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Veggie Tales: Rutabaga

25 Dec

Merry Christmas to my lovely readers – I hope you’re all having a blessed day! This marks the last installment of the Veggie Tales series of 2011. But don’t fret, there will be new and exciting things for 2012 too!

I picked the rutabaga as my final veggie and though I’d never eaten it before, it holds a special place in my heart. For some reason, a nickname my parents had for me growing up was “rutabaga”. (Mom or Dad, feel free to expound upon the reason behind this!) Whether it was short for Rebecca somehow or completely random, it stuck and I oddly enjoyed being nicknamed after an often forgotten vegetable.

The rutabaga is a root vegetable that is apparently a cross between turnips and cabbage. It’s thought to have originated in Sweden and the name comes from the Swedish word for “root bag”. How lovely. 🙂 They are eaten more commonly in other countries and even are carved into lanterns in Scotland and Ireland at Halloween time to ward of bad spirits. Interesting!

I decided to do a basic roast on the rutabagas to get a real sample of their flavor. They are very hard when they’re raw and can be a little hard to cut. Once roasted, they had a really nice texture from the crisp exterior to the soft interior. The taste was a little surprising – they were slightly sweet and reminded me of a squash-like flavor. Overall I was very impressed with this vegetable and would love to make it again! Here’s what Jason thought:

“Hello all – last veggie for the year. *tear* The rutabaga was something I have never had either, and thankfully after a year of veggies, I was able to jump right into this one. It tasted a little like a butternut squash, but more firm. I too would definitely try it again. This year has brought a great range of new veggies. Some we will add more to our menu and some…well I can at least say I’ve tried them! I’m sure this won’t be the last new veggie forever, but for now, thank you all and thank you to my lovely wife.”

Roasted Rutabaga

Ingredients:
1 large rutabaga
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel the rutabaga and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Toss the cubes in a bowl with the olive oil and coat evenly. (add more oil if needed) Add the remaining ingredients and toss to evenly coat. Put the rutabaga on a lined baking sheet and roast on the middle oven rack for 1 hour, stirring halfway through so they don’t stick or burn. Serve while warm and enjoy!

Source: A Beckster original

Veggie Tales: Artichoke

30 Nov

Friends, let me just start by saying that artichokes are weird. Spiky exterior, fuzzy interior, and a soft heart – God truly has a creative mind! 🙂 My only encounter with artichokes till now had been as part of a spinach-artichoke dip or some pieces added to a pasta dish ordered at a restaurant. Needless to say, I’d never used them myself. I had to do some research before cutting into this veggie because I had NO idea what to expect.

First you need to trim the stem and take off the lower leaves that are too tough to be edible. Then, you cut/trim the other leaves to remove the pointed edge. Once it’s been cooked, you spoon out the fuzzy “choke” and below is the hidden treasure, the heart! There are different ways you can cook an artichoke, but I wanted to stay basic so just steamed it in a pot on the stove. I also learned that you need to add some lemon or an other acid to prevent it from turning brown in the process. (mine still turned a little brown)

The artichoke turned really soft after cooking, and perhaps I cooked it a tad too long. It was kind of fascinating scooping out the fuzzy choke and then revealing the artichoke heart. What an interesting plant! We took the leaves and dipped them in a little melted butter, which was the advice I’d seen. Maybe because it was a small artichoke, but I didn’t get much ‘meat’ off of the leaves. But what I did get was rather tasty. Be careful not to use too much butter, because it’ll totally mask the artichoke flavor. The texture is very different too – when you slide the leaves between your teeth to get the meat, it’s soft and smooth and you wonder how the prickly plant became a delicacy! Overall, I liked it, but it takes a lot of work to get there. I probably won’t cook with whole artichokes much in the future, but am glad that I now know how! Here’s what my hubby, Jason, thought:

“I would have never tried an artichoke before this year. Not in a million billion years before this year (just ask my family members). But when I saw we were just eating the leaf part I thought, “okay, this won’t be bad, it’s just like a salad right?” Wrong! When my wife showed me how to eat the artichoke, I was rather intimidated by it. Sliding something on my teeth just gives me that shiver down my spine. Luckily, when I finally did it myself, it was smooth and easy. I kept asking Becky before I tried it what it tasted like. She couldn’t describe it. After I finally tried it, I can understand why. The best way I can describe the taste is like when you taste green beans; it’s not strong, but it’s not weak either. It has a taste all to its own, but nothing that even the pickiest eater could say they wouldn’t like. I actually stayed away from the butter after trying it plain. I also felt it was such a waste to get just the “meat” of the leaf and then chunk the rest away (we may just have to start a compost heap). Overall, I enjoyed it, especially while it was still warm, and would eat it again!”

Steamed Artichoke

Ingredients:
1 artichoke
1 lemon
Dash of salt

Directions:
Trim the artichoke and place it top down (stem up) in a medium pot. Cut the lemon into quarters, squeeze in the juice, and add to the pot. Add a dash of salt and add about 1 1/2 inch of water to the pot. Cover the pot with a lid and turn to medium heat. Cook for 30-40 minutes depending on the size, checking occasionally, until the stem is tender and leaves easily come off. When done, put artichoke in a strainer face down and let it sit for a minute. Then carefully separate the leaves to remove the choke. Serve while hot with some melted butter or however you desire. Enjoy!

Source: Learned the basic technique from Schnucks Cooks

Veggie Tales: Beets

31 Oct

The “second veggies” for this month are beets! I’d never tried a beet before, and honestly, they make me giggle because I always think of Dwight from The Office. Anyone else? 🙂

Anyways, when looking for beet recipes, I hoped to find something simple and unique. And I found just that – baked beet chips! These were super easy to make, especially with the Kichenaid slicer/shredder attachment that came with my mixer over a year ago which I just now finally used. These are a fantastic healthy snack and so rich in color!

The taste wasn’t what I was expecting. I’ve always heard beets get a bad rep, claiming that they taste like dirt. While they do have that mild earthy taste, they were also slightly sweet in my opinion. All in all, I’m a big fan! Here’s what my hubby thought:

“These are light, crisp, and just a hint of beet. These looked like rose petals meet wood chips with the circular lines seen on the chips. But you really can’t taste the beet and with just a hint of salt, these are a great alternative for a snack instead of potato chips.”

Baked Beet Chips

Ingredients:
3 medium beets
Salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Chop off the top of the beet to remove from stems. Peel the beets. Slice the beets very thinly with a mandolin, Kitchenaid slicer, sharp knife, or whatever you have! Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the slices. Lightly sprinkle salt on the beets and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, flip slices over, and bake for another 15 minutes, or until crisp. Remove from oven and place chips on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Source: In Sock Monkey Slippers

Veggie Tales: Parsnip

12 Oct

So, this slacker definitely forgot to do a Veggie Tales feature in September. Call me distracted or scatterbrained, but somehow it completely slipped my mind. BUT – the good news is – you’ll get a double dose of vegetables this month! (doesn’t sound like the best reward, does it?) So, the “September” veggie of the month is parsnip! I’d never tried this vegetable, in fact, the only time I seemed to hear about it was on food competition shows where they oftentimes add a smear of parsnip puree to their dish.

Parsnip is basically the albino brother of the carrot. They have a similar shape and texture and while the flavors are alike, the parsnip has more of a “bite” to it. It’s hard to describe – kind of a spicy/peppery taste. I used a simple recipe to show off the parsnip’s unique carrot-like flavor. This blended soup is perfect as a warm fall dish and is quite healthy to boot. Use a piece of toasted bread to sop it up or put it in a bread bowl for a more filling meal. (I made larger pretzel rolls and hollowed them out as a bread bowl – amazing!) Here’s my hubby’s take on the veggie of the month:

“Overall: Not bad at all. I too have heard of this veggie, but honestly never knew what it even looked like. My wife gave it to me raw and as she said it had a “bite” to it more than say a carrot does. However, to me it seemed more “minty” how it played with the back of my taste buds the same way mint does to me. When I saw the soup I thought, “Oh boy! Baby food!” But don’t knock it till you try it. I actually ate the whole soup and bread bowl. Parsnip will be a veggie I will have again!”

Parsnip Soup

Ingredients:
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 lb parsnips (about 2 large parsnips), peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Paprika
Dash of salt and pepper

Directions:
Combine the broth, parsnips, onion, garlic, and salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the parsnips are tender, about 25 minutes.

Remove saucepan from heat and let the soup cool completely. Pour the soup into a blender in batches and puree. (be VERY careful if it’s still hot – hold the lid down tight otherwise it will splash out!) Return the blended soup to the pan and simmer until it’s heated through. Ladle it into bowls and sprinkle with paprika. Enjoy! (Points Plus Value: 1 cup of soup = 2 Points Plus)

Source: Slightly adapted from Weight Watchers Just 5 Cookbook

Veggie Tales: Bok Choy

31 Aug

Bok Choy is one of those mysterious and underrated vegetables that most people randomly see in the produce section while on their way to the carrots. This Chinese vegetable is in the cabbage family and looks like a combination of celery and romaine lettuce. Warning: I’m currently obsessed with Instagram, so check out my beautiful head of bok choy:

The crisp stalk and vibrant leafy greens are chocked full of Vitamins A and C and is low in calories. It make the perfect side dish for an Asian inspired meal and is super simple to cook. Just like kale and fresh spinach, the greens wilt and the stalks become tender when sauteed and soak up whatever flavors you add. I thought the dish was quite tasty, though the recipe I followed called for way too much soy sauce in my opinion, hence the not-so-lovely brown hue in the photo, so I scaled it back a bit. Here’s my hubby’s take on the side dish:

“There’s little more I can say that my lovely wife has said already. The look and taste is similar to kale to me, and I think I would enjoy it more while it’s more fresh. The soy sauce was too powerful for me to really enjoy it I believe. I will want to give this veggie another shot in the near future.”

Soy Ginger Garlic Bok Choy

Ingredients:
1 head of fresh bok choy, washed and chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Sesame seeds
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
In a large pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook them for about one minute. Add the bok choy and soy sauce and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle sesame seeds on top for garnish.

Source: Slightly adapted from Food Network

Veggie Tales: Spinach

26 Jul

My love of spinach began in high school – I actually never touched the stuff till I worked at Cici’s Pizza and decided to be brave and try a bite of the spinach alfredo pizza. Granted, anything mixed with creamy alfredo sauce is delicious, but it was love at first bite. Yet another awesome food that I’d missed out on for so long! Since then, I’ll take spinach any way I can get it – on pizza of course, mixed with pasta, in a quiche, as a fresh salad, or even a big bowl of it simply sauteed. Delish. My hubby on the other hand…not a huge spinach fan. He’s grown to like it fresh in salad form, but cooked spinach gives him the creeps. On a whim, I decided to see if having his wife cook it would make any difference. Let’s see how that panned out:

“My memories of spinach were two: Popeye and the cafeteria. Both did not make the vegetable look appetizing to me. Becky talking about spinach on pizza at CiCi’s reminded me that when I used to go, I’d think, “Who in their right mind would even eat that?!?!?”. As I have begun to try new things, I wanted to try spinach. My wife started me off easy with just a fresh salad, and it was freaking FANTASTIC (especially with the strawberry dressing she made). I took baby steps to finally eat it at its most healthy state which is cooked. I tried various small bites and while the taste was not bad at all, it was the texture I couldn’t get past. The slimy, sticking in my mouth sensation did not do it for me. The nice thing is spinach can be masked in a bunch of foods and I think I’ll be more willing to try it in different things now, but on it’s own as a side dish I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.”

Simple Sauteed Spinach

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Package of fresh baby spinach (10 oz)
Dash of salt and pepper

Directions:
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add the olive oil and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Serve warm and enjoy!

Source: A Beckster original

Veggie Tales: Brussels Sprouts

30 Jun

Poor brussels sprouts never get any love. They’re definitely one of those veggies that people either really love or hate. Most seem to dislike this cute little cruciferous, no matter how they’re cooked or seasoned. I’ve actually only eaten brussels sprouts 2 or 3 times in my life, but have liked them each time because they were prepared wonderfully. I found a simple recipe that included ingredients I already had on hand. I really liked them – the balsamic flavor wasn’t too overpowering and the texture was perfect – crisp but not too chewy. My hubby very kindly ate a “no thank you” portion. Here’s his take and a personal brussels sprout story:

“Ah, the dreaded brussels sprouts. I fall in the “hate” category. To be fair though, I truly don’t hate them. (mushrooms fall into that category) I found out I was eating this veggie this month and a few of my friends told me if I liked cabbage then I might like brussels sprouts, but sadly I do not. The taste is just too strong for me to enjoy and I really forced myself to eat a half dozen.

Quick side story: My dad’s parents forced their children to eat brussels sprouts. If they didn’t eat them at dinner, they would be waiting for them for breakfast to finish. GROSS! The real kicker is my grandparents hated them and never even ate them. When my dad, aunt, and uncle grew up, they asked why they were forced to eat them. My grandparents said they just read it somewhere and that was that. Thankfully, my father didn’t pass it down to our family. 🙂 I’d love to know if there are any readers out there that were forced to eat a veggie or food that you hated!”

I’m curious too – do any of you have a bad childhood food memory?

Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:
1 package/bunch Brussels Sprouts
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Dash of Salt and Pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Peel off the outer beat-up layer of the brussels sprouts and discard. Trim off the end of each sprout and cut the sprout in half. Toss the brussels sprouts in a large bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. (just enough to coat, add more if needed) Oil a sheet pan as needed and spread out the sprouts, cut side down. Roast them for about 15 minutes. Turn them over to cut side up and roast for another 10 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm.

Source: Slightly adapted from White on Rice Couple