Archive for April 14th, 2011

“Mom, can I spend my dollar on Brussels sprouts?” my 9-year-old son asked at Wal-Mart this week, while I nervously glanced around to see if anyone overheard this bizarre question.  Whenever the kids go grocery shopping with me, I like to give them a dollar to spend in the produce section, mostly in an effort to get them to cooperate and not drive me crazy.  This has led to several discoveries of fruits and veggies that aren’t on my regular shopping list (pluets, tangelos, Peter Pan squash – I still don’t know what you do with that one) since my son, in particular, loves to try new things.  But the passionate declaration that he wanted Brussels sprouts came from our recent discovery that they – like most veggies – taste wonderful roasted!

I have bad memories of Brussels sprouts from when I was a kid because I (like most of us, probably) grew up eating boiled veggies.  While some veggies are still best boiled, like peas or corn, our family prefers most other veggies either raw (like spinach as a salad leaf) or roasted.  If you’ve never tried roasting veggies, you’re missing out!  Roasting brings out different flavors in vegetables, and they don’t require lots of fussing or fancy sauces.  We would never have thought we’d love Brussels sprouts or broccoli.  But instead of complaining about having to eat their veggies, my kids’ only complaint nowadays is that I didn’t make enough for seconds!

If you’re interested in climbing on board the roasted veggie train, I’ve got even more good news for you.  First, you don’t have to wait for fresh veggies to be in season or come down in price.  I have my sister-in-law to thank for showing us that you can use frozen veggies, and they work perfectly well.  The fresh Brussels sprouts my son saw in the produce department cost $3, but a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts only cost $1.50.  To use frozen veggies, simply cook them a little longer.  There’s no need to thaw them first.

The other good news is that it’s still cool enough to use your oven at high temperatures without affecting your air-conditioning bill, but it’s starting to warm up enough, where we live, to occasionally use the grill outside.  Since the one downside of roasting is that it’s difficult to find a main dish that can cook alongside your veggies at the high temperatures required for roasting, the availability of the grill means there are now more choices for a main dish to accompany the roasted veggies.  (That’s right, I said the main dish accompanies our vegetables!)  So here are the basic instructions for roasting, along with a few menu suggestions.

Roasted Vegetables

Olive oil – extra virgin oil loses its benefits at high heat, so use the cheap stuff
Coarse salt,  regular salt, or garlic salt (we prefer coarse salt)
Fresh ground pepper, regular pepper, or lemon pepper
Fresh or frozen veggies – if using more than one type, cut longer-cooking varieties in smaller chunks

Here are some of our favorite combinations:

  • Asparagus with coarse salt, lemon pepper
  • Brussels sprouts with coarse salt, fresh ground pepper
  • Broccoli spears or cauliflower with coarse salt or garlic salt, pepper
  • Sliced yellow squash and zucchini with chopped onions & bell peppers, salt or garlic salt, pepper
  • Potatoes with Lowry’s seasoned salt, garlic salt, pepper
  • Cranberry Orange Yams

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a jellyroll pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Place fresh or frozen veggies on pan and drizzle with oil.  Gently toss to coat by rolling veggies around in oil.   (You can do this in a bowl, but why wash extra dishes?)  Sprinkle generously with seasonings.

When you’re first starting out, try roasting just one variety at a time, until you’re comfortable with how long that particular veggie (depending on size of cut) takes to cook.  My rule of thumb is about 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees for fresh veggies, like asparagus or squash.  Frozen veggies take 20-30 minutes, depending on size.  I like to roast potatoes in small chunks for 30-40 minutes at 425 degrees.  You can roast veggies at 400 – 425 degrees if you’re cooking them alongside another meat, but you’ll need to add more cooking time.  You want to roast them until the veggies are soft and some look slightly charred on the edges (but be prepared to thumb-wrestle your husband for the yummy, crispy asparagus tips!).

Once you have a feel for roasting times, you can experiment with different blends.  I’ve even roasted frozen stir fry veggie blends from store bought packages (my favorite being a roasted asparagus, yellow squash, mushroom, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and red pepper blend).  Prepackaged blends are handy because the vegetables are typically cut in the right size for you already.  Plus, if your kids don’t like a particular vegetable, they can pick out that one and eat the rest.  My kids used to hate summer squash, but we kept making veggie medleys with squash and allowed them to eat as little squash as they wanted, as long as they ate the other veggies.  They now like squash.

Menu Suggestions
Here are a few of our favorite menu ideas and recipes to get you started (as always, everything is naturally gluten free):

  • Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries and Roasted Asparagus (the sweet potatoes and asparagus can roast together in the oven).  As long as you’re grilling the chicken, throw on some fresh pineapple slices (the directions are at the bottom of the chicken recipe) for a delicious treat!
  • Herb Crusted Grilled Pork, Rice or Lundberg Creamy Parmesan Risotto (a GF boxed mix with natural ingredients), and Roasted Zucchini or Yellow Squash (with red peppers, onions, and garlic or garlic salt).   You can find frozen chopped peppers and onions, and toss those in with your squash (even if you’re using fresh squash).  Be sure you have a large enough pan so the squash isn’t crowded, because squash is full of liquid that will come out as it cooks, so you want to leave enough room for the liquid to evaporate.  (I tried roasting zucchini with potatoes once, and the potatoes ended up completely soggy instead of nicely browned.)
  • Smothered Chicken with Roasted Broccoli and Mashed Potatoes.  If you prefer, you can make roasted potatoes to cook alongside the broccoli while the chicken cooks on the stove.
  • Chicken Scallopini with Roasted Potatoes – if you haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for?!!
  • Grilled Shrimp (brushed with garlic butter) with Linguine (tossed with minced garlic and olive oil – we like Ancient Harvest GF quinoa pasta) and Roasted Asparagus Stir-Fry Veggie Blend (frozen package).
  • Herb Grilled Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Quinoa or Cranberry Orange Yams.  The recipe link is for a rosemary herb chicken, which works well with the cranberry orange yams.  Another option, that I recently served with Brussels sprouts and quinoa, is chicken that’s drizzled in olive oil and lemon juice, then sprinkled with salt, pepper, and oregano.  If desired, top with Feta cheese.
  • Crock Pot “Lazy” Barbecue Ribs or Chicken with a Loaded Baked Potato and Roasted Anything!

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