Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eat your veggies!

There is nothing like some tasty fresh vegetables to round out your meals and boost up the leftover power of your frig! If you still have children at home, vegetables can become problematic at mealtimes. After all, who wants to listen to complaining while they are trying to enjoy a relaxing suppertime?
My kids like some vegetables, and they hate some too. That's ok with me -- I can't stand green peas or asparagus, so I can totally relate. I am the little girl who picked the lima beans out of her succotash! The trick is to keep trying out vegetables until you find some you like. My mom -- bless her heart! -- cooked all her veggies to death, completely mushy. No wonder I hated most of them! When I moved out and began cooking for myself, I discovered that there are lots of them I like. So, how to solve the picky eater syndrome?
One thing that works for me is to roast a variety of vegetables, and simply let folks "pick" out the ones they like! If you have not discovered roasted vegetables, it is an easy way to eat your veggies and love them too! Here is the way I like to fix them.

Roasted Vegetables

1 large zucchini, cubed into 1" pieces
2 small yellow "summer" squash, thickly sliced
1 large red onion, halved and cut into thick slices
10 - 15 medium mushrooms, wiped clean
1 green pepper, cut into about 1" pieces
1 red pepper, cut the same way as the green one
1 handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the back of your knife
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. Herbes de Provence spice blend OR a combination of fresh herbs from your garden
(We like a few stems of thyme, a sprig of chopped rosemary and a handful of julienned basil leaves.)
coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Put all of the veg. and the fresh garlic into a large baking dish with the olive oil and toss them gently to get the oil all through the mixture. Add your choice of herbs and toss a little more to distribute. Spread them out evenly in the pan -- they should be in a more or less single layer. Sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan and sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar. Stir them gently, being careful not to mush them up.
Don't substitute any other vinegar -- you must use balsamic. You can leave this out, if you prefer, but we love the tangy hit it gives the dish. I use a clay baker for this dish, which gives everything a nice color.

The beauty of this dish is that almost any combination of fresh vegetables would work, this is just one that my family likes. These vegetable are also available year round, which is really nice. The boys pick out the mushrooms and tomatoes, so more for dad and me! We grow fresh herbs and in our mild Richmond winters, my thyme and rosemary stay green almost all winter. Even during our recent snow, I lifted up the thyme and found green sprigs under the frozen brown tips! If you don't grow herbs, I highly recommend it, but more on that in a later blog!

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