How to Cook Vegetables: Steaming, Pan Cooking and Lots of Tasty Recipes 1
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How to Cook Vegetables: Steaming, Pan Cooking and Lots of Tasty Recipes

“I know we should eat more vegetables, but…”

This is a common refrain. I bet you’ve even said it yourself. Vegetables tend to be one of the most under-appreciated parts of the food kingdom, and sadly, one that very few people have learned to truly incorporate into their regular eating habits.

The video above is a clip from a recent episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (one of the few things worth watching on tv!). Watch this brief segment to see that today’s children are utterly lacking in even the most basic of knowledge about the abundance of vegetables that our kind Creator has given us for our health and enjoyment. It is both shocking and revealing of our culture’s eating habits, just how uneducated these 6 year olds are in the realm of vegetables.

As I watched, I suddenly felt so grateful that my 5 year old could have quickly and easily named each of these colorful veggies. The reason why? Because after years of neglecting these nutritious gems, I have finally learned how to cook vegetables, and cook them well, in ways that are quick, simple and that we consistently enjoy (and yes, even my children and my husband!).

Two Simple Methods for Preparing Practically Any Vegetable


Steaming, rather than boiling, is preferable because there is less nutrient loss and quite frankly, the taste and texture are just that much better. Please (please), don’t use your microwave. Let me teach you the simple stovetop method.

metal steamerYou’ll need a pot and a colander that fits it. A metal pop-up steamer like this works well and will fit inside a mid-sized pot.

You could also use a tiered pot set, that comes with a steamer piecepot with steamer piece that has handles, similar to this one.

The basic method for steaming is to add a couple inches of water to the bottom of the pot and bring the water to a boil. Then place the steamer full of vegetables over top of the steaming water, put a lid on top and set a timer for the appropriate amount of time.

Depending on the vegetable, you will need to let it steam for as little as just a few minutes, or more commonly about 5-15 minutes. Here is a chart that lists most vegetables and how long they need to be steamed for (just ignore the microwave directions!).

What to steam? Almost anything! Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprouts, corn, greens, sweet potato… pretty much anything you can think of.

Don’t leave your vegetables naked once they’ve been steamed, or you will probably find that they still don’t taste as good as you’d like. I know we’ve been told so many times to stop using all that butter, but it’s bad advice. Put some butter on your vegetables, and yes, a good sprinkle of salt, too (just try to make it an unrefined sea salt). Vegetables taste best and their nutrients are most easily assimilated when the are served with some good, old-fashioned fat.

For some other ideas, here are 8 Ways to Perk Up Steamed Veggies.

plate of vegetables

Image by Sandy Austin

Pan Cooking

This is my favorite method of preparing veggies because it is fast, simple and makes only one dirty dish (not that rinsing out a pot and colander is difficult, either). Mushrooms, asparagus, zuchinni, snap peas, green beans, onions… yum.

Here is my oh-so-technical method of pan cooking veggies: Chop veggies up (or for something like asparagus, leave whole but break off the fibrous bottoms). Warm up the pan to medium heat and melt a couple tablespoons of oil (butter, coconut oil, tallow or lard- they all work well). Toss the veggies in, and give them a bit of a stir/flip every few minutes. Once the vegetables have softened, they’re done. Usually it takes under 10 minutes.

Depending on what I’m making and what we’re in the mood for, I sometimes add some herbs, spices or other flavorings. We love to eat mushrooms fried with some butter, soy sauce and maple syrup (don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!). For asparagus, I usually add butter, lemon juice, and dill. Zucchini is nice with Italian herbs. Snap peas are wonderful as is, so long as you keep them just a bit “snappy” still.

It only takes trying this a few times before you get the hang of it. You’ll start to recognize when your vegetables are ready, and it never hurts to just pop a piece in your mouth to do a little taste test (the privileges that come with being the chef!).

Tasty Recipes to Get More Vegetables Onto Your Table

Salads and Greens

Broccoli Salad

Savory Carrot Salad with Toasted Nuts and Oregano

Greek Salad

Green Bean Salad

Spinach Rice Casserole

Potato, Sweet Potato, Yam and Squash

Four Seasons of Potato Salad (4 different takes on potato salad- all yummy! You have to scroll down a little to find the link)

Butternut Squash Fries

12 Clove Butternut Squash

Delicious Home Baked French Fries

Gingered Sweet Potatoes

Papas Chorreadas (Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes with a creamy tomato sauce)

Sweet Potato Casserole

How to Cook Vegetables: Steaming, Pan Cooking and Lots of Tasty Recipes

Image by Summer Tomato

Root Veggies (Carrots, Turnips, Beets, etc.)

Pan Fried Buttery Carrots

Turnip and Squash Gratin

Roasted Beets (yummier than they sound!)

Cruciferous Veggies- Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage

Buttery Lemon Broccoli

Cauliflower Souffle (I was looking for a different Cauliflower Casserole recipe that I printed from another blog, but I just can’t find it. This recipe is pretty similar)

World’s Best Braised Cabbage

Other Assorted Veggies- Beans, Asparagus, Zucchini, Mushrooms

Sauteed Mushrooms with Soy Sauce and Maple Syrup

Roasted Asparagus

Simple Zucchini and Onions

Garlic Green or Yellow Beans

This is just a small sampling of the variety of amazing, delicious ways that you can serve up more vegetables. Obviously this post only begins to scratch the surface, but I hope that it gives you a bit more inspiration and know-how, to help you increase the amount of vegetables that your family eats!

This was originally posted in April, 2010, but seeing as we’re launching into a month or two where we’ll be sharing all sorts of tips and ideas for including more vegetables in your diet, it seemed appropriate to share it again. Look forward to more posts in our Vegging Out series coming up!

I’m sure that you have your own favorite vegetable recipes… Would you share one or two of them with us?

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  1. Thank you so much for this post! My daughter is 9 months old and I want her to eat an abundance of vegetables and whole foods as she grows. I never ate many vegetables as a child (still don’t, actually) and don’t know how to cook a lot of them. Thanks for showing me!

  2. I am not much of a vegetable eater, but getting better as I age and learn. One of my favorites it Green Beans Gremolata, which is green beans sauteed in olive oil with garlic and lemon juice. Delish! However, right now my absolute favorite is to just add spinach to just about anything. Wilted in pasta dishes or blended in my strawberry peach smoothie will do just fine!

  3. I love veggies, and snack on them most of the day, but when it comes to cooking them I like to try new things. One of my new favorites is braised romaine lettuce. You only need the lettuce, chicken broth or stock, butter, & salt & pepper to taste. Cut the lettuce in half vertically, then cut off just the very end: you want it to all still hold together, but you want to trim off that bitter piece. Sprinkle with a little pepper, then lay cut side up in a casserole or other oven safe dish with a lid. Pour chicken stock over lettuce, about 1/2 way covered, then put a few slices (unsalted) butter over the top. Cover & place in oven @325F for 20-30 minutes. Salt before serving. Its surprisingly sweet & crisp, goes great with pork, or lamb shank.

  4. Thanks for the great post. This has been on my mind lately. I love the cooking chart–I gave away my one cookbook that had a chart like that and realized it too late!

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I get so bored with the way that I serve vegetables, and excuse it by thinking ‘at least I’m serving them!’ I’m growing my first vegetable garden this year and I’m so looking forward to fresh produce and trying some of your suggestions!

    I watched just a brief segment of Food Revolution this past Friday night, and saw the segment where Jamie was chewed out by the Food Service lady for not serving enough veggies with his immensely healthier meal (in order to meet with their regulations of reimbursement), so she was going to have them put french fries on the serving line because they are considered a vegetable!! My shock was audible. And then I became really sad.

  6. Wow! That clip was crazy! Some of the things were a little tougher if you had never been served them before (for a 6-year-old), but I am shocked that they did not even know the difference between a potato and a tomato! I didn’t eat a huge variety growing up, mainly because of my own picky eating – my mom definitely tried! I ate mainly potatoes, corn, carrots, and tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers. My 3-year-old has just come into the stage of picky eating and I am going have to be more intentional about introducing new tastes. This summer we will have a CSA for the first time. I am excited to try the variety of things we will be getting and hopefully introduce the kids to some new tastes. Thanks for all the recipes! I am going to bookmark this page so I know what to do with our veggies this summer πŸ™‚

  7. Dh and I and our son just watched the Jamie Oliver show episodes online this weekend and we were in awe (not in a good way) about that exact clip. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It is great to be educated in addition and in shape sorting and spelling, but to not know at six years old what a tomato or a head of cauliflower is, to me, is tragic. But, I don’t believe the schools should have any need to teach vegetables, nor should anyone at all have to teach this, just as we don’t teach our children what grass or sky is. They should just know because they are immersed in it.

    Thank you for the fantastic article with loads of terrific recipes. I am starring it in my reader to refer to often. πŸ™‚
    .-= ChristineGΒ΄s last blog ..Socks for Someone Six =-.

  8. Thats really sad- about the kids. I am glad that my daughter knows…

    I think a lot of people overcook veggies. I know my husband grew up with “mushy” beans, broccoli etc. and its gross. He claimed he hated them…but then once I cooked them, he said they tasted better! He now eats them well.

    People who come to our house to stay or for a meal are amazed at the amounts of fruits and veggies we eat. I grew up that way. My mom was once asked at the grocery store if she was vegetarian! LOL

  9. Thank you so much for this post! I read it and thought, “Hey, I can do that!” I can’t wait to try the roasted beets. Maybe my husband will like them! πŸ™‚

  10. I remember seeing that episode of Food Revolution and being shocked at that scene!! Thanks for all the useful information and tips. πŸ™‚

  11. Thank you for this post on delicious veggies!! I think if you are uncertain what to do with vegetables, the best thing you can do is get yourself a good vegetable cookbook. There’s always the Internet for recipes too, but I still love a good cookbook! πŸ™‚ My favorite right now is called “The Roasted Vegetable”. You will be DROOLING after reading through some of the recipes. I am having lots of fun working my way through the book and now that it’s gardening season again, I can’t wait to try some more recipes. I couldn’t pick a favorite but “Roasted Tomato Sauce” definitely ranks up at the top.

    I’m so excited to see such a renewed interest in good eating, thanks to blogs like these!!

    1. Holly, Just wanted to say thanks for the book suggestion. Your enthusiasm for the book was contagious-I just reserved a copy from my library (:

      1. You will love it, Rachel…….so many delicious ways to serve and mix vegetables. Glad I could be of help! πŸ™‚

  12. Thank you for this post! While I know generally how to cook veggies, we pretty much just eat basic, easy sides. My 3-year old loves salad with a little ranch, so he’s easy. But my 2-year old definitely likes a little more variety, so I need to start mixing it up. Good point about the good fats, I tend to forget!

  13. Our favorite way to eat veggies is roasted…and you can roast just about anything. Yum! We LOVE roasted green beans. πŸ™‚

    1. We roast a lot too! Asparagus is our favorite, but ANY veggie is delicious that way!

      It amazes me that kids don’t know about this stuff – I’m so immersed in it as a health coach that I tend to forget that it isn’t “everyday knowledge.” Thank goodness my kids love and know their veggies!

    2. I have never tried roasted green beans! Now I want to. πŸ™‚ But yes, roasted is amazing. One of our favorite ways to eat root veggies (potatoes, sweet pot, carrots, beets, etc.) is to roast them with olive oil and sea salt. So amazing!

  14. I keep making oven roasted sweet potatoes for a snack. I absolutely love them. It sounds crazy but I make them a few times a week!

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