Demystifying Root Vegetables + A Get-Started Recipe

Q: I want to eat a healthy diet/lose some weight/keep those pounds off. I know I have to eat lots of vegetables. But how do I get beyond raw carrots, steamed broccoli and salad, salad, and more salad? 

A: Have a wide variety of vegetable dishes at your fingertips.

Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t grow up learning how to be innovative with vegetables. In fact, they were generally just a humble afterthought, plopped down next to the good stuff—meat and potatoes—and followed by the highlight of our family dinner—dessert.

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Sweet and Sour Cabbage Stir Fry

This dish dresses up the dieter’s friend—the humble cabbage.  It’s filling and tasty—lightly sweet, lightly sour—and very low in calories. I’ve made this dozens of times, using different types of cabbage, but I find that regular cabbage gives it the best texture, slightly crunchy.  Sometimes, I add onion to give it extra bite; sometimes I add carrots to provide additional healthy substance.  And it works for me hot or cold.

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Note on the amount of cabbage: This recipe is great when you have extra cabbage on hand, because you can vary the amount you use.  However, too little cabbage will make the sweet and sour taste too intense; too much cabbage and you’ll lose flavour.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder, mixed with ½ cup of water
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 onion, sliced (optional)
  • 5-7 cups cabbage, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 carrot, shredded (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. artificial sugar
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • Salt to taste

 Directions:

  1. In large skillet, heat chicken broth-water mixture over medium-high heat.
  2. When bubbling, add ginger and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add cabbage and carrots.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes (uncovered) until cabbage is wilting, stirring occasionally.
  5. Take off heat.
  6. Mix in vinegar, artificial sugar, and scallions.
  7. Salt to taste.
  8. Serve hot or cold.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on either the Points or PointsPlus plan.

(Adapted from a Weight Watcher’s recipe that I no longer have.)

“Free Spirit” Fried Rice

"Free Spirit" Fried Rice with Asparagus and More Carrots

Tasty, nourishing, and filling—this rice and vegetable dish is for “free spirits” who like to experiment.

You'll like us in your stir fry!

You'll like us in your stir fry!

It can be expanded indefinitely with other fresh vegetables (I’ve provided a list of those I’ve used below) as well as firm tofu (cubed), or cooked shrimp, chicken, or turkey if you want a main meal.  In the picture above, I added leftover Sesame Asparagus with Carrots to the basic recipe.

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Cooking tips:

  • This dish cooks quickly so you should have all your ingredients prepared and measured beforehand.
  • If you add additional vegetables, you may have to increase the amount of soy sauce if your pan gets too dry.

Makes 4 servings of 1 cup each

Basic Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • ½ cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of two eggs)
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup scallions, sliced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium or other no-wheat soy sauce
Other Vegetables You Can Add
  • ½ pound daikon, chopped
  • 2 cups bok choy (any type), shredded
  • 2 cups napa, Chinese, or regular cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup enoki mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Directions

  1. Spray large non-stick fry pan with cooking spray.
  2. Warm pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add liquid egg substitute, tilting pan so that the liquid covers the bottom.
  4. Scramble the eggs and then break them into pieces (2-3 minutes).
  5. Remove eggs onto a plate and set them aside.
  6. Take pan off heat and spray again with cooking spray.
  7. Put back on medium-high heat.
  8. Add carrots and scallions (tofu and other fresh vegetables should also be added at this time).
  9. Cook until crisp-tender (2-3 minutes).
  10. Stir in rice, peas, and soy sauce.
  11. Cook until heated through, stirring once or twice (1-2 minutes).
  12. Stir in egg (and any cooked meat or shellfish).

For Weight Watchers: The basic recipe yields 4 servings of 1 cup each.

  • Points plan: The total count is 15 so each cup is worth approximately 4 points.
  • PointsPlus plan: The total count is 18.5 so each cup is worth approximately 4.5 points.

Notes:

  1. If you add more vegetables, you will add quantity but no other points.  Therefore, you’ll be lowering your point count per cup.
  2. If you add tofu, meat, or shellfish, you will have to add on its value to each serving.

Nutritional Information for a 1-cup serving:

  • Calories 200 (13.5 from fat)
  • Protein 10 grams
  • Fat 2 grams
  • Carbohydrate 42 grams
  • Fibre 3 grams
  • Cholesterol .3 mg
  • Sodium 1106.5 mg

(Adapted from “Easy Fried Rice” in the 2010 Weight Watchers Points Plus Getting Started booklet.)

Simply Stir Fry

A stir fry is a really easy and delicious way to fill up with vegetables.  You can eat the dish as is or, if you want to add carbs, you can serve it over rice or noodles.

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Count Me In!

Count Me In!

Tips to superb stir frying:

  1. Use fresh ingredients.  Unlike soup where you can get away with vegetables that have seen better days, a stir fry  requires vegetables at their best.
  2. Peel, core, chop, dice, and slice all vegetables in advance.  This dish cooks so quickly that you won’t have time to prepare them as you go.
  3. Use chicken, beef, or vegetable broth/bouillon rather than oil.  
  4. Start with the vegetables that will take the longest to cook (onions, cabbage, green zucchini) and end with those that hardly need cooking (bean sprouts). 
  5. Be creative.  The wonderful thing about a stir fry is that you can use any vegetables that you want. 

 Ingredients

  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 yellow onion, diced, or 1 bunch of green onions, sliced (or both if you love onions!)
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ½ head cabbage, diced  (I prefer napa cabbage but any cabbage is fine)
  • 2 green zucchini, cut in half length-wise and sliced
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups bok choy, chopped
  • ½ lb. firm tofu cut into small cubes (optional)
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts

Sautéeing Tip: Many recipes call for onions, garlic and other spices to be sautéed in oil to release their flavours.  I mix 2 tbsp. chicken broth powder and ½ cup of water as a replacement for oil.  This mixture will thickens as the onion and garlic cook. 

 Directions

  1. Put ½ cup chicken broth (see tip above) in a wok or large fry pan (that has a cover) over medium to high heat.
  2. When broth is bubbling, add onion or green onions, garlic, and ginger.
  3. Sauté until onion is soft (add a little more broth if onion starts to stick).
  4. Add soy sauce, cabbage, zucchini, mushroom, and bok choy.
  5. Mix and cover for 1 minute, then mix and cover again (this allows the vegetables to cook by steaming)
  6. Continue until vegetables are soft.
  7. Add tofu, if desired, and mix well.
  8. Add bean sprouts as a top layer.
  9. Cover and cook for approximately 2 minutes.  Sprouts should be hot but crunchy.
  10. Serve with a slotted spoon (you may have more liquid than you need).
  11. Salt your serving to taste or add more soy sauce.
  12. Enjoy!

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan, unless you add tofu.  If you do, calculate the total tofu points and divide by number of cups of stir fry you have made.

So Very Vegetable Soup

The Diet Equation: vegetables + vegetables + vegetables 

 The Solution: soup + soup + soup

 

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano

So Very Vegetable Soup was my first soup creation and, after some tweaking, I pronounced it good—tasty, satisfying, and filled with different textures because some ingredients are crunchy while others are softer.  Then it turned out to be extra-good when I added a dollop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese to a serving. 

This soup is easy to make (except for lots of chopping), is foolproof (except if overcooked), and has so much fiber, you don’t have to worry about the carbs.  You can eat all you want with no weighing or measuring.  Or you can enrich the soup by adding potatoes, peas or legumes. A can of lentils, in particular, really enhance the taste.  But remember: additions like this will bring you back into the world of diet calculations.

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils

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Caveat culinaria/us: The vegetable quantities below are rough estimates because I take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and just put in what I have.  You can add more of one vegetable and less of another, but you should aim for balance.  For example, too many carrots could make the soup too carroty and too sweet.

Basic Ingredients

  •  3-5 cups of chicken stock, broth, or bouillon to barely cover the vegetables.  The amount really depends on how many vegetables you’ve added.
  • 1-2 onion(s), chopped.  Any type will do.
  • Garlic to taste.  I add 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic.
  • 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ – ½ head of cabbage, chopped to bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tsp. of a spice that appeals to you.  I find that parsley, thyme or basil works nicely.
  • Salt to taste. 

Other Vegetables You Can Add

  • 2-4 celery stalks, sliced.  You can leave on the leaves as well.
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced 
  • 2-4 green zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 yellow zucchini, sliced (Add halfway through cooking so this vegetable survives.)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup turnip or rutabaga, diced
  • 1 cup daikon or lo bok, diced
  • 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped

Problematic Vegetables

  • Beets may overpower the taste of other vegetables, not to mention the colour of the soup.
  • Mushrooms give off a liquid when cooking that could alter the balance of the soup.  I suggest mild mushrooms such as enoki.
  • Spinach, because of its consistency, would have to be cooked separately, chopped, and added at the end.

 Directions

  1. Chop vegetables beforehand.
  2. Turn heat under a large pot to high.
  3. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth.
  4. Add garlic, onions, and all other vegetables.
  5. Add canned tomatoes and mix well.
  6. Add more chicken broth until vegetables are barely covered.  You want the soup to be chock-full of vegetables.
  7. Add spice(s).
  8. Bring soup to boil, then turn down heat until it is simmering.
  9. Taste to see if you need to add salt.  Start with 1 tbsp. and then taste, and so on.  My salt philosophy is to cook with it sparingly and let people add their own after being served.
  10. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan.  If you’re dieting under the Points plan, you don’t have to worry about carrots or parsnip unless you plan to eat all the soup in one sitting!  The  quantity of soup will be so great that any individual bowl serving won’t have enough of either to count.