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Love Your Veggies

Only a week into the new year, and we're already smothered in ads for health clubs, fitness and dieting, all with the intent to "guilt" us into getting in better shape. Sure, we all want to look and feel good, but we can take a more positive approach, and a very simple one that will last more than a few weeks. And that is: Love your veggies.

Past experience may have led you down the wrong veggie path. Steaming vegetables might be one of the healthiest methods of preparation, but it can yield a flavorless and sometimes mushy product, which will become boring in no time. If you truly enjoy what you eat -- and that includes vegetables -- you will eat more of them, while naturally cutting out foods that are full of empty calories.

Roasting vegetables improves their appearance and flavor. You will be shocked at how much better vegetables can taste just by changing the cooking method. Roasting brings out natural sugars, resulting in a beautiful brown surface with a moist, flavorful interior. Roasting also concentrates the flavors by slowly reducing moisture. For example, have you ever tried eating tomatoes in the winter? Boring, blah, insipid. But roasting them in the oven produces a sweet, caramelized and intense tomato flavor.

Here are a few basic tips for roasting: Roast at 350° to 400°F. Cut your vegetables to increase the surface area and promote caramelization. For example, slice plum tomatoes in half, cut eggplant into slices or chunks, or cut cauliflower into "steaks" (see recipe for Roasted Caufiflower "Steaks" with Parmesan and Truffle Oil). Make sure the pieces you roast are all approximately the same size for even cooking.

Drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. When your vegetables come out of the oven, finish with a flavored oil, fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon. It's that simple.

Soon, you'll be looking forward to your veggies and saying "no, thank you" to chocolate cake.