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Eat your veggies

By Angie Sutton

It’s something we’ve all heard from an early age and it still haunts us today as we find ourselves repeating it to our own children. “Eat your vegetables,” my mom would say. Often it would be followed with some sort of threat such as, “if you don’t eat your broccoli, you will not get dessert.”

Fast forward to last Sunday at the table in the Sutton home in mid-west Kansas. “Eat your vegetables,” I hear myself saying. Then adding a carrot (pun intended), instead of a threat, went something like, “if you eat your green beans, then you will get to eat cake.” Experts have determined that we should encourage our kids with positive reinforcement because it makes them better citizens. Who doesn’t like cake?

I want my children to grow up to be leaders and contributors in their communities. For today, however; I want them to eat their green beans. So does the government. A quick check with www.choosemyplate.gov confirms the daily intake of vegetables or 100 percent vegetable juice we need to consume. My youngest needs to eat about one-and-one-half cups and the rest of us need to eat between two and three cups.

If you miss a meal containing a qualifying vegetable like we often do on a night of multiple events which results in us stopping at the place where you push the red button to order your food, don’t worry. The website provides weekly recommendations so you can still succeed.

My search for creating excitement around the simple pile of carrots or tempting them to eat the starchy, sweet-tasting tuberous root called the sweet potato has led me to experiment with new-to-us recipes. Any vegetable counts and may be raw or cooked and derived from fresh, frozen, canned or dehydrated/dried options. A serving of 100 percent vegetable juice counts as well.

Vegetables are organized into five subgroups based on their nutritional content including dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas and other vegetables. So my test kitchen went into nutritional overdrive.

I tend to put most of my food preparation time into the main dish and the other items on the plate split the remaining available moments. Since most families have a limited amount of time to prepare a meal, sharing ideas to boost our vegetable intake and are pleasing to the palate is my goal.

Choosing a main dish centered on vegetables such as a soup or stew is an appealing option in the winter. Grilled kabobs threaded with green peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes is a quick and easy summer-time meal. When possible, I sneak vegetables into many meals with my micro-plane zester. Fresh carrots grated into meatloaf, sloppy joes and lasagna help me achieve that weekly recommendation while remaining undetected.

After a week of tracking and measuring the consumption of vegetables in our home, the kids all agreed they probably had not been eating enough. They also noticed that they had a little more energy and, because they like a challenge, grabbed carrot and celery sticks to snack on instead of other options.

Here are a few of the recipes I prepared during our week-long awareness venture. They received the “make again” stamp-of-approval from the kids. I’d love to hear of other ideas you have because I’m still a kid when it comes to getting dessert, but a parent when setting a good example through action.

Midwest Bar-B-Que Green Beans

2 (14.5 oz) cans of green beans, drained
3/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 strips of bacon
4 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into pieces
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion

Brown the onion in extra virgin olive oil. Add green beans, catsup, brown sugar and four cooked bacon strips cut in pieces. Stir together and dump into a casserole dish. Put uncooked bacon across the top of the casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 45 minutes.



Spicy Thyme Baked Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 450 F. In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and toss. Arrange potato slices in single layer in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Place on top rack of oven and roast until tender and slightly browned, about 40 minutes. Serve warm.


Easy Ranch Baby Carrots

1 (16 oz.) bag of baby carrots
5 tablespoons of unsalted sweet cream butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (1 oz.) package of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Mix (dry)

Steam carrots until soft and tender. In a bowl, combine hot carrots, butter, brown sugar and HVR. Toss gently until evenly mixed. Serve warm.



Slow Cooker Cream Corn

1 (16 oz.) package frozen sweet corn
1 (8 oz.) package Neufchatel cream cheese
1 stick unsalted sweet cream butter
1/4 cup tap water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a slow cooker, combine corn, water and sugar. Place cream cheese and butter on top. Cook on low one to two hours. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir often.

Alternative directions:

In a heavy saucepan on low heat, combine corn, water and sugar. Heat until warm. Cut cream cheese and butter into small pieces and stir into warm corn mixture. Continue stirring on low heat until butter and cream cheese have melted.

Spaghetti Squash with Italian Sausage

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Place a squash half, cut side down, in a large, microwavable casserole dish. Add 1/2 cup water and microwave under fork tender, about 10 minutes. Repeat with the other squash half. Scrape out and discard the squash seeds. Using a fork, comb the squash into strands resembling spaghetti noodles and place into a bowl. Toss with parmesan cheese and black pepper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve on top of the squash.


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