I have always been a meat and potatoes kind of gal. As a kid, the veggie side was always just that, the thing on the side of the plate that I knew I had to eat. But as an adult I have found a new love of vegetables with some amazing ways to make them every day crave-worthy.
With a few of these tricks, you too may find that the veg on the plate soon seems to steal the show! Any of the below tips can be used on its own but often the best is a combination of a few ideas into one dish. I wanted to share with you a few of the tips and techniques we use in the kitchen to make that side dish anything but!
1. Toss with fat.
Long gone are the days of naked old vegetables in our house. We cook our veggies to crisp-tender and then finish them off in the pan by tossing them with a bit of coconut oil, butter or olive oil to coat. Then season them with salt and pepper and maybe another seasoning or two. Just this little extra step does wonders for the meal. A personal favorite is fresh green beans this way! Yum!
2. Dress it up.
Using the same idea as above, mix some pesto or other dressing, such as Italian, ranch or Ceasar. A little goes a long way so only a tablespoon or so will do depending on the quantity. You just want to lightly coat the vegetables for a touch of flavor.
3. Add some salt.
A great addition to most any vegetable dish is a bit of a salt component. Try mixing in a tablespoon of capers, sliced olives, such as Greek or Kalamata, or bits of bacon. You can even try using an olive tapenade in place of olives if you have some on hand. Remember to cut back on the amount of seasoning salt you add if you are doing this, as there is a good deal of salt in this already.
4. A hint of citrus.
A squeeze of lemon, lime or orange or even just the zest can really bring your vegetables to life. Orange works great with carrots or other earthy winter squashes such as butternut or sweet potatoes. Try lemon with green beans or zucchini, and lime with corn is fantastic.
5. Go nuts!
Pine nuts, sliced almonds or chopped walnuts not only add great flavor, but are a great way to add crunch to your dish. You can also toss seeds into the mix such as sunflower, flax or sesame seeds. The added healthy fat of any of these is a great bonus.
6. Get cheesy!
A bit of feta or blue cheese crumbles or some grated Parmesan can take your veggies to the next level. Used in moderation, these add a great deal of flavor while remaining healthy. As with the olives from tip #2, adjust your salt level when using cheese as it also contains a good deal of salt. Combine feta with a handful of nuts and a bit of coconut oil and you’ve got a quick but winning go-to combo any night of the week!
7. Freshen up!
Adding fresh herbs to your veg, such as parsley, basil, or chives really brings a lot to the party. Try a salad of tomatoes, feta and mint, or zucchini with a hit of fresh dill sprigs.
8. Spice it up!
Spices from your cabinet can be a great asset in your vegetable dishes. Try smoked paprika, a dash of cayenne or a hit of cinnamon. Spice mixes such as Italian Herbs, Herbs de Provence, or Fines Herbs are also great tools in the arsenal.
9. Go sweet!
Yep, that’s right! Adding a bit of sweetness to a veggie dish can really change your ideas about what a vegetable can be. Try winter squash or carrots with a maple or honey glaze. Mix in a spoonful jam or dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries or apricot pieces or a try a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. These flavors work especially well with roasted dishes or grilled kabobs.
10. Be bold!
Harissa is an amazing way to enjoy vegetables these days. Popular in North African cuisine, harissa is a hot and fragrant paste of chiles, herbs and spices that packs an amazing flavor punch. Be sure to taste as you use this, as different brands of harissa have varying degrees of heat and everyone’s palate is different.
Anchovy paste is another bold flavor that adds saltiness and umami to a dish. Again, a little does a lot and the taste is not for everyone, but if you like the flavor, a small tube of this stuff around the kitchen can do amazing things.
Of course, sautéing your veggies in crushed garlic or diced shallots might go without saying, but I couldn’t forget to mention that here! Or try a dollop of whole grain Dijon mustard with your greens. Roasted Brussels sprouts or potatoes are fantastic this way.
I hope you’ve liked all of these ideas for better enjoying your vegetables. Please share your favorite combinations with us. We love hearing about new ideas to try! Enjoy!