Just like most kids in the world, the beauty of a tomato was lost on me until I walked through my father-in-laws massive garden. I had avoided tomatoes all my life. They look wonderful, but I found them too juicy, seedy, and lacking flavor. As I wandered through the rows of Vern’s garden, I watched as he grabbed a handful of cherry tomatoes from the vine and ate them like grapes. Feeling brave, I popped one in my mouth and delighted at the burst of summery goodness that flooded my taste buds. I had been missing out! Sweety, juicy and not seedy at all, that little cherry tomato changed my world. I know, that sounds dramatic. But from that moment on, I knew that I wanted to garden so I could enjoy food that was freshly picked, never packaged or handled by countless workers, stored in crates and transported across the globe. Fresh fruits and vegetables from a local garden haven’t aged to the point of losing their flavor.
Everything fresh from the garden tastes better. Even okra! Green beans eaten fresh off the vine are sweet. And sugar snap peas taste like candy. Zucchini, chard, spinach, and carrots are all sweeter and easier to cook or can all be eaten raw.
As much as possible, I try to provide raw fruits and vegetables for my family. Fruits are easier, obviously, but a drawer in the refrigerator of already peeled and slice carrots, celery, radishes, beets, green beans, snap peas, and any other favorite promote easy snacking. Make a container of hummus and store that next to the veggies. Veggies and hummus are the perfect snack, providing vitamins, minerals, hydration, fiber and protein, and low in carbohydrates.
Aside from a container of carrots and celery for the quintessential dieter, snacking on vegetables can be a savory experience. A favorite that I have tried (and successfully) duplicated from a favorite restaurant is roasted curly kale. I washed the leaves thoroughly – it is highly unpleasant to have a sandy crunch with kale…or worse, a crisped kale resident. Remove the stem and brush the leaves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little garlic. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and roast at 350 F for 10-12 minutes until they are crisp. The kale leaves maintain their shape and become light, crispy snacks. Cool it and pack in air-tight containers, but it’s best eaten fresh.
But roasted kale, as delicious as it is, doesn’t travel well and isn’t a quick and easy snack. So what’s a health-minded soul to do? A variety of salads in small containers, ready to go and enjoy. Not lettuce-based salads, but a variety of combinations of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
A few tried and try favorites:
Diced apples, carrots, cucumber and a light dressing made from the healthiest mayonnaise, a little lemon juice and stevia (if you like a fruit salad sweeter).
A roasted salad (served cold, great to make from dinner leftovers) green beans, beets, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, onion, bell peppers, and even brussels sprouts. Toss it all together with a favorite, olive oil-based salad dressing and top with slivered/sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds for the health omega fats.
With the large lettuce leaves, prepare ‘sandwich’ wraps for a quick snack of protein and veggie. Wrap up sliced lunch meat and a thin slice of cheese. Or tuna or chicken salad made with diced vegetables (cucumber, spinach, radishes and even apples) wrapped in a lettuce leaf.