Everything You Need To Learn
How To Cook Vegetables

Learn how to cook vegetables. First we'll have a chat about which ones to buy organic, how much to eat, and whether they should be raw or cooked.

Everything you wanted to know about cooking vegetables but were afraid to ask!

Then, it's time to visit our complete Veggie Guide. Learn how to shop for, clean, and cook fresh vegetables, plus flavor tips. There's so much here for you to play with.

Raise your hand if you grew up with a dislike of most vegetables.

Veggies aren't always easy to swallow when you're a kid, especially for those of you who grew up with them straight out of a can -- which were further overcooked and heaped on your plate in a wimpy mass. Blechhh!

It's time to learn the key to cooking vegetables you can fall in love with!

There are many different veggies to choose from, various cooking techniques, and so many flavoring ideas that you're bound to find some new favorites.

And don't forget about the magical nutrition that juicing provides.

Here's what you'll discover below:

Vegetable Cooking Guide
Eat Your Veggies!
4-6 Servings (or more!) Per Day

Click on any vegetable to learn how to select, prep and clean, cook, and flavor to perfection.

Definitely one of my favorites. It's a delicate veggie, can be expensive, and easy to overcook. So it's vital to learn how to do it right.

Red beetsBeets
A sweet and hearty root vegetable that turns rich and buttery once it's cooked.

Become a master at cooking fresh broccoli, a clear favorite among most people. It's available year-round and can be use alone or mixed into any number of dishes. Really versatile.

Brussels sproutsBrussels Sprouts
It took me a while to warm up to these little guys. But now, they are definitely at the top of my list. They cook up so tender and have a special flavor that is a bit like cabbage -- but not quite as earthy.

Red cabbageCabbage
Cabbage is incredibly good for you. It's relatively inexpensive, and available year-round. The red variety is more nutrient-dense.

Carrots are so versatile. You can use them in savory dishes like soups or sweet dishes like carrot cake. Kids and adults alike love them. They're fun to play around with in the kitchen because it's fairly difficult to ruin them by overcooking.

I don't feel enough attention is paid to good ol' cauliflower. It's available practically everywhere and at a good price. And it makes the BEST soup, chunky or creamy. Fall in love with cauliflower!

Collard greensCollard, Mustard, and Turnip Greens
It took me YEARS as a vegan before I attempted collard greens. Sheesh, what took me so long? Collards have a taste and texture that is a cross between spinach and kale -- and soooo good for you. Mustard and turnip greens are a little more bitter but you can offset that with a little healthy sweetener. Eat your greens!

Corn on the cobCorn on the Cob
Since it's not a veggie but in fact a whole grain, you'll find it over in the Whole Grains Guide.

Green BeansGreen Beans
Surely one of the most underappreciated veggies is the green bean. But when in season and cooked up right, green beans are mouthwateringly tender with a bite. (Hey, that rhymes.) Sheer perfection.

OMG, if you don't love kale yet...you will! I promise. It's cheap. It's available year-round. And you can eat it alone, add it to soups or stews, make crispy potato-chip-like kale chips. Did I mention it's one of the most nutritious veggies and high in calcium? Score!

Variety of potatoes and sweet potatoesPotatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Yams
Comforting. Hearty. Swoon-worthy. I don't know about you, but I love potatoes of all kinds. They're inexpensive and versatile. Did you know the "yams" you see in the store are not true yams, they're a variety of sweet potato. And potatoes are not even related to sweet potatoes. Who woulda thunk it?    :)

Spinach leavesSpinach
Spinach is one of those vegetables that we all seem to despise as kids, but somewhere along the way we fall in love. Whether wilting spinach, mixing it into another dish, or eating it raw, it's important to learn how to clean and prep this yummy and super healthy veggie.

Swiss chardSwiss Chard
I feel Swiss chard is a kinder, gentler version of kale. And it cooks up like spinach, with a delicate flavor, as far as greens go. It's easy to fall in love with Swiss chard!

Turnips are QUITE persnickety! Sort of high maintenance, but the results are outstanding if you do it right. Turnip lovers unite!

WHY to eat your vegetables!

After reading on and watching the video below, you're going to want to load up on your veggies. Promise.    :)

A pile of colorful veggies

Vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. They contain a fair amount of protein -- in fact, it's the protein which gives them their structure.

They're filled with vitamins, which our bodies cannot make and must be supplied in the diet.

And the dark green veggies provide calcium. In fact, even though cow's milk provides 150 mg of calcium per serving (1/2 cup), the amount absorbed is only 48 mg. Whereas bok choy, which contains 79 mg of calcium per serving (1/2 cup), the amount absorbed is 42 mg!

Veggies are so beautiful and span the colors of the rainbow. These vibrant colors indicate they're chock full of phytochemicals, those disease-preventing chemicals found in all plant foods. The varying colors signify varying nutrients which is why it's important to include all the colors of the vegetable rainbow to cover the innumerable health benefits veggies bring to the table.

And if you're watching your weight, it's good to know you can stuff your pie hole with tons of veggies because they're low calorie while being a healthy carb -- the kind your body uses for energy.

Is It Vital To Choose Organics?

It's OPTIMUM to eat organic vegetables all the time since they're grown in soil which is naturally abundant in nutrients. But let's be real, it's not always easy to find organic veggies, plus it can get expensive.

So to make things easier on you, memorize these Top 5 Veggies you should ALWAYS buy organic. Why? Because they are members of "The Dirty Dozen", the top 12 fruits and veggies that must be purchased organic due to the amount of pesticides they contain:

  1. Celery
  2. Spinach (and other Leafy Greens like Kale and Collard Greens
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers (and Hot Peppers if you eat a lot of them!)
  4. Cucumbers
  5. Cherry Tomatoes
  6. Snap Peas (Imported)
  7. Potatoes

If you can't find these organic, then don't eat them. Plain and simple.

The missing five of the Dirty Dozen are the "dirty fruits".

And on the flipside, there are "The Clean 15" - those fruits and veggies that contain the least amount of chemical pesticides, in case you can't afford to purchase (or don't have access to) organics:

  1. Onion
  2. Sweet Corn (technically a whole grain, organic)
  3. Asparagus
  4. Sweet Peas
  5. Cabbage
  6. Eggplant
  7. Sweet Potato
  8. Avocado (technically a fruit)
  9. Cauliflower

The missing 6 are the "clean fruits".

By the way, if you get the chance, join a local CSA group (Community Supported Agriculture), or start one up yourself. They are faaaantastic because they support your local farmers, and the prices are usually very reasonable for FRESH, ORGANIC produce! I love what Michelle from Brooklyn has to say about her experience with a CSA.

Click here to locate a food co-operative or CSA near you. Here in Reno, Nevada, our gor-geous Great Basin Co-op (who ALWAYS has fresh, organic produce, most of it locally grown) has created Dropp, where you can place an order for not only fresh produce, but many other products in bulk. Place your order one day, and pick it up the next day.

And if you don't have anything like this near you, start your own buying club.

How Much Do You Need?

Eat 4-6 servings of vegetables per day. Having a hard time imagining how you're going to eat that much food? Keep in mind a serving might be smaller than you think! One serving of cooked veggies is equal to 1/2 cup or the size of 1/2 a baseball. Refer to the Vegan Food Pyramid to learn more about serving sizes.

Various bins of veggies

Mix things up a bit -- snack on 1 cup of raw veggies with dip, enjoy 1 cup of cooked veggies with dinner, get in the habit of adding chopped veggies to most dishes you prepare.

Once you're in the groove, you'll discover that it's actually quite simple to meet the required amount of vegetable servings per day.

Another way to ensure you're getting the veggies you need is to make them the focus of at least one meal per day. Meaning, your veggie will take up the majority of room on your plate. Many times, this will mean you're eating 1 1/2 cups of veggies which is equal to 3 servings! See how easy that was?    :)

Juice Those Veggies!

Purchase a vegetable juicer and juice those veggies! This is an excellent way to get the nutrients from a large amount of veggies. (Here's the juicer I've had since 1997. It's a workhorse (!) and still going strong after all these years.)

For instance, it takes about 5-6 carrots to make one glass of carrot juice. That's a lot of beta carotene! One 3/4 cup glass of vegetable juice equals 1 serving of vegetables.

While making vegetable juices is a delicious way to meet your daily veggie quota, juicing DOES remove the all-important fiber that we need. So be sure to include a mix of fresh veggies and their juice in your daily diet.

Juicing helps you to get the nutrients of far more veggies/fruits than you could eat in one sitting. Super cleansing and nutritious. Learn more...

Here are some ideas for fresh vegetable juices to get you started. Feel free to experiment until you find your favorites:

  • apple carrot
  • apple carrot beet (my personal fave)
  • apple carrot cucumber celery chard
  • carrot beet
  • carrot celery cabbage
  • carrot cucumber
  • carrot strawberry
  • carrot spinach
  • celery spinach
  • spinach cabbage celery
  • spinach celery tomato

Feel free to add foods and flavors that will help your juice to be more palatable -- especially important when juicing deep greens. Ideas: Fruits, Cranberries, Garlic, Lemon, Dill, Cayenne, and Tamari.

Raw Or Cooked?

Raw veggies are chock full of nutrients and are invaluable to your good health. At the same time, cooking your veggies helps to break down the cellulose walls which makes some nutrients more accessible than they'd be in their raw state.

So what's the answer? Should you eat your veggies raw or cooked?

Quite simply: Be sure your diet is filled with both raw AND cooked vegetables.

Eat one fresh green leafy salad per day (2 cups equals 1 serving), and add chopped raw veggies such as bell peppers, onions, bok choy and grated beets. The more colorful, the better -- and the more beautiful your salad is, the more your mouth will water before your first delectable bite.

As a general rule, I've always found that those veggies that seem to be lacking in lip-smacking flavor in their raw state seem to be the veggies that are best cooked first to make their nutrients more readily available. Every body is different, and the nutrients my body needs might differ slightly from those that your body needs.

So listen to your body -- you'll discover which veggies you prefer cooked and which you like raw. Don't be afraid to experiment to find what works for you. The most important thing is to just get those veggies into your belly!    :)

Some General Rules About Vegetables

  • Whenever possible, don't peel your veggies -- the skins contain lots of valuable nutrients;

  • Avoid overcooking your veggies. As a general rule, veggies should be JUST tender when poked with a fork. Green veggies should be cooked just until they turn a bright and vibrant green;

  • When making a dish with more than one veggie (recommended!), be sure to cut them all about the same size so they cook up in the same amount of time (or close to it);

  • To clean root vegetables, simply scrub with a brush under cold running water. Most of your veggies are best cleaned in a bowl full of cold water and an edible acid, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, for 10 minutes -- this will ensure thorough cleansing. 1/4 cup of this edible acid is usually enough for a large bowl of water;

  • Cook only the veggies you need at each meal -- leftover cooked veggies are very sad and have lost their vitality. If they look wimpy, they ARE wimpy!

  • Whenever possible, select fresh, local, seasonal, organic veggies;

  • Most veggies can be washed immediately upon returning from the grocery, then placed into air-tight bags or Tupperware-like containers to keep your greens and veggies fresh. When you're ready to eat, they'll be ready to go;

  • If you own a vacuum sealer and would like to seal your vegetables for the freezer, be sure to cook them GENTLY first -- parboiling seems to work best, meaning drop cut veggies into boiling water for just a couple minutes to JUST begin the cooking process, then remove and run under cold water. Cool thoroughly, and be aware that you may have to use a large bag to allow room for water to "seep" towards the seal without interrupting the sealing action. Random Factoid - Raw broccoli emits a gas that will break the seal on your bags.

Heart with quotes"I do a LOT of searching online and have to say yours is probably the most informative vegan site I have come across. Actually, it is one of the most informative sites I have seen for vegetables, bar none.

"Many sites have good recipes, some have good health and nutrition info, but yours is wonderfully complete. You are very generous with the information you offer."
-- Peggy M., Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

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