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An easier, speedier way to eat more vegetables

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(AP)
From left, shredded beets with balsamic, shredded parsnips with walnuts, and shredded spicy carrots

It's the same thing every year. We overindulge during the holidays, then make solemn (and quickly abandoned) promises to eat healthier and shed pounds in the new year.

So here's a sane and simple resolution that will help you achieve both goals in a single stroke — eat more vegetables.

It's no secret that almost all vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. Most also are good sources of dietary fiber, potassium, folate and vitamins A and C. If you did nothing more than pile your plate with vegetables, add a small portion of lean protein, and ramp up your daily exercise a bit, you'd probably find all that extra holiday baggage dropping away without having to count calories.

The only problem with eating more vegetables is that it can take a significant amount of time to prep them, and even more time to cook them. Messing with root vegetables is often a marathon. Beets require 45 minutes to steam or an hour to bake. Carrots or parsnips also can be pretty time-consuming. You can cut the cooking time if you first slice them into smaller pieces, but not all of us are aces with a knife.

This is why I love my food processor. If you use it with the grating disk attachment — as I do for this trio of recipes — you're home free. Those marathon beets? You can grate and saute them in minutes. Same for the carrots and parsnips. Best of all, having cooked up your grated veggies in a bit of oil, you have maximized their flavor, as opposed to steaming or boiling them, which dilutes it.

As an added psychological benefit — at least for me — there's something crudely satisfying about the raw power of the grater. After a bad day at the office or a rough afternoon with the kids, it's a pure pleasure to noisily grind down those vegetables chunk by chunk.

Enhance the finished product however you want, with nuts, your favorite spices or herbs, or a squeeze of citrus or other acid. Just be sure to put a mix of colors on the plate; for the most part, the brighter the color, the better the nutrition.

And on a night when you are truly squeezed for time, you don't even have to cook your shredded veggies. They're equally delicious raw. Just toss them with lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Have fun with your vegetables. You'll be delighted with what happens when you move them to the center of your plate.

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SHREDDED SPICY CARROTS

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pound carrots, peeled and grated using the large grating disk of a food processor

Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Fresh lime juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh scallions

1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped

In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the carrots and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in a bit of lime juice and the scallions and peanuts.

Nutrition information per serving: 160 calories; 100 calories from fat (63 percent of total calories); 11 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 4 g protein; 210 mg sodium.

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SHREDDED PARSNIPS WITH WALNUTS

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound parsnips, peeled and grated using the large grating disk of a food processor

Kosher salt

1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the parsnips and a pinch of salt, then cook, stirring often, until the parsnips are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, raisins, sage and a splash of lemon juice.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories; 110 calories from fat (48 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 3 g protein; 135 mg sodium.

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SHREDDED BEATS WITH BALSAMIC

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound beets, peeled and grated using the small grating disk of a food processor

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup dried cherries

In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the beets and a pinch of salt and cook, covered, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and cherries, then cook, covered, until tender, about 2 minutes more.

Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 60 calories from fat (30 percent of total calories); 7 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 17 g sugar; 3 g protein; 210 mg sodium.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."

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