I have been on both sides of the Great Veggie Stand-Off. I have been the strong-
willed child still sitting at the dinner table at 10 p.m., staring down a serving of cauliflower. I have also been the mom, urging my sons to “just try it,” when “it” was some vegetable they did not find appealing. (But never cauliflower, which I still do not care for.)

Eating more vegetables and fruits is straight-forward health advice and yet many of us still struggle to eat a variety of vegetables every day. I have occasionally arrived at the end of a busy day with the disturbing realization that I did not eat a single vegetable. This is a public confession, and as the executive director of the Cancer Resource Centers, I surely know, and can do, better.

Healthy eating guidelines from the American Cancer Society recommend eating at least two-and-a-half cups of vegetables and fruits each day and “limiting the use of creamy sauces, dressings, and dips” on those vegetables and fruits. Hold the bacon and cheddar cheese sauce.

Vegetables contain anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber—all great for our health and assistive in repairing cell damage. By eating a more plant-based diet, we can reduce our risk of cancer as well as heart disease and type-2 diabetes. I don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of eating more vegetables, I just need to do it, but how?

Eating more vegetables has gotten a little easier because grocery store produce departments now carry a wide selection of pre-prepped vegetables. I love butternut squash, but I find dicing it up intimidating because of past near disasters involving a sharp knife. But the refrigerated produce section now carries ready-to-cook, pre-diced butternut squash as well as many other pre-prepped fresh vegetables. We are lucky to live in California, where great produce is grown and readily available. Here in Mendocino County, we have year-round farmer’s markets with seasonal, locally grown vegetables and fruits.

Since Thanksgiving is still a fresh memory, some folks may still have some leftover green bean casserole in the refrigerator—the kind that contains mushroom soup and milk. In many families, it would not be Thanksgiving without it. But this year, I found an alternative that is healthier, tasted better, and that my family enjoyed. This recipe would make great left-overs for a work-day lunch. Eat a serving of this casserole, and at the end of the day, you can say “I ate six vegetables today.” No cauliflower is necessary.

Six-Veggie Casserole
1 16 oz. package frozen cut green beans
2 cups sliced celery
1 green pepper, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
¼-cup margarine, melted
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 can (2.8 oz) French-fried onions (optional, for topping)

In a large bowl, combine all vegetables except the French-fried onions. Melt margarine and add to vegetables with the tapioca, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover and bake 1 hour at 350 deg. F. Uncover, check vegetables for desired tenderness, and top with French-fried onions. Bake another 10 minutes and serve hot.

The Cancer Resource Centers’ 2018 Cancer Awareness and prevention series is sponsored by CRC in collaboration with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency. The information presented is for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. The Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County is a grassroots organization serving our communities since 1995 by providing information, advocacy, and support services free of charge.