Turning Vegetable Haters into Vegetable Lovers
I know – this seems like a lot to bite off. Way too many people associate vegetables with the words “mushy”, “bitter”, and “no-way”. I’m on a mission to put a halt to this. Give me a chance and read on for new inspiration into appreciating, enjoying and even looking forward to eating your vegetables.
Full Disclosure: In this post, I have some links to some of the kitchen tools I use that are available in my shop. My shop is one way I am able to bring in some income. They are always items I have in my own kitchen that I use regularly too. I only endorse what I believe in.
1. Make them Funilicous!
What people don’t realize is most of our favorite foods have a favorite memory associated with them. What are your favorite foods? What fond memories are associated with each of them? When we generate positive emotions we imprint deeply in our minds. So how do you make fun memories with vegetables?
Easy! Get creative! Here are four easy ways to add pizzazz to vegetables:
1. Use a fun serving dish
2. Use sauce for wow looks and taste
3. Master an easy garnish to make it special
4. Use your creative juices to make up show stopping names
Fun serving dish: Try serving vegetables in a fun manner or in a unique serving or eating dish. Just like ribbons make a gift extra special, curly vegetables on top of a dish add a great touch. I used in the photo below a deco veggie slicer made by Mastrad. What I like about it is it is small, and you can get a small amount of ribbons of cucumber or carrot out quick. Kids can use it too. Caution: I would not use it as a spiralizer for meals, it is perfect for getting out quick some ribbons curls, for deco not meals. A bigger, more robust slicer is best for full meals.
Another quick way to make ribbon like strips is using a peeler. After you peel a carrot, use the peeler to continue to peel off thin slices and use as a pretty topping for an extra oomph. It is super quick and really makes a difference.
You can also use a unique sized or looking dish to serve vegetables in. Square dishes, mini mugs, bright colored circle mini-plates or for smoothies I use super thick colored straws that even turn colors when they get cold.
Use sauce for wow looks and taste: This one copies what restaurants do. When the waiter brings out your dish, it looks yummilicious? An easy way to recreate this at home is to use a sauce of some type to decorate – try writing on people’s plates with the sauce before dishing out the vegetable. I have in the free bonus 4 of my favorite sauce recipes for vegetables. Several are thin enough to put in a squeeze bottle that you can use to decorate with.
Draw out a shapes or words with a sauce using a squeeze bottle (see photo further below in post with a heart drawn out). You can do this also with a freezer baggie where you snip off a corner and squeeze the sauce out in a thin stream. Let other helpers in the house practice the drawing. This is an easy way to make it fun!
Master an easy garnish: Garnishes take a little time to perfect. Once you find one you like, practice it over and over. You can ask others in the family to help out too. Don’t think you have to do this every time you have vegetables. If you make garnishes here and there it will start to imprint a positive feeling with vegetables.
Again, get others involved. This saves your time and gives them an opportunity to get to know vegetables better. Here are some sites that have easier garnishes, no swans or rose flowers I promise. These are easy. Find one you like and get good at it repeating it over and over.
- Red Pepper Flower
- Cherry Tomato Flower
- Cherry Tomato Lettuce Bowl
- Veggie Flower
- Quinoa + Hummus Zucchini Roll Ups
Use show-stopping names: Instead of replying “we’re having broccoli for dinner” when asked about that night’s dinner, what about replying “we’re having knock’ em out broccoli” instead? Other fun names are:
- x-ray vision carrots
- big bad bean burritos
- silly dilly green beans
- fancy fixing cauliflower
- grandma rose’s lasagna
- power kale bites
Here are words to use in making up your own fun dishes: fiery, electric, madness, happiness, tiger, crisp, smoky, super, southwest, Mediterranean, zesty, green goddess, creamy, tropical, wacky, chow, bite, eatable, finger licking good, fork tender, pillowy, velvety, and succulent. This really works. It was tested out on kids in school cafeterias and had 10 – 22% more sales with the more exciting names.
If you are stuck, here is a resource for food descriptors to make up your own creative names.
2. Find Your Gateway Vegetable
Most of us have memories of vegetables being forced on us growing up with good intentions. Vegetables are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals. Most moms and grandmas told us at the dinner table “eat up your veggies, they will make you strong.” It would have worked better to say something like “its okay if you don’t have seconds on the broccoli with the savory herb sauce since I love these and want to eat them again tomorrow for lunch.”
Go through this list of super powered vegetables and find the one you like the most. Which one or two are you willing to give another try to see if you can find a mouthwatering way to prepare? No forcing, just keep an open mind.
- bok choy
- collard greens
- romaine lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- green onions (scallions)
- green peppers
- mushrooms (any variety)
- acorn squash
- butternut squash
- red peppers
3. Become an Enthusiast of your Gateway Vegetable
Once you find the one or two vegetables you are willing to give another chance, it is time to become a culinary expert on them.
First, you need to brush up on how to select them in the grocery store. Here is a wonderful guide on selecting produce.
Next you need to know how to and how long you can store them. Here is a great resource on storing and handling produce.
For recipes, look at your favorite sites. Send me an email if you need help finding ideas. I love sharing my favorites and strategies. Also, sites I like to search for recipes are:
Skinny Taste – they have tried and true healthier versions of dishes that are family friendly and taste great. (Skinny Taste website)
Eating Well – check that the recipe has at least four stars and 10 or more reviewers before giving it a try. (Eating Well website)
Vegetable Adventurers – this is a blog post that has a collection of 29 delectable and innovative ways to eat vegetables. This is meant for those serious into new experiences with their food. (Vegetable Adventurers blog post)
For the recipe index sites, enter in the vegetable you are looking to find a recipe for in the search box at the top of the page. They both offer vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Make sure anything you pick sounds delicious to you. You won’t eat it again if it isn’t mouthwatering good.
4. Handle and Select with Care
Vegetables are not hearty foods like packaged foods. Certain prep methods work better than others too. This is part of appreciating their specialness.
Here are some key considerations:
- Cook until tender-crisp – too long and they get mushy.
- Healthy fat is a great pairing – especially when heated since heat together with oil releases compounds that react with one another called aromatic compounds and they help to mellow most vegetables and give them a more balanced and even slightly sweet flavor. Fat also helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K in the vegetable.
- Roasting mellows stronger flavored vegetables – the dry heat caramelizes natural sugars in vegetables. To give this a try, toss vegetables in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper at 425 in the over, turn occasionally and bake for 30 min or until browned and fork tender.
- Smaller vegetables (baby) have a milder flavor – look for baby versions or smaller leafy greens, especially if you are going to eat them raw.
5. Season to Make them Fab and Take away the Drab
Once you appreciate the flavor and textures of vegetables, look for seasonings and sauces to compliment them.
The bitter flavor of the kale, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables is matched well with a stronger seasoning or sauce. The bitterness actually has a purpose and is a needed part of these super powered plants for our own disease fighting.
The bitterness comes from the glucosinolates in the plants. Glucosinolates are intentionally bitter to ward off predators. The bitterness is part of the plant’s defense system and is toxic to insects.
I like a strong hoisin, Dijon mustard type, or pesto sauce to pair with these stronger tasting vegetables. I have recipes for these sauces in the free bonus. In this photo I used the hoisin brown sauce on top of shredded cabbage, cilantro and ribboned carrots.
For more delicate vegetables I have an avocado creamy dip that I use instead of mayo or dip for carrots, tomatoes, and in veggie wraps. This recipe is also in the free bonus.
Some other classic pairings for seasonings to try out are:
- Basil with tomato
- Ginger with carrots
- Garlic with deeper leafy greens
- Strong salad greens mixed with a vinaigrette dressing and topped with something sweet like mango, apple, raisins, or dried cranberries helps to mellow the edge
Bonus Vegetable Tip
There are some easy to work in vegetables that are easy to gloss over. These include salsa, pasta sauce (canned tomatoes are very nutrient dense), tomato paste, guacamole, pesto, tacos filled with lettuce or chopped cabbage and homemade smoothies.
These all are easy ways to add in vegetables for meals that add both flavor and super powered nutrition. A matter of fact I just had black beans smothered in salsa and rolled up in a tortilla with a thin layer of cream cheese for lunch. It took just under two minutes to make and was delicious!
Yes, vegetables can and are fun and delicious!