As a Nutrition Coach, I can comfortably say that most of us could serve to incorporate more vegetables into our diets. The great thing about cooking vegetables, the possibilities are endless! There are a variety of methods and spices that can give the same vegetable a different flavor and feel. Here are some ways to switch things up when cooking vegetables:
Steaming is one way to prepare simple, clean-tasting vegetables. Steaming takes 5-10 minutes for green-leafy vegetables and 10-25 minutes for roots. All you need is a steaming basket and a pot with a lid, filled with about 2 inches of water.
Steamers come in a variety of forms. The stainless-steel fold-up variety fits inside a pot to keep the vegetables above water. Some pots are specifically made with holes in the bottom for steaming over another pot of water.
Chop vegetables (the smaller the size, the faster they will cook)
Bring water to a boil
Place vegetables in a steaming basket over water and cover
Steam until they become bright or have reached desired texture
Remove vegetables from pot and run under cool water
Blanching, or quick boiling, is another option for cooking vegetables quickly and “cleanly.” Blanching helps to breakdown the fiber of raw vegetables more so than steaming, which may aid digestion. Blanching vegetables also removes the raw flavor and brightens up their color.
To blanch vegetables, simply follow these steps:
Bring water to a boil
Add a pinch of salt
Wash and chop the vegetables
Drop the vegetables into the water and lower the heat
Cook until they become bright
Rinse with cool water to prevent further cooking
Remember, for steaming and blanching, the size and density of the vegetable will determine the cooking time. For softer vegetables, let them cook longer. Harder vegetables, such as roots, take the longest. Green leafy vegetables, such as collards or bok-choy, take less time.
Any vegetables may be steamed or blanched! These two cooking methods are especially good when you want to "get to know” a new vegetable. Experiment with different combinations of vegetables. Pay attention to colors, textures, and flavors!
Many vegetables taste delicious when baked. Baking brings out the very essence of vegetables, especially squashes and roots. Place vegetables in a baking pan, and roast for 45-60 minutes at about 400 degrees.
Stir-frying is another quick and nutritious way to prepare vegetables! You can stir-fry any kind of vegetable in oil or water. Softer vegetables, such as Chinese cabbage, bok choy, thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms, and onions will only take a few minutes to cook.
Before you start, have all of the vegetables rinsed and cut into pieces—thinner slices and smaller pieces will cook faster and more evenly. If you choose to use oil, heat a wok or a frying pan and add a small amount of oil (like peanut, sesame, or coconut oil). If you are making a small amount of vegetables, brushing the wok or pan with oil is usually enough.
Start with the harder vegetables like roots. Add one variety at a time and cook them until they become shiny before adding the next ones. Sprinkling a pinch of sea salt over the vegetables draws just enough moisture to prevent sticking and will bring out the flavor. You may also sprinkle water over your vegetables to gain extra steam and heat.
If you choose to sauté with water, add one inch of water to your wok or pan, and bring to boil. Add thinly sliced vegetables, cover, and simmer for 5-10 minutes.