How to Steam Fresh Vegetables

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Vegetables don't have to be boring. There are a variety of ways to prepare vegetables without losing color, texture or nutrients. And we're not thinking salads and a thousand ways to dress them up. Steaming vegetables is a great and viable option. The process is quick, rather hassle-free and produces nutritious and quick dishes to complement any meal.

Steaming is a simple feat and requires few cooking implements. You can buy an electric steamer or just a steaming rack, colander or bamboo steamer. Not a gadget person? Get innovative by crushing aluminum foil into balls and placing them at the bottom of your pot. You can also steam vegetables in the microwave. Try Zip n Steam microwave bags (Glad has a version of that too) or simply put some moist towels over the vegetables and hit the cook button.

Here are some simple rules to follow when steaming vegetables:

* Place steaming rack or colander in the pot. Pour an inch or two of water into a pot. Make sure that rack or colander is above the water level. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Maintain high heat through the cooking process as the intensity of heat will cook vegetables faster and crisper.

*While the water is boiling, prepare your vegetables. Any kind of vegetables can be steamed. The length of steaming time required depends on the vegetables. Denser vegetables like potatoes and carrots require more time. Cutting them into smaller chunks or thinner slice will speed up the process. Fragile greens like spinach requires almost no time at all -- a minute or two will do.