Traveling the world through cuisine

Working those resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

After the long and beautiful gluttony of the holiday season, the usual time now comes to answer for all those calories. Gyms see spikes in memberships, juicers and other "health-related" appliances fly off the shelves, and many make plans they seemingly are unable to maintain.

Outside of busy schedules, cold weather, and general sloth, one big obstacle to the weight-loss plans of many is diet. Too many only approach dieting as simply eating the most boring and bland foods in the hopes of magical weight loss. Even worse are those who jump into fad diets which can cause more damage than good.

The big problem is our everlasting love of excess, as well as all things bad. Too much meat, bread, cheese, sugar, salt, fat, bad carbs, and processed food. The true secret of a diet isn't about forcing yourself to eat foods you hate, but learning to balance the sinful foods you love with healthy items your palate will enjoy. This means you need to form a love with vegetables beyond corn and potatoes. I've always been astounded when I encounter folks who seem repulsed at vegetables. They skip those courses, and see salads as table decorations.

In 2014, we will continue to travel the culinary world and taste many amazing things, much of which will be indulgent. However, in all these dishes, I want you to always remember balance, and to always have your vegetables with your meals. Today I have three delicious ways to serve simple vegetables you'll love to eat. They are all roasted dishes, and will work nicely for simple meals as well as extravagant dinner parties.

These first two recipes came about when Zuzana and I passed through a food cafe located within a Macy's Department Store. We didn't eat that day, but I was caught by the abundance of tantalizing colors presented that I had to take a photo with my smartphone and try to recreate it. I mentioned back in our Thanksgiving Tips to try serving roasted vegetables with your dinner, and these Mediterranean roasted vegetables will do nicely for any occasion.

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 4 yellow squash, chopped into chunks
  • 3 zucchinis, chopped into chunks
  • 2 red or orange peppers, cut into chunks
  • 2 red onions, cut into larger slices
  • 8 oz of sliced mushrooms
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp of dried basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the raw vegetables together with your hands.
  3. Add in the garlic, basil, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour the olive oil all over the vegetables,
  5. Mix again with your hands until everything is coated with oil and seasonings.
  6. Place the vegetables into a roasting pan or baking dish, make sure they can spread out into one layer.
  7. Place your pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove when the zucchini and squash began to brown on their edges.

Quick Notes

Be sure to mix gently.  You don't want to mash up or destroy your vegetables.

If you have no pan or pans that will give you a nice layer for the vegetables, try using baking sheets with a layer of foil.

Variations

In all reality, you can change this up any way you like.  Take out items you don't like, add in ones you do.  Same goes with the seasonings.  I used basil, but oregano would work just as well.

On that same visit to Macy's, seated next to those roasted vegetables was a big pan of carrots garnished with what looked like parsley. For my own attempt, I wanted to add more color, so I brought in parsnips. They are light-colored root vegetables that almost taste like potatoes, but will have a slight sweetness to them. They look and handle though more like carrots, outside of their color.

In creating this dish, I also wanted to veer away from the usual garlic/oregano combination I usually favor. Doing research, I found many recipes pairing rosemary and sage. I will say with the slight sweetness of the carrots and parsnips, these two herbs helped build an aromatic dish with such a gorgeous Autumnal flavor. Try it yourself.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Ingredients

  • 4 large carrots, chopped into chunks
  • 3 large parsnips, chopped into chunks
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of rosemary
  • 1 tbsp of sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°.
  2. Place the chopped carrots and parsnips into a large bowl
  3. Add in the rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour the olive oil all over the vegetables,
  5. Mix with your hands until everything is coated with oil and seasonings.
  6. Place the vegetables into a roasting pan or baking dish, make sure they can spread out into one layer.
  7. Place your pan in the oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.  Remove when the carrots and parsnips began to brown on their edges and a fork can easily go through a piece.

Quick Notes

If you have no pan or pans that will give you a nice layer for the vegetables, try using baking sheets with a layer of foil.

Variations

There's always room for variation. Some will go only carrots or parsnips.  You could take out the sage and use thyme.  I've seen some recipes using honey or balsamic vinegar. It really comes down to your sense of taste.

Lastly, if you're roasting vegetables, you can't go wrong with brussel sprouts. Stephanie showed us a very tasty way to roast and serve brussel sprouts with bacon, but I actually just like to keep it simple with a little oil, salt, and pepper. They come out so crispy and delectable that you could eat the whole pan. Try serving them like French fries with your favorite burger, or as an appetizer.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients

  • 1-2 lbs of fresh brussel sprouts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Take all your sprouts and slice them into halves, place them into a bowl.
  3. Douse them with olive oil, then mix gently with your hands.
  4. Sprinkle salt and pepper to your taste, then mix again.
  5. Lay out the sprouts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Roast the sprouts in the oven until you see them brown slightly (35-45 minutes).
  7. Serve immediately.

Quick Notes

When handling your sprout halves, be gentle.  Going rough will rip leaves off and break your sprouts apart.

I didn't put an exact amount of oil because it's all subjective.  I simply douse with some oil as if I were dressing a salad.

I like to roast mine with the salt and pepper, some like to do this afterwards.  There is no wrong or right.

Variations

You can add/remove seasonings as you see fit.  Want a really good variation?  Try Stephanie's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon.

Tags: American, Italian, Greek, vegetables, roasted

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