Foodie Fix

It’s All About The Vegetables, Baby!

Parents have always emphasized the importance of vegetables to our growing bodies; teachers taught about it, and made us sing songs about vegetables to make sure it sticks in our heads; doctors re -emphasized it. 

Although most adults outgrow the phase of not liking vegetables, some still struggle eating them, or rather they eat them as though it is medicine. The biggest reason being vegetables are often cooked in the wrong way. 

Apart from losing their nutrients, vegetables if not cooked in the right way can change the original desired taste, color and texture. Knowing how to cook each type of vegetable ensures that you are retaining the nutrients and also enjoying them.

Depending on the type of a vegetable, the method/cooking style will be different and the time it should be cooked. As a rule of thumb, vegetables should never be boiled unless it’s a soup or stew, because most nutrients and flavor are lost in the water in that process. 

Below is a guide to different types of vegetables, and the best way to cook them.

Red, Orange, Yellow and some Green veggies

What they are

This group includes carrots, bell peppers, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and tomatoes. 

How to cook them

These colorful vegetables are one of the best sources of carotenoids which is vital for eye health. We get the most benefit from them when heated, for that’s when these nutrients become more absorbable in our bodies. 

  • Raw tomato bruschetta dip
    (courtesy Lets Talk Vegan)

Raw: Tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers can be eaten raw: season them with salt and eat as they are for a snack; alternatively make a dip like guacamole (avocado mash), hummus and as an accompanying dip.

Steaming: This is a method of cooking where food is placed in a food steamer, above boiling water. Locally, it would be put on top of other foods in a separate container while cooking to avoid direct contact with water. It is believed to be a healthier way of cooking since the vegetables retain most of the nutrients. All the above vegetables can be cooked using this method, while the time varies depending on the vegetable.

Roasting: The above vegetables can also be cooked in an oven: drizzle a little oil and season with salt and pepper.

Sauté: To achieve best results, veggies are blanched (briefly put in boiling water) and strained as this helps them soften. Next, place in a pan with a little oil, and season to finish it up. Veggies cooked this way should retain some hardness or “crunch” to maximize on their taste. 


Leafy greens veggies 

What they are

Kale, spinach, swiss chard and dodo (leaf amaranth).

How to cook them

These veggies are high in antioxidants, full of minerals, a natural source of fiber and improves your metabolism among other things.

The best cooking technique for these is sautéing briefly in the pan with a little oil and seasoning, for a maximum of 15 minute.

Apart from Dodo, the rest can be added raw in a salad and they can be steamed for people trying to avoid using oil. 


  • Aubergines/ eggplant are popular in Rwanda, & members of the purple vegetables group.
    (photo courtesy Photo by Mark Niles

Purple veggies 

What they are

Beet, red cabbage, red onions and egg plants/ ‘aurbergine’.

How to cook them

Purple veggies contain anthocyanins that are anti-inflammatory and may lower the risk of heart disease. Eggplants should not be peeled.

This group of vegetables are best when stir- fried, roasted or steamed.


Cruciferous veggies 

What they are

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower. 

How to cook them

They are low-calorie, rich in folate, vitamins and fiber. 

Blanching: bring a pot of water to boil and drop in the veggies in for 5 minutes then strain, and season them. This makes the veggies bright in color and retains their crunch and taste.

They can also be steamed and sautéed, or added raw in salads. 


Recipes 

Roasted broccoli 

1 bunch of broccoli 

4 garlic cloves

Olive oil

Salt and pepper 

Grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

2 tablespoons of lemon juice 

Roasted peanuts 

Instructions 

Step 1: Clean and cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, then place them on a large oven pan.

Step 2: Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with some olive oil. 

Step 3: Roast for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven at 425 degree F.

Step 4: Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and the peanuts.  Serve hot.


Glazed carrots 

6 medium carrots 

1 tablespoon butter

1 table spoon brown sugar or honey

Salt 

1 table spoon chopped parsley

Instructions

Step 1: clean, peel and cut the vegetables in slices or sticks 

Step 2: place the carrots in a large pan and add water. Bring the carrots to a simmer

Step 3: Cook for 8- 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, drain any excess water

Step 4: Add the butter, honey and salt to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until a sauce is formed 

Step 5: Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot as a side dish 

I hope that with this knowledge about vegetables, you will be able to make palatable veggies dishes that you and your family will enjoy. Bon appetit!

{Featured image: Glazed carrots courtesy of RecipeTin Eats}


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