Get ready to be amazed as we turn this sad side dish into something people might even want a second helping of.
Mixed vegetables aren’t really a side dishes that people get excited for. Yet somehow, they always seem to end up on the table in some sort of twisted attempt at “balancing out” an otherwise delicious meal. Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with mixed vegetables. Unless you do something to spice them up, they’re likely to be the last thing left on the plate, and even then, they're only eaten out of a sense of duty. Before you give up on mixed vegetables all together, there are some simple things you can do to spice them up.
Go Frozen, Not Canned
Fresh mixed veggies generally taste better and are better for you, but sometimes you need a cheat. In that case, try to get frozen "fresh" mixed vegetables as opposed to canned veggies. Frozen vegetables haven’t been soaking in liquid for months, so they'll taste more like fresh vegetables than their canned counterparts.
Moisture is Key
When cooking your mixed vegetables, you have to add moisture by either blanching them in boiling water or steaming them. If you just toss your vegetables in a bowl and microwave them without adding any water, you’re likely to end up with chewy or overly dried vegetables. Either heat them in boiling water for a few minutes, steam them over boiling water in a colander, or heat them in the microwave in a covered container with extra water. After you’ve cooked your vegetables, be sure to drain out any excess water before seasoning them.
Here’s a quick tip for boosting flavor: if you’re cooking your frozen veggies on the stovetop, try boiling them in chicken or beef broth instead of plain water.
On with the Flavor
When it comes to seasoning mixed vegetables, start with the basics. As with nearly any food, the holy trifecta of spices applies to mixed veggies: salt, pepper and garlic. For a 16-ounce bag of mixed veggies, add about a tablespoon of butter or olive oil and season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste. It sounds simple enough but adding just a little salt and fat to mixed vegetables will make a world of difference.
Jazz It Up
Another simple idea is to cook your mixed vegetables with butter and salt, then mix in some shredded Parmesan cheese. Bacon is another add-in that no one will complain about in their side of veggies. If you want to go more global, stir fry the vegetables in a small amount of oil and soy sauce. And as always, adding something fresh on top like cilantro or parsley will help elevate flavor, and it doesn’t hurt their appearance, either.
It’s difficult to make mixed vegetables taste worse, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Try and pair your flavors with other dishes you’re cooking—it can be fun to try different spice combinations based on what else you're serving that night!