Friday, November 2, 2012

Veggie Inspiration

Written by guest blogger:  Shannon Heffern, RD

“A healthful hunger for a great idea is the beauty of life.”
                    -Jean Ingelow

Eating more vegetables has been an everyday practice for some of us for a long time now.  However, a recent survey of my clients indicated they are still falling short, and this might be the case for most of us.  Even with the abundance of fall produce at our local farmers markets and organic grocers, many of us have not met the minimum goal of 3-6 cups of fruits and vegetable servings/day, as defined by the fruit and vegetable calculator at (which will calculate personalized requirements).

But why don‘t we eat all these food that give us fiber for better bowel habits, antioxidants for cancer prevention, potassium for better blood pressure?  Another few questions of those same clients showed they have the knowledge.  Some people are limited by cost.  While this does pose a true challenge for some, I still believe we can always find creative choices if we really want to.  I think that is what it boils down to for most of us. 

Do we really want to take the time?  Do we really pass by temptation and take the boring route?  We claim to do this when asked by our doctors.  We talk about it with friends.  But our actions really don’t display it.  We don’t get the side salad when we eat out; We still get the fries instead.  Maybe we buy the apples and carrots, but they get soft and rubbery in the fridge.  Often we haul the banana to work, but find it weeping on paperwork when we return to the office on Monday. 

If any of this sound like you, maybe it takes more planning.  We all have the same 24 hours and after a while, the goals and changes will become habit and we will actually save money and time.  Life does happen.  So we learn from it and try to keep making adjustments.  For a meal planning tool, see 

Eating more vegetables and making overall better food choices does take commitment.  The ultimate motivator is better health.  The clients I work with who have taken the 3 - 6 months to focus on habit changes report that the feeling of wellbeing and decrease in general anxiety is more than worth the effort. Take action with small steps forward.  As the holidays approach and candy and fudge and pies abound, hopefully you will keep working on developing better habits. 

Following are a few recipes and resources to keep you inspired.

Herbed Pizza Crust with Garden Veggies

2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup warm water (your body temperature)
1 package dry active yeast
2 cups unbleached flour, with ¼ - ½ cup for kneading
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp flax meal, if desired
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 - 3 cups garden veggies of choice; thinly sliced onions, peppers, tomatoes and spinach leaves
1 jar (about 3 cups) pizza sauce of choice
4 - 5 cups grated cheeses; primarily mozzarella, with Romano, parmesan or feta 

Place milk, sugar, oil and warm water in large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Sprinkle yeast on top of water mixture and cover bowl with a towel dampened with warm water.  Place bowl in warm area; if possible, outside; or on top of warm oven or dryer.  Or place into sink a quarter full of warm water.  Let sit for 10 minutes or until yeast mixture doubles in size.  Mix herbs with flour.  Slowly stir 1cup flour into yeast mixture, till lumpy, but blended.  Gradually add remaining flours and flax meal and form into ball.  Spread ½ of extra flour onto clean surface and knead dough for 5 to 8 minutes, adding flour as needed.  Spray or oil bottom and edges of clean large bowl and put kneaded ball into it.  Cover again with towel and set in warm place.  Let rise this second time for 30 to 35 minutes until doubled in size.  Putting fist gently into center of dough, punch dough down and form into ball.  Cut in half and spread onto two 12”round pizza pans.  Spread sauce evenly over crusts; top with veggies and cheeses.  Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese lightly browned and bubbly.  For a crispier crust, drizzle prebaked crust with olive oil.

Vegetable Bake

½ pound spiral noodles, cooked
1/3 pound edible pea pods, with ends trimmed
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 1 (16 ounce) can canned tomatoes
2 onions, finely chopped
1 cup corn, cut from cooked corn on the cob, or 1 (7 ounce) can corn, drained
½ cup finely chopped celery
¼ teaspoon pepper
Dash salt
3 eggs, beaten
1¼ cups half and half
1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Blanch the pea pods in boiling water for 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse.  In a large bowl, combine cooked noodles, pea pods, tomatoes, onion, corn and celery.  Pour into a greased 2 quart baking casserole.  Season with pepper and salt to taste.  In a separate small bowl, combine eggs, half and       half and basil.  Pour over vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until top browned.  Serve immediately.

Carrot Bran Muffins

3 cups flour, 1 cup being whole wheat or other whole grain
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
dash salt, if desired
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups bran
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup milk
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup honey
3 cups finely grated carrots
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Combine flour, soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Add bran and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, oil, brown sugar, milk, molasses and honey.  Add flour mixture, carrots and nuts.  Fill greased or foil lined muffin tins ¾ full.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool several minutes before taking out of tins.  Serve hot with butter or cream cheese and jelly.

Dinner in a Pumpkin

1 small to medium pumpkin
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup lite soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (4 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, or fresh browned with ground beef
1 can  reduced fat cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked brown rice

Remove top of pumpkin, saving top, and clean out the pumpkin.  Brown the hamburger with pepper and garlic powder.  Mix hamburger, soy sauce, brown sugar, mushrooms, mushroom soup and rice together.  Place into pumpkin and put on the top.  Bake in 375 degree oven for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.  

“Pumpkins with their smiles so big
And eyes so fire-bright
Are making faces at me
In the cool October night.
But I could never be afraid
For it’s that time again -
That happy time of year when even
Vegetables can grin!”
                                -Ericka Northrop

Photo Courtesy:  "ConstructionDealMkting"