Spread those Veggies on Thick!

Veggies on veggies, veggies on toast
Veggies on crackers, I love you the most
Veggies on sandwiches, might make you smarter
Leave out the beans and you won’t be a …

Sorry, my inner 11 year old boy has been talking to my actual 11 year old boy a lot lately.  And I’m a nurse.  I like gross stuff.  But you’d probably like to hear a little more about the veggies and a little less about the bodily functions!  On to veggies.

Some people do not get all excited about a veggie tray, or tortilla chips, crackers or sandwiches unless they are slathered with something fattening, and/or dairy, and/or chemicalicious like mayonnaise, french onion dip, or ranch dressing.  Personally I love mayonnaise, but where I can happily and willingly substitute healthier and especially veggier items in my diet?  I’m in.  Mayonnaise and creamy dips have competition now!

Following are a couple of recipes to get more veggies and less sour cream, mayonnaise (or if you’re buying commercial spreads or dips – MSG, potassium sorbate and questionable milk products) onto your favorite vehicles for spreads and dips.

The first is an artichoke dip that is so easy you have to think twice before you bring it to a party.  If you bring it to a party, everyone will love it and ask you for the recipe and you will have to say:
I bought a jar (or can) of marinated artichoke hearts (after checking the label for unsavory ingredients);
I dumped it into my good blender (or food processor);
I turned it on until the stuff got creamy;
I scraped it into a pretty bowl and provided scooping devices.

Voila!  That is it.  It is delicious, nutritious (artichokes have fiber and vitamin C without fat or much sugar at all) and it really dresses up a sandwich.

Now, if you don’t like what you see on the marinated artichoke label or you have un-marinated in the pantry approaching their expiration date, you can jump from the above ‘Easiest’ version to the ‘Easy’ version.

Artichoke Dip:
Place 3 cups of drained artichoke hearts in the blender or food processor.
Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Add 1/2 tsp each of oregano & thyme (your option to include or sub basil or rosemary)
Add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt
Process until creamy.
Scrape it into a pretty bowl and provide a variety of scooping devices.

Also ridiculously easy with room for variation according to your taste.

The next spread was inspired by a cilantro-pesto spread described in delicious detail by my friends from ‘Our Spartan Kitchen.’  They had extra cilantro and I have these beautiful red mustard leaves that have a horse-radishy bite to them.

Mix in the Vita Mix blender (or other powerful blender)
2 cups de-stemmed mustard leaves
4Tbsp. olive oil
1 &1/2  cup cooked white beans – rinsed and drained (1 can)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 tsp salt

With the bite of mustard, this one is really good on a sandwich.

Admittedly, this one takes longer to make, and you may not have mustard greens around – however, the basic idea (check out the cilantro-pesto spread as well) gives you the basis to veggify and/or herbify some bean mash into something healthy and delicious.  Take the beans, nuts and oil in the above recipe, add some other veggies and spices, adjust for consistency and you will have expanded the repertoire for healthy lunch and snacks.

I think next I’m going to experiment with beans and sweet potatoes, hmmmm…

Also check out this sweet pea hummus from Gena at Choosing Raw and let us know about any veggie spreads or dips that you like!

Sneaking in the Greens

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Most people don’t consider me very sneaky, but when it comes to getting vegetables into my kid… I’ll do just about anything.  I have found that the good ol’ American grilled cheese sandwich is rife with opportunity for treachery (mwoo hoo hahaha)!  Read on, if you dare….

One can spread a layer of a number of both pureed or simply sauteed vegetables into a grilled cheese sandwich.  My first foray into the covert vegetable operation was to spread a layer of pureed broccoli on the bread before placing the layer of cheese.  I began pureeing broccoli (along with lots of other things) to make baby food.
1) Puree in the blender or VitaMix with enough water to let the blades turn
2) Scoop out and place in ice cube trays
3) Cover trays with wax paper to aid stacking and avoid frost
4) Pop out and store in container in freezer when solid
Then you can defrost as much as you need per the size of your bread and the breadth of your child’s tolerance or gullibility.  So broccoli, cauliflower or spinach seemed to work best in our house for the kids.  As my now 11 year old aged and realized that it was indeed possible to have a grilled cheese sandwich WITHOUT anything green in it, we had to negotiate a bit…. “Do you want your broccoli in the sandwich or on the side?” worked very well for a while.  And of course my husband and I ate and enjoyed the broccoli/cheese sandwiches as well.

However, there is something better than broccoli for the grown-ups and thus the lovely picture above… mustard greens sauteed in a little oil and garlic make a stupendous extra layer in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Stir some up for dinner and make a little extra.  Doesn’t take long – just a clove of garlic and a little olive oil in a pan, tear the leaves smaller and cook until they are quite wilted.  Stick the leftovers in the frig.  You don’t have to heat the greens up – they’ll heat as the cheese melts around and into the nooks and crannies.  Delicious!  You can also use swiss chard or collards or kale.  And of course, for the grown-ups you can vary the cheese as well.

You do get some funny looks when your child asks their friend who is staying for lunch, “Do you want your grilled cheese with or without broccoli?” but no funny look equals the pleasure of sneaking vegetables onto the plate and into the mouth!
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In this case the words are ‘sandwiched’ between the greens.  Yuk yuk yuk…. just what a lot of kids say when it comes to vegetables.