10 Tips for Easy Vegetable Preparation

Woman chopping vegetables
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People on low-carb diets should be eating more vegetables, and they often eat more than the average American. If you are daunted by the prep time vegetables take, use these tips to learn to do it quickly and easily.

1. Have the Right Tools and Know How to Use Them

Get a good chef's knife, learn how to use it, and keep it sharp. When you know you can cut up a big mound of vegetables in just a few minutes, you are much more likely to do it. You'll end up enjoying a greater variety and quantity of vegetables. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good knife and keep in mind that it will last the rest of your life. Learn how to use a knife by taking classes at a kitchen equipment store or watching videos that give technique guidance. Don't try to cut too fast at first. Build up your speed gradually. Soon you will be chopping like a pro.

For some jobs, a food processor is also very helpful. It can shred a zucchini or turn cauliflower into “cauli-rice” in a few seconds.

2. Set up Your Work Space

Running all over the kitchen is a time-waster. If possible, set up your kitchen so you have a workspace for cutting right next to the stove. That way, you can just "chop and drop" as you go. Have a trash can next to you on the floor and a container for scraps for the compost (or garbage disposal) on the counter. It's also helpful to have a plate or bowl for veggies that aren't ready to be cooked.

3. Choose Vegetables That Are Easy to Prepare

Your best bets on those evenings when you don't feel like cooking are vegetables that don't tend to be dirty aren't tricky to chop, and don't need a lot of extra fuss. Asparagus can be rinsed and the ends chopped off in seconds. Cabbage is easy to prep; when you run your knife through it, you get lots of pieces. Zucchini is very easy to chop.

4. Chop Once, Eat Lots

It doesn't take twice the time to chop up twice the vegetables; do it once and eat them for several meals. You can double the dish you're making or keep the extra in the refrigerator or freezer to use in the future. Once in a while, chop up everything left in your vegetable drawer and sauté it all together in a big pan with olive oil. You can spice it up however you want. Throw in a bunch of herbs, some garlic or chopped nuts. You can eat it as a side dish, in an omelet or other egg dishes, or with dressing as a cooked salad.

5. Don't Chop

Roast or grill your veggies with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil. This concentrates the flavors in a wonderful way. It often works best with the vegetables whole or in larger pieces.

6. Chop in the Order in Which They Go in the Pan

When cooking up a bunch of veggies in a pan, start with the veggies that take the longest to cook and work your way to those that cook up in a flash. Generally, this would mean starting with aromatics such as onion, celery, and carrots. Follow those with denser vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower. You can give these two a head-start in the microwave, depending on what else you're cooking. Then chop peppers, and then less-dense veggies such as zucchini and mushrooms. End with greens such as spinach and chard.

7. Just Cook Quick Ones

It takes almost no time to sauté a little garlic in olive oil and toss in already-prepared bagged spinach greens. Add a little lemon juice, and enjoy. If you're adventurous, try adding some chopped anchovies to the olive oil. Chances are, no one will be able to identify them, but they will really improve the dish.

8. Let Someone Else Do the Prep

Who doesn't love that you can buy a bag of greens that someone else has washed and picked through? More and more you can buy already-prepped vegetables at the store. If your mushrooms are already sliced, it takes almost no time to cook them at home.

9. A New Attitude

Change your attitude toward chopping vegetables. Think of it as a tension-relieving activity. You can chop away your stress to music and make it a relaxing part of your day. It will no longer be an obstacle, and it can be almost meditative.

10. Canned or Frozen Vegetables Are Still Good for You

Some vegetables actually have more nutrition when frozen (or even canned) near the field in which they were grown than when carted fresh for thousands of miles. There is no shame in nuking some frozen broccoli for dinner.

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