One Tray, One Dream
Once a week I do a produce refresh for my lunches and dinners and I wrote about it here.
Today I'm gonna go a little more in depth with regard to what landed on my table from that one cooking session. And please don't think this is how you have to cook, not in any way, I'm simply sharing the possibilities that come with making a tray of veggies and how they can have use in your day and meals beyond a simple side eaten as is. This is inspiration. A recommendation. Maybe some motivation.
Veggies can be used to create the base for a multitude of meals (at least in my single lady world), thereby making animal protein secondary in the process. Why? There are 2 reasons this works for me 1) it makes me (personally, which means we need to figure out your eating style) feel good to eat more veggies than animal, but I do love a steak and fish 2) it's friendlier on my wallet these days as I'm on a pretty fixed food budget. If you have a family, you can certainly use the same strategy when cooking and you may simply prepare a few more vegetables along the way. Free your mind an let the cooking follow!
Here's my bottom line when it comes to cooking on weeknights:
1. Plan Ahead: Think about your week. What are your plans? The kids? Will you be home 2 or 6 nights?
2. Have A Strategy: For example, I'm going to cook a few items on Sunday so I can pack lunches but I'm going to do 1 evening of Hello Fresh/meal delivery, head to the freezer for dinner a few nights and order take out on 2.
3. Know Your Skill Level In The Kitchen: Don't bite off more than you can chew and don't try to please everyone at your table 1) it won't be possible 2) this makes cooking daunting and removes the joy from something that is in fact quite joyful if you let it be. Find your happy place with cooking, so really think on #2 and remember #4 below ...
4. Keep It Simple: It means what it says, no complicated recipes, roasts and weeknight time busters. Stir fry is dinner. Build your own tacos is dinner. Snack night is dinner. Breakfast for dinner is dinner! Theme your nights and reframe what it means to eat a meal. A meal can be anything we want it to be and it doesn't have to include 3 courses. You can even make a delicious stuffed sweet potato bar and call it dinner - and I'll be giving you more food for thought.
A budget friendly and speedy strategy I uphold almost every weekend is buying veggies and splitting them a few ways, making a pot of grains, cracking open a can of beans, making a dip and/or a soup and sauce.
Now, this may sound like a lot and sometimes it is - but like I mentioned, my budget doesn't allow much room for dining out these days so I'm backed into a corner with that one. All of that said, it takes me 2 hours on a Sunday (right now, a few years ago it would have taken longer) to get this down.
Here's what I did with all of the veggies on that tray pictured above:
1. Half of the produce went into soup
2. The other half was roasted and then split to make a veggie dip
3. While some were left plain in their roasted state for eggs, salads, quinoa bowls and to stuff roasted potatoes
Notice I was able to use a tray of veggies quite a few ways!
And my roasting notes are below as well as the directions to make a delicious and versatile veggie dip!
Get in the kitchen!
- 1 eggplant, cut into small cubes
- 1 zucchini. cut into half moons
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into a large dice
- 5 whole cloves of garlic, leave whole or cut in half
- 1 large onion, cut into large slices
- 4 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. tomato paste
- Salt to taste
- Fresh basil, bonus if you have it on hand
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Split veggies between 2 trays, leaving enough room to brown
- Toss each tray of veggies with 2 T. of olive oil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
- Roast for 35 minutes, until soft and brown
- Allow veggies cool down and add to the food processor with tomato paste + chopped basil
- Process ingredients in the food processor until smooth and salt to taste
What Do I Do With This Dip?
- Well, use as a dip!
- Use as a sauce - so lovely tossed over spaghetti squash and/or pasta.
- Eat it with a spoon.
- Build sandwiches with it, replacing your plain old mayo or mustard with a veggie packed delight.
- Super when pressed in a panini with a nice piece of mozz or in a tortilla or collard wrap with with avocado, grains + greens.
- A dollop is also a game changer when tucked into an omelette or over scrambled eggs + on top of a baked potato.