Upgrade Your Plate

 By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Personal Trainer, Boxing Coach, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

I, for one, believe you can hardly get enough plant-based goodness.  I’m all about getting crafty in the kitchen and finding all kinds of neat and nifty ways to upgrade any meal.

Sure, I can scour the web for hours on end to get a glimpse of another gal’s kitchen, peeking inside her pantry and thumbing through her recipes.  Still, I find a simple delight in crafting our own family favorites.  While the methods and the options are as endless as the stars or the steady stream of sound effects and interesting discoveries that come with the motherhood-package, there are a few springboards I like to leap from when Momma wants to be creative but really needs to just whip something up and make a meal happen.

Mash ‘em

Grab a fork or potato masher and make some magic with those beans or steam up some cauliflower or your favorite root crop veg and whip it up into a delectable mash with some aromatic herbs and spices.  Seriously, beans coarsely mashed and used in place of chicken and tuna salads will rock your ever-loving world!  Chickpea salads are a favorite go-to in our household and I have a sneaking suspicion they’ll soon be one in yours too!

Mince ‘em

Seriously – it is crazy how ridiculously easy and outlandlishly scrumptious mushrooms, onions, beans, and barley can be when finely chopped or pulsed in a food processor with a little ground flax and made into non-meat-balls and burgers.  You can mix-and-match those veggies ‘til the cows come home (happily, of course, ‘cause it won’t be on the table.  No ma’am – not this time.)  Really though, you’ve hardly lived until you’ve had the chance to savor a perfectly grilled veggie burger topped with avocado, roasted red pepper, red onion and a touch of EVOO.

Bake ‘em

Okay, so, yes, you can bake a potato but that’s not what I’m getting at here.  What I mean is for you to take those fruit, veggie and bean purees and use them in place of oils and liquids in recipes for anything from breads to cookies to snack bars.

Blend ‘em

Pasta sauce is a sneaky mom’s best friend.  It is a perfect vehicle for disguising vegetables.  Just remember your color wheel here, people.  Red and green make brown and a bust.  I mean, sure, it’ll taste good but too much broc in the pasta sauce and the jig is up, my friend!

Try cauliflower, cannellini beans or navy beans in white sauces such as alfredo or a primavera.  These work really well when making cream bases for pot pies and other creamy dishes.  Just puree your beans in your broth and viola!  They’ll never know and ever grow all the healthier for it.

Pumpkin and sweet peppers blend seamlessly into red sauces and if you happen to have a family that digs on pesto, you are in great luck with the perfect place to stash broccoli, spinach and peas!

Chop ’em

I’ve found that even when it looks like you’ve straight confettied the plate, most kids don’t mind the fruits and veggies so much where they’ve been finely chopped and added to their favorite dishes such as pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, tacos, or, of course, most anything dippable.  Chopped vegetables also make a great add-in if you like making your own homemade breads.  Just fold in some grated onion or finely chopped olives to add a unique taste and upgrade that loaf at the same time.

Wrap ‘em

Come on.  Everything is better in a wrap, right?  You’re not fooling anybody.  You get excited for a good wrap too, even if you’re subbing out those carbs for one scrumptious leaf’o’lettuce.  Bring a rainbow of color into your favorite wraps, topped with guac, hummus or your favorite dips and sauces.  Remember those bean/chickpea salads we mentioned earlier?  Yeah.  Throw that on your wrap with some slices of red pepper, fresh sprouts, chunks of roasted garlic or some savory olives for easy wraps fit for a queen.

Roast ‘em

I’ve hardly met a roasted veg I didn’t like and how easy can you get, right?  Oven – 425°.  Produce – sliced.  Sea salt + extra virgin olive or coconut oil + spices/herbs of choice.  25-35 minutes later the whole family is swarming the kitchen, poppin’ ‘em left and right.

Yeah, it’s all fun and games until the family sits down for dinner to realize they already ate it all from the stove top.  Well… what can we say?  Food happens and it’s a beautiful thing.

So, how about you?  What are your favorite ways with food?  What methods do you use as a jumping point to create your own culinary classics?