Recently I was asked what color of food I gravitate towards when I do our grocery shopping. I thought about it for a while, going back and forth between yellow and green, green to red, red to orange, and back to yellow. The truth is that I like my food to be colorful. I consciously cook our meals thinking about the colors they will have at the end. We, as a family, love veggies in our meals, so I will do vegetarian rice bake (recipe is at the end) and purposely make sure that we have broccoli for green, squash for yellow, red peppers for red, and so on, and after thinking about this I realize that colors become more important when cooking meats which are usually colorless…
I grew up eating veggies, my father, who is Panamanian and where being vegetarian is now something more or less acceptable, have consistently make sure that there is no meat in his lunch meals. So eating vegetarian sandwiches, or soups, or just plain salads, was something I was used to early on. We will go to restaurants and when everybody was ordering sweet and sour chicken, my father was ordering tofu stir fry… it was lunch… no meat allowed.
Then I married my Korean husband, which grew up eating an even wider array of veggies in each and every form from fermented to fried, and for whom eating veggies in every meal was the norm.
Fast forward 20 years together, we have changed our diets A LOT from the old Atkins to vegetarian, to vegan, to keto, to fasting… you name it… we have tried. But the constant has always been the veggies and we wanted our kids to feel that eating a bowl of brussels sprouts is as good as eating chicken wings… and for years we have incorporated different veggies in different styles, from fried to baked to teriyaki veggies stir fry or vegetarian curry.
One Sunday I did breakfast which included scrambled eggs, when I served I realized I forgot the spinach… it looks yummy but all yellow… no greens. I quickly cooked some spinach and put it right on top… we were all happy. We needed the veggies, we needed the color.
I consciously make sure that 4 out of the 7 meals (dinners) we eat are vegetarian based, the other three meals are meat-based. We enjoyed it and I feel good to know that the kiddos, genuinely smile when I come back from the supermarket with the biggest brussel sprout bag ever… We know we will eat good… and green.
Vegetarian Rice Bake
In a baking dish put the white rice (this can be basmati, jasmine, even quinoa and other grains like farro or barley or a mix of grains). Spread the white rice in the baking dish.
Cook the veggies, first the onions and bell peppers (and chickpeas if using) together with one tablespoon of the oil and add the cumin and coriander, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until soft and then add it on top of the rice.
Then do the green beans and carrots with the other tablespoon of oil, paprika, sumac, and salt and pepper to taste and cook until soft again and put it on top of the rice too.
Mix all together until the veggies are distributed. Top with the mozzarella (I used about a cup) and on top of the mozzarella at the feta cheese (about 1 cup). Cover with foil paper and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes, then take the foil off and bake for another 10 minutes, then put the broil on and broil for 5 minutes (or until the feta cheese is brown/melted)
You can use any veggie you like, we have used corn, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cherry tomatoes, zucchini (really good), and yellow squash.