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How to Cook Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, and Broccoli for Thanksgiving Dinner

I used to work in my family's restaurant and helped run it. I love good food, and I've cooked family meals for over 60 years.

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts go well together

Cabbage and Brussels sprouts go well together

If you have just started living on your own, there may be times when you know roughly how to cook greens, but you are not too sure of the timing.

Green vegetables are high in vitamins, but if they are overcooked, the vitamins leach out into the water. Also, the texture changes and they become very soft.

Even the smell changes. Have you ever walked into an institutional kitchen or dining room and been almost overpowered by the pervading smell of cabbage? That's usually because it has been cooking too long, or is being kept hot for ages because people are not all eating at the same time. When I think of the junior school I attended over 60 years ago; my strongest memory is of the disgusting cabbage smell in the refectory. And when I smelt that same smell in my mother's care home, my mind flew back to my childhood.

Yet, strangely, my partner loves the smell of overdone veggies, so everyone has their own idea of how they should be cooked.

Cabbage in a colander

Cabbage in a colander

How to Cook Cabbage

  1. Pull or cut off as many cabbage leaves as you need, or slice off a chunk of the cabbage. If there are thick, fibrous stems, cut out the hard bits, and also any discoloured or damaged areas.
  2. Then wash the leaves of the cabbageyou will find it helpful to wash them in a colanderand tear or cut them into smaller pieces.
  3. Place them in a saucepan of boiling water, salted to taste, and make sure that the cabbage leaves are completely submerged in the water. Otherwise, they tend to dry out. Boil for fifteen minutes. Some people like their cabbage cooked very soft and a bit soggy, in which case, just boil for 20 minutes instead of 15. Pale cabbage takes slightly less time to cook than dark cabbage, which is a bit tougher.
  4. Then drain the cabbage in a colander or pick it out with tongs, and serve.

I usually keep the cabbage water and use it when making gravy or soup, as it is nutritious. It is also quite pleasant as a hot drink, with a little added pepper.

How to Cook Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a bit like Marmiteyou either love them or hate them. They are in the same brassica family as cabbage, but much smaller, about the size of a golf ball. Their flavour is similar, but it's much more concentrated and strong.

People say that the smaller ones have a better flavour, but as the larger ones are less fiddly to peel, I usually pick larger ones when shoppingthat's just me!

Cutting Brussels sprouts

Cutting Brussels sprouts

How to Prepare Brussels Sprouts for Cooking

  1. Allow about 4 to 6 sprouts per person.
  2. With a sharp knife, remove any outer leaves that have blemishes and black marks.
  3. Then turn them upside down and cut a deep line or cross where they have been cut from the stem of the plant. This helps these tightly compacted little vegetables to cook evenly right the way through.
  4. Wash them and put them in a pan of boiling water, salted to taste. You can also steam them, by placing them in a vegetable steamer over boiling water and covering the steamer with a lid. Either way, they need to be cooked for ten minutes if you like them slightly undercooked and solid, or fifteen minutes if you like them softer. Fancy modern chefs tend to undercook them, but the old-fashioned way is to cook them for longer. The longer you cook them, the stronger the flavour, so just experiment until you find out which way you like them.

You can save the vegetable water to make gravy or soup.

Broccoli in a saucepan

Broccoli in a saucepan

How to Cook Broccoli

Broccoli is a picturesque vegetable, with a head of dark green florets. It should not be eaten if it has been stored too long and has turned yellow.

Broccoli is considered to be one of the most nourishing green vegetables and is therefore particularly good for you (but don't let that put you off!).

  1. Wash the broccoli, then cut or break it into florets, keeping on the short stems attached to the florets.
  2. Put them into boiling water, adding salt to taste. You can also cook them in a steamer over boiling water. Boil for ten minutes if you like broccoli with the stems slightly crunchy, and 15 minutes if you like the stems to be a bit soft. Do not overcook broccoli, or it will go soft and squashy and fall apart, and also the taste will change from delicate and appetizing to intensely strong with a less than pleasant smell.
  3. Drain and serve.

You can use the water to make gravy or soup.

Oven-Baked Broccoli

I've only recently been told by my sister an even better but less traditional way of cooking broccoli. They come out of the oven slightly crispy, even crunchy, and are delicious:

  1. Cut the broccoli into floret heads.
  2. Line a baking tray with lightly oiled foil.
  3. Lay the broccoli florets on the tray.
  4. Sprinkle with a little salt.
  5. Spray or lightly dot with olive oil.
  6. Bake at Gas Mark 6 (140 º) for 20 minutes.
Cauliflower boiling in a saucepan

Cauliflower boiling in a saucepan

How to Cook Cauliflower

Cauliflower and broccoli are fairly similar vegetables, and can both be cooked the same way. Cauliflower can even be used as a substitute for potato and rice in stews and curries if you are on a low-carb diet. I only learned this when I went on a Second Nature diet myself recently. They supply lots of recipes in a booklet and online, and I was surprised to find how palatable this carbohydrate substitute was.

How to Prepare Cauliflower

  1. Wash the cauliflower, then cut or break it into florets, leaving on the short stems attached to the florets.
  2. Put them into boiling water, adding salt to taste. Or cook them in a steamer over boiling water. Boil for 10 minutes if you like them slightly crunchy, or 15 minutes if you like them a bit soft.
  3. Drain and serve.

You can use the vegetable water to make gravy or soup.

More Quick and Easy Vegetable Recipes

A Great YouTube Video

I Love This Steamer Set

© 2012 Diana Grant

Do leave a comment or suggestion. I love to hear from people!

LauraGT from MA on March 06, 2012:

These are some of my favorite veggies. Thanks for the tips!