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Resolved to veg out

By SHANNON WATKINS

shannon@southwesttimes.com

 

It’s 2014. You are an adult. You will behave like one and Be Healthy and Eat Your Vegetables Like A Grownup For Once. This is one of your resolutions. You are Very Serious. You are Not Kidding Around This Time. Not like last year, when you found yourself at the beginning of February with a freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s pints whose provenance you could not begin to explain.

I personally have resolved this year to eat more ice cream (I need calcium and I like attainable goals) and try to hit the gym often enough that they haven’t redone the décor every time I show up, although other than that, I’m not pushing my luck. But more veggies is never a bad idea; it’s just a question of how you work it.

Whipping up a curry from a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, or ordering steamed ones with plain white rice from your favorite Chinese takeout, are good single meal options, but maybe you have to feed other people, and maybe some of those people have a tendency to wrinkle their noses at anything spicier than mild jarred salsa, or you don’t have the money for regular takeout for a tableful of your loved ones.

And, let’s be honest, the appeal of culinary asceticism only extends so far. Dinners of humble, simple vegetable broth and hot green tea are great for washing away the aftertaste of rich, heavy holiday fare for a couple of weeks, but by the time Superbowl Sunday rolls around, nobody’s going to want to watch the halftime show over flax nuggets, brown rice and kale smoothies.

The trick is to work the good things in with the regular meals instead of going overboard and trying to survive on sprouts alone. Yes, there are some high-calorie ingredients in the recipes I’m giving you this week, but they serve to create  pleasant overall dishes that are worth dining on, again and again. And unlike crash-diet-style foods that you’ll only eat as long as you can force yourself to find pleasure in self-denial, these are satisfactory enough to enjoy all year long.

The first dish you can use with carrots you peeled and sliced on your own, or just use “baby” carrots (did you know those are merely regular-sized carrots they whittle down? Whatever for?), or use those bagged crinkle-cut carrot slices, although frankly I personally think the only vegetable matter that should be crinkle-cut is potato chips.

The second one you can always change to a lighter dish just by taking your steamed broccoli and tossing it with lemon juice, salt or soy sauce, red pepper flakes and some sesame seeds, which is particularly nice if there are Asian notes in the main dish they’re to accompany. But in this cold, cold weather, a heavier casserole that sticks to your ribs is perfectly acceptable.

Brown Sugar Dill Carrots

3 cups peeled chopped carrots

2 Tbsps. butter

2 Tbsps. brown sugar

1½ Tbsps. chopped fresh dill

½ tsp. Salt

½ tsp. Pepper, black or white

 

Boil carrots in just enough water to cover. After water begins to boil, turn heat down to medium and simmer until water is evaporated and carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Add other ingredients; toss lightly and stir until combined.

Broccoli Casserole

2 10-oz. bags of frozen chopped broccoli

1 can cream of mushroom soup

2 Tbsps. minced onion

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook broccoli according to package directions (steaming in the microwave is usually fastest) and drain in a colander. Beat eggs in a large bowl and mix in other ingredients thoroughly, then stir in broccoli. Pour into a greased 9” x 13” casserole dish and bake for 40 minutes.

My stepfather loves this dish and so we usually don’t alter it, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say you could replace the canned soup by sauteeing a carton of sliced button mushrooms with maybe a chopped shallot or clove of garlic in a little olive oil, and adding this to a homemade bechamel sauce (melt 4 Tbsps. of butter over medium-low heat and stir in 2 Tbsps. flour, cooking a few minutes until it’s a light tan; then whisk in about 1½ cups of whole milk and stir over medium heat until any lumps are melted and the mixture thickens; add a pinch of salt and pepper and maybe a hint of fresh-grated nutmeg). Possibly the mayonnaise could be replaced by low fat Greek yogurt, as well, or you could do half mayo and half yogurt.

In particular, the carrots are a nice accompaniment to a simple roast fish filet, from a flaky cod to a hearty slab of salmon, although they can work alongside most anything. And however you do it, the broccoli casserole goes pretty well with a good lean cut of beef, or roasted herbed chicken breasts, or a turkey meatloaf.

The basis of any good change in your diet or health regimen is that you make it something pleasurable and workable without having to kill yourself to get it done or greet it with feigned delight instead of honest disgust. I can’t help you get to the gym in the new year, but I can suggest you try these, and any other veggie dishes you find that suit your palate, as a worthy first step in that direction.

And don’t forget the importance of getting your calcium on a daily basis, either. Come on over to my place, I have a freezer just full of the stuff. Do you take yours plain or with chocolate syrup?

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