Just because summer is over, it doesn’t mean we can’t still eat fresh, healthy vegetables. In fact, with the colder weather arriving, it’s even more important to get all the vitamins and nutrients that vegetables give us so we stay healthy all fall and winter long. Eating our vegetables doesn’t have to mean sitting down to a plate of them, although I am quite happy to do that. There are lots of ways to get our servings of veggies without feeling like we are eating tons of them. Whether you need to hide the veggies in order to get your family to eat them or you are just looking for new and different ways to enjoy vegetables, here are some sneaky ways to make sure you consume lots of veggies in the colder seasons.
1. Blend Them Into Soups
One of the best ways to sneak more vegetables into a meal is to blend them into soup. You could blend 10 different veggies and no one would know because it would just look like a bowl of warm and delicious soup. My Curried Ginger Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup is spicy but balanced with the sweetness of both the sweet potatoes and the carrots. Saute one diced medium onion in a soup pot for 4 minutes or until translucent. Add four minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbs. fresh grated ginger, and 1 Tbs. curry powder and mix to combine. Add one large peeled and diced sweet potato and six large chopped carrots. Stir to combine and cook for 6 minutes until the veggies begin to soften. Add 4-6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, ½ tsp. kosher salt and ¼ tsp. black pepper. Let the soup come to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender or use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. If you want to add a creamy flavor, add 1 cup coconut milk and mix to combine. Heat the soup until it is warmed through. Taste for any seasoning adjustments and serve hot.
More veggie-packed soups include Sweet Potato Pumpkin Soup, Hearty Barley-Lentil Soup with Potatoes, Vegetable Lentil Soup, Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup, Winter Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup, and Easy Root Vegetable Soup.
2. Make Casseroles
Casseroles are such a great invention. You get to put lots of ingredients into one dish that cooks in one dish in the oven and everyone loves them. Hearty and warm, casseroles are an easy way to get lots of veggies into your diet. There are at least 3 different vegetables in this Butternut Squash, Portobello and Spinach Casserole with Vegan Sausage. This Vegan Broccoli Mushroom Rotini Casserole is amazing as is The Best Fall Casserole which is packed with different veggies and vegan sausage. Add vegan cheese to a casserole and you have the ultimate comfort dish that also just happens to include vegetables. Try this Kale and Mushroom Gratin, Cheesy Leek and Potato Gratin and this Potato and Mushroom Gratin.
3. Hide Them in Desserts
You may not think about vegetables and desserts as being in the same recipe but think again. Veggies can not only be used in desserts but they taste great and they serve other functions. Adding just ¼ cup of pureed pumpkin, sweet potato or butternut squash can substitute for one egg or ½ cup of oil or butter in baking. If the veggies are sweet, it also means you can cut back on the sugar in a recipe. Sweet potatoes can be used to make Chocolate Sweet Potato Spice Cake, S’mores Sweet Potato Brownies, Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate “Buttercream” Icing, Spiked Sweet Potato Truffles, and even Sweet Potato Apple Pie Ice Cream. Pumpkin and carrots are in season in the fall and make incredible desserts like Pumpkin Mousse Tarts and Carrot Cake with Walnuts and Cream Cheese Frosting. Since beets are sweet, they work well in desserts. Not only do they add sweetness, but they add color, so they are a natural food coloring to make pink, red and red velvet desserts. Check out Here’s 3 Easy Ways to Make Vegan Ice Cream and use beets to make a beautiful batch of beet ice cream. Try these Chocolate Beet Cupcakes and these Beetroot Chocolate Frosted Cupcakes for a dessert that’s not only yummy but good for you. Zucchini has an extremely high water content, and so adding shredded zucchini into batters adds moisture. That means you can use less or even no oil to make cakes and muffins. I love making chocolate chip banana zucchini muffins. You really don’t taste the zucchini since it’s so mild, but it adds moisture and nutrients so you can feel better about indulging in sweet treats. Try these Zucchini Blueberry Muffins and then wow everyone when you tell them there is zucchini in these Individual Chocolate Espresso Cakes.
4. Top Your Pizza With Them
If there is one food everyone can agree on, it’s pizza. I don’t think I know one person who doesn’t like pizza. Of course, everyone has their own favorite toppings but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new toppings ideas. My favorite veggie combo to top a pizza is Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, artichoke hearts and Kalamata olives. Yum! Get all your servings of veggies with this Asparagus Potato Pizza with Kale Pesto, Caramelized Vegetable Tart with Olives, Raw Vegan Pizza with Spinach, Pesto and Marinated Vegetables, Eggplant, Mushroom and Pesto Pizza with Tofu, Kale and Artichoke Pizza, and just in time for the holidays, Green Bean Casserole Pizza.
5. Bulk Up Your Stews and Chilis
Stews and chilis are another way to add tons of veggies into your dishes. Let me tell you about last night’s dinner. It was cold so I made a Vegetable Stew that was packed with vegetables and it was so good. Heat some oil in a large Dutch oven and brown up a few links of vegan sausage sliced into coins. Once they are brown, saute 1 large diced onion and 2 chopped bell peppers. Add 4 chopped red potatoes, 2 large chopped carrots and 2 large chopped celery stalks. Toss in 1 cup of chopped green beans and any other vegetables you like. Mix in 4 minced garlic cloves and then add 2 cups cooked kidney beans and 3 cups crushed tomatoes. Season it all with 2 tsp. ground cumin, 2 tsp. ground coriander, 2 tsp. chile powder, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. kosher salt and ½ tsp. black pepper. Add 2-3 cups of vegetable broth, bring it to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender. Top with vegan shredded cheese or vegan sour cream, if desired.
This Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili is hearty and amazing as are these yummy 5 Vegan Chili Recipes. My Roasted Root Vegetable Stew is as beautiful as it is delicious with all the vibrant colors of the different root veggies. My Jamaican Curried Tofu with Chickpeas is on constant rotation at my house. This Three Sisters Stew is filled with healthy vegetables as is this Vegan Irish “Lamb” Stew and African Groundnut Stew. For a raw stew, try this Raw Moroccan Vegetable and Chickpea Stew with Spicy Orange Cauliflower Couscous. Also see 10 Epic Plant-Based Stews Using Global Flavors for more recipes.
6. Layer Them in Sandwiches and Wraps
Sure, we all top our sandwiches with lettuce and tomatoes. Those are great but they can be boring after a while. There are tons of veggie choices for filling up our sandwiches. Instead of lettuce, try spinach, kale, shredded cabbage, or arugula. Swap out watery tomatoes with roasted red peppers, thin slices of sweet potatoes or radishes. Top your Chickpea “Tuna” Salad Sandwich with sprouts or pile tangy pickled daikon and carrots on a Vietnamese Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich. The veggies don’t only have to be inside the sandwich; they can substitute for the bread and be outside the sandwich as well. Use collard green leaves and zucchini slices to make these Hummus Collard Wraps, Veggie-Stuffed Collard Wraps and Raw Zucchini Wraps.
7. Turn Them Into Snacks
One of my vices is potato chips; once I get started, there is no stopping me. That’s why I have learned to make healthier versions of chips and other snacks. This is an optimal way to eat more vegetables. Skip the potatoes and make Kale Chips and if you want them spicy, try these Habanero Kale Chips. Raw Vegan Parmesan Pita Chips are the perfect snack to have with your favorite dip. Sweet potatoes also make delicious chips. Since they are sweet, they taste best with warm, hot spices. To make Spicy Sweet Potato Chips: use a mandoline to cut sweet potatoes into very thin slices. Arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets and spray them with cooking spray. Bake the potatoes at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or until they begin to brown. Flip them and bake another 8 to 10 minutes or until they are browned. While they are baking, make a spice blend of ground cumin, chile powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt. Transfer the potato chips into a bowl and toss them with the spice mix. Serve them with this Vegan French Onion Dip and try to each “just a few.” Don’t feel bad if you can’t, I can’t either.
Check out How to Make Healthy Veggie Chips of All Kinds (in 4 Simple Steps) and 10 Healthier Ways to Make Fries and Chips for more recipes and ideas.
8. Drink Them in Juices and Smoothies
There is a reason those veggie juices on the market do so well. For some people, it’s easier to get a day’s worth of vegetable servings if they can fit several of them into one drink than having to cook and eat them in their whole forms. Get out your blender and make your own veggie juices and smoothies with beets, kale, cucumbers, and carrots. Try adding some fruit like coconut, watermelon and apples for sweetness and flavor. Here are 7 Delicious Juice Recipes and the Ultimate Green Juice Cheat Sheet to help get you started.
Make my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie by combining 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk, ¼ cup pumpkin puree, 2 Tbs. peanut butter, ½ frozen banana, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg, a pinch of cloves and 6 ice cubes into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a scoop of protein powder for an extra boost. Be sure to also make this Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie.
9. Put Veggies In Your Favorite Foods
Maybe you think of vegetables as a side dish all on their own, but you can increase the amount of vegetables you eat if you put them into dishes you already like. If you love mac and cheese, add broccoli or spinach to it or make the sauce with squash. Lasagna and all its cheesy layers is a great place to put some greens or zucchini slices like in this Creamy Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna. If burgers are your idea of comfort food, try making them out of something different like roasted beets or eggplant . Check out 10 Vegetables You Can Make Burgers With for lots of ideas. Use vegetables such as eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower and beets in place of meat in your favorite dishes like Philly Cheesesteaks, Sloppy Joes, tacos or spaghetti and meatballs. See this article 10 Vegetables that Can Substitute for Meat for inspiration and recipe ideas.
10. Use Veggies Instead of Refined Carbs
Did you know you can substitute vegetables for many of the refined you eat? If you love pasta, try making noodles out of veggies. Use a spiralizer to make long noodles out of carrots, zucchini, eggplant or almost any long veggie. If you don’t have a spiralizer, don’t worry. Do what I do and just use a vegetable peeler. Find comfort in this Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce, Roasted Pepper Zucchini Pasta, Carrot Beet Angel Hair Pasta with Spicy Pine Nut and Pistachio Pesto, Spaghetti Squash with Alfredo Sauce, Miso Roasted Tomatoes with Spiralized Carrot Noodles, Tomato Basil Broccoli Noodles with White Bean Salad, and Vegan Eggplant Noodles. You can also make noodles out of beans for a healthier dish. Check out this article to learn How to Make Bean Pastas.
Maybe you’re like me and rice and pizza is what you reach for. Well, these can all be swapped out for veggies too. Rice is one of those foods I have trouble controlling my portions of but if I make my own “rice” out of cauliflower, I can eat as much as I want and not feel guilty. Try this Spicy Curry Cauliflower (Rice) with Kale and this Spicy Orange Cauliflower Couscous. Oatmeal works too as in this Mushroom Steel Cut Oatmeal Risotto. Cauliflower is a magical vegetable; you can also make pizza crust out of it! Make this Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Mung Bean Curry.
If you are trying to get more vegetables into yours or your family’s diet and you are finding it a bit challenging, relax. There are lots of ways to sneak healthy, nutritious veggies into your meals and all anyone will taste is deliciousness.
Image Source: S’mores Sweet Potato Brownies