Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Kaleidoscope of Vegetables

A Kaleidoscope of Vegetables

Mr. Fortesque was once again the only guest at our supper table. “This is the most wholesome nourishment I’ve eaten all week. Such a kaleidoscope of vegetables in this soup,” Mr. Fortesque praised. Lessons at Blackberry Inn

The daughter of the Lady-of-the-House made a purple potato salad for her son’s birthday party. It is a reminder to us to eat our colors. Are you in need of a restorative? The Lady-of-the-House knows how admirably her readers love and serve, love and serve some more. Meanwhile her friends are recovering from surgery. Some are nursing a baby. Others are living with various ailments and chronic pain. The Lady-of-the-House can empathize and in this post takes on the role of big sister (naturally bossy) and mother hen (provokingly protective).

“The best doctors in the world are Doctor Diet, Doctor Quiet and Doctor Merryman.” Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) satirist, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

Lifting vegetables and fruit up to a higher status than it is given in the standard American diet is the urging of the Lady-of-the-House. The benefits of eating vegetables are numerous. The fact that they prevent cancer reveals their astonishing power to keep us well. 

When eaten in abundance – rather than being tacked on to a meal as an afterthought - they help lessen pain as they contain anti-inflammatory properties. They are a soothing aid to digestion. Eaten in place of processed carbohydrates they politely balance weight without the impertinence of calorie counting. The benefits of a palette of colors (eaten raw or lightly cooked when possible) are attracting the attention of more and more women who have decided to use their kitchens for supporting the health of those they love and serve. And themselves.

Because they seem to be the most tender, the Lady-of-the-House keeps an eye out for the smallest spaghetti squash. It is cut in half, seeded, baked skin-up at breakfast time. Most mornings you can find her doing some sort of vegetable preparation. Spaghetti squash can be fluffed with a fork, gently seasoned, and served at lunchtime in its own skin. 

While a pot of oatmeal is simmering the Lady-of-the-House may be simultaneously steaming broccoli. This super food takes five minutes to peel and cut (peeling the stalks makes them more edible) and five minutes to steam bright green. Cooled and set aside makes it handy for adding to a green salad, a pasta or rice dish or blending it into a creamy coconut milk soup. It is almost hidden to the eye when chopped (or minced) but will add one of the biggest boosts of vitamins on your table. 

Butternut squash baked at breakfast makes it ready for a lunchtime side dish or a light but nutritious dinner desert served individually with a few drops of honey and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice. 

Romaine lettuce cleaned, cut and spun at breakfast can be used in a green smoothie. The Man-of-the-House started this custom. His wife followed suit. They also place dandelion greens or beet greens and orange beets into a Vita Mix smoothie. Orange beets do not stain the hands during preparation but the Lady-of-the-House doesn’t mind red beets when a few frozen strawberries are tossed in the Mix. It makes a pretty pink smoothie. 

Red peppers are a super food. Peeling the skin makes them more digestible and only takes minutes.

Peppers can be diced and added to bean soup or a quick 30-minute simmering soup of red lentils near the end of cooking.

Petite-diced vegetables and grated carrot make a refreshing addition to a bowl of protein-rich quinoa sprouts.

Sprouting jars of quinoa, lentil and mung beans were taken out of the dark pantry and placed on the windowsill to be photographed. You can see how the Lady-of-the-House got carried away. She over filled her jars. This living food takes up more room than might be anticipated as spoonfuls quickly turn into cupfuls.

“There are ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is ripe to eat.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unlike the ever-ready apple a pear is stubbornly precise about when it can be eaten. The day the Lady-of-the-House came across the above quote she smiled and immediately related it to the avocado. Since that day she started keeping these two temperamental fruits in the same “waiting” bowl. The avocado is a super food that makes a wonderful baby food.

Brussels sprouts lightly coated with olive oil and a drizzle of Italian dressing can be roasted in the oven until fork tender. This is the preferred way the Lady-of-the-House cooks them. Still, the Man-of-the-House and his son will not be cajoled into eating cabbage no matter how she prepares it. “That’s okay, it just leaves more for me,” she tells them with her nose just a bit in the air. And the next day the leftover Brussels sprouts are mixed into pasta that is tossed with juicy roasted red pepper, Greek olives, grape tomatoes halved, with oregano and thyme (or pesto) – fabulous.

Is there any plant food you don’t like, you might ask the Lady-of-the-House? She admits to once repressing a gag over tofu. But when marinated and heated in the sweet and sour glaze out of Terry Walters’ Clean Start cookbook, she has even acquired a taste for it. This sauce flavors vegetables, too and is liked by her menfolk.

Bok choy cut into bite-sized pieces takes five minutes to steam. The Lady-of-the-House combines bok choy with green beans and broccoli. The sauce is pungent enough to turn a patter of vegetables into a flavorful dish for a family four to six. 

In a custard cup have ready:
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl grated ginger root

Wisk together in a bowl:
2 Tbl tamari
2 Tbl real maple syrup
2 Tbl lime juice

Heat grated ginger in olive oil in a wide pan for 1 minute. Add steamed vegetables to the pan to heat and mix with ginger. Pour sauce over vegetables. Mix to coat. Serve on a platter.

There are many ways to serve vegetables, many ways to eat a kaleidoscope of colors – some simple - some fussy -with new sauces, salads and soups to try. 

This grace in First Prayers is reprinted from The New England Primer. It makes a fitting finish.

Bless me, O Lord,
And let my food strengthen me to serve Thee,
For Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen

Discussion is invited.

Post Script
Snowdrops along the shady wooded roadside were spied on a recent walk. Being one of the Lady-of-the-House’s most appreciated blooms the Man-of-the-House took a photograph for her when a sliver of late afternoon sun had shone through the trees. 

To Your Good Health,
Karen Andreola    


  1. Oh Karen, the avocados look so delicious! And so those the signs of Spring... Thank you so much for sharing,


  2. I must admit, you have made me quite hungry reading your descriptions of the various veggies and how you prepare them for your family!
    We have a dusting of snow on the ground this morning, so my thoughts are not quite upon the garden yet, but I know that I need to start planning soon.
    I am hoping that we will have a warm and dry spring so our gardens will do better this year...the gardens/orchard have not done well the past few years due to the damp and chilly spring weather.
    Have fun planning your garden and eating the harvest!


  3. I am encouraged by your healthy habits. May God bless your garden! Blessings!

  4. Dear Karen - what an appetizing post! I agree wholeheartedly about the benefits and goodness of vegetables and fruits. We consume quite a lot of fresh fruit in our household, but I would love to start serving more vegetables. I was not familiar at all with orange beets - how intriguing! I am also ready now to try that delicious sounding recipe for the sauce/glaze for vegetables. How can that NOT be good? Finally, thank you for all the tempting suggestions for meals and side dishes. This post is rich (as usual) in thoughts, ideas and inspiration. Thank you for your never-failing generousity in sharing it all with us. (P.S. - the sweet prayer blessing at the end was perfect).
    Warm wishes -

  5. Beautiful photos - you make the vegies and fruits look really yummy. I just requested a book from the library, The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods, about putting vegies in all our familiar meals. A way to fit in more nutrients in each meal. This post ties right in with that. I am making my grocery list today - you gave me some great ideas! thanks.

  6. Oh, I've been in such a rut when it comes to meal planning. Thank you for sharing your creative ideas.

    We love beets here and are planning to expand to orange as well as the red in our garden this year. They seem to produce more for the space they occupy.

    The photo of the potato salad makes me crave fresh peas!


  7. Dear Karen,

    What an absolutely beautiful treatise on Mother Nature's finest foods! :) We love fruits and vegetables (and green smoothies) here, too, and I always overwhelm myself thinking about how big of a garden we would have to have to be totally self-sufficient! :0

    The snowdrops are such sweet little flowers, and a welcome sight after a long winter without any blooms.



    p.s. I just ordered a copy of "A Pocketful of Pine Cones," and am relishing it already!

  8. It amazes me when the little things in our lives your posting about a book that I've just read.
    This time, you've posted about exactly the topic that has been much discussed in our house this week...vegetables.
    We watched a documentary called "Forks over Knives" this weekend, which detailed the dangers of too much animal protein, and not enough whole plant foods in our diets. Quite convicting. I thought that we were pretty healthy eaters already, but we're now trying to boost our fruits and veggies even more. Thanks for sharing some new ideas and recipes! You have a knack for making everything lovely.

  9. What an encouraging post! We often times get in a routine of serving the same old things. I need to expand my use of vegetables. This is excellent, Karen. Thank you so much.

    Blessings of health and more to your family,

  10. Not only are you a talented writer but a photographer as well. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing a peek into your life.

  11. Come cook for me, please! :)

    Enjoyed this post like all your others.


  12. Karen,
    Everything looks so delicious! I'm adding your blog to the sidebar of my blog to share the encouragement. :)
    Many blessings,

  13. Can a blog post be described as "delicious"? I think this one should be--and beautiful, informational, and inspirational. Thank, Karen!

  14. Karen,

    What a bright burst of color for our screens! Thank you for the inspiration. I've been remiss this winter where vegetables are concerned. We have had an abundance of potatoes, green beans, and onions. I thank you for the reminder that there is such a great wealth of variety.

    I bought asparagus yesterday afternoon!


  15. I love this post. I never thought of using veggies at lunch like this.

    It could transform the way I look at them!

  16. my gracious.
    My mouth is watering.
    your colorful dishes compliment the colorful veggies as well my friend.

    We've been adding lots of greens to our daily salads. As well as seeds, nuts, cranberries and chopped apples and pears.

    To mix it up a bit, I added this arrangement to some pitas with a bit of dressing for the children.
    It was a hit!

    We had our first picnic on March 1 outdoors. The daffodils here in VA are nicely blooming with the violets and other early spring bulbs.
    a very colorful post:)

  17. Lovely and inspiring!
    Could you share the recipe for the purple potato salad?
    Also, what dressing do you put on your petit diced veggies and quenoa sprouts?

  18. Oh goodie, Ladies,
    You have picked up a new idea or two from the Lady-of-the-House who implores you to eat your colors. She is all too familiar with slipping into a rut in the kitchen and with disappointingly throwing food out due to blunders. "Oops, we should have eaten that avocado yesterday." Preparing this post was good for her, too.

    I like to use variations of a vinaigrette dressing: sometimes with wine vinegar (with Italian herbs), apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (with French herbs) always in olive oil with something sweet - honey, maple syrup or a squirt of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to make it "French." Sometimes I make an Asian dressing with ginger and sesame oil.

    Basic Honey-Lemon Dressing (for quinoa)
    1/3 C freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/3 C olive oil
    1 Tbl raw honey
    pinch of salt
    Add a tsp mustard for Honey-Mustard

    (Soybean oil is found in most supermarket dressings and used by restaurants to cook in. I read that it is harmful. The Lady-of-the-House can't digest it. And it is only what we "digest" that brings us nutrients.)

    Raw sliced cucumber and carrot.
    Frozen peas thawed and rinsed.
    Red onion chopped.
    A goodly portion of fresh parsley minced.
    Vinaigrette dressing (probably Italian herbs)
    Precooked boiled potato gently folded in.

    By-the-way, orange potato is a super food, too.

    Thank you for your kind compliments. Keep well.
    Karen A.

  19. Thanks for sharing your dressing basics :o) Your daughters salad will certainly be making an appearance on my table soon :o)

  20. WOW! How lovely! These photos are all the quotes. :) Thank you for the reminder...a salad is just what we need! That squash looks heavenly as well. I just received a huge pile of Tasha Tudor books from the library. Her illustrations are just so wonderful.


    PS - We enjoyed the Lassie movie version you recommended so much. Now we are starting the book! Thank you!

  21. Oh and is that wooden looking item next to your butter crock, a butter mold?? :)

  22. Yes,
    It is probably because I've day-dreamed with The Tasha Tudor Cookbook open that I knew what a butter mold is when I spied it at an antique store. It is quite used. I wish I could pop back to the mid-1800s to see who the dairy farmer's wife was who used it. Tasha Tudor pictured her swan mold in her cookbook on pages 25, 34, 50 (bottom left) and 79 (top shelf above strawberry jam bottles).
    Happy for your visit,
    Karen A.