Veggie Creep

Veggies are not at the top of my Favorite Foods list. I can honestly say I know of no one for whom they are. Doesn’t mean I don’t like any vegetables – there are some I love but as a side to/part of other stuff that really are favorites. For instance, I love tomatoes and baby spinach on hamburgers but am not so enamored of them without the burger, bun, and condiments. The idea of munching carrot chips alone is… okay, never an idea because just no, but lemme dip those babies in some spicy homemade hummus and I can’t get enough.

Knowing this, I actively practice Veggie Creep to get more vegetables in my diet. I hide them. I slide them into stuff where they won’t be particularly noticed: a tomato here, some chopped spinach there, shredded carrots freaking everywhere. (Was that an unconscious nod to the Beatles? Now, I got an earworm.)

Here are some of my hiding places and what I stash in them:

Toss a chopped tomato in frittatas and omelets; add a chopped green pepper for a “western” omelet. Don’t forget the jalapeno pepper!

Add chopped tomatoes and green peppers to tuna and chicken salads.

Add finely shredded fresh baby spinach to potato or macaroni salads. It’s pretty. 🙂 Add it chopped to meatloaf, meatballs, or hamburgers – that’s some extra sneaky Veggie Creep right there.

Generously stuff raw green pepper halves (cut lengthwise) with tuna or chicken salad rather than a sandwich. (I did this in a busy workplace lunchroom once to “What the heck are you eating?” questions, then “Great idea!” that started a trend particularly among the low-carb fans. Admittedly I only did it that first time because I ran out of bread but it was so yummy/crunchy/cold on a hot summer day that it became a regular.)

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Whenever the grill is lit, regardless of what I’m grilling, I throw on 1-inch-ish red bell pepper strips that have marinated in a little olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar. These I don’t hide – just that this made me think of those magical morsels of goodness. Grilled red peppers enhance everything. Did you know that bell peppers are among the world’s healthiest foods?

Add roasted red pepper (instructions in the hummus recipe post) to your homemade hummus. It’s also wonderful on burgers and salads. Top most any sandwich with a few strips to turn an okay sandwich into an ooooh, that is so good sandwich.

Serve Pico de Gallo (chopped tomato, onion, and cilantro with a squirt of lime juice – chopped jalapeno optional) as a condiment/side with any grilled meats or fish. It’s an essential chili garnish and taco topper. Also delish on baked potatoes, hot dogs…

Add Pico de Gallo to brown rice for a delicious side dish. Add immediately when rice is done and still hot to slightly cook and soften the onion and tomato. Great use for left-over Pico de Gallo. Got more baby spinach? Throw a little of that in there too.

Add shredded carrots to pretty much anything: dinner salads, macaroni and potato salads, lemon gelatin with pineapple

Add a can of diced tomatoes to slow-cook or Instant Pot beef dishes like pot roast or Stroganoff (healthy recipe to come soon).

Formerly frozen peas are excellent in macaroni salad and anything tuna.

I have a couple of friends who won’t eat mushrooms. Will. Not. But I feed them mushrooms all the time and they love them, they just don’t want to know. (Yes, I have this general consent. I would never be so rude to feed a friend something they truly consider most foul.) I use my trusty mini-food processor to whir those suckers all teeny-like to get the flavor and mushroom goodness in cognito. Easy to hide on pizza too among the Italian sausage bits. (Hint for those who love mushrooms on pizza but have family members go ewww when they see the slimy slices on their pie. Just sayin’.)

Getting into the habit of Veggie Creep makes it so much easier to get those daily veggie requirements in. A serving of vegetables doesn’t have to be 1/2 cup of canned green beans *choke*. It can be tomato bits in your frittata + a few peas in your tuna salad + shredded baby spinach in your meatloaf. There are a whole lot of hiding places when you start to look for them. Always looking for new ones so please share!

 

 

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