Three ways to work more vegetables into your meals


Eating habits can turn gimmicky this time of year.

When Jan. 1 hits, we often wake up from the sugar-laden dream that is December and recall with a cringe just how poorly we've eaten over the holidays. So we scramble, promising to eat more salads and less cakes, to cook often and quit the takeout. 

Be careful not to take such a sharp turn as we begin a new year. If moderation is key when it comes to food choices, so is being reasonable about what mantras you will and won't stick to. 

Our cover story this week, which offers ideas for 

30-minute meals that will satisfy and keep your dinnertime stress-free, aims to be a guide to making good choices in the kitchen, not a cure-all. Cooking more period will help instill healthy eating habits, even if you only have a half-hour to prepare something. 

Another important eating habit worth sticking to in 2017 is getting more vegetables into your diet. I know, I don't crave a bowl of steaming cauliflower either. This is why I have come up with four ways to easily work vegetables into the meals or types of dishes you're already likely making at home. My favorite is listed as this week's recipe: chickpea salad that mimics creamy chicken salad. Others: 

Loaded chili: Chili is a terrific way to disguise leftover or less desirable ingredients. Make your chili of choice, and when it's time to add the beans, go ahead and also add diced carrots, cauliflower or broccoli stems, or zucchini.

Cauliflower couscous: Treat this veggie substitute just like you would the small grain, boiling it slightly or using it raw as a base for a salad with peas, dried cranberries and slivered almonds or a warm side dish livened up with fresh herbs. To make, cut a head of cauliflower into large chunks, then add to a food processor and pulse until cauliflower resembles large crumbs. 

Veggie omelet: Work more vegetables into your diet earlier in the day and you won't have to worry about cramming all those servings in at dinnertime. Chop up whatever vegetables you have in your fridge or pantry -- onion, spinach, mushrooms, peppers and broccoli work great -- and place them in a nonstick skillet with some olive oil. Let cook for about 5 minutes until veggies start to soften, then crack 2 eggs into the pan and let cook until almost set. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese of your choice on top, and season with salt and pepper. Use a spatula to gently flip half of the omelet onto the other half, and cook for another few minutes until cheese melts.

Contact Michelle Stark at mstark@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.

EASY

Curried Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

Garbanzo beans take well to the mashed-with-mayo technique, and if you spice up the mix with curry powder and add some sour, crunchy bits, all the better. This recipe, which uses a ripe avocado (plus a little olive oil) in lieu of mayo, is an excellent version from Jessica Prescott's Vegan Goodness (Hardie Grant Books, 2016). Prescott, creator of the Wholy Goodness blog, was inspired not by chicken salad but by her dad's curried egg sandwiches.

Ingredients

1½ cups (one 15-ounce can) no-salt-added chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Flesh of 1 large ripe avocado, chopped

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more as needed

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

4 baby dill pickles, finely chopped (½ cup)

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon curry powder

½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or more as needed

½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper, or more as needed

About ½ cup lightly packed baby spinach leaves

4 hamburger-bun-size rolls (or 8 mini rolls), split and toasted

Steps

Combine the chickpeas, avocado, oil and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Mash with a fork until well combined but still a little chunky. Stir in the red onion, pickles, parsley, curry powder, salt and pepper. Taste, and add more lemon, salt or pepper as needed.

To build the sandwiches, place a few baby spinach leaves on the bottom halves of the toasted rolls and top with the chickpea salad (about ½ cup each if the rolls are hamburger-bun-size and ¼ cup if they're minis). Top with the remaining halves of the rolls.

Serves 4. 

Source: Adapted by the Washington Post from Vegan Goodness by Jessica Prescott (Hardie Grant Books, 2016)


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