Updated date:

How to Cook Vegetables Properly for Thanksgiving Dinner

I used to help in our family restaurant, and I love good food. I enjoy thinking up creative ways to use leftovers to avoid food waste.

learn-how-to-cook-vegetables-2

How to Cook Vegetables Properly

When I was newly married and in the first home of my own, I hadn't a clue how to cook anything at all except boiled eggs and toast. My mother-in-law took me under her wing, and, with great patience, taught me how to cook meals suitable for her darling boy. She cooked in our family restaurant, and made things look easy, simple food done with flare.

Mindful of how many people find cooking something of a mystery, I thought it would be helpful to show how to cook simple vegetables, which form the basis of many meals. Once you know the basics, you will have the confidence to move on and maybe try more complicated meals, but this article is for beginners in the world of cookery.

Vegetables In This Article

  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Parsnips and Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Swede
  • Gem Squash
Onions frying

Onions frying

Onion

Onions are a very useful vegetable for adding flavour to stews and soups, or for roasting with meat.

Peel the onion by stripping off the parchment-like outer leaves with a knife, then if using onion in a stew or soup, or simply as fried onions, cut the onion in half, and chop it into pieces, or slice it. Then put a tablespoonful of cooking oil (I always use olive oil) in a frying pan, and gently fry the onion until it is golden brown—about five minutes, then use it to add to the other stew or soup ingredients.

Fried onion: If using simply as fried onion, for instance with a barbeque, you might like to cook it on a slightly higher heat, so that it gets a bit crispy, but make sure you stir it, or it will stick to the pan and burn.

Roast onion: Keep the peeled onion whole, or if very large, cut it in half. Put it on a baking tray, cover it with about a teaspoonful of cooking oil and a little salt, and cook it in the oven on a medium heat for about 45 minutes to one hour, turning it over once, and basting it with oil. Usually it will be cooked in with roast potatoes and meat, as it imparts flavouring to the cooking oil as it cooks.

Potatoes, carrots and parsnips

Potatoes, carrots and parsnips

Potatoes, Parsnips and Carrots

The simplest method for all three of these root vegetables is to peel them, cut them up, cover them with water, add salt to taste and boil for twenty minutes, drain and serve.

How big should they be cut?

  • Potato: about the size of a golf ball
  • Parsnips: two or three pieces
  • Carrots: several long strips, or large or small slice
Roast potatoes and parsnips

Roast potatoes and parsnips

More About Potatoes

  • Mashed potatoes: After boiling drain off the water, add quarter of a cupful of milk to the potatoes in the pan, heat and add a knob of butter and mash with a fork or masher. If the consistency looks a little dry, add more milk.
  • Roast potatoes (or roast parsnips): Peel and cut to the size of a golf ball, boil them in salted water for fifteen minutes, put a tablespoon of cooking oil in a baking tray, then put the potatoes or parsnips in, turning them over so they are coated lightly with oil. Then put on top shelf of oven and regulo 6 for about 30 minutes, until brown. It helps if you turn them over once during cooking but not essential.
  • Baked potatoes: Wash and scrub whole large potatoes, and put them in the oven regulo 6 for about 40 minutes. If you don't like the skins too tough, wrap them in silver metal foil for about 30 minutes, and just undo the foil for the last 10 minutes to dry off the steam.
Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a fairly bland vegetable when cooked; it's better when prepared as cauliflower cheese.

Boiled Cauliflower: Wash, and cut the cauliflower into large florets, cutting off any blemishes. The leaves can be used too, discarding any thick stalks.

  1. Boil for 15 minutes, adding a sprinkling of salt to taste.
  2. Drain and serve.
  3. It is sometimes served with a plain white sauce over it.
  4. Do not overcook because cauliflower goes soft, falls to pieces and smells disgusting when cooked too long,
Cauliflower boiling

Cauliflower boiling

Quick and Easy Cauliflower Cheese

This is a very tasty dish, which can either be served on its own, as a nutritious vegetarian meal, or as a vegetable to accompany meat.

Cheese sauce for cauliflower

Cheese sauce for cauliflower

The Cheese Sauce

The ingredients and instructions of how to make the cheese sauce can be found in How to Make Cauliflower Cheese, so I won't re-state it in detail here.

Suffice to say you cook the cauliflower as above, for 10 to 15 minutes, and whilst it is cooking, make a white sauce using cornflour, following the instructions on the box; then stir in some grated cheese to the mixture.

Then pour the white sauce over the drained cauliflower and add a sprinkling of grated cheese on the top, because cheese tastes and looks lovely when it has browned on top.

Put it in the oven at Regulo 6 for about 20 minutes, or until just turning brown.

Cauliflower with cheese sauce

Cauliflower with cheese sauce

And have a look at my special French Le Creuset red metal baking dish. I've had it for years, and it is very serviceable and hard-wearing. I love it because, although it's a bit heavy, it's ornamental enough to be taken straight from the oven to the dinner table whilst hot—but I do have to have a heat-proof mat to save it burning the table.

Cauliflower cheese bowned and ready to eat

Cauliflower cheese bowned and ready to eat

Broccoli

Broccoli

Broccoli

My mother used to pronounce it "berocolli."

Wash the broccoli, cut it into florets, and drop into boiling water. Add salt to taste. Boil for ten minutes if you like it slightly crunchy, and fifteen minutes if you like it a bit soft. Do not overcook, or it will go soft and squashy and fall apart.

Drain and serve.

Broccoli should not be eaten if it has been stored too long and has turned yellow.

Cabbage, swede and gem squash

Cabbage, swede and gem squash

Cabbage, Swede and Gem Squash

Cabbage

There are several varieties of cabbage—some with dark leaves and some with lighter leaves, some with solid centres, and some more open.

Pull off as many cabbage leaves as you need, cut away any thick stems, then wash the cabbage leaves, cut or tear them into smaller pieces, and put them in a pan of boiling water, salted to taste. Boil for 15 minutes, making sure the leaves are fully covered with water, so that they don't dry out. Then drain and serve.

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,

Swede

Cut a piece of as much swede as you need, peel it with a potato peeler or sharp knife, and then cut it into small pieces—about 1" to 2" cubes. You need to cut it up small because swede is a very hard vegetable, and would take a long time to cook if not cut. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes, then mash with butter and serve.

Gem Squash or Any Other Kind of Squash

Boil the squash in water for 20 minutes without peeling it, then cut the squash in half, add a dollop of butter, pepper and salt, and serve.

A Vegetable Stall in London

A Vegetable Stall in London

Health experts advise us to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day. What's your daily intake of vegetables?

Ready for More? Try Cooking With Aubergine

  • Easy Stuffed Eggplant or Aubergine
    This is a quick and easy vegetarian recipe, and it tastes delicious, with melted cheese oozing over a blend of vegetables, baked in the oven
Baked aubergine (eggplant)

Baked aubergine (eggplant)

Do Leave A Comment - A Little Food For Thought

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 15, 2013:

@Erin Mellor: I didn't know you could eat raw broccoli, although I like raw carrot.

I think I'd feel a bit cheated if I was given raw vegetables with my roast dinner, it sort of calls for roast or hot vegetables and gravy.....imagine gravy on raw vegetables!

Erin Mellor from Europe on December 15, 2013:

My secret tip is to serve broccoli and carrot raw and claim it's for the health benefits, rather than my idleness.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 02, 2013:

@KimGiancaterino: I thought hubble bubble was another name for a Hookah, used in Turkey and other countries for smoking. I have just looked it up and it is also a variation of bubble and squeak, but with the addition of things like baked beans and tomato sauce.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 02, 2013:

@MaggiePowell: Yes, that's nice. I haven't got a barbeque, but eat grilled vegetables at other people's barbeques. I chuck loads of vegetables into everything, like curried chicken and stew.

MaggiePowell on May 01, 2013:

In the summertime I love throwing veggies like squash or peppers on the bar b que grill. YUM.

KimGiancaterino on May 01, 2013:

We were watching an old Miss Marple movie, and there was a reference to hubble bubble. This is the first I've heard of bubble and squeak, but I guessed correctly on your quiz. If you have a good hubble bubble recipe, please share. We have several Le Creuset baking dishes in all four colors. They look brand new even after years of use.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 01, 2013:

@Frischy: I've never heard of a distinction between summer and winter squash. So much food in the UK is imported because it is not seasonal in England that it's always summer somewhere! Just try it and see!

Frischy from Kentucky, USA on May 01, 2013:

Is your technique for cooking squash for summer or winter squash. I have such trouble cutting up winter squash. I would love to have a simpler way. If this works for winter squash, I am definitely trying it!

Monika Weise from Indianapolis, IN USA on May 01, 2013:

Thanks for all the great suggestions on cooking vegetables!

Ann from Yorkshire, England on May 01, 2013:

Great lens for beginners. Most people tend to overcook veggies. I steam all my vegetable - less likely to overcook them that way and they keep more of their nutrition.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on May 01, 2013:

@Pinasheart: Good - we all have to learn to abandon junk food and embrace vegetables (have you ever embraced a cabbage???)

Pinasheart on April 30, 2013:

I learned some new stuff from this! thanks! im always looking for new veggie recipes.

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 04, 2012:

@marsha32: Just cut into fairly small pieces and then boil them for twenty minutes. Personally I am not keen on turnips on their own, but they are lovely in a stew

Diana Grant (author) from United Kingdom on December 04, 2012:

@AmandaTWaH: That's great - good luck

AmandaTWaH on December 04, 2012:

I'm definitely not new to the kitchen. I've been cooking for the family since I'm a teen but this year my fiance's grandma asked me to cook Christmas dinner and I want everything to be perfect. This helps a lot!

AmandaTWaH on December 04, 2012:

I'm definitely not new to the kitchen. I've been cooking for the family since I'm a teen but this year my fiance's grandma asked me to cook Christmas dinner and I want everything to be perfect. This helps a lot!

marsha32 on December 03, 2012:

Do you have any advice for turnips? A man at church keeps giving them to us. So far my daughter just eats them raw.

anonymous on August 22, 2012:

Thanks for sharing the great tips on how to properly cook vegetables.

mrsclaus411 on May 08, 2012:

Great lens.

NeverTooLate2012 on February 21, 2012:

Wonderful lens! Some things I knew, some are new.

Prudent-Man on February 18, 2012:

I have decided to cut back on the meat and cheese food groups and eat more fruit and veggies. This lens gave some variety to add to the menu.