Diversify your vegetable dishes with these easy to make sauces

We hear from many of our students that once they’ve improved their nutrition habits by eating more vegetables , they (or their kids) get “bored with the same old thing” day after day.  

As an extension from the recent post on veggie prep, here are a couple of ideas for livening up the palate when there aren’t a lot of different veggies available.  

This is an fast and easy way to take the same ‘ol veggies and make them taste very different.  

These two “sauces” can be tossed on veggies at the end of steaming or sauteing (or both…) and allow us to enjoy some culinary diversity even when relegated to the same staple supermarket vegetables.

After trying either of these, you can make adjustments to suit the taste of your household.  They can be easily stored for  some time in the fridge and as a bonus, leave your kitchen smelling wonderful after preparing them!  

Sauce one:

East Asian inspired:


1 cup soy sauce or tamari

½ cup rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar

½ cup honey

1Tbl olive oil (or sesame oil)

1-2 thumb size pieces of ginger, peeled and grated

1-3 cloves garlic

½-1 tsp white pepper


Sambal (or other form of chili sauce/paste)

Toasted sesame oil


Combine ingredients in a saucepan and reduce by at least 1/3.  

That means you can simmer it until it appears to be 2/3 of its original volume.  

This reducing process will concentrate the flavors and the cooking will help them blend nicely.  

all ingredients can be adjusted to suit your taste.  The quantities above are a nice starting point, but please taste frequently to dial it in!

This sauce can then be poured through a strainer into a sealable glass jar for storage in the fridge.   There, it will last for at least a month!

Here’s what it looks like while reducing: 

Sauce two: 

an Italian inspiration:


1 cup Olive oil

~30 fresh basil leaves, chopped (2 tsp if dried)

1 Tbl  fresh thyme, chopped (1 tsp if dried)

1 Tbl oregano, chopped (1 tsp if dried)

2-5 cloves garlic, crushed and rough chopped

1 Tbl lemon juice (and a little grated lemon peel if you’re up for it!)

salt (or to taste)


Heat the olive oil on low and add other ingredients.  Once the garlic starts to bubble a little, turn the heat off.  

Let it cool a bit and without straining it and transfer to a glass jar for storage.  

Be careful not to overcook the herbs, as they’ll lose their more delicate flavors and become dominated by bitterness.  The real idea here is to infuse the flavors of the herbs and garlic into the oil, not cook them.

I personally prefer not caramelizing the garlic when making the sauce, as I often get some caramelization while sauteing the dish before serving.  If you really like your garlic caramelized, I won’t stand in your way of modifying this to suit your taste!


Using the sauces:

The way we use these sauces if pretty simple and is inspired by what is called a “reverse sear”, which is a really cool way to cook a steak…  

We’re usually preparing a veggie dish in quantities sufficient for a family or company, or just to be sure we have leftovers for lunch the next day.  When taking on that quantity, steaming the veggies first (in order based on total cooking time) and then sauteing leaves evenly cooked, evenly flavored and slightly caramelized veggies.  This is both delicious and a reliable way to have vibrant, colorful veggies that can be flavored in any way you like.  

Typically, dense vegetables like carrots and cauliflower  will steam for 2-4 minutes and saute for the same.  Less dense veggies like summer squash and broccoli may be 1-3 minutes in the steamer and go into the saute pan with the other veggies.  

Then, we simply add these sauces at the point of sauteing and serve.  


When you give this a try, please email me or Patrick to let us know how it goes!


~Mark Reinke

They’ve given me the title Personal Training Director, but I really just love to help acac members and give my team the tools they need to do the same.  I graduated with a B.S. in Human Physiology and Biology from the University of Oregon and M.A. in teaching from Willamette University. I have over 15 years experience personal training and have also taught anatomy, physiology and biology. I love spending time outdoors with my family and growing, cooking, serving and eating great food.  Learn more about me and read more of my blogs on our website

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About Mark

I am a busy guy; husband, father, coach, mentor, gardener, outdoors man and cook are the primary hats I wear. To be the best of these I can be, I stay physically prepared for all those pursuits, and feed myself in a way that allows me to keep up the pace. I can help you to take the next manageable step in fitness and wellness to get you closer to your ideal self.