Almost all of us should be including more vegetables into our diet, but the majority of us just don’t want to go through the bother of preparing them – especially in the middle of cooking. It’s so much easier to skip the salad and put it off for another day, and then another day and another until we have a drawer full of furry, rotten mush.
My trick is to prepare all the vegetables after I come home from shopping – before I put them into the vegetable drawer where they often serve our a live sentence and don’t become a part of our well-balanced diet. Once they were prepared, they go into storage containers or plastic baggies (i.e. Ziploc) and they were labeled with a small piece of masking tape to ensure they are identified easily (for all members of the household) and used quickly.
Essential tools – sharp knives, cutting board, salad spinner, vegetable peeler, mandolin¹ (for thin slicing), storage containers (i.e Tupperware, Rubbermade, Ziploc, etc) and compost bin.
Lettuce (romaine, head, leaf, curly) – remove outer leaves, cut off bottom 1/2″ and then chop the remaining straight across the whole head, cutting approximately 1″ apart. Scoop up all the lettuce and placing in the basket of the salad spinner. Add cool water and swish leaves to rinse, pour out water and repeat process. Then once all the water has been removed from the salad spinner bowl, dry the lettuce. You may have to open up the unit to pour out the excess water and repeat the spin process. Experiment with different kinds – especially in the spring and summer when they are in season. Butter lettuce is also very delicious as a salad as well as in sandwiches and wraps.
Mushrooms – as a time saver, sometimes I buy the pre-cut mushroom packages. I find I am more likely to use them if they are already partially chopped by the store. Yes, they can be a bit more expensive than whole mushrooms – but if they are not all being used up and are going to the compost bin, they actually become more expensive. Once they’re prepared and in the fridge, you’ll find you’ll add them to rice, soups, sandwiches, omelettes AND your salads (plus many more dishes).
Bell Peppers – I like to cut up and mix together red, yellow, orange and green. These are also great to cook with or place in sandwiches, wraps, soups, etc. Wash, then cut off the top. Slice into thirds or quarters along they ‘ribs’ and cut out any blemishes. Once open, remove the seed pod from the middle and the while membranes along the ribs, then slice. Sometimes we leave them as long slices to make them easier to eat raw with some dip, sometimes they are cubed/diced for quick additions.
Tomatoes – I don’t tend to cut up too many too early as I find they get watery. These are another item that if I don’t tend to prepare, they stay on my counter until they rot or shrivel up. It is generally recommended to store whole tomatoes outside of the fridge because they cold can make their skins toughen up.
Cucumbers – our grocery stores tend to carry more English Cucumbers that field cucumbers but the preference is yours. It’s nice to switch them up every now and again. For english cucumbers, I tend to wash them, remove any blemishes and then slice them thinly using the mandolin – this produces nice and even slices, perfect for sandwiches and as a garnish on top of salads. I often use a vegetable peeler for the field cucumbers, before slicing on the mandolin because I find they often have
Carrots – I typically peel carrots and then either slice into ‘coins’ using the mandolin, or slice thinly into ‘matchsticks’. There are a variety of ways to cut up your carrots depending on where you plan on using them – added to stews/soups (thin coins or thick cubes), salads (shredded as a topping) or in sandwiches (coins), wraps (matchsticks). Carrots store very well, so a 5lb bag will be an economical choice.
Onions – I do not like cutting onions – all those layers, and then the tears… definitely not my favourite. But I do have two secret weapons:
1) If I am using red onions for sandwiches, or burritos etc – I like to use the mandoline¹ for nice thin slices
2) If I want onions (i.e. yellow) for omelettes or cooking, I like them chopped. Then I use this wonderful device: The Starfrit Hand Food Processor* (or other machine/device of your choice.) All you have to do is quarter the onion, remove the skin and any tough parts or blemishes, then follow the operating instructions to chop up your onion as finely as you wish. This is a very quick process, reduces the amount of onion smell on your hands and reduces the amount of onion gas in your eyes or nose.
And of course many other vegetable that you prefer including: radishes, broccoli and cauliflower as well.
¹You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional mandolin from a kitchen supply store, unless of course, you want to. To start, try an entry level product. I have been very happy with my Starfrit Mandolin*, and they tend to be very reasonably priced.