Spice Up Your Veggies

August 28, 2013

Raise your hand if you just looooove plain vegetables!


Sure some people will snack on raw green beans or eat a juicy ripe tomato* right out of hand, but most of the time vegetables need a little jazzing up to taste their best.

*YES, I know a tomato is a fruit. But for all practical purposes, I consider it a vegetable.


I thought it might be helpful to list out some of our other favorite ways to cook vegetables. Here are our staple flavors and techniques:

1) Lemon, Dill, Mustard – This is our go-to combo for green beans. A blob of Dijon mustard adds thickness, fresh or dried dill adds flavor and lemon brightens it all up.


2) Toss cooked veggies in prepared pesto – Pretty much anything is better with pesto!

3) Bake with parmesan – Sprinkle parmesan cheese over thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant slices and bake until the cheese begins to brown, about 20 minutes


4) Make “fries” – This is one of our favorite ways to eat okra. Toss the pods in a little olive oil and salt and bake or grill until they are tender. Dip in ketchup for the “fry” action.


5) Better-Than-Fried cornmeal crustThis is our other favorite way to eat okra! With bite-size pieces of anything, dunk in some egg and then in cornmeal and season with anything from herbs to Old Bay. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the cornmeal begins to brown.


6) Bring out the bacon – Pan-fry some bacon and then keep your grease to cook greens or other veggies. It’s not the healthiest method, but it sure adds a lot of flavor. And cooking vegetables in bacon is better than cooking something like a donut or steak in bacon grease!


7) Add a little maple – Our go-to greens recipes involves browning two slices of bacon and removing them from the pan. Then add the greens until they are nice and wilted and stir in a teaspoon or two of maple syrup at the end. The sweet – salty combo is just divine! If you’re baconless, just drizzle on a bit of high quality maple syrup to any greens like mustard greens, collard greens or kale to soften the bitterness and add some depth. A touch of Liquid Smoke will also add depth without calories or fat.


8) Chip ‘em – While we’re talking greens, can’t forget kale chips!


9) Smoked paprika – My favorite kitchen spice. Good on any vegetable! We particularly love it for grilling.


10) Herbs de Provence – Another good one to sprinkle on while cooking, say zucchini pieces or mushrooms.


11) Special sauces – Add in a bit of premade flavor with sauces like Dr. Pete’s Praline Mustard Glaze (great on green beans!) or Bone Suckin’ Sauce


12) Balsamic vinegar – Only the aged kind will do! Drizzle it on anything to finish or cook to let it thicken up a bit.

13) Reductions – Matt likes to take beer and cook it down until a thick, syrupy reduction. Drizzle on anything from beans to mushrooms to broccoli.


14) Massaged – Shout out to the massaged greens family. Add some olive oil, lemon juice and salt to trimmed and washed kale and massage until your hands hurt (about 5 minutes). The acid and massaging breaks down the kale so it’s tender enough to eat raw. We like our massaged kale salads with lime juice, red peppers and avocado plus a touch of balsamic vinegar for sweetness.


15) Jam – Another tribute to sweet savory, a hint of jam along with a teaspoon of mustard and a little olive oil makes a sweet dressing to drizzle over a savory veggie – like grilled radicchio.


16) Cinnamon + Cayenne – If you count sweet potatoes as vegetables (I do!) then the cinnamon and cayenne marriage is our favorite way to make sweet potato fries in the oven. We coat them in olive oil and salt and then sprinkle a little of each C+C on. Cinnamon for me, Cayenne for Matt! I love the hint of sweet spice.



17) Roast (or grill) – Every vegetable tastes better roasted with just a coat of olive oil and salt for flavor. Roasted Brussels sprouts are my wintertime favorite!

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18) Add cheese – Think caprese salads, hot grated parmesan, or blue cheese tossed with collard greens. Cheese adds so much flavor.


19) Coconut oil and butterThis is a favorite way to cook butternut and acorn squash. Toss in coconut oil or melt some coconut butter and dip your roasted squash pieces in.


20) Make a salad and add good toppings – Lettuce and bell peppers taste better next to jalapeno hummus and goat cheese : )


Please share your favorite vegetable flavors!

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeri August 28, 2013 at 8:41 am

I’m drooling! I just got some Okra from the farmers market and vacuum sealed it (my new favorite toy) for gumbo. But I need to get more to make fries and oven fried!!


2 [email protected] August 28, 2013 at 11:54 am

I’m eating a bowl of okra gumbo over brown for lunch as I read this post :-)


3 Kat @ Kat's Health Corner August 28, 2013 at 8:50 am

This post is perfection, thank you!


4 Rosie August 28, 2013 at 8:54 am

Great post! Thanks Kath. Will definitely reference this in the future


5 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats August 28, 2013 at 9:03 am

These are great tips! I’m not great about spicing up veggies – I usually stick with olive oil and vinegar on salads or making veggie “fries” with a little salt and sometimes lemon pepper!


6 Farah @ Fabulously Farah August 28, 2013 at 9:04 am

I love all of the ways you described!

Here are some other yummy ways I like to eat veggies:

1. Big green smoothie, of course
2. Ratatouille
3. Scramble them with eggs


7 Sally August 28, 2013 at 9:12 am

What a great post, thank you! I am always looking for different ways to jazz up my veggies. I put Old Bay on steamed broccoli last night, and it was delicious (what isn’t delicious with Old Bay?)!


8 Liz @ The Shrinking Owl August 28, 2013 at 9:15 am

I am currently obsessed with smoked salts. They are amazing.

Also: garlic. Never enough garlic. Tarragon is also fabulous on potatoes.


9 Lauren @ The Highlands Life August 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

Bacon… always a good choice. Just threw some on some brussel sprouts last night as a matter of fact. Yum!


10 Megan (The Lyons' Share) August 28, 2013 at 9:20 am

This is SO helpful, thanks! I get stuck in a rut of simple roasting with salt and pepper (so delicious), scrambling in eggs, or roasting everything in the fridge and tossing in a bowl with tomato sauce and parmesan (I call it my “Ugly Secret” because it looks messy but tastes so delicious!). Another favorite is throwing a bunch of veggies in a crockpot with an assortment of spices to make a soup!


11 Julie August 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

I like soy sauce on my broccoli or green beans – just a different flavor profile is good sometimes!

Everything is good roasted in my opinion – especially beets. I also like roasted carrots and sweet potatoes.

Kale massaged with olive oil, lemon, and honey – OMG!! Try it!! It’s a little sweet and sour.

Today with lunch, I’m having raw dragon tongue beans from the CSA – they are purple and white mottled…I’m sure my co-workers will have something to say about that!


12 Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine August 28, 2013 at 9:29 am

I love using smoked paprika! I had to just buy a new bottle since I ran out the other day, it is so good and everything! I also love making “fries” with veggies, anything roasted is so good.


13 Kori August 28, 2013 at 9:31 am

Such an amazing post!!! Although I do some of these things, you’ve mentioned other combos I have not yet tried. Also, I love reminders such as this in a list format. Now I know what vegetables I want to make soon! Beautiful photos as well, so clear & vibrant. Thanks, Kath!


14 Ali @ Peaches and Football August 28, 2013 at 9:37 am

I love all your bright & colorful veggie plates! I’m really enjoying cherry tomatoes right off the vine. I get home from work, change clothes, and hop out to check on the garden. They are all slightly warm from the sun, super sweet, and my very favorite thing to eat this year. Can’t get enough! :)


15 Jackie August 28, 2013 at 9:39 am

Roasting them is my favorite!!


16 Bridget August 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

Great post! I’ve bookmarked for future reference. After starting to track my calories I realize I can eat lots more veggies and feel satisfied. I have a CSA and a garden so these are great techniques using ingredients I already have on hand. Thank you!


17 Tara August 28, 2013 at 9:51 am

Grat ideas! I’ll have to try the mustard on my green beans. Only thing is I think herbs de Provence tastes the best on meat and poultry!

My favorite veggie combos are oregano+salt+garlic+thyme+chili powder. You also can’t go wrong with a traditional caprese. 😉


18 Ashley @ Saving Money in your Twenties August 28, 2013 at 9:55 am

i usually stick to olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting veggies. But this gives me so many more ideas- thanks!!


19 Anne August 28, 2013 at 9:57 am

What a great post! Often I hear from clients who think they don’t like veggies, but that’s just because all they’ve been doing is steaming or boiling them plain! Veggies can be so awesome if done well. I use a lot of these ideas already – and will have to try some of the new ones, too! We have dill in our herb box right now that I’m going to have to try with string beans asap…

Thanks for the inspiration!


20 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 9:58 am

I imagine this applies to kiddos too : )


21 Anne August 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

Absolutely! The main thing with kids I’ve found is that if the kids are involved in cooking, they are way more likely to eat whatever it is, even if it’s healthy or a veggie. I taught some kids cooking classes a couple summers ago and the kids would be like “ewww, I don’t like ____ (whatever veggie we were making)”. But then when we spent time all making it together, they’d be willing to try it because “they made it” – and they almost always liked it since the recipes were good and creative (e.g. not boring steamed veggies). :)


22 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 10:14 am

Mazen won’t eat plain veggies but he loves them with a little Parmesan cheese, herbs or even just butter.


23 Jennifer H. August 28, 2013 at 10:06 am

Such an amazingly useful, helpful list! I eat veggies all the time and thought I was being creative, but now I realize I was in a vegetable rut. :) Thanks for this post!


24 Alexandra August 28, 2013 at 10:30 am

Such a helpful post!! Thanks so much Kath! You just gave me so many ideas of ways to cook items that I have in my refrigerator tonight!


25 Tonya August 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

Two things:

1. Went to Bone Suckin’ Sauce website to find where I could buy it. Very surprised at how many Lowe’s Home Improvement results that came back! LOWE’S.

2. Can you recommend a good balsamic vinegar that won’t break the bank? Even if it is a little pricey, can you recommend one that is totally worth the expenditure?


26 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

Anything that says aged on the bottle is probably going to have the good thick quality that I love. Williams Sonoma had one for about $20 I used for years and then I recently switched to getting one at our local oil + vinegar shop


27 Chrissy August 28, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Costco has an uh-mazing aged balsamic! I think it’s their Kirkland brand. People are often surprised by how much gourmet, organic, and healthy stuff they carry. I’m not into coconut butter, but they have it for a great price. Price-wise, Trader Joe’s has a reasonable balsamic vinegar.


28 Becki @ Bites 'n Brews August 28, 2013 at 10:36 am

Grilled eggplant and zucchini with garam masala is one of my favorites.


29 Terry Shaw August 28, 2013 at 10:52 am

Wow! Vegetables can always be exciting! These recipes are totally superb. I love what you did to these healthy veggies. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for sharing! 😀


30 Julie August 28, 2013 at 10:58 am

I like to sauté Brussels sprouts in a bit of Dijon mustard and honey. And I never get tired of roasted root veggies like carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes – just tossed in olive oil salt and pepper.


31 Rachel @ Personality Crafts August 28, 2013 at 11:06 am

Great tips! We’re loving heirloom tomatoes in slices with cracked black pepper these days. Tastes like summer. :)


32 Tory August 28, 2013 at 11:20 am

I love this post! I wasnt to print it out and give it to all my veggie hatin’ friends and patients!


33 Sara August 28, 2013 at 11:26 am

My dad always has a surplus of zucchini and summer squash from his garden during the summer, so my mom and I slice enough zucchini and squash to fill up a 12″ skillet, then add a sliced Vidalia onion, 1 can of stewed Italian tomatoes, one package Italian dressing mix, and 1/2-1 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover until vegetables are nice and tender. This tastes great cold as well.


34 Sara August 28, 2013 at 11:28 am

Also, THANK YOU for sharing okra fries with the world!! I’ve been eating those since I saw them on your blog years ago, but I finally got my mom to switch from fried okra to roasted/baked okra as her go-to way to eat okra. We have it all the time now when I visit home :)


35 Cheryl Morgan Maxey August 28, 2013 at 11:38 am

1. Brussels sprouts roasted with a little crumbled blue cheese at the end
2. Beets roasted with rosemary with a little crumbled goat cheese at the end
3. Radishes roasted with dill (amazing!)


36 Tasha August 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Ooo, will have to try the radishes–sounds amazing!


37 Maureen August 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

Smoked Paprika is a magical spice in my book! I love it on roasted eggplant!


38 Renee King August 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

I love butternut squash with bacon.

I cook about 4 slices of bacon, chop it up, set it aside.

Then I take some of the bacon fat, some olive oil and coat the cubed squash

Sprinkle in Salt, pepper, and a little garlic powder- use any seasonings you like really

Put on a roasting pan and bake in the oven.

They come out so sweet and yummy, you will want to eat the whole pan.

Never had the radicchio I might try that, it looks yummy!


39 Ashley @ Hudson on the Potomac August 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm

What wonderful ideas!!! My favorite way to eat veggies is to roast red onion, squash, zucchini, red and green pepper for 25 minute at 425. I like to spray them with olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt, black pepper, and lots of dried thyme! I also like to steam kale in some vegetable broth. I then top it with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Sometimes I throw in Parmesan when I’m feeling frisky!


40 Ana August 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Awesome post, full of amazing ideas!! I love veggies and find no problem eating them plain, but I know for a fact that for many people jazzing them up is the way to go.
Hey Kath I have a question for you, do you use a web designer for your blog?? I want to reactivate mine but need to have it remade, it is too boring. I am looking for someone to help me with this, do you have any one to indicate?


41 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I have done everything myself with trial and error. Designers are hard to find. I don’t have a specific one in mind, but maybe someone else can chime in with one?


42 Ana August 28, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Wow, you did an amazing job then!!! your blog is awesome!
I always did everything myself too, but I would like to migrate my blog to an owned domain and I have no idea how to do it, plus the layout, I will need an expert to help me with all this for sure.
Hoping someone do chime in!! :)


43 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Thank you : )


44 Paula August 28, 2013 at 12:30 pm

We have so much okra coming out of the garden now that I am inventing ways to use it. Dehydrated, fried, roasted, throwing in the freezer for later until one day I tried a raw one. Then I discovered that it’s now my favorite raw veggie. Who knew? I slice it thin and put in salads mostly but I have been known to munch on one while in the garden. Heavenly!


45 Alison @ The Fit Chronicles August 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm

SUCH good ideas! and you’re right–jarred pesto is a game changer!


46 Michelle @ Esculent Dreams August 28, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Bookmarking this! Thanks for compiling such a comprehensive list :)


47 jen August 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I’ve just started trying to lose the lbs from baby #2 (7 weeks old now), and have started the salad for lunch plan. I can’t thank you enough for sharing over the years some simple lo-cal dressing ideas. I never would have thought of honey and balsamic vinegar on my own, but it’s quick, easy and delicious, and it is helping me make salads part of my new daily life home with an infant and toddler.


48 Christine August 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Awesome post and VERY timely as we all harvest our gardens. I started reading your blog because when I googled kale chips 3 years ago you popped up! I have tried all of these tips with the excaption of jam & bacon. yuck, bacon. lol. thanks for all your hard work and inspiration to making us all healthy! xoxo


49 Laurie August 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Beautiful, mouth-watering post, Kath!! Thanks! Yay, for veggies!! :)


50 Alex @ Cookie Dough Katzen August 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Raising my hand! I’ll have to try adding smoked paprika to my veggies. Yum


51 [email protected] August 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Curry powder and cauliflower! Heavenly! Coconut butter and nut butters and also tahini dressings make any vegetable taste amazing! Some vegetables I’ll only eat shredded…easier to eat and somehow tastier…cabbages for instance! Love making zucchini noodles with my julienne peeler, sometimes raw, sometimes blanched with just sea salt or a creamy avocado sauce! Lots of great ideas Kath!


52 Katie August 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

LOVE this post! Thank you thank you for the inspiration!


53 sara @ Fitcupcaker August 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

thanks for all the ideas!


54 Katherine August 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm
55 cathy August 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Yum so many good ideas. Do you think the cornmeal faux fry would work with mushrooms or would you use something like Panko instead?


56 KathEats August 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Yes! I would maybe cook them first to get the water out?


57 Tasha August 28, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Having been one of the people who gave feedback about disliking the sponsored posts, I have to come back and just say your last three or four posts have been awesome. This kind of focus is what keeps me coming back for more. You give great ideas and are so creative–something I so am not especially in the kitchen. And not growing up in a healthy or wealthy family (banquet chicken, etc were common table items) your blog helping me to spread my wings when it comes to healthy eating which is why I love your older posts as they are full of creative cooking and flavoring ideas ideas!


58 Kim August 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Yum, yum, yum! I totally agree that pesto makes everything better!

One way I do kale is to saute it with thinly sliced ginger and tamari sauce.


59 Tonya August 29, 2013 at 6:48 am

Ok, ma’am you have just taken it to another level! Ginger and Tamari? I’m trying this!


60 Anna @ Fitness à la Anna August 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I love me some raw veggies, I will literally eat tomato after tomato until I can’t even look at another garden tomato the same way…but I personally love the ‘bust out the bacon’ suggestion 😉


61 Jess August 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Love this! Thank you for the tips! Can’t wait to try the cornmeal and parm suggestions!


62 Haleigh August 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm

So many great ideas. I love either oven roasting or grilling my veggies after they’ve been tossed in a little olive oil, garlic salt, and lemon pepper.
It’s so true that veggies seem more exciting when they’re prepared in some way


63 Alex @ Kenzie Life August 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm

This is an awesome post! It makes me want some veggies right now :) I love the combination of lemon and dill but never thought of adding mustard to it! I love salt and vinegar on my green beans, or with tomatoes, or with cucumbers. It pretty much goes well with anything.


64 Spice Chicken August 28, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Thanks for the great ideas!


65 Alison @ Daily Moves and Grooves August 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I love all of these tips! I want to try the Dijon, dill, and lemon seasoning–sounds delicious!


66 Jenn August 28, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Best post ever! I love all the ideas and tips and SPICES!!


67 Kinsey August 28, 2013 at 8:08 pm

One of my favorite ways to sneak a bunch of veggies into a meal is to cook some pasta, then in the last 2-3 minutes of cooking, blanch the vegetables along with the pasta. Then I toss them with a sauce of some sort. My favorite combos are penne with potatoes, green beans and pesto, campanelle with cauliflower and garlic breadcrumbs, and fusilli with broccoli, oven roasted or sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Most of my family members dislike eating lots of vegetables, but they gobble them up this way! (My teenage brother in particular, is known to eat lots of broccoli this way)

I love all of your suggestions, and can’t wait to try them on all of the summer produce.


68 Kaila @healthyhelperblog! August 28, 2013 at 8:33 pm

This is an AWESOME round up! So many great ideas! I am a frequent roaster, chip maker, and fry maker! Also love to saute with a bit of tomato sauce and balsamic vinegar! So good. I really must try the cornmeal crust and the use of liquid smoke idea! Both sound incredible!


69 Annie @ my fuel and fitness diaries August 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Well I think Ive tried most of your ideas except JAM. What a brilliant idea. And I never would have thought of that.

My favorite thing to do with veggies is roast ’em (I hated cabbage until I chopped it up and roasted it, now I am obsessed) with some olive oil, Trader Joe’s “Everyday Seasoning” and sometimes sprinkle with a little parmesan, if Im feeling feisty. I can seriously eat and entire pan of roasted vegetables this way. Its a little out of control…


70 emily August 28, 2013 at 10:25 pm

I love roasted veggies so freaking much! I think I’ve managed to work them into the conversation with at every nutrition counseling I’ve ever done! :)

My favorites are broccoli and green beans. The roasted green beans are better than french fries; I usually hate when people say shit like that but it is so true.


71 Lisa @bitesforbabies August 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm

My (2 year old) son gave me a VERY early wake-up call today (5:00am!). After looking at these photos I don’t think I’m going to make it to lunch!!! The only one I can’t wrap my head around is okra! I think you just need to be from the south to appreciate that one,lol!


72 Joelle (on a pink typewriter) August 29, 2013 at 12:26 am

I agree- grilling and roasting any veggie makes them extra delish!


73 Jola August 29, 2013 at 12:57 am

Wow, that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing all the great combinations!
My favorite combination is spinach with a sprinkle of salt and nutmeg. Add a little cream and you’re good for fall/winter. 😉


74 Erma Gourd August 29, 2013 at 4:09 am

Awesome post – love all of the veggie ideas. I am a person who mostly enjoys raw veggies, but there are some great ideas here for when I have company. Nice post, Kath!


75 Livi August 29, 2013 at 5:43 am

great ideas- they all look delicious!


76 Jo Williams August 29, 2013 at 7:27 am

I LOVE veggies – YUM! I agree, pesto makes everything taste better! And I also add spinach, kale, carrots, beets to my smoothies!


77 Maggie Jones August 29, 2013 at 8:12 am

Great post, as always! Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas.


78 Amanda August 29, 2013 at 10:47 am

Ooh thanks for all the great ideas! I’m always looking for ways to snazz up my veggies to trick myself into eating them, so these are fab. My favorite way lately to eat veggies is to combine them into pasta or quinoa salads that will last me for a few days, and have tooons of flavor!


79 Becca August 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

Really great post! Thank you.


80 [email protected] for the soul August 29, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Wowww you guys are masters with this! So many great ways to cook up vegetables, and I need to try that okra trick. I do love raw vegetables but sometimes it’s nice to eat ’em all fancied up, for sure.


81 char eats greens August 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Kath, these are all AMAZING ideas!! Especially when you have a mental block of what to do with leftovers, like I’ve had lately. Thanks for this post 😉


82 Alisha @ Alisha's Appetite August 29, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Holy awesome tips! Seriously, you are on a roll with these suggestions. I love kale salads and like to finish cooking my greens by putting a scoop of almond or peanut butter in it with a little hot water and it turns into a peanut sauce. So good and it tastes spot on every time.


83 [email protected] August 31, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Yayy for veggies! And I love the tomato disclaimer Kath! :) Hahaha


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