Preparing Vegetables After A Visit To The Market
Plant-based foods are a fast-growing trend in the U.S., where over 73% of people surveyed said they were seeking plant-based alternatives to improve their health and do their share for the environment. The trend is matched by a desire for sustainably grown, organic fruits and vegetables, with recent research showing that pesticide-free produce contains a higher amount of antioxidants and a much lower percentage of heavy metals like cadmium. If you love nothing more than a vegetable-rich stew, a fresh crisp spring salad, or fiber-rich crudités with herbs served with your favorite homemade dip, then prepping your produce beforehand can really save you on time and help reduce waste. Ensure you keep the following tips in mind so that you really use all the produce you buy when you next visit your local fruit and vegetable market.
Making A List Of Vegetables To Prepare In Advance
When visiting a market or supermarket, planning your list in advance helps you determine which vegetables you plan to use immediately and which you wish to prep for later use throughout the week. To reduce the chance of excess food being thrown away, try to make a rough meal plan to see the amount of produce you actually need to buy. Select vegetables for prepping carefully, since not all last long in the fridge. Just a few that withstand refrigeration for various days include cabbage, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and yams, kale, celery, and cauliflower and broccoli.
Since you will be working with various vegetables in one go, you should set up your working station before commencing. Just a few key items you may need include a large chopping board, sharp knives, graters, and a collection of sealable bags or airtight containers. You don’t necessarily need fancy slicers, dicers and spiralizers. Sometimes, just one sharp knife to shred cabbage, slice carrots, or separate cauliflower from its stalk will do the trick. When using your knife for tasks like shredding, use a grip pad or wet towel to keep the vegetable in place, as well as a large cutting board. Keep other important equipment at hand, including a colander, several bowls to accommodate different vegetables, and any other equipment you may need to gather unwanted pieces and dispose of them.
Free To Freeze
You may plan to use the produce you prepare in dishes like a hearty minestrone soup on Monday, snacks and a salad on Tuesday, and sautéed mixed vegetables on Wednesday. Most vegetables have a decent shelf life, but even so, when you do get your hands on a large head of cabbage, or you buy more than one variety (e.g. green and red cabbage), freezing may be your best option for excess quantities. Many vegetables freeze well, including Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables, asparagus, kale, spinach and corn. Sometimes the texture of a vegetable may slightly change after it has been frozen, but flavor won’t suffer, so freezing is often the best option.
Blanching Prior To Freezing
A good way to ensure vegetables don’t lose their pleasant crunch is by blanching them prior to freezing. Blanching essentially destroys enzymes that break down nutrients and produce and change their color, texture and flavor over time. Blanching is an easy process. Just prep, slice, shred, or prepare vegetables as you normally would, and then pop them into a boiling pot of water for a couple of minutes. You shouldn’t cook them so long that they become soft. They should be slightly tender but still bear a pleasant crunch. Immediately strain the water away, and cool the vegetables in a large bowl filled with water and ice. When they are completely cold, place them on a clean towel and pat dry. Next, seal them using a Ziploc vacuum sealer. If you don’t have a sealer, then simply place them into a sealable bag or an airtight container.
Cutting Vegetables In Uniform Slices
Chopping and slicing vegetables should ideally be a mindful activity that you carry out when you are not in a rush. Take time on a lazy Sunday, pop your favorite relaxing music on the player, and take time to ensure you are cutting your vegetables into uniform pieces. This is especially important if you will be using your vegetables in cooked dishes. If vegetables are chopped up haphazardly and in irregular shapes and sizes, the pieces will take different times to cook. Even if you use your produce in raw dishes, uniformity will lend your dish the beauty and equilibrium required to appeal to even the fussiest of eaters.
Do Prepped Vegetables Retain Their Nutritional Value?
Vegetables that are prepared beforehand do lose some nutritional value through oxidation, but storing them in the fridge will slow down this process. Scientists at the University of California at Davis have found that you can slow down nutritional loss to just 10% for Vitamin C, 3% for beta carotene, and 7% for folate, by wrapping sliced vegetables in plastic before storing them. In fact, the nutritional loss faced by vegetables in a salad bar is much higher, since they are exposed to air and they oxidize faster. Pre-cut greens (such as lettuce, kale and spinach) are actually kept in plastic packaging so that a maximum amount of nutrients reach the customer’s table.
Vegetables taste wonderful and have a deliciously crisp texture when they are fresh. However, there are many vegetables that are still delicious in a variety of dishes after they have been prepared and stored in the fridge or freezer. Moreover, they retain a high percentage of nutrients, meaning they are still a healthy option for the rest of the week. When prepping your vegetables, make sure you slice them into uniform slices, store them in airtight containers, and vacuum seal them if you are freezing them. Plan your menu in advance so you use vegetables that perish first and leave the longest-lasting ones for later in the week. Try to include a good blend of fresh and frozen items in your weekly diet, choosing organic produce for a maximum antioxidant boost.
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