Time spent in the kitchen has been no less than a luxury in recent years, with women in the U.S. spending less than an hour preparing meals per day, and men doing so for around 20 minutes per day. As stated by celebrity Chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, healthy, delicious meals can be prepared in as little as 10 to 15 minutes a day – and investing the time to do so is definitely worth it. At a time in which obesity, sedentarism, and a plethora of lifestyle-related diseases abound, more and more people are embracing the vegan lifestyle as a way to restore health and be kinder to the planet. If you’re a busy vegan, then prepping vegetables is one way to ensure that meals take no more than a few minutes to put together. Start out by prepping your vegetables the proper way, following these tips and ensuring you choose the very best produce possible.
Preparing Your Work Station
You should have an ample, tidy place in which to prep your vegetables. A large kitchen island or countertop will work – somewhere you can lay out the various bowls containing your produce, as well as chopping boards and utensils for different vegetables. Within your work station, you should have all the chopping, slicing, cutting and dicing tools you need to create uniform pieces of produce – otherwise, your cooking time can be off, and your produce can look less attractive. You should also use a very sharp knife for shredding leafy greens like cabbage and lettuce. These vegetables are larger but are worth shredding at home because doing so can help them retain their nutrients and prevent discoloration.
Choosing The Right Vegetables
Some types of produce – for instance, avocados and potatoes – can oxidize if prepped too early. Potatoes are still okay to peel beforehand if you place them into a bowl of water and pop them in the fridge. In general, however, it is best to work with sturdy vegetables like carrots, peppers of all colors, lettuce, herbs, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Your choice of produce should be planned, so think of the ingredients you will need for the to make stews, soups, salads and sautéed dishes throughout the week. Some produce, such as garlic and ginger, can be prepped way in advance and popped into all sorts of dishes. Simply peel them, and place them into a ziplock bag or an airtight storage container. You can also make up spice blends and store them in a jar so you can quickly add them to dishes as you need them.
Storing Prepped Vegetables
In order to prevent nutritional loss, after washing, drying, peeling/cutting produce, put a damp paper towel on top of them and store them in an airtight container so as to prevent hydration loss. You can also blanch the vegetables and store them in the fridge for up to two days. You can use a marker or stickers to indicate ‘use by’ dates, since vegetables have different shelf lives. For instance, peeled carrots can withstand storage in the fridge for up to four days, but cabbage should be used in a maximum time frame of one to two days after shredding or chopping. Garlic, meanwhile, has a wonderfully long fridge life of around 10 days.
Freezing Excess Produce
Some produce – such as broccoli and cauliflower – can take up large amounts of space in your fridge, but you may not want to use everything you have bought from the market within the next few days. Freezing is a great option, but it requires two steps. The first is to freeze chopped pieces of produce, place them on a tray uncovered, and pop them into the freezer. Once they are fully frozen, you can keep them in your airtight container or ziplock bag. Other good choices for freezing include carrots, green beans, winter greens, and corn. To keep them in their optimal state, you might choose to blanch them first (which involves placing them boiling water for around three minutes prior to freezing them). The vegetables should still be firm when you take them out of the pot. You should immediately transfer them to a large bowl with ice to stop the cooking process. Next, pat the vegetables with paper towels to dry them up and prevent freezer burn. For peppers, onions and celery, no prior blanching is necessary.
Prepping vegetables around twice a week is a great way to ensure you can quickly whip up soups, salads, and vegetable dishes as often as you like. Choose produce that can withstand a few days in the fridge. For excess produce, consider freezing, ensuring you blanch veggies first to slow down the enzyme activity that can cause a loss of flavor, color and texture.
“This is written by Sara, a freelance food writer and lover of eating in general. When she’s not writing about food, she’s thinking about it, or planning dinner…”