Mindful Challenge of the Week:
Since the focus of week one has been to boost your intake of phytonutrients we need to chat a bit about the importance of eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables. By the way, do you know what we consider to be the #1 biggest diet mistake made by most people? They don’t eat anywhere near the amount of fruits and vegetables they should. But it is not enough to just increase quantity; you need to also get variety. Make a mental note right now to think kaleidoscope colors!
The more variety in color you can consume from fruits and vegetables the greater your exposure to a vast array of the anti-aging, disease-fighting and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in these superfoods. If you are not eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables you will not reap the full benefit of the Clean Cuisine Challenge.
Many people can fairly easily manage to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruit, most likely because fruit is nature’s best fast-food and always tastes delicious as-is with little to no food prep.
But vegetables are another story.
Vegetables can be intimidating and, unlike fruit, most people do not enjoy eating raw vegetables straight-up. Vegetables require a bit more food preparation. And then of course there are the people who say they just hate vegetables—and this is a big problem if you are serious about the Clean Cuisine Challenge. Because you absolutely must eat your vegetables if you want this program to work for you. There is just no way around it. Having said that, we promise if you learn to prepare vegetables properly you will like them. There is even a chance you might love them.
Vegetables are the New Meat
We are not the only ones who have fallen head over heels over vegetables. Top notch chefs at some of the best restaurants in the country have been showboating their incredible culinary skills by creating vegetable-centric dinners for the last few years. And while sophistication and elegance is usually not a key attribute of vegetables, it is a quality given to the “vegivores” who seek them out.
People generally speak of vegetables as being healthy or colorful accents for the main—“sexier” attraction (meat!), but now vegetables are pushing meat to the side of the plate. An article in New York Magazine titled “Vegetables are the New Meat” spotlighted how unrestrained vegetable eating has never been more pursued…or more chic and sexy than now. And that was back in 2010. Since then, fine diners are beginning to seek vegetables even more.
We’re not talking canned peas and carrots either. The vegivores are going for full-flavored, ultra-fresh imaginatively prepared vegetables including dishes as exotic as turnip ceviche, barbecued parsnip rib and sunchoke carpaccio.
And these diners aren’t even necessarily veggie-forward for health reasons either.
Vegetables Can Taste Amazing
Instead, gastronomes are coming to the realization that vegetables offer tremendous taste and culinary benefits. You see, properly prepared super fresh vegetables really do taste incredible. Not to mention the fact you can eat so many of them without feeling heavy or weighed down. Trust us; you’ll feel a lot better walking away from a meal that is predominately vegetables as opposed to predominately meat.
The whole dining experience from beginning to end is elevated tremendously, in taste, appearance and health benefits, by having a wide variety of carefully prepared, beautifully colored vegetable dishes including salads, vegetable-based soups, vegetable-spiked pilafs, artfully prepared veggie side dishes and even vegetable desserts…carrot cake or pumpkin custard anyone?
In all seriousness though, the “vegivore” recognizes vegetables can actually take center stage on the plate with the meat acting as the condiment. And this is very much what Clean Cuisine is all about. We truly believe as more people begin to experiment with superior quality vegetables, visit a greenmarket or two, and become more comfortable in their kitchens, the vegivore “fad” will be here to stay.
The Secret Vegetable Plate
Believe it or not, we sometimes have just a large plate of different vegetables with a glass of wine for dinner. The last “vegetable night” we had at home Ivy prepared mixed mushrooms sautéed in a bit of olive oil, garlic and shallots, Garlic and Carrot Soup (page 334 of our Clean Cuisine book), mini eggplant pizzas and mashed cauliflower. We ate our vegetables with some crusty whole grain bread and washed them down with glass of Cabernet. Delicious. And it was not a labor intensive or time consuming meal to prepare either.
In fact, we love to dine out at gourmet restaurants and these days Ivy inevitably orders the vegetable plate (Andy always adds a bit of fish) and makes her entire meal an assortment of different vegetables.
Even if it is not on the menu we have found almost every chef has been able to pull together a delicious (and hearty!) vegetable plate. Where we live in Palm Beach, some of the best restaurants in the county like Café L’Europe and Café Boulud have served some outstanding vegetable plates. And none of them have been on the menu!
But again, we’re not talking about ordering steamed spinach or peas and carrots here. Whether or not it is advertised on the menu, we guarantee you will be impressed with the secret vegetable plate when dining out.
Eating Vegetables at Home
We have found one of the best ways to ensure you will eat a wide variety of vegetables at home is to have plenty of great vegetable recipes on hand. Of course we have lots of vegetable recipes in our books and on our website, but we also suggest you pick up a cookbook or two dedicated just to vegetables.
The following two vegetable-centric cookbooks are a great addition to any cookbook collection and are sure to inspire!
Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi is a collection of the author’s recipes from his British column, “The New Vegetarian.” If you yearn for interesting flavor combinations and deliciously satisfying recipes featuring abundant quantities of fresh vegetables, then this is the book for you! Forget about the fact this is a meatless cookbook, it is just the sort of book that any home cook would want to own.
River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes is a comprehensive collection that embraces meatless cuisine as the centerpiece of a meal. Although the recipes are not 100% plant-based, the author clearly states in the introduction that his goal in writing the book is to get people to eat more vegetables—you can always make plant-based substitutions too. The book is lavishly illustrated and an excellent resource for anyone looking to expand their vegetable repertoire.