Thursday, December 12, 2013

Easy Roasted Veggies

Many people have asked me, "Don't you get tired of eating veggies?"

The short answer is: "Sometimes, yes."

But the full answer is that I only get tired of eating veggies if I make them the same way each time. And there are many more ways to make vegetables than just having a salad. One of our favorite ways to have a nice hot meal during these cold weather days is to make roasted vegetables. And roasting vegetables can seem hard and complicated, but it really doesn't need to be. So I thought I would share with you an easy way to have roasted vegetables, and it is yummy too.

One of the complicated parts of roasting is choosing which spices to use. Many people avoid the whole concept of roasting their own veggies, because of the fear of seasonings. But it doesn't have to be hard. There are many great products out there that have seasonings already selected, mixed and portioned for you. You just have to choose a company and product that you agree with the ingredients and additives. These spice combinations can come in the form of a spice bottle like Mrs. Dash seasonings. They can come in spice packets like the typical chili seasoning or taco seasoning packets. But they can also come in the form of ready to pour bottles, like salad dressings or marinade sauces. I use them all, but usually one at a time.

Next, we must choose the vegetables. This doesn't need to be tough either. Not everything must be fresh from the produce section. If you are going to roast the vegetables, then you are planning on cooking them. They don't need to start out raw. In fact, frozen may be better. It takes many chemicals and enhancements to make "fresh produce" stay fresh while they ship it across the country. And sometimes it isn't all that great when you taste it. Nor is the price very reasonable. But frozen veggies are usually flash frozen from a very fresh raw and ripe stage with fewer chemical additives. They stay frozen through travel and cost less to ship, so the prices are more reasonable. And they taste yummy.

So now I have my spice mix and my frozen bag of veggies. What's next? Notice, you have a huge variety of choices just in the first two steps. You can have many combinations with different spice packets and veggie varieties. The taste options are basically endless.

Now comes the roasting part. You can chose between crunchy, crisp or soft veggies. What I mean by that is, what kind of pan you use and how hot the oven is will determine how soft your veggies are in the end. You can take the same veggie and cook it different ways and get a different texture each time.

If you want soft veggies, then use a deeper pan and a lower temperature oven. When I say soft, I do not mean mush, but rather similar to a steamed texture. I use a cake pan and bake it at 350. You can also heap the veggies in the pan more, just leave yourself enough room to stir the veggies once in a while.

If you want crisp veggies, then use a sheet pan with enough space to spread the veggies in a single layer and bake them at a higher temperature. I use two sheet pans and bake them at 400. You will still want to turn the veggies a couple times during the baking process. And if you want the veggies crunchy, like chips, then you will bake them longer in this single layer format.

There are so many choices and so many options, how do you decide what to try? I would suggest you pick your favorites first. What is your favorite marinade sauce and your favorite cooked vegetable? I like roasted corn and just a bit of butter. It may sound too simple or easy, because it is. I put a whole bag of frozen corn in a cake pan and bake it at 350 degrees for about an hour. I stir it every 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes, I add a bit of vegan butter. Yum.

I also like crunchy broccoli and cauliflower in an Italian seasoning. So I take a bag of mixed broccoli and cauliflower pieces,  put them in a mixing bowl or gallon size Ziploc bag, pour Italian dressing over them and mix until all the pieces are coated. I pour them onto a sheet pan, in a single layer, and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. I stir it every 15 minutes or so. And voila, yummy crunchy roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

When I go to the grocery store, I buy many different kinds of seasoning mixes and many bags of frozen veggies. We have roasted veggies every day and each day they are a completely different flavor and texture than the previous day. YUM!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Hot Apple Cider

One of my favorite warm beverages during cold seasons is Hot Apple Cider. And when I say "cold," I mean that in two ways: temperature and health. It is chilly outside. The weather has turned cold and snowy. It is the perfect time of year to enjoy a warm beverage. But it is also a germ season. People are spreading cold germs and flu bugs through schools, churches, stores and restaurants, etc. Our bodies need an extra boost to stay healthy and thrive during this germy season. This Hot Apple Cider recipes works on both fronts to keep you nice and cozy warm, while keeping your body healthy, and it tastes good, too.

- Apple Cider
- Orange Juice (preferably with pulp)
- Pumpkin Pie Spice
- (Optional: ginger, hot sauce, and honey)

I use a crock pot, so that this beverage can be cooking all day and ready whenever I (or my family) would like some. Also, it helps the house smell good and when company drops by for a visit, you have something to offer immediately. Win, Win!

I pour about a half gallon of cider into my crock pot so it fills my pot about 3/4 of the way full. Then I add the orange juice. If you want proportions, it is about 2 cups of orange juice to each half gallon of cider. Then I sprinkle in some pumpkin pie spice and stir until the spices no longer float on the top. Cover and let it warm.

I add the ginger, hot sauce and honey to individual cups. Just a dash of ground ginger, a drop or two of hot sauce (like Tabasco sauce) and a tablespoon of honey, and this beverages becomes a powerful boost to the body systems. It is soothing, calming, and empowering to your health.

If you are a fan of Apple Cider Vinegar, this is also a perfect beverage to add a dash of ACV to. The flavor blends perfectly and the health benefits are huge.

For those that want to make it look pretty: you can add a cinnamon stick, some whole cloves, and apple slices or orange slices. They will float in your crock pot and look very festive.

I hope you stay healthy, warm and cozy this season. Enjoy your cup of cider!