Vegan Cooking Tips

Fast Veggies

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, EdD, RD

You love veggies, but you think they take too much time to prepare? Not so! Take advantage of seasonal fresh vegetables and use frozen veggies throughout the year for variety. Remember to select fresh vegetables that have good color, are not split or badly bruised, and are ripe. Dig around in the freezer case and find the packages that don’t have icicles forming on them. And follow these tips for adding freshly cooked vegetables to your meals.

Frozen In a hurry

Place 1/2 cup frozen vegetables, such as carrots, peas, broccoli florets, cauliflower cuts, snow peas (edible pea pods), or summer squash into a microwaveable plastic or glass dish. Add one inch of water. Cover with vented plastic (plastic wrapped tightly on the container with several holes poked in it) or a fitted lid, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Cooking vegetables in this way will allow the veggies to form their own broth. If you’re feeling creative, add a sprinkling of garlic powder, red pepper flakes, onion powder, spice blend, or black pepper the minute you take the veggies out of the microwave.

Fresh Without fuss

You can prepare steamed carrots for one or two by slicing 1 cup of fresh carrots, placing them in a microwaveable plastic or glass dish, and adding 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and microwave on medium for 5-6 minutes, or until tender. If you’d like to cook them on the stove, place the carrots in a small pot, add 3 inches of water and cover. Bring to a quick boil, reduce heat immediately, and allow to simmer until tender. With either recipe, drain the carrots once they’re done. You can mix the carrot liquid with a teaspoon of plain soy yogurt or vegan margarine and season with a dash of curry powder, dried dill, or fresh parsley. Pour over the cooked carrots and serve.

Do you look at those leafy greens in the grocery and try to imagine how to turn them into a steamy, savory dish? You can purchase packaged prewashed spinach (Ready-Pac, Dole, and Green Giant are some brands) and microwave it right in the bag. You can also use cleaned greens to cut down on labor in other recipes.

Amaze your friends and make beet greens in the microwave for 4 to 5 people (or 2 very hungry people). Take 3 cups (about 2 bunches) of fresh beet greens, ½ cup (about 4) sliced green onions, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Wash the greens under cold, running water and drain them well. Chop them into small pieces and place in a 3-quart microwaveable bowl or casserole dish. Add 1 inch of water. Cook, uncovered, on high for 3 minutes, or until greens are tender. Drain and return to the cooking container. Add onions and black pepper and toss to combine. Heat, uncovered, on high for 1 minute, only to warm.

If you’d like to do this on top of the stove, bring a pot with 3 quarts of water to a boil. Toss in greens and allow them to cook only until they are wilted and tender. This can be 3-8 minutes, depending on your stove and the toughness of the greens. Drain, reserving the liquid. Put greens back in the pot, mix in onions, pepper, and about 1 cup of liquid. Stir and heat for about 2 minutes longer, until thoroughly heated.

Here’s a handy chart for some fast veggies. Microwave settings are HIGH and veggies are cooked covered; stove is set on medium heat, with water already boiling, uncovered. To microwave fresh veggies, add about 2 inches of water to the container. For microwaving frozen veggies, follow the package instructions, or estimate about 2 teaspoons of water for each 1/4 cup of vegetables. To microwave corn on the cob, wrap each ear in several thicknesses of damp paper towels.

Microwave Stove Microwave Stove
Asparagus spears (2 cups) 6 min. 8 min. 4 min. 6-7 min.
Green beans (1½ cups) 4 min. 6 min. 2-4 min. 7-8 min.
Broccoli (1 cup) 4 min. 7 min. 3-4 min. 6-7 min.
Brussels sprouts (1½ cups) 5 min. 7 min. 3-4 min. 5-6 min.
Corn on the cob (2 medium ears, shucked) 4 min. 5 min. 5 min. 5-6 min.
Zucchini (1½ cups) 4 min. 5-6 min. 2-3 min. 4-5 min.