When I first started eating a plant based diet, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the work it took to wash, cut, peel, tear, and chop vegetables. I certainly did not want to do that process every single night. So I developed a system of doing the hard work of dealing with vegetables only once or twice a week, then using the leftovers in creative and interesting ways.
Here are my simple, filling, healthy, and tasty menu plans to use lots of vegetables for several main dish meals during the week. The most work is for the first part (work day). See the page on using cooked vegetables to find ways to use left overs.
Roasted vegetables. Cut up a large amount and variety of “hard” vegetables (such as onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, yams, potatoes, beets, turnips, etc.) into 1 inch by 1 inch chunks. You can coat with oil or just add some salt and pepper. If using oil, I recently learned that it is best to use a “neutral” oil like grapeseed. Coat the vegetables and roast them at 400-450 degrees for about 40 minutes. I like to use large, tin disposable pans because they hold a large quantity of vegetables.
Sauteed vegetables. It is best to saute “soft” vegetables like peppers, kale, spinach or other leafy greens and saute them in water or oil. A wok or a large fry pan is helpful for large amounts.
For the work day meal, cook some brown or wild rice while the veggies are cooking or roasting. Take a portion of the vegetables and add black beans or other legume, season to your taste and save the rest to use another day. Serve with rice, a lettuce salad topped with orange slices and dried cranberries, seeds or nuts.
Note #1: Save those scraps! Keep all the parts of the veggies you don’t want, like peels, leaves, stems etc. to make a cheap, no-salt added vegetable broth. I put them in the large soup pot, cover with water, and boil for about 20 minutes, then let sit until cool.(I have a large soup pot with a strainer which works well). When cool, strain out the veggie scraps and keep the broth. I store it in canning jars and use it for soup base. If you don’t have time, you can freeze the peelings in a bag for some other time and you can also freeze the broth.
Note #2: Roasted Vegetables. I make this dish often, and will even serve it to guests. In fact, I took roasted vegetables to a potluck recently and heard many positive murmurs in the room about the dish. Later I was asked for the recipe. Since I did not really follow one, I had to think about what I did. So here is my “recipe” for roasted vegetables I made for that potluck using produce from my CSA:
4-6 sweet potatoes
1 butternut squash (can be peeled with a regular peeler to get the skin off)
1 small package mushrooms
1/2 head cauliflower
3-4 Daikon radishes
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, cut in half
handfuls of pumpkin seeds (I think I put these on after roasting)
(I also like to use Brussels sprouts and beets if I have them, but you can use any such “hard” vegetables that you like or have on hand.)
Cut these up into 1-inch sections. I used a basting oil that I got from my local store called Wegman’s, but you can make it yourself by combining 1/4 cup grapeseed oil in a blender with fresh parsley and fresh thyme. Coat the veggies with the oil. I also added dried basil, sage and rosemary as well as salt and pepper.
Pre-heat the oven at 400 degrees at some point during your cutting. Since there were so many vegetables, I roasted them in a large tin foil disposable pan (about 20 x 13 x 4). If you have fewer, they can be roasted on a cookie sheet, which might be better since it is not so deep. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, (stir at some point) then check to see if they are done to your taste. I think I probably roasted them a bit longer with so many.
For a main dish meal you can add chickpeas and serve over rice–one of our favorite meals!