5 Ways to Level Up Your Veggie Game


Don’t tell my kids, but I struggled with vegetables as a kid.

My mom is a great cook, who tried her hardest to pique our interest in vegetables. She prepared them every which way but only managed to get raw carrots and corn on the cob (does corn count?) past our tightly sealed lips. Texture issues were – and still are – a major barrier for me when it comes to vegetable mush-level.

It wasn’t until I moved out and cooked my own vegetables that I started to develop a taste for them and explore new ways of veggie prep.

Then the unthinkable happened: I started looking forward to the veggie more than the main dish. The same veggies, matured taste, and new ways to prepare them have made all the difference.

I can’t promise your kids will love these. I have one son who loves the broccoli, used to like the brussels, and can’t stand the asparagus. The other is on the one-bite plan for all. But it’s worth a shot.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to level up and enjoy fresh vegetables again.

Cast iron Brussels sprouts. What a bad rap these cruciferous mini cabbages endure. What’s the number one vegetable bashed by children’s TV shows and books of our youth? But they’ve made a comeback. People are passionate about how they prepare them, too, because they didn’t like them until they found a magical cooking method (myself included).

For me, a seasoned cast iron pan on the stove is the path to a perfectly caramelized sprout. Olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and a sprinkling of romano cheese are all you need for these mouthwatering gems.

Air fryer cauliflower. I can count on one hand how many times I ate cauliflower before I owned an air fryer. I assumed its purpose was to bulk up a bag of mixed veggies on the cheap. I have a friend who once told me she could eat a cauliflower “steak” for a meal. I thought that was weird… until I experimented with this recipe and an air fryer.

Paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and olive oil plus 12 minutes in the air fryer turn these fair-hued florets into caramelized magic. (The addition of butter is delicious, but I usually just replace it with another tablespoon of olive oil).

Sauteed green beans. I struggle with canned or mushy green beans. Some people love them for their ease and the fact that it’s acceptable to cook them with bacon. Once I discovered I could back off on cook time and preserve their crispness, I became a fan. While we often just steam our beans for simplicity (see broccoli tip below), sauteeing them in a skillet is a tasty upgrade.

This recipe isn’t exactly what I follow (we go lighter on the garlic), but it’s the same idea: steam the fresh beans in shallow water and cook over high heat with butter and garlic. They’re a crowd pleaser and without too much effort.

Oven-roasted asparagus. I never thought I’d like asparagus. I can’t say I love it now, but I like it when roasted to crisp-tender in the oven. I typically start with stalks on the skinnier side, spread them on a foil-covered cookie sheet, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt and fresh pepper, and roast until fork tender. A post-roast splash of lemon and parmesan completes the dish.

Steamed broccoli. A frozen steamed bag of broccoli is a quick and healthy method when you’re low on time. No shame in the frozen game. If you can spare five more minutes, I recommend buying and chopping broccoli crowns and adding them to a pot with an inch of water. Turn the dial to high, bring them to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium-low to steam for five-ish minutes.

I stir them occasionally for even steaming, drain the water when crisp-tender, and season as desired. I often stick with salt and pepper, but a sprinkling of parmesan makes most veggies a bit easier to eat.

I hope these tips give you a few new ideas for keeping your veggie game fresh. Especially at a time of year when we all need a little post-holiday-binge nutrition boost. Tweak these recipes as desired, and swap veggies and cooking methods to see what you like.

But please don’t serve me any peas or lima beans. Some veggie aversions can’t be fixed.


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