Jill Reid | Kitchen Spirit

picture of green vegetables broccoli asparagas green beans cucumber kale lettuce it's easy being green kitchen spirit jill reid

Especially when it comes to vegetables. We all know they’re good for you and research tells us to include 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables in our daily diet. Not an easy task in our grab-and-go, pop-and-serve, drive-through lifestyle. And if you have a fussy eater in your house (my husband prefers the word “choosey”), preparing tasty versions of these health boosters can often be a bit of a challenge.

Fortunately, there are lots of choices in the natural food arena to satisfy the most discerning palate. And with a creative blend of spices and ingredients, you’ll discover new ways to bring nutritious veggies to the table—and watch them disappear.

Here are seven of my top picks, along with a few quick and easy preparation tips. Be sure to buy organic whenever possible for healthier options.

Broccoli
The great news about the health benefits of broccoli is spreading. Maybe I’m optimistic, but I’ve been noticing more men in the local produce aisle buying broccoli, without guilt or embarrassment. We smile at each other, nod our heads in shared acknowledgement, and confidently stock up on what is likely the most well-known of the green veggies. Aside from its high nutrient and vitamin levels, it’s only 31 calories per cup, and has more protein than most other vegetables. In our home, broccoli is a daily staple. In fact, I’m pretty sure my husband likes it more than I do—almost.

Tips:
Toss raw broccoli into salads or include in a fresh veggie tray. Add to soups, stir frys, and rice dishes for a nutrient power punch. For a quick and delicious meal side, steam broccoli lightly, then drizzle with lemon juice for a fresh, colorful dish.

Quick and easy bake: Combine broccoli with cauliflower, sliced carrots, and mushrooms in a bowl. Add organic chia seeds, organic dried cranberries, paprika, and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive or avocado oil and toss. Spread on a baking sheet and cook at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or wrap in foil and grill until done.

Kale
When I first brought kale into our kitchen, lots of eyes began to roll. I knew I’d have to be creative, even a little sneaky, in finding ways to incorporate this super-veggie into our diet. Have faith, it can be done.

Kale is a member of the cabbage family, and a close relative of broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. The most common type is called curly kale or Scots kale, with dark green curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem. Like other leafy greens, kale is high in antioxidants including beta-carotene and vitamin C.

By the way, this is an easy one to freeze. Pack raw, clean, well-rinsed leaves in storage containers or bags for future use. When you’re ready to add a little green to soups, stir frys, rice dishes, or veggie medleys, just head to the freezer, grab a chunk of kale, break it up into small pieces and toss it in!

Tips:
I always buy kale in large bunches to have plenty on hand. Trim the leaves from the stem and rinse well. To include fresh kale in salads, chop into small-ish pieces and toss with romaine, arugula, or spinach. I like to build up salads with cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, celery, onion, and dried fruit (raisins, dates, cranberries). Add a little lemon-vinaigrette dressing and enjoy!

Kale chips: Trim kale from the stem and rinse. Arrange large leaves on a baking sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. (Don’t worry, the pile will shrink down as it cooks.) Sprinkle with salt and pepper and mix to coat. For a kick, add a little chili powder. Bake at 250 degrees until dry. Fair warning – make several trays. These don’t last long in my house!

Zucchini
This is a personal favorite, and I’m always looking for new ways to add zucchini to my recipes. Sliced, diced, sticks, or shredded, there’s no limit to the imagination when it comes to this versatile veggie. Zucchini is a good source of potassium, manganese, and vitamins C and A. Serve it raw or baked/broiled/grilled as a perfect side to any meal.

 

Tips:
Cut thick slices on the diagonal and spread on a baking sheet. Coat lightly with extra virgin olive or avocado oil and sprinkle with organic basil, chia seed, and dried red chili flakes. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes and serve as a side dish or appetizer.

Substitute wide zucchini ribbons or “spiralized” strips in place of regular spaghetti or lasagna noodles for a delicious veggie pasta.

Keep a container of zucchini in your fridge, cut into round chips, sticks, or half-moons and add to a veggie tray – serve with your favorite dip, spread, or hummus

Brussels Sprouts
I remember the first time my mom made brussels sprouts. I remember it because I refused to eat them. They smelled funny and looked like small cabbage heads, which I didn’t like either. Unfortunately, my father loved them, so from time to time they ended up on the dinner table—and my plate. Something told me I might as well learn to like them, since they were destined to become a dinnertime staple.

Here’s the case for this often-dismissed veggie: Brussels sprouts are high in protein. With only 56 calories per cooked cup, they’re packed with vitamin K1 and C. This hearty option also contains folate, manganese, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, choline, copper, vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus and omega-3 fatty acids.

Here’s what I learned: Oven-roasting brussels sprouts brings out their sweet, nutty flavor while diminishing the sulfurous odor and taste.

Tips:
Rinse, remove loose leaves, and trim the ends. Cut the heads in half and place in a bowl with ¼ cup organic dried cranberries and ½ cup sliced mushrooms. Add a pinch of red chili pepper flakes, a teaspoon of organic basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Coat lightly with extra virgin olive oil and mix. (Optional: Add a very light coat of organic paprika after arranging on the baking sheet). Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Mix halfway through. Before serving, sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Peas
I found out early in our relationship that one of my husband’s favorite dishes was English Pea Salad. The problem? I didn’t have a recipe! The frown on his face still haunts me. After a little experimentation, I hit on a winner and my husband’s occasional craving for EPS was satisfied.

Here are a few more reasons this veggie makes the list: Green peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetables around. Rich in health-promoting phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, it’s not only an excellent source of folic acid and essential B-complex vitamins, 100g of fresh peas have just 81 calories and no cholesterol. Add in the benefit of soluble and insoluble fiber and you’ve got the perfect go-to adder for soups, stews, and salads.

Tips:
Buy them fresh or keep a storage container or bag in the freezer. Grab a handful to add a little color and flavor to your favorite dish.

Green Beans
When I was young, one of our parent’s friends had a huge garden. She always planted green beans along the fence line. The vines grew dense and high, and she often invited the neighborhood kids to “pick our vegetable for dinner.” We’d stuff the pods in our pockets and fill our fists, then bring them home in the hopes our mothers could transform them into something magical, like chocolate pudding. I’m still working on that recipe . . .

Check out the info: Green beans are low in calories and fat, and contain no cholesterol. Offering a good source of vitamins A, C, K, B6, and folic acid, they’re also high in fiber and minerals including calcium, silicon, iron, manganese, potassium, and copper.

Tips:
Quick-steam green beans for about 5 minutes. This brings out their peak flavor and texture while retaining their beautifully bright green color.

Trim the ends and place beans in a bowl. Toss with a light coating of extra virgin olive or avocado oil. Add crushed garlic and lemon pepper, and spread on a metal pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Asparagus
I already know what you’re thinking. The after-effects are, well, a little odiferous. Research indicates that during digestion, the vegetable’s amino acids break down into “scented” chemical components and, typically, within 15 minutes of eating asparagus, the odor can be present. Rest assured, if you smell this veggie after eating, you are normal.

Why it’s worth it:  Loaded with nutrients, asparagus is a rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens. Asparagus is one of the top-ranked vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals, and is a good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, and chromium.

Tips:
Asparagas comes in many sizes and colors. Personally, I like thin, green stalks for appetizers as they tend to be more tender.

Rinse and trim spears and toss with extra virgin olive oil and lemon pepper. Place on a piece of foil and sprinkle with organic sliced almonds. Close the foil tightly and bake or grill at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes. Delicious!

For a new way to include asparagus in other dishes, cut spears into 1/2” pieces and add to rice, stews, and salads. And yes, you can freeze cut pieces in storage containers or bags and grab a handful to toss into veggie medleys or soups.

Hope you found a few new ideas your family will love, or at least agree to try. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to subscribe below to receive the latest updates from Kitchen Spirit!


Here are a few handy items to use when preparing your healthy, nutritious veggies. Just click on the photos below for more info and links.