Vegetables: Variety Gives Versatility To Meals

IN THE KITCHEN

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As summer slides toward fall, Rim Country vegetable gardens are at their peak. The fresh vegetables they produce give a tasty versatility to meals and snacks.

We can also find an abundant supply of fresh vegetables year-round in our grocery stores.

The Food Guide Pyramid recommends eating three to five servings of vegetables a day. But many people think that they are too busy to eat enough vegetables or that vegetables just don't taste very good. But there are lots of easy ways to enjoy great-tasting vegetables without spending hours shopping and chopping, according to information from the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Three to five servings may sound like a lot of vegetables, but 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables or salad or one-half cup of cooked, frozen or canned vegetables counts as a serving. Other examples of one serving are:

3 to 5 spears of broccoli;

7 or 8 baby carrots or carrot sticks;

1 ear of corn on the cob;

6 spears of asparagus;

1 medium stewed or fresh tomato;

1 medium baked potato; or

4 dark green lettuce leaves.

Some people may find preparing fresh vegetables an inconvenience. So it's good to know there is little difference in the amount of nutrients in fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Frozen and canned vegetables are processed within hours of being harvested and are often fresher than "fresh" vegetables that may have been in transit or storage before you eat them.

Whatever type of vegetables you choose, be careful not to overcook them. Cooking vegetables just right retains nutrients and preserves their appealing colors and flavors.

Usually frozen and canned vegetables need only to be heated, while fresh vegetables should be cooked until tender but still crisp.

Eat your vegetables

  • Combine one can each of kidney beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), green beans and wax beans to make a multibean salad. Toss with low-fat or fat-free Italian dressing.
  • Top a microwaved baked potato with heated frozen broccoli or cauliflower in low-fat cheese sauce. This makes a quick meal in just 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add frozen or canned corn to salsa. Or, when making nachos, sprinkle some corn on tortilla chips with low-fat cheese.
  • Add vegetables to soup, rice mixes or pasta dishes. Try adding one package of frozen pasta and vegetables to two cans of lower-sodium or reduced-fat chicken or beef broth.
  • Make stir-fry vegetables using 1 teaspoon of oil per person. Season with ginger and soy sauce and serve over rice.
  • Stuff baby carrots, celery, and broccoli and cauliflower florets into pita pocket with low-fat cheese for lunch.
  • Stir peas into macaroni and cheese, tuna-noodle and other casseroles.
  • Roll up canned kidney or pinto beans, salsa, and low-fat cheese in a tortilla.

Veggie Crunch Wraps

3 cups packaged coleslaw

1 cup chopped tomato

3/4 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup fat-free ranch salad dressing

4 flour tortillas (10-inch rounds)

4 large lettuce leaves

Place coleslaw, tomato, green pepper and onion in medium-sized bowl. Add dressing and stir to mix well.

Warm tortillas by placing each in a skillet over medium heat for about 15 seconds on each side.

Place a lettuce leaf in the center of each tortilla. Top each with equal amounts of the vegetable mixture. Roll tortillas, cut in half and serve.

Yield: Four servings.

Turkey Veggie Melt

1 pound package frozen broccoli, cauliflower and carrots

1/4 cup creamy Parmesan salad dressing

1 (8-ounce) loaf French bread

1/2 pound thinly sliced cooked turkey

3/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave frozen vegetables 3 to 7 minutes, or until thawed; drain well. Stir in salad dressing.

Split French bread horizontally; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Arrange turkey evenly on bread halves. Spoon vegetable mixture over turkey. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes in oven or until thoroughly heated and cheese is melted.

Yield: Four servings.

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