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Lately, in conversations around our home, my children have been discussing “hacks.” Not really sure what that meant, they decided to enlighten me with some “Life Hack” videos on YouTube. Most of them were interesting, to say the least, but not very practical. They did get me thinking however about hacks that could be really useful and beneficial to our health. Cue eye rolling from my offspring…
Whether you like veggies as much as I do or not, eating more of them is something everyone (no matter what diet/lifestyle/program you are following) can agree on. Vegetables provide so many of the essential nutrients we need to thrive. I enjoy having a variety of vegetables, prepared different ways throughout the week, to keep things interesting. However, as prepping and cooking veggies is generally what takes up most of my time in the kitchen, here are a few “Veggie Hacks” to help you increase your daily veggie intake.
Greatest time saver EVER. Most supermarkets have pre-cut vegetables that make meal prep so easy. Roast them, sauté them, throw them in soup or a salad. One of my favorite pre-cut vegetables is butternut squash, but it is one of the most difficult to prep.
Pre-cut veggies are more expensive, so save the splurge for things that are harder to prep (like butternut squash or beets) and save the easier stuff for do-it-yourself.
Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables. This for sure is one of the tastiest and easiest ways to get your family to eat them. Cut everything into uniform pieces, toss in extra virgin or avocado oil and roast at 400° until veggies are soft and slightly browned. Some of my favorites are sliced Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower. Why is this a hack? Because you can get the rest of your meal ready while your veggies cook themselves!
Make a Veggie Pancake
Or a fritter or a “patty,” whatever you call it. No recipe needed; just shred your veggies, squeeze out the excess liquid, and combine them with an egg, a little flour or almond flour, salt, and pepper, and mix together. If it seems too wet, add a little more flour. Too dry? Add another egg. Pan-fry over medium-high heat until brown, flip over and repeat. This is a delicious way to eat more veggies, and they freeze really well and can be microwaved for later.
Spiralizing is so much fun, and a great way to get kids involved too. It only takes 30 seconds to turn zucchini into “zoodles”. You can use a spiralizer tool to make veggie noodles, riced veggies to mix with cooked whole grain pasta or microwave brown rice. If you don’t own a spiralizing tool, you can also find veggie zoodles or spirals in both the fresh produce aisle and frozen section in your supermarket. You can spiralize most any vegetable, as long as isn’t hollow in the center, or too mushy. Sweet and golden Potatoes, zucchini, carrots, beets, cucumber, apples, pears, or plantains are all great places to start.
Bagged Salad Greens
Bagged salads provide crunch and variety of colored and nutritious veggies that can appeal to even the iceberg only salad eater. The smaller pieces are attractive and can be easily eaten. Other leafy greens and colored cabbages are often included as well. Top with grilled chicken or fish, some roasted seeds, and even quinoa for a vegetarian spin, and you have yourself a meal!
Steamable Frozen Veggies
Frozen Vegetables should be a staple in all freezers. For those times when our favorite produce is not in season or we just have don’t have it readily available, being able to grab a bag out of the freezer is a major hack. Whether you steam it in the microwave or prefer to prep it another way, having frozen produce on hand is a great way to ensure your kitchen is never without enough vegetables.
Of course, my children were not as impressed with my “veggie hacks” as they were about using a vacuum cleaner hose to create a quick ponytail, but they did finally concede that my list might make it easier to fit more vegetables into our meal planning. We all agreed that life hacks are meant to be a strategy or technique that helps manage one’s time and daily activities in a more efficient way. So be it for increased veggie intake or a new way to style your hair, we all can benefit from some “hacks” in our life!
Call the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Catawba County office for more tips on how to grow and eat veggies. Be sure to pick up the “Living Local in Catawba County Guide” for your best resource on how to enjoy local agriculture – markets, restaurants, U-picks, agritourism, and more. Support our local farmers! Stop by our office or give us a call – 828-465-8247.