salad or mashed and spread on a sandwich. Helping the situation tremendously was that, at the time, I lived in a place where avocados were local produce and were always guaranteed to be ripe and ready to use. When I moved to a place where that wasn’t the case, I remained spoiled, and it didn’t help that the avocados in the big ol’ chain grocery store were hard as rocks and never seemed to ripen properly. Eventually, I stopped buying them altogether. What’s brought me back to them in the past couple years is hope…and maybe a few health concerns – fiber, vitamins, triglycerides, all that adult stuff.  And this tip about finding ripe avocados from Lifehacker has saved me from bringing home bad ones.

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Okra

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Like brussel sprouts, I couldn’t haven’t identified okra in a vegetable line-up until I was in my twenties. My husband, being the good southerner that he is, took great delight in introducing his Yankee wife to okra. The results? Um…ewwww, and that was with the fried variety! Worse yet was having it in soup or stew when the okra turned gooey.  Over the years I have gotten okra (usually frozen, sometimes breaded) at my husband’s request, but you couldn’t have gotten me to eat it, no way, no how. But considering how my palette has calmed down and matured (I guess), it seemed only natural that someday, eventually, I have to try okra whether I wanted to or not. And that time came last year when I reluctantly agreed to make a vegetarian version of a gumbo recipe that was already in our arsenal. Substitute veggie stock as needed, omit the seafood and chicken, and voila! I’ll be honest, it wasn’t half bad. Really, it wasn’t, and that was despite the gooey okra (which was nearly as gooey as I remembered it.)  Though I don’t feel ready to fully accept okra into my life, we’re going to try growing it in the garden this year. If we get a decent crop then I won’t have a choice. Okra or bust!

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What foods (vegetables or otherwise) have you gotten to know better, and for the better in recent years? Any suggestions as to other oft-overlooked vegetables that should undoubtedly be in my kitchen?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

I Ate This: Two-Cheese Omelette and Toaster Oven Roasted Vegetables

omelette

Sudden craving for a oozing cheesy omelette.

So I made one.

Two beaten eggs, some shredded fresh dill and black pepper, aged cheddar cheese and parmesan crumbled in.

There’s some shredded chicken stuffed inside too, but that’s just because there were leftovers in the fridge.

Syl beat me to posting about roasted vegetables, so I won’t reinvent the wheel, but I’ve been recently into them ever since I figured out that my oven toaster (or toaster oven) was perfectly capable of roasting vegetables. (Duhhh. Right?)

I needed to get back to avoiding too much refined carbs and eating more vegetable carbs anyway, so I was sitting around trying to puzzle out how I could find more lazy ways to get more vegetables in my diet beyond salads and boiling leafy green stuff. (Let’s not even talk about stir-frying, too much time in the kitchen and slaving over a fire.)

I mean, some days, you don’t even feel like boiling water because it’s a pain to stand there and wait for the water to boil, before putting your veggies in, and after that, they taste like… boiled water.

You certainly don’t feel like breaking out your massive oven tray and lining it with foil and going through a big preheating production and massive electrical bill just to roast a small quantity of vegetables, to say nothing of the washing up afterwards.

But you know, lining a small metal tray with foil, piling some cut vegetables coated with olive oil onto it, sticking it in a toaster oven and setting it for 15 minutes… then walking away and going off to read some Reddit posts or watch some television until the cheery little “ding” announces the newly redolent veggies, a little shrunken and glistening with caramelized natural sugars, are ready to be consumed…

…that you can do.

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And yes, they’re also good smothered with cheese.

Zucchinis, red peppers, and eggplants have all been the recent recipient of this.

And if you’ve never tried French beans aka green beans prepped this way, DO.

They’re as addictive as french fries, and probably a little healthier.

Just do a Google image search for “roasted green beans” and don’t say I didn’t warn you if you get sudden cravings.

Also fantastic with these vegetables and some pan-fried salmon is this anchovy and caper miracle sauce from Nom Nom Paleo.

Lazy person that I am, I merely microwave-melted the tinned anchovies, stirred in capers and extra olive oil to taste. Didn’t have red pepper flakes, so added a dash of my ground chili paste instead. No lemon juice or parsley neither, but those are all extras anyway.

Roasted vegetables with pasta

veggies

Greetings all! I don’t want to bore everyone with a long introduction, because this is the Internet and you can easily find links and such, but suffice to say I’m thrilled to be here and am looking forward to sharing my recipes and reading those of my fellow gamers.

‘Nuff said. Let’s get cooking!

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I’m starting off here with one of my staple meals — roasted vegetables with pasta. It’s a great any time of the year, and especially any time when you have a surplus of fresh veggies. It can be made as the main dish, a side, and is great leftover (cold or warm). I prefer the mixture of tomatoes, corn, onion, and asparagus, but I’ve also made it with string beans, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrots, and other add-ins. If a vegetable can be roasted, then it’ll be perfect here!

Ingredients
(Serves 2-3 people as a main dish; you can adjust accordingly)

  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (or 2-3 large tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, or canned but drain first
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 10-12 asparagus spears, chopped (and be sure to remove the woody ends)
  • 3-4 whole garlic cloves
  • (Other veggies of your choosing, chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • Pasta of your choice.  Large shapes, like egg noodles (my fav), bow ties, or shells work well.
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
  • Salt and pepper

You’ll also need a medium to large pan on which to put everything — a cookie sheet, roasting pan, 13 x 9 baking dish, etc. — to which liberally apply a cooking spray of your choosing.

Should you wish to add meat, roast chicken or pork work well. I’ll often cook a piece of chicken (simply seasoned with salt, garlic powder, and pepper) in the oven along with the veggies, then shred and mix it in with the appropriate serving.

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

2. Place all the veggies and garlic cloves on the pan/dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes. (My gauge for doneness is when the tomatoes start to pop open.) Remove from oven once done.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling, salted water.  Drain thoroughly but do not rinse.

4. In same pot as you cooked the pasta, melt a few tabs of butter over medium-low heat and add in a few splashes of olive oil.

5. Once this mixture is warm, add in all the veggies except for the garlic cloves.  Mash garlic cloves separately (in a press or on a board), then add and mix.  Gently stir in the pasta and mix in a decent handful of parmesan cheese.  (Add chicken, if using.)  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with warm garlic bread.


Let’s see just how many blogs Cary can put on her roster before going mad! While you’ll find her here on occasion, you’ll more likely to catch her over on United We Game or Geek Force Network; or better yet, working on her own blog about gaming and nostalgia and such, Recollections of Play.