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How to build a meal around veggies

It is no news that a diet with an emphasis on vegetables is a healthy way to eat. But figuring out how to make vegetables the center of your meal instead of the neglected side dish can be confusing.

“I think the easiest way to make a meal out of veggies is to think in terms of color. The more color on the plate the more nutritious your meal is, and not to mention more fun. Who doesn’t want to eat pretty food?” said LeeAnne House, Chef at Olive, an urban dive, in Dayton. “Right now we have so many options available to us from our local farmers to build a healthy and colorful meal.”

Certified Personal Chef Debbie Spangler, owner of Yummy~Issimo! Personal Chef Service in Cincinnati, said that by incorporating veggies into every meal, diners will leave the table satisfied, full of energy and on their way to a healthier day.

“To get the most flavor out of many veggies, you simply need to roast them in a hot oven. Harder vegetables such as carrots, celery, eggplant, onions, parsnips, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and butternut squash all lend themselves to being roasted,” Spangler said. “Simply cut into bite-sized pieces, toss in a bowl with a generous splash of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper… . Spread the veggies out on a rimmed baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and roast in a 400 degree oven, 15-25 minutes. Remove from the oven when a fork easily pierces the vegetables.”

When roasting softer vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, green beans, tomatoes and asparagus, Spangler suggests a shorter roasting time; check veggies after 10 minutes.

Kimberly Oswalt, RD, LD, Wellness Center/Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Rehab Dietician at Miami Valley Hospital, agrees that roasting veggies can bring out their natural sweetness which is great for reluctant veggie eaters like kids and suggests steaming vegetables to bring out their flavor and color.

“Many vegetables are nice finger foods. Eat cherry tomatoes, carrots and sliced peppers dipped in hummus or celery or apple slices with peanut butter. I’ve recently tried carrots dipped in peanut butter, and it is my new favorite combination,” Oswalt said. “Make vegetables fun by making vegetable kabobs on the grill.”

Sometimes veggies are best in their natural state.

“Enjoy the freshest produce in the simplest way. Often a bit of good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and some good sea salt or kosher salt is all you need,” House said. “A lot of veggies are great raw and are more nutritious this way. Our favorite at home right now is grated raw beets.”

House also upgrades the salad mix at Olive with baby greens, kale and Swiss chard.

“They offer more texture and different colors. Kale is actually better for you raw and comes not only as green but red as well,” House said.

For an unexpected salad, turn up the heat on some greens.

“Romaine, kale, radicchio and endive all hold up well on the grill. Toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Throw on the grill and slightly wilt. Pull off the grill and toss with your favorite dressing and maybe some cheese and you have a great salad,” House said.

For access to fresh, in-season veggies, Oswalt suggests joining a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture, where you can buy produce directly from a local farmer.

“Each week you receive a box of seasonal produce… . To find a farmer’s market or CSA farm near you, go to:,” Oswalt said.

Crustless Breakfast Quiche

Recipe by Certified Personal Chef Debbie Spangler, owner of Yummy~Issimo! Personal Chef Service in Cincinnati

Makes 8 slices


1 9-inch pie pan

3 cups Swiss cheese, grated

3 cups roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, corn, asparagus, tomatoes, onion, etc., cut bite-size)

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups Half and Half

1 teaspoon thyme, dried (1 tablespoon if using fresh), chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Preheat oven to 350.

Place grated cheese in bottom of pie pan, spreading out evenly over the bottom and slightly up the sides. Top with mixed roasted vegetables, evenly spreading out over the cheese.

In separate bowl, whisk together eggs, Half and Half, thyme and salt and pepper. Slowly pour over roasted vegetables.

Place pie pan on prepared baking sheet and bake 50-60 minutes. Check quiche after 50 minutes. Remove from oven; allow to sit 10 minutes before slicing.

A napoleon stack

Recipe by LeeAnne House, lead day chef at Olive, An Urban Dive, in Dayton:

“A napoleon stack is a fun dish to prepare for kids. They can have fun stacking it high and knocking it down. We used eggplant, squash and zucchini. Slice these veggies 1/4 of an inch thick in medallions. Bread them using egg, flour and bread crumbs, and pan fry them. Top with cheese, fresh mozzarella is great, and bake till bubbly. Let cool slightly and let the kids stack them with slices of fresh tomato and a sprinkling of herbs. Add a drizzle of a vinaigrette; we liked lemon, to finish it off. If you really want to up the ante add some pancetta, Italian bacon.”

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