We all might be feeling a little crazy, like days are blending into one another and time has taken on a new meaning. Cooking is often my go-to when I want to take some control of the crazy. I could cook anything from sweet to savory, to just feel I am accomplishing something. Yet, there is something about Spring on the horizon that brings vegetables to the forefront for me, making a stronger presence than usual. Perhaps it’s the “warmer” air or the peaks of sunshine we have experienced out east this week, but I am fully leaning in to all of it. And with it, trying to keep the crazy to a minimum.

If the mention of vegetables does not get you excited, it is not your fault. Past experiences affect so much of our future thoughts and mindset. If your intro to the wonderful world of veggies consisted of green beans, soggy carrots or mushrooms swimming in grease, it is no wonder you do not embrace them. It will take some effort to get past your veggie traumas, but it is worth it. And if you are already a veggie lover, more inspiration is always a gift.

Vegetables can bring lots of flavor, crunch, sweetness, color and various scents to any dish. They are nutritional powerhouses, part of any disease-fighting regimen. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and help keep your appetite in check. Eating non-starchy vegetables may even help with weight loss and weight maintenance. With potentially hundreds of different plant compounds that are beneficial to health, it is crazy NOT to lean into veggies! The proof is in the pudding, so to speak😊…and in a whole bunch of studies.

The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have had a heart attack or stroke. But 8 or more sounds like a lot of veggies! It is, but it is not — 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked equals 1 serving. Making yourself Lori’s bone building green smoothie (https://amysmargulies.medium.com/aging-gracefully-and-other-bs-105f67657c43) in the morning? You have 2 servings right there. Salad for lunch? Another 2–3 servings. Veggies covering at least half your plate at dinner, another 3 servings. Still hungry and going for more? Another 1–2 servings. Snacking on veggies and hummus or guac, another 1–2 servings. It all adds up and can add up in your favor, with some effort of course. Do not forget to often include our leafy greens, which get a gold star when it comes to heart disease protection.

Data from the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study show that women and men who increased their intakes of fruits and vegetables over a 24-year period were more likely to have lost weight than those who ate the same amount or those who decreased their intake. When it comes to veggies, the non-starchy types are where it is at! Starchier vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas have their place in moderation, but we are talking greens, zucchini, squash, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms and the like.

Eating carrots for the beta carotene is certainly not a new topic, and for good reason. Eating fruits and vegetables can keep your eyes healthy, and may help prevent two common aging-related eye diseases — cataracts and macular degeneration — which afflict millions of Americans over age 65. A recent large study of female health professionals indicates that higher intakes of lutein and vitamin E are associated with decreased risk of cataract. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant, a key contender for an A+ in eye health. Another shout out for our dark, leafy greens, with spinach, kale, broccoli at the top of the list, along with carrots for the lutein plus beta carotene.

Enough studies, let’s cook up some veggie happiness!

Photo by author

TRUFFLED ASPARAGUS
The scent of truffle oil gets the olfactory glands directly in contact with the stomach. There is something so enticing about the essence, I am almost full from just the smell. Almost, but I do still really want to eat at that point :). These roasted asparagus complement any whole grain, into a balanced, delicious meal.

INGREDIENTS
1 pound asparagus spears, washed, trimmed, sliced into thirds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4–5 garlic cloves, minced
freshly ground pepper and coarse salt, to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
1 Tablespoon truffle oil, divided
1–2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1 cup uncooked quinoa (or other whole grain)

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Place nonstick foil on bottom of rimmed baking pan.

Toss prepared asparagus with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spread out onto baking pan. Place pan in oven and roast for about 10 minutes, mixing halfway. Remove from oven, add walnuts and toss well. Place tray back in oven for another 10 minutes.

While asparagus are roasting, prepare quinoa (or other whole grain) according to package directions. Place in serving bowl. Toss with 1/2 tablespoon truffle oil and 1/2 — 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Remove asparagus from oven and toss with 1/2 tablespoon truffle oil and 1/2–1 tablespoon lemon juice. Place on top of quinoa, one more grind of fresh black pepper and serve. Makes 2–3 main dish servings or 4–6 side dish servings.

Photo by PinkParsley

STUFFIN’ SHROOMS
Besides the company we are missing, we are missing out on appetizers! These will hopefully start to change that mindset, as we embrace the entrance of Spring. Truffle oil can be purchased in a spray bottle, but pouring into a mister works just as well.

INGREDIENTS
24 button mushrooms or 8 large mushrooms
1/2 onion, chopped
3–4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 ounces goat cheese
1 cup Panko bread crumbs, whole wheat
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Truffle oil spray
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

PREPARATION
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray prepared mushrooms with truffle oil mister. Sprinkle both side with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sauté onion, garlic, zucchini shreds in 1 teaspoon oil. Add red pepper flakes and goat cheese. Stir until goat cheese is well mixed into veggies. Remove from heat. Add panko bread crumbs and still well.

Spoon either by teaspoon into button mushrooms or by tablespoon into larger mushrooms. Top with Parmesan cheese and another truffle oil spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Broil for 3 minutes. Sprinkle fresh rosemary. Makes 8 appetizer or side dish servings.

Photo by author

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CHICKEN
When chopping up chicken, it cooks up super fast. Therefore, I have found the best way to roast chicken with any veggie counterparts is to microwave the veggie first, so they can all finish together.

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3–4 large carrots, peeled, slice into coins
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (go with 1/4 or more if you really, really like nutmeg)
1/3 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1–2 Tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Place a large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and spread all over pan. Add carrots, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well to blend and continue cooking for about 8 minutes. Add broth and cook for 5 more minutes. Add honey, stir and cook until carrots are tender, about 8 more minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving dish. Garnish with extra cinnamon and a dab of honey. Makes 4 servings.

Photo by author

GINGERED CARROTS
Carrots do not always get the love and desire they deserve :), unless you ginger them and roast them in an iron skillet. OMG. They are quick and simple to prepare, yet pretty and delicious to eat!

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3–4 large carrots, peeled, slice into coins
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (go with 1/4 or more if you really, really like nutmeg)
1/3 cup vegetable broth, low sodium
1–2 Tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION
Place a large iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and spread all over pan. Add carrots, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir well to blend and continue cooking for about 8 minutes. Add broth and cook for 5 more minutes. Add honey, stir and cook until carrots are tender, about 8 more minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving dish. Garnish with extra cinnamon and a dab of honey. Makes 4 servings.

Wow, I did not eat any vegetables today ~how did this happen?

🥦Plan ahead ~always put them on your shopping list. Always.
🥕Prep extra when cooking ~double or triple how much you will eat in one sitting, so you have extra for your next sitting or snack.
🥒Nothing is wrong with the pre-cut pre-prepped veggies. Someone else did the work for you. How lovely.
🧊The freezer is your friend. It wants to keep you happy and healthy, so it will keep your frozen veggies for you on hand, whenever you need them. So kind.
🍝My favorite pasta dish only calls for 1 cup of fresh spinach. Double, triple, go big on your veggies in any recipe. And it can still be your favorite.

No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you are beautiful. ~ Michelle Obama

For comments, thoughts, requests or anything else you feel the need to share, please do: amy@rebelliousrd.com

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A nutrition expert and middle child, I am writing to promote health and wellbeing, recipes and tips in a relatable, slightly rebellious fashion.