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Tell me how you prepare & cook tons of vegetables


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Those with big families ... tell me how you cook tons of vegetables at once.  Potatoes don't count; that I can do.  But if you have a big receipt that incorporates potatoes like cabbage, onion, and potato, that would be ok.  Like how do you cook up heads of cabbage, squash, green beans, etc.  I think I would cook tons of vegetables, but the prep time is killing me.  For example, I just can't spend enough time to cut up enough butternut squash it would take to feed us all.  (4 people who have an enormous propensity to eat).  If I buy it pre-cut, it's way too expensive.  

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I don't have a big family, but we eat heaps of vegetables. A good knife and knife skills help.

If you buy organic carrots, you only have to chop them and don't have to peel. Broccoli and cauliflower are quickly cut into chunks. Roasting does not require hands on time while cooking. You can cut cabbages into wedges and roast.

Butternut squash: cut squashes in halves, remove seeds, bake with skin on. It's very easy to remove the skin and chop the squash once it's cooked, way quicker than prepping it raw. (ETA: and if you do a  load of squash at one time, you can freeze part of the cooked chunks, ready for meals)

Sweet potatoes can be roasted with skin on, cut into large chunks. (For soups,. you want to peel).

We use lots of veggies that require minimal prep and are eaten raw: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers.

Cabbage can be quickly shredded with a food processor and used as coleslaw or in stir fries.

Leafy green veggies require no peeling/cutting/chopping. Rip in shreds, throw in soup or stir fry.

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We don't have a large family, but we do prep-ahead days with harder vegetables.  I have about 3 gallon sized bags of butternut squash cubes in my freezer right now.  We take out a few servings at a time to roast or steam.

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If you do a lot of slicing, a mandoline might be nice. I have one that I’m trying to get in the habit of using so I learn how to use it and actually save time. I definitely cook butternut squash just cut in half in the oven. I don’t peel and dice it. Partially because I can’t stand how it makes my fingers feel. I also roast cabbage in big slices in what I call my “Duggar pan”. Which is a giant restaurant sized pan that barely fits in my oven. But when it comes down to it, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. 

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We are only 4, but we eat tons of veggies. I prep as simply as possible at the moment and occasionally use some random free/unscheduled time to prep and freeze when we have more than we  finish in a week or I know a crazy busy day is coming.  For meals like stir fry, I try to cut some of the ingredients earlier in the day, so there isn't a backlog at dinner time. 

It helps to teach your kids (when they are big/old enough) those knife skills Regentrude mentioned!  When we get a huge quantity of veggies from our CSA box, I have a kid work with me to prep. They need to practice. 

I rarely do time consuming prep like cubing butternut squash. I find easier ways to serve it. Roast it whole or cut in half and do it on a tray.  Takes a while, but almost no prep. Par-cook it if you want to use it in another recipe that will be cooked again. 

 Last night, I cooked a 14" skillet heaped full of onions, zucchini and yellow squash. It took about 3 minutes to cut the veggies: 2 medium onions, 3 zucc and 2 yellow squash. The saute took longer to cook, but did not need constant attention, just an occsional stir and some seasoning.  I always cook extra because Dh takes leftovers for his lunch. Leftover veggies go into omelettes, quiche, onto baked potatoes, pasta or rice, or for a low-carb snack, wrapped in thinly sliced roast beef or turkey and eaten as a roll-up. 

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We have a family of 6 and we eat a lot of vegetables.  We often have 4 types at one meal.  I didn't see how many kids you had, but could you enlist their help in meal prep?  Kids could definitely cut cucumbers or peel carrots.   Also, although you did say that pre-cut veggies are too expensive, that really isn't always the case.  I carefully read the price per unit and compare.  I've found butternut squash, sugar snap peas, spinach, snow peas, and often broccoli at very similar or even lower prices.  The smaller bagged lettuces are definitely more expensive, but I look for the bulk packages at Wegmans and Costco.  Also, we don't really mind eating leftovers so sometimes I'll prep enough of a veggie for two nights and then put half away for the next day.  If I put the veggies out, my dh will eat all of it!  Oh, frozen veggies at Costco help too.  I get green beans, riced cauliflower, and sometimes the other veggies.  Frozen spinach is definitely worth it too.  

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Do you have good knives? It kills me when I have to prep food at other people's houses because often (usually) they have terrible knives. And that makes it take FOREVER. With a high-quality vegetable peeler and sharp, quality knives, I can peel and cube a butternut squash in just a few minutes. I haven't timed myself, but I never think of prepping vegetables as a time-consuming part of cooking, so I don't think it takes too long.

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I often bought pre-prepared salad mixes & chopped lettuce before the romaine recalls.  Smaller kids can tear lettuce by hand and run a salad spinner. They can wash produce, set the table, and load the dishwasher.

If it's something to be cooked or steamed or added to soup I buy frozen if it's available and reasonably priced. Frozen is usually better quality, flavor, and contains more vitamins than stuff that has been shipped and stored for some time.

I've never seen the point in peeling carrots - they can be scrubbed just like potatoes. Some kids can handle something like chopping carrots at 4 according to some parenting stuff I've read, but I never let a kid touch something like that until about 10. I think most kids can learn to cook between ages 10-12, at least simpler things like salads, smaller amounts of pasta, and baking simple cookies.

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I think probably a lot of it is technique. I have a good knife and pretty decent knife skills, but I could not wash/chop, peel/chop 7 vegetables in 3 minutes like PP. She must have a system. On the other hand, I don’t understand that butternut squash is hard. You peel with a veggie peeler, cut the. Cut the bulb off the bottom, cube the top like a potato and the bottom like a cantaloupe. Also, I’ve never liked the way most instructions tell you how to do a chop a mango. Cut it off the seed, score it and pop it of the peel? Good luck! I peel first, cut it off the seed, then cube it, and I think I’m pretty fast. 

I think it’s worthwhile to look up instructions on specific vegetables on the net and developing your preferred method. 

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2 hours ago, Cosmos said:

Do you have good knives? It kills me when I have to prep food at other people's houses because often (usually) they have terrible knives. And that makes it take FOREVER. With a high-quality vegetable peeler and sharp, quality knives, I can peel and cube a butternut squash in just a few minutes. I haven't timed myself, but I never think of prepping vegetables as a time-consuming part of cooking, so I don't think it takes too long.


This deserves to be repeated.  Knives make a HUGE difference.  LOL, that's how my sister ended up with two new ones.  I tried to make dinner at her house one night and it took me forever hacking away with her set.  I ordered her two Wusthof (a 9in and a smaller prep knife) and she nearly cried at the difference when they came in.  There's no point in working with poor tools if you're doing a lot of work.  I honestly don't know how she managed before.  She cooks a LOT more than I do!

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47 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:


This deserves to be repeated.  Knives make a HUGE difference.  LOL, that's how my sister ended up with two new ones.  I tried to make dinner at her house one night and it took me forever hacking away with her set.  I ordered her two Wusthof (a 9in and a smaller prep knife) and she nearly cried at the difference when they came in.  There's no point in working with poor tools if you're doing a lot of work.  I honestly don't know how she managed before.  She cooks a LOT more than I do!

And sharpening your knives regularly.  Even a good knife isn’t great if it is dulled.  If I’m fighting the skin of the bell pepper even a little it’s off to be sharpened and honed after dinner.

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I try to keep things easy, alot of times I'll just roast veggies. I have 2 lined cookie sheets thatcover an entire rack of my oven so I can make a lot at once.

Squashes can be cooked in the instant pot, peel and chop afterwards.

White and sweet potatoes I often start in the microwave (no peeling)- and finish in the stove (after reading about it on ATK).

I buy salad mixes or romanine hearts that take just a couple of minutes to chop when I line them up on the cutting board. 

Baby potatoes are great for roasting- just scrub and pop them in the oven. 

I have the older 3 kids trained to help with a lot of things.

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I carry a good knife in my car because I am happy to cut veggies at a friend's house but NOT happy to use a dull knife.  I go out and get the one in my car. 

AND (drumroll), I was given this tool and I love it.  It is so much faster to use and clean up than a food processor.  I can make guacamole in it in about 3 minutes including clean-up.  It can chop a quartered onion in 3 pulls of the cord.  Same with carrots and celery and fennel and de-seeded cukes.  It's great for getting veggies ready for soups or salads.  I am not a big gadget fan, and don't have many, but this was given to me and I LOVE it.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UZEZ196/ref=asc_df_B00UZEZ1965495542/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B00UZEZ196&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167142021489&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10394103729374661021&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9052182&hvtargid=pla-274075829648

I can chop a head of lettuce or cabbage into coleslaw sized pieces in about 1 minute.  Good knife.  

Cauliflower heads and broccoli florets take longer, but if you don't care too much about looks (like I do), they can go pretty fast.  My dh got me this for Christmas and it really is pretty fast, and easier than a knife, for heads of cauliflower.  You can use it faster than a knife, and it's $6.  https://www.amazon.com/Chefn-Stalk-Chop-Cauliflower-Prep/dp/B01IN5L90I/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1527889503&sr=8-2-spons&keywords=cauliflower+prep+tool&psc=1

AND for some things, you actually can get better quality and cheaper prices with frozen.  The produce is picked at peak of flavor and quick frozen, and so sometimes it is just...better.

 

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I am feeding five, dunno if that’s considered  a big family or not.  Also my younger two don’t eat a lot of veggies, though DD9 could make up for that.

Frozen veggies are almost always cheaper than fresh and are usually more nutritious too.  And of course are cut.  

If I can, I cut and prep the veggies the day I bring them home from the store.  DH is often grilling that day so while he’s cooking for the day I try to prep for the week. 

Knives are a big deal too.  I bought new knives last year after having used the same knives for over 15 years.  I was actually giggling this like little evil laugh the first time I cut with them because the difference was amazing. 

And I utilize kitchen tools-mandolin, food processor, etc.  

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13 minutes ago, Patty Joanna said:

I carry a good knife in my car because I am happy to cut veggies at a friend's house but NOT happy to use a dull knife.  I go out and get the one in my car. 

AND (drumroll), I was given this tool and I love it.  It is so much faster to use and clean up than a food processor.  I can make guacamole in it in about 3 minutes including clean-up.  It can chop a quartered onion in 3 pulls of the cord.  Same with carrots and celery and fennel and de-seeded cukes.  It's great for getting veggies ready for soups or salads.  I am not a big gadget fan, and don't have many, but this was given to me and I LOVE it.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00UZEZ196/ref=asc_df_B00UZEZ1965495542/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B00UZEZ196&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167142021489&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=10394103729374661021&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9052182&hvtargid=pla-274075829648

I can chop a head of lettuce or cabbage into coleslaw sized pieces in about 1 minute.  Good knife.  

Cauliflower heads and broccoli florets take longer, but if you don't care too much about looks (like I do), they can go pretty fast.  My dh got me this for Christmas and it really is pretty fast, and easier than a knife, for heads of cauliflower.  You can use it faster than a knife, and it's $6.  https://www.amazon.com/Chefn-Stalk-Chop-Cauliflower-Prep/dp/B01IN5L90I/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1527889503&sr=8-2-spons&keywords=cauliflower+prep+tool&psc=1

AND for some things, you actually can get better quality and cheaper prices with frozen.  The produce is picked at peak of flavor and quick frozen, and so sometimes it is just...better.

 

I have never seen a manual food processor before.  That is seriously fascinating and tempting.  My husband loves our mandoline slicer but I am usually too lazy to pull it out.  A salad spinner for chopping things might make me change my mind though.

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6 minutes ago, Arctic Mama said:

I have never seen a manual food processor before.  That is seriously fascinating and tempting.  My husband loves our mandoline slicer but I am usually too lazy to pull it out.  A salad spinner for chopping things might make me change my mind though.

 

I had my doubts and wouldn't buy it on my friend's recommendation.  She got so exasperated with me she GAVE me one.  So I bought HER one my MY "faves"  (she was a disbeliever on her side, too!) and we are BOTH happier with our two new little items.  :0)

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I love my Wusthof knives, have excellent knife skills, and make a ton of salads, sautés, guacamole, roasted and grilled veggies starting with fresh. That said, I can get frozen organic veggies cheaper than fresh conventional pre-cut, and some veggies freeze really well. We don't do anything canned/jarred except beans, artichokes, stewed tomatoes and occasionally roasted red peppers.

Frozen veggies I get on sale that we love: broccoli to steam, roast, or cook in sauce, brussels sprouts to roast, butternut squash to roast (I like the frozen butternut cubes at Costco), green beans to steam or simmer with sauce, corn to steam or defrost for salad, leeks to roast or put in soups, edamame to boil, Trader Joe's asparagus to broil, and Trader Joe's artichokes to braise with butter and lemon or bake.

I don't like frozen mixed vegetables--they have different cooking times and never all taste right. And I don't like frozen carrots or peppers because they always seem soggy. Occasionally if I'm in a rush I'll use frozen kale, but only in soups or stews. You can tell the difference.

To eat the number of veggies we want to eat the majority is fresh, but frozen plays an important role at our house. 

Amy

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A lot of people think that you cut veggies with a small paring knife.  You don't.  I use a large chef's knife and that makes it easier.  I also have a food processor.  We are seven.  I think that counts as a large household in this day and age?  

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Two common ways I do veggies for a crowd:

Cabbage: Brown a couple of onions and some garlic in a little olive oil in a big pot. (I buy minced garlic in the jar, because it's so easy and quick.) Chop up a couple of heads of cabbage in chunks or strips and stir into the pot. Turn the heat down and put the lid on the pot. Cook until cabbage is softened, stirring occasionally. It doesn't take long. Season with salt and ground black pepper.

Mixed veggies: Buy the big bag of frozen California blend. Cut up an onion or two into chunks, add some garlic, add the veggies, and stir them all up with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in a big roasting pan and bake for 30-45 minutes until the veggies start getting some brown spots. You can also add mushrooms if you like.

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