Going Plant-Based for Your Health: Saving Time in the Kitchen
by Karen Pullen
Whether you cook for one or seven, as I did for many years, your time is valuable. You have better things to do and have hungry people waiting to eat. So, it makes sense to find ways to be more efficient.
One of those ways is weekend batch cooking: setting aside a couple of hours to prepare quantities of food that can be used for meals throughout the week. That way, your fridge is full of healthy options and your evening meal prep can be completed in 15 or 20 minutes.
You’ll need to get organized. Devise a meal plan, say, on Friday night. Saturday, get your groceries. Then you are ready to batch cook on Sunday. You’ll need storage containers of pint and quart sizes, some freezer-safe, and zip-lock freezer bags.
If you can get to a farmer’s market, factor fresh produce into your plan. But frozen vegetables, for example a stir-fry mix, are perfectly healthy time-savers.
What your family’s meal plan looks like is highly individual, but here’s a general list of plant-based foods that can typically be batch-cooked:
Beans. I cook a pound of beans (black, kidney, white, or chickpeas) and divide them into two-serving containers. Some I will freeze; some go into the fridge for beans & rice. Beans and rice make a complete meal if some greens are added. They can also go into a tortilla with tomatoes and avocado for a yummy wrap. I use an Instant Pot pressure cooker for my beans for efficiency, but they can also be soaked overnight and cooked on a stovetop. Add beans to a salad or a soup, or mash for a dip.
Brown rice is healthier than white, because it contains the bran and the germ, but it also takes longer to cook, about 50 minutes. So, cooking a large quantity—say, enough for three meals—definitely saves time. It can be frozen in zip-lock bags.
Tofu is a staple in my house. I like tofu cubes, seasoned and baked; tofu slices, marinated and baked; tofu scramble, mixed with black salt and lots of vegetables. The cubes go into stir-fry, with more vegetables. The slices are good for sandwiches, and the scramble makes another great burrito-type wrap.
Pasta sauce. A heart Bolognese or lentil sauce can go over spaghetti, into a lasagna, or over ricestuffed bell peppers.
Soup. A meal of soup, muffin, and salad is very satisfying. Make a big pot full and freeze it in quantities that your family will eat—for mine, it’s a quart. It makes a great lunch too.
Muffins are such a great grab & go breakfast, if they’re made with whole wheat pastry flour and savory ingredients. Here’s a recipe that complements a hearty soup.
Savory Zucchini Muffins with Sundried Tomatoes and Olive
1 tablespoon flax meal + 2 1/2 Tablespoons water
1 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups fine cornmeal
1/2cup whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat flour)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbsp almond butter
1/2 cup zucchini (1 medium), grated & pressed in a towel to remove moisture
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a muffin pan or insert paper cups.
In a small bowl, combine flax meal and water to make a flax egg; set aside. In another small bowl, stir together milk and vinegar. Let the mixtures sit for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, place cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt; stir.
In the bowl with the milk mixture, add the flax egg, applesauce, maple syrup, and almond butter. Whisk to combine. Slowly pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in zucchini, tomatoes, and olives until the vegetables are evenly incorporated throughout the batter. Spoon the batter into muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, take the muffins out of the pan. In the bowl with the milk mixture, add the flax egg, applesauce, maple syrup, and almond butter. Whisk to combine. Slowly pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in zucchini, tomatoes, and olives until the vegetables are evenly incorporated throughout the batter. Spoon the batter into muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, take the muffins out of the pan.
Karen Pullen gives plant-based cooking classes. Her website is everydayplant-based.com.