A big portion of my grocery bill goes to fresh fruits and vegetables. My challenge is not so much for me as it is for my husband to eat more veggies and to try new ones. He has erratic eating habits, sometimes fitting in one meal in the evening because he’s too busy at work to think about eating. He isn’t a picky eater (except anything that faintly resembles a tuna casserole). Being married to someone who thinks, talks, and tastes food every day, he’s learned to try new things. But I when I told him I was making a roasted beet and arugula salad (pictured at left) with nuts and blue cheese to take to his family’s Thanksgiving, his reaction was, “Just make brownies. No one will eat beets!” I realized my beet salad was going up against the traditional Southern holiday fare: turnip greens, creamed corn, sweet potato casserole, slaw, and potato salad. I knew at least one sister-in-law would eat it but never imagined I’d go home with an empty bowl. I was surprised when even my husband came back for seconds and two family members called me after the holidays asking for the recipe. (BTW, I made the brownies as a back-up and took home most of the pan).
I’ve figured out over the years that the secret when introducing something new and different is picking recipes that have familiar and popular ingredients. In the case of the beet salad, history told me salads with nuts and cheese are always a hit. One of our favorites at home is what my husband calls “special salad.” It’s mixed greens, a fruit (apples, strawberries, pears, or orange sections) with sugared nuts and a crumbled sharp cheese. I might not use the entire apple for the salad, but it never goes to waste—he’s standing over my shoulder snacking on the rest and sneaking a few of the sugared nuts. It’s extra special with some chopped avocado, which adds one more serving in the fruit and vegetable for the day.
Last week I found a skillet one-dish meal in Sunset calling for pork, butternut squash, and escarole. He’s not much on everything cooked together (probably evokes memories of the tuna casserole) so I presented it as a recipe with pork chops and vegetables. I knew he liked sweet potatoes so I subbed them for the winter squash. I had fresh spinach in the fridge so I modified the recipe to use them in place of the escarole. Home run!