Use This Big-Batch Trick to Cook Enough Veggies for Several Days Running
Then layer them into dishes throughout the week.
If you’re single, are accustomed to a smaller fridge, or go out for dinner often, it can be a real mind-bender to try to think “big” when cooking.
I, for one, spent years buying one avocado, one head of broccoli, one handful of snap peas. It took a real reckoning with my habits to transform my thinking, which finally occurred because my schedule filled up with work and other people. (Who wants to be the one to offer a guest a Parmesan rind and a splash of Cointreau? Nobody, that’s who.)
Once you finally have the “thinking big” skill under your belt, and you’re making larger batches of stock and beans with the best of ‘em, vegetables can present the next hurdle. Maybe you want to incorporate more into your diet, but it can be tough to get your RDA without produce going bad on you. Luckily, there is a simple meal prep hack you can use to have veggies at the ready, needing no prep at all, for several days running.
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Roast tons of veggies on sheet pans at once
It really is that simple. If you want a great starter guide for this approach, check out An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler. She’s a big proponent of cooking a bunch of vegetables at once, then layering them into other dishes over the course of the week. She inspired me to start roasting a whole head of broccoli and another of cauliflower simultaneously—including the broccoli stems and the cauliflower’s core—simply dressed with olive oil and salt.
I’d serve those next to roast chicken or pork chops the first night; dress them up with a fried egg, fresh herbs and some starch the next day; and layer them into frittatas, quiches, soups, and braises for several days. They stayed good in the fridge for a while, and are delightful layered onto toasts or tucked into sandwiches (especially if you’ve gotten them nice and crisp in a hot oven). Fussy children are even likely to eat them if you chop them finely and fold them into mac and cheese.
This isn’t the only vegetable you can big-batch. Beets love a hot oven. So do parsnips and carrots, which you can roast together on one tray, and then blitz into a gorgeous orange soup. Onions, sliced thickly, can be spread on a sheet pan alongside chicken thighs or sausages for a fast dinner.
Start heating the pan right in the oven
Raquel Pelzel, editorial director of cookbooks at Clarkson Potter and author of—among other books—Sheet Pan Suppers, Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Right Out of the Oven—shared another great tip: Start heating that sheet pan as you heat up the oven to shorten vegetables’ cooking time. Pelzel, when she wants to get ahead with her vegetable cookery, is partial to squash (butternut, kabocha, acorn), red and green bell peppers, root veggies like rutababa, parsnips, carrots and beets, and red and green cabbage.
And, as she noted in an email to Health, “While you’re roasting a sheet pan of veg, why not make a sheet pan of rice or quinoa at the same time? Just like that, magic grain bowl.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.Alex Van Buren—follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and content strategist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.