If you’re like me, the vegetables of your childhood were picked from a bag in the back of the freezer, dumped in a microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water and heated for two minutes. They were served blandly with the texture of something that spent a year in a freezer.
In short, I grew up believing veggies are yucky. Even though the refrigerator would always be stocked with the yummiest (not for the younger me!) of veggies, I would not touch them. There might even have been times when the Sub Zero refrigerator repair expert would have been called and I would be the happiest because that meant the vegetables would be thrown out!
But then, I became an adult and forced myself to eat vegetables. Along the way, I started experimenting with seasoning and preparation techniques. I even started to like a few. While earning a master’s degree in nutrition, I learned in intricate detail how the micronutrients in vegetables make our bodies operate properly. So, it was time to learn to love vegetables.
I turned to Seattle-based chef and founder of Fuse Sauces and Restaurants Christina Doo. I can’t get enough of Doo’s Fresh Honey Cilantro from her line of Fuse TemptAsian Sauces.
In a 30-minute conversation, she taught me how to take veggies from obligatory to enjoyable. She shares her tips for making vegetables tasty and quick enough for a weeknight dinner.
First tip: Don’t microwave your vegetables?
Not necessarily, Doo said. She acknowledged that a microwave is the tool available in most home kitchens for an after-work meal, and didn’t discourage its use.
“Even if you do have an affinity for your microwave, you don’t have to eat bland vegetables,” she assured me.
Flavoring with your favorite sauce or seasonings can turn your bland veggies into something you crave.
“Invest in a stable of spices and sauces,” Doo said. “If you have flavors and spices you actually like, you’ll be inspired to do something with them instead of ordering takeout.”
Aside from salt and pepper, Doo recommends garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cumin, and Italian seasoning.
Sauce is another great option. Doo’s line is designed to be versatile. You can use them as a marinade, dip, stir-fry sauce, or dressing. Check out the Fuse Sauces website for recipe ideas.
You might be concerned about the calories, fat, and sugar in dressings. If it gets you to eat vegetables, dressings and dips are worth it. The nutritionist in me reminds you to mind the serving size. Once you get used to eating vegetables, you might find you enjoy the taste of fresh vegetables and need less to cover it.
Put Them in an Appliance
Doo recommends that everyone invest in one good kitchen appliance that fits their cooking style. Those who love soups and stews might like slow cookers or Instant Pots for quick, veggie-filled meals. If you’re into comfort food, adding vegetables to a slow-cooker casserole might be for you. If you’re a cruncher who likes like fried, pub-style food, invest in an air fryer. Can’t decide? Try an all-in-one unit.
“Surround yourself with easy equipment and flavors you know you like and you’ll actually use,” she suggested.
She offers recipe ideas on her website such as air fried chicken wings with her Smokey Sesame Ginger Sauce Fragrant Lemongrass Soy or combining her Tangy Thai Peanut sauce with, coconut milk and red curry paste in a multi-cooker slow-cooker for a delicious Penang curry. The appliance does the work, so you just invest a bit of your own time.
“People don’t need four hours a day to make a tasty and healthy meal if they pre-plan properly,” Doo said.
Doo’s favorite tip is to spend a couple hours on a Sunday preparing dinners for the week. She roasts or steams her vegetables for the week. When the vegetables are about 75 percent cooked, she takes them out and lets them cool and puts meal-size portions in bags labeled with the days of the week. Each vegetable can be finished in a different way for variety. For example, roasted cauliflower can become cauliflower-rice one night, cauliflower mash a second night, Air-fried cauliflower bites a third night and a chilled cauliflower salad tossed with her Honey Cilantro for a fourth.
Meanwhile, she marinates proteins in reusable bags in the refrigerator labeled with the days of the week.
After work each day, she either tosses the protein of choice with sauce on the stovetop to finish cooking or finishes the cooking in an air-fryer and uses the sauce as a glaze to finish flavoring.
“They’re ready in several minutes instead of 45 minutes,” she said.
She created her line of sauces for people who don’t have a lot of time but enjoy healthy foods. The sauces are sold in the refrigerator case because they don’t contain preservatives and unpronounceable chemicals. And the line even offers gluten-free, vegan and diabetic friendly options.
How to prep vegetables
Doo explains how she meal preps Brussels sprouts, but you can use the same technique for green beans, cauliflower, broccoli or whatever you feel like that day.
To roast veggies:
- Cut and clean the veggies. It’s key to cut all pieces the same size for even cooking.
- Toss the veggies with oil. Doo uses olive oil because it adds flavor in the roasting process. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.
- Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Give them a taste. Remember, you only want them about 75% cooked. You’ll finish cooking them when you heat for dinner.
When you get home from work, take the day’s bags out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature (about 30 minutes) so it cooks evenly.
“It doesn’t take any more time,” Doo told me when I hesitated about waiting 30 minutes. “Just toss it on the counter then go change clothes or walk the dog or whatever you do. When you’re ready to cook, it’s ready for you.”
She said if she heats the meal on the stovetop, she cooks the vegetables and protein on high. When they are almost done, she reduces to medium heat for stir-fries to incorporate the stir-fry sauce. If searing sauces, she advises to keep the dial on high to lightly caramelize.
Give it 3-5 minutes until it’s caramelized. Then serve.
Fuse TemptAsain sauces are available at Metropolitan Market and Haggen locations.
Images by Christina Doo