A week of vegetables for those who don't know they LOVE vegetables (yet!)

I'm a huge vegetable fan. Huge. I don't think I can express to you how much I love a perfectly steamed crown of broccoli with a little lemon juice and some sea salt. Or how much I swoon over a giant salad of mixed greens topped with broccoli, grated carrot and apple, cucumber, seeds, and craisins. Or how often I crave crisp-tender steamed green beans, blanched, and quickly sauteed in a touch of garlic butter. Honestly, anyone who eats with me often gets annoyed at how regularly during a meal I proclaim "I LOVE (insert veggie that I just swallowed here)!" In case you were wondering, it's usually around ten times. My mom thinks I love them so much because as a toddler, I'd sit in my high chair and "help" her make vegetable soup. I always enjoyed the kitchen, and apparently vegetables, too. Today I realized that's not the case for everyone. My friend, Elyse, (of Elyse Kufeldt Photography, who takes strikingly gorgeous photos--she did our engagement&wedding&newlywed shots!) wrote a blog post the other day about her and her husband's attempt to eat more vegetables this month. She inspired me to share some easy to prepare, and easier to love, vegetable recipes. So I've decided to do a week of them! Or... however long I feel like sharing! Since we're moving, I might not be too awesome at keeping up, but I'll do my best.

Let's start off with easy ways I've found to eat more produce:

Keep them in the house: Every week, you should do your grocery shopping. About twice/week (depending on how much produce you eat--for us it's our CSA box+Costco+a grocery store run) you should do your produce shopping. Make a list of what you normally purchase, put it on the fridge, and when you run out of something, immediately mark it down (instead of waiting until you are getting ready to go to the store, and trying to remember what it is you stock up with). Buy seasonally for the best flavor and freshness! Honestly, about 2/3 of your fridge should be fresh fruit and vegetables. The same goes for your diet, so it's only logical.

Be prepared!: Figure out what it is you like to snack on and do the prep work now. For example, if you like vegetables and hummus, as soon as you get back from the store, cut celery, carrots, and cucumber into sticks, and pop them in the fridge. Make individual servings of fruits/veggies in baggies or tupperware for easy grabbing. That way, when your blood sugar is low, and it's more tempting to just reach your hand in a bag of chips, you can just as easily reach your hand in a bag of grape tomatoes.

Utilize the freezer: In some cases, frozen vegetables can be just as great as fresh. I like to keep 3-4 packages of frozen vegetable blends in the freezer. If you forgot to do your produce shopping, a Trader Joe's bag of broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans in a light herbed sauce, can complete your meal. Also, frozen vegetables work great for adding into larger dishes such as stir fry and pasta. (Tangent: Also, I like to have frozen "back ups". Buy two packages of deli meat, and freeze one. So mid-week, if you run out, instead of going all the way to the store for just that, you can take one out of the freezer. Also, if I'm baking muffins, pancakes, breads, anything that can be frozen, I like to make extra, and freeze individual servings for quick grabs.)

Eat colorfully: You're a lot less likely to crave carrots if you had carrots for lunch and dinner the past three nights, so it only makes sense to add variety. Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, to surprise your palate (this is also nutritionally better for you, as well). Don't be afraid to try new things. If you don't like the way you prepared something the first time you try it, don't give up, just try a different way next time. If you don't like raw mushrooms, that doesn't mean you won't looove sauteed mushrooms! (Not saying that's a really healthy recipe--but it's a start!)

Community Supported Agriculture: Eat local! Ideally get a membership where you can pick your produce once a week--not even I do this, though. I would love to, but these days we don't have the time. I plan on making this a high priority when I have children, though. A much easier method: pick up a box of produce at a local community location, go to your local farmer's market, or have a box dropped off at your house once a week or every other week. We use Full Circle Farm from my hometown of Carnation.

Juice!: Buy a juicer. Just do it. Don't hesitate. It's worth every cent. You can throw anything you might not know what to do with in that thing (think beets, kale, chard, grapefruit), pop in a carrot, an apple, and some pineapple, and you will love it. I guarantee it. I have so many amazing juice recipes. I would advise about 2 servings of fruit/vegetables through juice. You still want to eat whole fruits and vegetables for the fiber, though. You can also try smoothies if you're too lazy to get a juicer (but you should get one)! Really, we use it at least twice a day. We buy organic apples and carrots in bulk, then use whatever fruit and vegetables that we don't know what to do with, have excess of, or didn't meal plan for. My mouth is watering. Freshly made juice will have you boycotting any and all packaged juices.

MEAL PLAN: This is the most important point in my opinion. Whenever I hear people complain about wasting food, spending too much on groceries, not eating enough vegetables, not having anything for dinner, etc, it's usually because they haven't taken the care to meal plan. They go to the store, grab what looks good, and then mid-way through the week have a fridge full of things that don't go together, and have to grab fast food for dinner. Every Sunday, I like to sit down and meal plan. We have a white board we use that has breakfast, lunch, dinner, and another blank spot under each week day.
I plan dinners first. First, I check to see what's coming in our CSA box. Then, I see what kind of meat we have frozen, like some ground turkey, or what's in our pantry, like some lentils, and plan around that (turkey meatloaf muffins one day, vegetable lentil soup the next). I also think of what sounds yummy I haven't had in a while, what recipes I've read in blogs that week, and ask my husband what he's craving. I also take into account how busy we are and plan slow cooker or easy meals on days we won't be around until dinner time. That usually fills in all seven meals for us. Sometimes, we leave one open for leftovers, or just a free night for me to eat weird dinners like yogurt and warm pita bread (it's sooo good).
I plan lunches based on what dinners will have leftovers, then add in easy things to have on hand like deli meat sandwiches, soup, or pita with falafel (sometimes we make a big batch of vegetable filled soup at the beginning of the week to have for in between meals/lunches).
I do breakfast last, based on our schedules. Most mornings I'm up and out the door before the husband is awake, so I like grabbing a whole grain muffin filled with grated fruit and vegetables, some pumpkin-zucchini bread, or almond butter multi-grain toast and an apple. While on weekends, I'm up early and free to make a full meal like quiche filled with broccoli, onion, mushroom and bell pepper for Mr. Husband so he can be prepared for a full night of work. Our go-to breakfast: vegetable filled omelets with multigrain toast and yogurt.
Then I add the prep work. That's what the blank spot is for. If we're doing turkey vegetable meatloaf muffins on Tuesday, on Monday I write: take turkey out of freezer / chop vegetables. You get the idea. Anything you have to do the day before, like thawing frozen things, you write here. Anything you can do to help yourself out the next day, like chopping vegetables or preparing sauces, you write there, as well. Then, whoever in your household is around, can check to see what needs to be done for the next day's meals.

That said, look forward to some delicious vegetable recipes! And have fun. Honestly, cooking and eating nutritious meals is, like most anything, much more fun when you are adequately prepared! :) I think you will be surprised at how easy and quick it is to cook a fresh, nutritious meal if you take the time to prepare--in some cases, just as quick as running to grab take out!

1 comment:

  1. Yay!!! I am so excited for this!

    I meal planned for a while before, but it honestly takes too much time for us at this point with how crazy busy we are. Which is why we're opting for easy to prepare veggie meals that don't require recipes that need to be checked as we go. Since we've been doing that, we spend less on groceries and we go through all our produce because it's pretty much all we have. haha. I think it's all about figuring out what works for your schedule.

    Once I'm done with school, since I'll finish first, I fully plan on writing out better meal plans and getting more into cooking, but for right now, spending more than 15-30 minutes on dinner is time we can't really afford to spend. Sad, I know, but this is our life right now. Yay? haha.

    but seriously, i'm excited you're doing this :D