Energy. Life. Crunch.

I have started this post four or five times. Each time I tried to work out an approach to what I wanted to say and each time it got really complicated really fast and then I didn’t want to finish it.

New approach. Cut to the chase.

No matter what your dietary habits are, or what diet you are trying to follow, you aren’t eating enough vegetables.

I’m on a lot of social network pages, YouTube, and blogs about healthy food and healthy cooking. Everyone likes to post a special dessert, or a bread that doesn’t have this or that in it, or a hearty thick soup or stew. Anything rich and usually heavier in calorie density than veggies. That is “what sells.” That is what people are looking for.

Keto? My keto friends are all about the meat, the butter, the cheese, the fat, the protein. What else is recommended by those promoting keto diets? Lots and lots of vegetables. And there are some awesome vegetable and salad dishes in keto cookbooks!

I would never do keto because it is the opposite of healthy in my opinion. But what makes it REALLY bad is when keto is practiced without enough vegetables. I have one friend who told me her keto guru recommends seven servings of veggies a day. I would think you would have to eat at least that many veggies in order to survive keto at all!

Keto without enough vegetables is downright dangerous.

Even the whole food plant based, vegan and macrobiotic people are shy in the vegetable department. I see it all the time.

I am not saying “vegetables are more important than grains, fruits, legumes, etc.” I’m simply saying we aren’t eating enough vegetables!

If you are any kind of healthy food enthusiast at all, I’m sure you can name half a dozen qualities that vegetables bring to the table. Fiber. Phytonutrients. Minerals. Vitamins. Chlorophyll (if they’re green). Energy. Life. Crunch.

I’m guilty too. When I’m hungry and getting some leftovers out of my refrigerator, I’m not usually reaching for the steamed kale, the cucumber salad or the stir-fried veggies. I started thinking back over each day and looking at what vegetables I actually did eat. It is never enough. I will find myself going for the other stuff, getting too full and the vegetables come home in the container they were in that morning.

What about a vegetable smoothie? Better than no vegetables at all, but you are going to lose that crunch factor and you won’t get the same benefit from the fiber, even with high powered blenders that pulverize whole veggies.

Who needs crunch? Everybody.

Why? because chewing is so important! Chewing is the start of digestion as the food is mixed with saliva. It prepares the food for proper absorption. It signals the stomach for what’s coming down the hatch. It is a key element of great health. My sister and mother used to say, “Eat your liquids and drink your food.” They were right! But hardly anybody chews that well. You watch people and see.

Even the United States government recommends eating five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The US says a “serving” is a cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of leafy vegetables. It is fantastic that they are saying this! I never thought I’d see the day! There is no one who wouldn’t benefit from eating even the minimum five servings every single day.

Challenge: For the next week, honestly take a count of how many servings of vegetables you are eating each day. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes.

Basics: Slicing Vegetables

One of the things I enjoy about cooking is using my excellent knives and slicing my vegetables and other ingredients myself. I am not one to rely on food processors, mandolins or other gadgets much.

It’s a beautiful thing to skillfully slice cucumbers and have them come out evenly thin or to master paper-thin onion slices or to perfectly shred a head of cabbage. And when I’m through, I only have to wash my knife!

Another thing I like about hand-slicing vegetables is that I can control how they cook better by how I cut them. If I want the vegetables to finish cooking at the same rate and in the same amount of time, then they must be about the same size. But what if the carrot is thick at the top and skinny at the bottom?

If you cut this carrot in horizontal slices you are going to wind up with big slices and tiny slices. When you cook them, the big ones may be underdone and the little ones overdone. But if you cut them in slices at an angle, you can adjust your angle so you end up with pieces that are about the same thickness and size and they will cook pretty much at the same rate and in the same amount of time. This makes for more perfect and more aesthetic-looking dishes.

Here is a picture of a carrot that has been sliced at an angle from top to bottom to make all the pieces more even in size. Then the slices were cut julienne-style.  This is also called “matchstick.”

The carrot was sliced at an angle to even out the size throughout and then cut into matchsticks.

Notice how the matchsticks are all about the same length? This is because the carrots was sliced at an angle making them even throughout. The angle was adjusted as the carrot got bigger toward the top.

Sometimes you just have to look at what you’re cooking and think about how you will be cooking it and what you want it to look like; you just figure out how to prep the food to get what you’re going for.

Today I picked up some baby bok choy. It was fresh and lovely and I wanted to lightly steam it with sliced mushrooms. I didn’t want to cut the beautiful leaves up very much but I knew I had to do something to get the thicker stem ends to cook in the same amount of time the more delicate leaves would cook.

I decided to separate the stems from the leaves and make the stem pieces small enough to steam with the leaves.  This is what I came up with.

This way of cutting my baby bok choy worked out very well!

This way of slicing my baby bok choy worked out very well! The bigger stem pieces were cut into more than two pieces.

The way to learn how to slice vegetables so they are attractive and will cook consistently is practice, practice, practice!