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Dressing up vegetables

By Staff | Dec 30, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What fun it is to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. It is the perfect time of the year when the accoutrements of entertaining shine as bright as the Christmas star. How lovely to see the gleaming silver, damask in shades of red and green, and even snowy white.

The gold banding around the Lenox Holiday China brings as much joy as the wreath and red bows upon the front door. This rich ivory china on which the Holiday pattern plays out on has been known to be demanded in bounteous and inexhaustible quantities by china hounds. We simply justify our indulging by the fact that we are sharing this beauty with the invited guests to our home during the holidays. Often the rich and wonderful holiday meals served on our Christmas dishes (much to our chagrin) can greatly add to our waistline!

We can combat this waistline invasion by working with our great friends in the food family vegetables! Oh, they, too, can look mighty fine on Christmas dishes, and many of them are willing to help us have a waistline as well. With the right amount of discipline and eating low-calorie vegetables, you just may get back into those cool, tight, wrap dresses of the ’80s!

Let us begin to get well acquainted with vegetables. Here are a few tips when you are in pursuit of them.

How to purchase

Select fresh, crisp vegetables free from blemishes, decay, and soft spots. Your Aunt Martha was right you can never be too careful when checking on the vegetables. Bruised and wilted vegetables have a lower food value and often lack taste as well.

How to store your vegetable friends

It is best to clean, wash, and remove spoiled spots from perishable vegetables before storing in the refrigerator until ready for use. By cleaning your vegetables after purchase, you will also be aware of any spots you may have missed at the store.

I like to remove the plastic from crisp or leafy vegetables as soon as possible. Place them in containers with lids or cover them with a wet cloth and use them as soon as possible.

How to prepare

Wash vegetables thoroughly and quickly. Pare root vegetables as thinly as possible. When cutting, do so lengthwise; they tend to lose more vitamins and minerals when they are sliced or diced.

To retain the most minerals and vitamins, chop, shred, or cut vegetables just before cooking or preparing. It is for this very reason I don’t care for pre-chopped lettuce or cabbage.

How to cook

It is best to use a small amount of boiling salted water in a heavy kettle with a lid for most vegetables. Steaming is also another fine way to prepare vegetables especially greens such as spinach. Often, with strong flavored vegetables, I will cook uncovered for a milder flavor.

Dressing up vegetables

Vegetables can often be dressed up. In fact, they rather enjoy being fashioned into rose curls and fancy slices. Radish roses are made by cutting (with a small, sharp paring knife) through the skin into the radish from the tip of the stem, making 6 to 8 cuts. Cut back the petals, making sure they’re thick enough not to break easily. Place in ice water and within an hour, or more, your radish bouquet will be blooming!

A favorite in our home is celery pinwheels. These come about when you separate a bunch of celery and fill the stalks with soft cream cheese that has been flavored to your liking. Put back into shape of original bunch. Tie firmly and be sure to chill well. With a sharp knife, slice them to to inch thick. Be sure to arrange them in an attractive pattern on one of your best serving platters. If you marry these with the radish roses, I can assure you the relatives that saunter casually around your holiday spread will do a double take!

Now, if you wish to add to the costume of tomatoes, we often add finely chopped green peppers, minced dry onions, and a dash of sugar. These few little accessories will turn your stewed tomatoes into a runway hit. There is no need for carrots to appear dull at your table. To make carrot curls, cut a thin slice of carrot with a vegetable cutter, roll around the finger, and place in ice water for one hour. They are attractive and kids love them.

I share with you a real winner that puts a great new dress on beets.

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