Vegetables 101: What Are Crudites? ♥ How to Create a Colorful Instagram-Friendly Platter of Raw Vegetables

What Are Crudités? (And How to Build a Stunning Platter) another Vegetables 101 ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 What do we call those simple-to-stunning plates and platters and trays of colorful vegetables so often served at parties but also, in simple form, at family tables? Let's talk crudités – the what, the how, the why. Wondering what vegetables to use and how to present them beautifully? Here are my very best tips! graphic button small size size 10

(leave a quick comment, shoot me a quick email via, slip a note into a bottle, whatever works)
graphic button small size size 10 Is there a vegetable that shows up in crudités that you absolutely avoid touching let alone eating?
graphic button small size size 10 Is there another that you steer toward, no matter what else is available?
graphic button small size size 10 If you're into crudités, do you have any surprise vegetables that you always sneak in?

WHAT ARE CRUDITÉS? Crudités are fresh, colorful and usually raw vegetables displayed attractively in some way, often on a plate or platter or interesting tray, nearly always with a dip or two. You know how grocery stores have those plastic trays with separate sections for carrots, celery and maybe some grape tomatoes? Yes, those are crudités! But trust me, we can definitely do better than that.

HOW TO PRONOUNCE CRUDITÉS? It's a French word, [pronounced kroo-de-tay, kro͞odəˈtā].

WHAT'S THE SINGULAR OF CRUDITÉS? The singular use is the same as the plural use. One crudités, two crudités. If you see the phrase "crudité" (without an s, attempting to create a singlular form) platter, the spelling is in error, the word always ends with s, singular and plural both.

IS THERE A BETTER WORD? Not that I can think of! What do you use? What do you call those veggie trays???

Sweet Cornbread ♥ Recipe

Sweet Cornbread ♥, sweetened with honey, moist and tender, a total treat!
graphic button small size size 10 A classic cornbread sweetened with honey. Sweet but not too sweet. Rich but not too rich. Ever so tender. Absolutely delicious! Bake it in the traditional round shape or, for great sliced cornbread, a loaf pan. graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2008~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2008 I worried that readers might fear that the appearance of a cornbread recipe might signal a diversion from this blog's recipe vegetables-vegetables-vegetables focus. But wait! Cornmeal originates with a vegetable, it's just field corn that's been dried and ground! I'm embarrassed to admit: cornmeal's humble origin just never registered.

Luckily, despite the lapse, it turns out that a real cornbread lover can nose out another cornbread lover. Crescent Dragonwagon, cornbread lover extraordinaire (who else would write an entire cookbook expressing one's love for cornbread?) looked me up when the Country Cornbread recipe posted to help people use up their leftover ham from Easter. Just a couple of weeks earlier, I'd shared my recipe for cornbread (you know, the single go-to recipes we call our own), the savory ever-moist Skillet Cornbread, in Kitchen Parade, my food column. I didn't even know I loved cornbread so much. But Crescent did – she even offered to send a complimentary copy of her cookbook The Cornbread Gospels.

And she was so so right! There's just so much to love about cornbread. How cornbread can save a skimpy supper. How mixing cornbread takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes. How cornbread emerges from the oven just 30 minutes later, steamy, substantial, ready for hungry folk to dig in. How cornbread is made, nearly always, from simple on-hand pantry ingredients. (I swear, The Cornbread Gospels uses the same ten ingredients again and again, turning out an astonishing variety of cornbread and racking up some 200+ recipes.) How cornbread's many variations are so different – starting with southern savory cornbreads and their northern sweeter cousins. How cornbreads' names are familiar but old-fashioned, johnnycakes, hoecakes, hush puppies, spoonbread. Especially, I love how cornbread is so very American, the staple grain fundamental to Native Americans, later to this country's early settlers, and later still, for families in the southern states, especially, of the U.S.

Day 345: Cream of Celery Soup ♥

Cream of Celery Soup, another healthy soup ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 A simple homemade celery soup, all about the celery and way more than the sum of its parts. Rave reviews! Skip the unnecessary cream and it's Whole 30 friendly. Also Gluten Free, Weight Watchers friendly and naturally, OhSoGood! graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2006~
~more recently updated recipes~

Awhile back, I puzzled over a tidbit in a magazine. "To have fun," it asked, "would you prefer to go to a party with lots of old friends or one where you'll know hardly anyone?"

Turns out that if FUN is the desired experience, then partying with new people is the ticket. (Okay, yes, I know, who can make such a generalization? and why is new fun better than laughing over old jokes? and were the folks who did the study, went to the parties and wrote the story all Extroverts in the Meyers-Briggs schema? and who reads this stuff anyway? Please, bear with me.)

And so it's turned out that I've been cooking and writing about vegetables for nearly an entire year now. Sure, it's great fun to try new vegetables. But it's also quite something to discover new dimensions in my standby vegetables, my "old friends" if you will.

Take the under-appreciated celery. Celery had me extolling leafy virtues in Day 247's apple and celery salad, it's my go-to salad whenever celery leaves are plentiful. It had me moaning about Day 317's simple braised celery. And here I am again, raving about a simple and yet somehow complex soup that is somehow 100% celery and yet 100% something else altogether.

The Wednesday Chef had the same reaction same reaction to celery soup, a Leslie Brenner recipe from the Los Angeles Times. Luisa's soup was as elegant as her description; mine was intentionally more rustic. Still, our two versions prove: celery can surprise.

graphic button small size size 10 "... marvelous. ... Very nourishing yet light and spring-time like." ~ Brigette
graphic button small size size 10 "... it's very good! " ~ Anonymous
graphic button small size size 10 "LOVE love love this soup! " ~ Anonymous

Spicy Cauliflower Soup ♥ Recipe

Spicy Cauliflower Soup, not pretty but another healthy flavor-packed soup ♥
A quick 'n' easy cauliflower soup, spicy with spices, not spicy with heat. Very Weight Watchers Friendly: Zero Freestyle points! Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2010~
~more recently updated recipes~

Can't say I know, exactly, what gruel is, but I suspect it might look a lot like a pot of Spicy Cauliflower Soup, smudgy and watery, muddy-yellow and dirty-brown.

But please don't judge this soup by its appearance. What it lacks in aesthetics, it compensates in flavor. The spices are 'Indian-style' – coriander, cumin and turmeric, plus a little chili powder for a small measure of heat. That's right, this soup is spicy – but not spicy-hot, just spicy. I found it a spare and satisfying antidote to a weekend of too-rich food and too-little exercise.

My soup bowl remained monastic and rustic, just the soup itself and a gorgeous loaf of rye bread from St. Louis' bakery The Daily Bread. But the inspiring recipe called for topping the soup with yogurt, chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice, go ahead, live it up.

Winter Greens Salad ♥ with Oranges, Avocado, Olives, Feta & Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette

Winter Greens Salad ♥ with Oranges, Avocado, Olives, Feta & Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette, whew, say THAT three times, another healthy salad ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Whew, say THAT three times. Or don't, because by the time you have, today's fresh winter salad could be on the table, just bitter greens (curly endive is pictured) plus juicy oranges, s'more salad fixin's all tossed with a long-time favorite no-oil salad dressing, Orange & Cumin Vinaigrette. Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

I swear, since Christmas, you could count on one hand how often I've cooked vegetables. But vegetable soups? and raw salads? #NoGettingEnough

My raw salads follow no recipe, per se, although there is a formula. Greens of some sort, often arugula. (Any other fans of Trader Joe's arugula?!!) Chopped vegetables, whatever's on hand. (It's winter so think carrot, cabbage, fennel, cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, Brussels sprouts, radish, small tomatoes, zucchini, that's just since Christmas.) Parsley or cilantro if they're handy. Green onion, always! Salt, pepper and a splash of good vinegar. Then a drizzle of good olive oil, not much. Some times? If there's time and inclination, a few feta crumbles, a few nuts (usually Maple-Glazed Pecans) or seeds (oh my! I do owe you an amazing recipe for barely-sweet pumpkin seeds). And that's it. I could – I do – assemble a salad like this at least once a day.

Here though, I get more calculated to showcase lovely tangelos from Boudrias Groves, we're so very lucky when a mid-winter gift box is dropped off at our door. (Thank you, Jan and Charlie!) These are the juiciest oranges ever! Mostly, we just gorge on sliced oranges but after that, I get a little more creative, it's orange heaven:

graphic button small size size 10 Orange Julius Drinks (these are zero points with Freestyle SmartPoints, right? and so refreshing!)
graphic button small size size 10 Sunshine Orange Muffins

graphic button small size size 10 Savory Orange Slices
graphic button small size size 10 Citrus Slices with Orange Flower Water, Spices & Chocolate Shavings

And now, I'm adding a salad to the lineup. So good, this one! I've made it a half dozen times in a half dozen ways in the last while, all wonderful. This is what I settled on – bitter + sweet + creamy + salty = "perfect"!

Detox Chopped Salad ♥ Recipe

Detox Chopped Salad, another healthy salad ♥ A Veggie Venture. Vegan, great for potlucks and parties.
graphic button small size size 10 Today's chopped salad recipe: An addictive combination of finely chopped broccoli, cauliflower (both or one or the other) and dried fruit, nuts and seeds, bound by a citrus dressing. Great for home as a "refrigerator salad" that keeps for a good week or more but also a great salad to take along to potlucks and parties, ensuring at least one plant-based, satisfying choice. Weight Watchers Friendly. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

"I bought a food processor," my sister announced back in November. "We really like this recipe I tried. It's great! But you really can't chop everything fine enough by hand."

So curious, I was, what could such a kitchen appliance-temptation salad be?! Turns out, it's just broccoli, cauliflower, dried fruit, some nuts and seeds, all chopped finely and tossed in a no-oil citrus dressing.

Since I already owned the all-important food processor, there was no waiting on an Amazon delivery. But as luck would have it, I did have everything else on hand – so made my sister's Detox Chopped Salad on the spot. And another batch the next week. And then a double batch for Thanksgiving. And another double batch for Christmas Eve! And ...

This is such a refreshing salad, so fresh tasting, with excellent crunch. And it's pretty! I happen to like the all-broccoli or all-cauliflower version better in the looks department but that's just me. It's a real crowd pleaser too, an easy one to make ahead to take along to a potluck or party to balance out all the heavy, high-calorie appetizers or snacks. (Hello, Superbowl parties!)

So here's the question, fellow vegetable lovers. Who else has bought a kitchen appliance for just one recipe? Would you? I knew a guy once who wanted to make a dessert from a St. Louis restaurant (the still much-missed Blue Sky Cafe's chocolate enchiladas, stuffed with fruit and whipped cream, drizzled with caramel sauce) for a dinner party and came home with a skillet (for the chocolate crepes), a heavy saucepan (for the caramel sauce) and, gracious, a Kitchen Aid mixer (for the whipped cream). What extremes will we go to when we really-really-really want to make something?! Who can imagine this?!

While you're thinking on this question, make the Detox Chopped Salad!

Loaded Iceberg Steaks ♥ with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing

Loaded Iceberg Steaks with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, another 'Summer Easy' salad idea ♥ A Veggie Venture
graphic button small size size 10 Today's quick 'n' easy 'n' versatile salad, just a thick slice of iceberg lettuce topped with summery BLT-ish vegetables and a drizzle of Homemade Thousand Island Dressing. Surprisingly filling! Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free. graphic button small size size 10

Please oh please, don't mock. Every year, I fall in love with a new vegetable, or well, better put, I experience a long-familiar vegetable with new appreciation. In 2017? Iceberg lettuce, ha!

It all started when for the first time in years, I made a batch of homemade salad dressing, the oh-so-lovely Thousand Island Dressing. One batch led to another and another, warranting a "3x5 recipe", the card stock I'm re-instituting for house specialties and meal standards, all kept handy in a wood 3x5 recipe box from my childhood. So yeah, 3x5 cards in digital 2017? Again, don't mock! :-)

Anyway, iceberg "wedges" taste great but are awkward for loading up with other ingredients. Enter iceberg lettuce "steaks" – just thick slices cut from the midsection of a head of lettuce, all crunch, so fresh, so summery.

Give it a whirl? I promise a warm welcome into the iceberg club!

This recipe is so quick and easy that I'm adding it to a growing collection of easy summer recipes published all summer long since 2009 at Kitchen Parade, my food column. With a free Kitchen Parade e-mail subscription, you'll never miss a one!