FOURTEEN WAYS TO DISGUISE VEGETABLES IN YOUR DAILY COOKING
by Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© January 2012, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
The most important difficulty in following a nutritional balancing program is to eat enough cooked vegetables. Eating about 70% of your diet by volume as cooked vegetables is one of the most difficult challenges for everyone. It can be especially difficult for parents who must deal with fussy children who refuse to eat many vegetables.
The following are simple suggestions to disguise or have fun adding many more vegetables to the diet. Play with these ideas, adding your own creative spirit. To save time preparing many of the dishes below, in the morning cook up a large quantity of vegetables in a steamer, perhaps, and then chop them and place in a plastic storage container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, chop them up first and stir fry them before storing them in the refrigerator. They will still be fresh enough all day for use at breakfast, perhaps, and for lunch and supper as well.
The main idea, as you will see, is to think “cooked vegetables” whenever you are making a dish.
COOKED VEGETABLE CHILE
Instead of making a chile mainly with beans, substitute many more cooked vegetables such as chopped onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, greens or others. One can still have turkey, lamb or beef in the chile, but it will now be much richer in vegetables.
To make this dish, first cook the vegetables, as they take much longer than cooking ground meats. After cooking the vegetables, chop them finely or blend them for a few seconds or more to reduce them to a chunky consistency. Then add ground turkey, ground lamb or ground beef, which should not require more than a minute or two of cooking to be ready. Add a few herbs or spices if desired. Do not overcook the meats. Always add them last.
COOKED VEGETABLE PIZZA
I am not sure why, but many children, along with many adults, seem to love pizza. Try making your own pizza with a thin crust that can be a blue corn tortilla or store-bought, if needed. The key, however, is to then have a thick layer of chopped up pre-cooked vegetables. Top this with some oregano or other spices, a little tomato sauce and perhaps some tasty raw grated cheese.
One could alternate with other toppings such as fresh cooked chicken, or turkey, roasted vegetables, or even a little lamb chop or other meat. This is a little more trouble to prepare, but not that much and it can help a child or adult to eat a lot more vegetables.
Drawbacks of this dish are that it involves cooking the cheese, which is not optimal. It also involves tomato sauce, which is very yin and a nightshade vegetable, which is also not optimal. Once a week or so, however, might be fine for many children.
VEGETABLE ENCHILADAS OR TACOS
Instead of filling taco shells or enchiladas with salad, beans or pork, fill them with mostly chopped up cooked vegetables. One can also add a little chicken, beans, sauce, cheese, a little rice or other filling to disguise the cooked vegetables.
Always use blue or yellow organic corn tortillas, and never flour tortillas. If possible, add the cheese at the end when you are ready to serve the enchiladas, so the cheese is not cooked. Cheese is best eaten as raw as possible.
COOKED VEGETABLE TACO SALAD
Many children love pasta salad or taco salad. However, instead of using raw vegetables, use cooked ones such as chopped up broccoli, chopped carrots, onion, turnip, rutabaga or others. Cook the vegetables first. You can serve them hot, or let them cool down. Add a few broken apart blue corn chips, if possible, or you could add some rice pasta, which is not as good as blue corn chips. If needed, top off the cooked salad with some fresh grated cheese, and perhaps some pesto sauce or olive oil, or other salad dressing. You will have a delicious cooked taco salad loaded with cooked vegetables.
VEGETABLE STEWS OR CASSEROLE DISHES
This is a wonderful place to disguise vegetables. Start with some stew meat, maybe with some gravy, and add chopped up vegetables. Cook in a crock pot or in the oven until everything blends together and it all tastes like the meat. Lamb is an excellent stew meat.
Don’t overcook the meat, as it denatures the protein too much. The stew or casserole should cook in an hour or less, if possible. That should allow enough time to cook most vegetables as well. Otherwise, cook the vegetables first if they require more time.
COOKED VEGETABLE SUSHI
For those who just cannot stay away from sushi, make some nori rolls at home filled with cooked vegetables, perhaps with a little cooked rice in them as well. One could even get creative and add a mashed or whole sardine to the vegetables, along with soy sauce or other flavoring.
While nori has more toxic metals than we like, this would be far better than regular sushi that contains tuna, ahi, raw fish and other less desirable ingredients.
COOKED VEGETABLE-CONTAINING MEAT LOAF
When you make a meat loaf, begin with a lot of pre-cooked, chopped up vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add to this some natural ground beef, ground turkey, or ground lamb. Then add some herbs, a little salt and maybe other flavoring to disguise the taste of the vegetables. If needed, add some egg to keep it from falling apart. Then bake the loaf to create an excellent family meal.
The only drawback to meat loaves is that eggs, needed to keep the loaf together, should preferably not be overcooked, and in fact should be eaten mushy or soft. However, a meat loaf that is filled with vegetables is still an excellent dish.
Vegetables quiches are already in vogue and enjoyed by many young people. Simply add a whole lot of vegetables to your quiche crust, rather than a lot of cheese or a lot of anything else. This is a favorite among many teenagers and children.
The drawback is that it involves overcooking the eggs and cooking the cheese, neither of which are ideal. However, once again it is far better than what most children and adults are eating today. Use as little eggs and cheese as possible, focusing on the broccoli and other vegetables with just enough cheese or eggs to hold it together.
THICK VEGETABLE SOUPS
Adding loads of vegetables to all kinds of soups is a simple and excellent idea. For fussy eaters, disguise the vegetables by cooking them in the soup for at least 10-20 minutes. Then puree the soup so that you cannot recognize the vegetables.
Drawbacks to watery soups are that having too much liquid with meals weakens digestion. So use as little water as possible, making a thick soup. Or you can thicken a soup by adding arrowroot powder to it. This is far more nutritious than adding corn starch as a thickener.
If possible, avoid using much tomato in soups. Tomato is a nightshade vegetable that is quite irritating for the intestines, and very yin. Instead use a base of onions, celery, or other sweet vegetables.
COOKED VEGETABLE OMELETS
First chop up and cook two or three vegetables well. Chop the vegetables up into fairly small pieces. Then add beaten eggs, and perhaps some simple spices, to create an omelet. This is a superb dish. While it does not disguise the vegetables, often children and adults will accept some vegetables in an omelet.
The only possible drawback to this dish is do not overcook the eggs. Try to have the omelet a little mushy, as it is best that eggs be eaten soft, not hard.
STUFFED CABBAGE, GRAPE LEAVES OR OTHER LEAVES
This is more of a fun dish and one can involve children in making it. It does not so much disguise the vegetables as it is about having fun with cooked vegetables.
Stuffed cabbage is made by first cooking up several vegetables and chopping them into small pieces. Then maybe add some cooked brown rice, perhaps some ground lamb or turkey, and a little yogurt, cream or olive oil to hold it together.
Then wash some large cabbage leaves. Spread them out on the counter, place some of the stuffing inside the leaf, and roll it up. Secure it with a toothpick. Then bake the rolled up leaves in a toaster oven or large oven for at least 10 minutes to create stuffed cabbage.
You can do the same with grape leaves to make dolmas or stuffed grape leaves. It is a bit of work, but hopefully a fun dish and you can make enough for two meals.
A vegetable pie is somewhat like a deep-dish pizza. Begin with a preferably wheat-free crust, though if you cannot find one any thin crust will do. Place it in a pan than is 1-2 inches deep. Cook the crust according to the directions.
Then add your chopped up cooked vegetables – whichever you wish or whichever your children like the most. Top it with some cheese, or perhaps a little tomato sauce or other toppings. Even chunks of natural chicken or turkey sausage could be used as toppings. Place in an oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and to warm everything up.
VEGETABLE FRITTERS OR VEGETABLE PANCAKES
Some readers have had tasty vegetable fritters, or potato pancakes, perhaps. I would suggest not using potatoes, however. Instead, cook some of your favorite vegetables. Then chop them up into small pieces. Mix with some egg to hold everything together, and add some seasoning if you wish. You might need other thickeners such as a little arrowroot powder, but perhaps not. To make them sweet, you could add some cooked sweet potato or yam, and this would help hold it together, but this should not be necessary each time. It depends on the vegetables you use and how you cook them.
Then form the mixture into patties or fritters, and place these on a frying pan with some butter or olive oil on the pan. Cook lightly on both sides for five minutes or so until they are golden brown.
ADD GREENS TO YOUR CARROT JUICE
While carrot juice alone is excellent, a way to cut the sweetness, add unusual flavors, and most important, add more vegetables is to include a few spinach leaves, Swiss chard leaves, kale leaves, a piece of turnip, celery, rutabaga, or others. Rotate the vegetables, adding just one or two in each day’s carrot juice. This is often an effective way to disguise the green vegetables. True they are not cooked, but in the juice they are fine.
For many other recipe ideas in accordance with nutritional balancing principles, read Joyful Cooking by Joy Feldman.