This post will cover the first 30 minutes of food preparation. This portion is mainly vegetable preparation. Preparing vegetables is not difficult, the problem is, we often just don’t get to it. We buy vegetables with good intentions, but they rot in the back of our fridge. When this happens, we are literally throwing our money away. What's even worse, we are not reaping the nutritional benefits from a diet full of power packed veggies. This portion of food prep. provides some strategies, so you can prep. a variety of vegetables quickly and store them so they are easily accessible. If we can’t see or find them, we won’t use them.
Trash can or compost bin, step stool-optional, large bowl for vegetable scraps, natural disinfectant spray, kitchen hand towels, microfiber cloth or rags, paper towels or thin absorbent cloths, food storage containers; optional, knives, cutting board, peeler, salad spinner- I love this one. It's a bit pricey, but if you're up for a splurge, it has lasted a long time and I use it a lot!
1. 5 Minute Fridge Clean out
2. Grocery Shopping
3. Heat Oven to 400
4. Fill up sink with hot soapy water
5. Place a trash, or compost bin on a step stool for easy access.
Vegetable Preparation Options
You can prep. as many, or as few of the vegetables listed below, as you desire. What you prep. will likely change a bit with the seasons. Start with the vegetables you enjoy and are most likely to use. Some of the vegetable scraps I reserve in a scrap bowl. I use these to make vegetable broth. Waste not want not! It costs no money to make and very little hands on time, so why not? You'll have broth on hand to make a yummy soup, or just to sip.
I start vegetable prep. with vegetables that will be roasted, so that they can be done by the time I'm done prepping. After that, I go to vegetables that need time to air dry, to increase their ability to store well for a week.
Potatoes Wash several potatoes and dry with a cloth. Rub them with a healthy, heat safe fat, such as beef fat, or organic non-hydrogenated lard. Beef fat can be easily obtained by removing the fat from the surface of beef broth after chilling. This will be covered in our second 30 minutes of food prep. For health reasons, I prefer not to use foil when baking potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes Wash sweet potatoes and dry with a cloth. Line a cookie sheet with natural parchment paper. We prefer roasted sweet potatoes with the peel, but you can peel, if desired. Dice up the sweet potato and place dices on the baking sheet. Place several pieces of a healthy, heat safe fat such as beef fat, or organic non-hydrogenated lard on the sweet potato dices. Place in pre-heated oven (see above) for 3 minutes to melt the fat. Toss dices with the fat and seasoning. The dices should be coated with the fat and seasoning to produce a moist and flavorful end result. If the dices seem dry, add a bit more fat and repeat the process. I love to season sweet potatoes with RealTaste Nurture Seasoning. For variety, I occasionally add some cinnamon along with the Nurture Seasoning and drizzle with maple syrup after they come out of the oven. Yum!
Beets Beets are a bit messy. You can either use a separate cutting board, a paper plate, or clean the cutting board in the sink after beet preparation. Cut the ends off of the beets. Peel the beets over the trash or compost bin; wash and dry the beets. Coat beets with a heat safe fat such as beef fat, or organic, non-hydrogenated lard. Place whole beets in a small covered baking dish.
Place the beets in a covered baking dish on the shelf below the potatoes, to the side, or in a separate oven. Cook the beets until they pierce easily with a fork. In the meantime, proceed with the remaining food prep.
Lettuce Cut lettuce in thin ribbons, turn cutting board one turn and slice vertically through the lettuce several times to produce more bite size pieces. Place lettuce in a salad spinner. Fill salad spinner with water and swish thoroughly with your fingers. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. I think this cleans the lettuce better than spraying with water from the faucet. Remove strainer from the salad spinner and drain water. Then spin lettuce and drain water, repeating several times until all the excess water has been removed. It's important to drain the water in between spinnings, otherwise, it will just be splashed back on to the lettuce. Clean the end of the lettuce thoroughly by spraying with water from the faucet. Place a kitchen hand towel on the counter or table. Spread the lettuce on the towel to air dry. The more water you can remove from the lettuce, the longer it will store. Place the cut end of the lettuce upside down, alongside the drying lettuce. *See tips at the very bottom of this post, if you don't have a salad spinner.
Cabbage Cut the head of lettuce in half through the core end. Then cut one of the halves in half again. Take your knife and slice off the core on an angle and place the core in compost or trash. Slice the cabbage in very thin ribbons. Clean, spin dry and lay out on a kitchen towel to dry, as described above for lettuce. Reserve the remaining half for next week.
Broccoli Peel the stalk of the broccoli with a vegetable peeler over the trash, or compost bin. Cut off the woody end and discard in the trash or compost bin. Then cut through the stalk close to the florets. Cut individual florets in bite size pieces. Place florets and stalk in the salad spinner. Fill salad spinner with water and swish thoroughly with your fingers. The dirt and any other undesirables will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Remove strainer from the salad spinner and drain water. Then spin the broccoli and drain water, repeating several times until all the excess water has been removed. It's important to drain the water in between spinnings, otherwise, it will just be splashed back on to the broccoli. Place a kitchen hand towel on the counter or table. Spread the broccoli on the towel to air dry. The more water you can remove from the broccoli, the longer it will store. The stalk is sweet and wonderful cut into coins, or diced up on a salad. It can also be julienned for a broccoli slaw. The stalk does not keep as long as the florets, so use it's a good idea to use it earlier in the week.
Cauliflower Cut off the stalk close to the florets and discard in trash or compost bin. With a paring knife, cut of any remaining leaves. Then cut individual florets off around the stalk. Cut in smaller bite size pieces, if desired. Place florets in the salad spinner. Fill salad spinner with water and swish thoroughly with your fingers. The dirt will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Remove strainer from the salad spinner and drain water. Then spin the cauliflower and drain water, repeating several times until all the excess water has been removed. It's important to drain the water in between spinnings, otherwise, it will just be splashed back on to the cauliflower. Place a kitchen hand towel on the counter or table. Spread the cauliflower on the towel to air dry. The more water you can remove from the cauliflower, the longer it will store.
Cucumber: Wash and dry. Peel, if desired and discard peelings in the trash or compost bin. Cut into spears. Cucumber doesn't usually store very long. It's generally better to prepare fresh cucumber right before using it in a dish. If you do prep it in advance, I would advise you to use it earlier in the week. Store in a covered container lined on top and bottom with paper towels, or a thin absorbent cloth.
Zucchini Wash and dry. Cut in half and then cut into 8 equal spears. This partial preparation of the zucchini allows you the flexibility of either quickly dicing it up, or chopping it in bigger chunks to roast etc. Store in a covered container lined on top and bottom with paper towels, or a thin absorbent cloth.
Celery Cut the base of the celery off, as well as the leafy top and place in the scrap bowl. Clean the end of the lettuce and leafy top by thoroughly by spraying with water from the faucet. Place on towels to dry along side drying lettuce. Spray cutting board with the disinfecting spray and wipe clean and dry with a cloth. Wash each rib thoroughly. Place several ribs side by side on the cutting board and slice into thirds. This partial prep. allows me the flexibility to quickly dice, cut into chunks for a stir fry or to roast, make thinner slices. I can also quickly grab one for lunch or a snack. Store prepared celery in water, in a covered container in the fridge to keep crisp.
Carrots Wash and dry carrots. Peel over the scrap bowl. Both sides of most peelers are sharp, so get the most out of your effort by peeling back and forth. Wash the carrots and lay side by side on the cutting board. Slice the large end off and discard in trash or compost bin. Slice off tips and place in the scrap bowl. Place several carrots side by side and cut carrots in half. This partial prep. allows me the flexibility to quickly dice, shred, julienne, cut into carrot sticks, or cut in chunks and roast. I can also just quickly grab one for lunch or a snack. Store prepared carrots in water, in a covered container in the fridge to keep crisp.
Sweet Bell Peppers Wash and dry peppers. Cut in half, pull off the stem and innards and place in the scrap bowl. Cut each half into thirds. This partial prep. allows me the flexibility to quickly dice, make thinner slices, or cut bigger chunks to roast. I can also just quickly grab one for lunch or a snack. Store in a covered container lined on top and bottom with paper towels, or a thin absorbent cloth.
Radish Pull off the leaves and discard in the trash or compost bin. Reserve half of the radishes in a container with a paper towel for next week. Wash the radishes thoroughly, slice off the root end and discard in trash or compost bin. Store prepared whole radishes in water, in a covered container in the fridge to keep crisp. Again, this partial prep. allows me the flexibility to enjoy them whole, diced or sliced.
Lemon I like to use lemon throughout the week for salad dressings. It also perks up the flavor in smoothies, sauces etc. There are lots of gadgets for juicing lemons, but I find a fork gets the most juice out of the lemon and doesn't require pulling out and cleaning a gadget. Cut lemon in half, stab the cut end with a fork. Squeeze with one hand and move the fork back and forth with the other hand to extract the juice. I like to juice the lemon over a wide mouth, small jar. If your lemon has a lot of seeds, you can either fish the seeds out of the juice with a slotted spoon, or place a small mesh strainer over the jar. Place peels in the trash or compost bin, or reserve for other uses. Put the lid on the jar and store for 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
Garlic I like to occasionally peel up a couple heads of garlic. Peel skin from garlic with something like this. I've tried lots of other garlic gadgets, as well as, the bowl method. This has worked best for me. Store peeled cloves in a small jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge. If you'd like to store them even longer, try lacto-fermenting them with instructions here.
Onion Cut the belly button end off of the onion, keeping the “hairy” end intact. Then cut the onion in half through the "hairy" end. Peel off the skin, along with the first layer on each onion half. Place onion scraps in the colander of the salad spinner. Give them a good spray with water to clean them up. Spin them dry in the salad spinner and place in the scrap bowl. Store the onion halves in a large, wide mouthed jar with a tight fitting lid in the fridge. I find the jars with hinged lids usually have a wider opening. This partial prep. allows the flexibility to dice, slices, or cut chunks for roasting. To slice the onions, make slices perpendicular to the root end. Then cut off the root end. To quickly dice, make slices perpendicular to the root end, then make slices the opposite direction. The onions will not smell up your fridge if they are stored in a container with an airtight lid. Onions puts off a lot of moisture, which keeps the onions from storing as long. For this reason, line the storage container well with paper towels or thin absorbent cloths, changing occasionally if necessary. Onions will often last 2 weeks in the fridge, so if you have a big jar, you can get away with doing them less often. I use lots of onions, but I also have a big jar. I usually just have to do a few to add to the remaining ones from the previous week, putting the ones from the previous week on the top of the jar, so I use them first. Onion storage: If you buy onions in bulk, store unpeeled onions in a crisper in the fridge. They will last much longer and they won't smell up your fridge when unpeeled.
1. Place lettuce ends, celery end and leaves, into the scrap bowl. You can then either make vegetable broth right away, store the scraps for up to a week in the fridge, or you can store the scraps in the freezer, adding to the freezer scraps until you have enough to make a big pot of broth.
2. Place the dried lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in separate covered containers lined on top and bottom with paper towels, or thin absorbent cloths and store in the fridge.
3. Store the broccoli stem in a small container, covered with water, similar to carrots and celery. This will keep it crisp and fresh longer.
3. Place cooled potatoes, sweet potatoes and beets in covered containers in the fridge.
If you don’t have a salad spinner, wash lettuce or other produce in a colander, or a bowl filled with water. Drain well. Place washed lettuce, or other produce in a clean pillowcase. Go outside and spin around. It's not perfect, but in a pinch, it works.
1 Hour Food Prep: Part 2