Friday, October 29, 2010

Veggies in the fridge...

...are often made into a joke.  You know, the one about the drawer full of healthy green stuff that rots slowly while the owner eats chips and salsa or crackers and cheese?

I admit to having lost my share of produce to slime, mold, and dessication over the years, and it still happens, but not nearly as often.  What has helped me limit food waste more than anything else is an hour of veggie prep about once weekly.  It's not usually planned, although it could be.  It has become a habit now for days when there's an easy dinner planned - leftovers or a frittata or some other low-labor meal.  In turn, spending this hour prepping vegetables results in quicker dinners for days.

Here's what I did in today's veggie prep time, which took about 90 minutes:
- made parsley-walnut pesto and froze it in small containers.
- cleaned radishes for eating raw.
- steamed bok choy, kale, and tatsoi, separately but serially in the same pot, for freezing. Winter's coming soon and supermarket greens are very disappointing compared to local ones!
- roasted a winter squash (I wash, pierce with a knife, and roast whole, because I value my fingers more than I value cookbook directions to cut and peel first.  It works fabulously!).

On other days I might:
- clean carrots and celery and cut into sticks for lunches.
- lightly steam green beans, broccoli, or cauliflower, also good in lunch.
- wash lettuce or spinach for salads.
- chop other veggies such as onions, bell peppers, jicama, kohlrabi, cabbage for raw eating.
- boil or roast potatoes, or roast other root vegetables.

 What do we do with all those veggies in the fridge?  Prepped veggies are infinitely more useful than those waiting in that crisper drawer.  They're ready for a snack or dinner at any moment.  Yes, some can be purchased that way... but they're simply not as fresh.

Here's a few ways we use those vegetables:
- In salads. From carrot sticks to finely diced carrots in seconds.  Cooked veggies are great on salads, too - steamed kale, boiled potatoes, roasted beets or squash are good whether hot or cold.
- In stir-fries. 
- With dip.  I make a modified version of this ranch dressing - it's far simpler not to drain the yogurt and to use buttermilk powder, and I find that cutting this recipe in half produces an ample quantity.
- On sandwiches.
- In soups, stews, chilis.
- On tacos or burritos (we always use diced cabbage, red if available, for these, instead of lettuce.  Also good: sauteed onions and peppers; finely-chopped raw carrots or summer squash; cooked greens; roasted root vegetables).

If you relax and pay attention to the task at hand, you can even allow the vegetable prep time to double as some daily mindfulness!

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