The simplest path from vegbox to frozen meal
April 27, 2018 2:59 AM   Subscribe

Give me your best recipes for make-ahead meals that: 1) are mostly vegetable based, especially root veg, with a few extra sources of vegan protein; 2) can be made in bulk, with as little prep as possible; 3) are NOT SOUP; 4) preferably can be frozen; 5) are STILL NOT SOUP; 6) are utterly delicious. Ideally I want to be cooking up my whole vegbox in one evening to feed myself through the week.

I live in the UK. I get a box of organic vegetables every week. I'm fairly low on time and spoons at the moment, and ideally I'd cook up most of the box in one go, produce a whole load of meals, and eat them for the rest of the week. Ideally most of those meals would be freezable. I don't like soup. If you're thinking 'well, technically this is a soup, but...', know that I'm not interested.

Because I'm in the UK, for much of the year the box is largely root veg. This week I got: carrots, potatoes, swede, beetroot, swiss chard and a courgette. That's a pretty typical week. I have perpetual spinach in my garden, plus a lot of herbs and various kinds of lettuce (although those don't really freeze well.)

I'm vegan and happy to put some beans, chickpeas, tofu etc into the meals for some protein, and I'm okay with adding small amounts of 'starchy' bread/rice type things, but I'd like the veg to be the star of the show, especially since so many of them are pretty starchy to start with.

I have access to a good, well-stocked kitchen, including a hob, an oven, a microwave, a food processor and a blender to be used for NON SOUP PURPOSES.
posted by Acheman to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I'd go with curries, which are great for showcasing veg. Especially if you can either roast the root veg or boil them a bit before adding them to the final dish. I'm vegan so my husband and I kinda gravitate towards VERY basic curries to clear out the leftover veg in our fridge. We saute finely chopped onion and garlic in a bit of oil, add whatever spices for we want (really good curry powder is worth its weight in gold for this), then add our protein (I'm on a chickpea kick recently), a tin of coconut milk, and let it simmer with any chopped veg for a while. I like it with chapatis, but brown rice is makes more leftovers.
posted by Kitteh at 3:21 AM on April 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

What I do is roast all the vegetables (separately, usually) and mix them with beans/rice/whatever with different flavorings each meal. Roasting gets the vegetables taken care of all at once with minimal effort, and using them as meal components rather than making a large batch of one thing increases variety. (I also batch cook the beans/rice/ whatever so they're also on hand in my refrigerator.)

I flavor them with a quick curry, jarred salsa, marinara sauce, pesto, thyme and basil, a Cajun spice mix, nutritional yeast sauce, etc. depending on my mood.
posted by metasarah at 3:45 AM on April 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Are Thai curries soups? I usually make mine quite thick so maybe not? I have this Thai cookbook, Thai Cookery Secrets and all the recipes are amazing. I've added all sorts of different veg + proteins like chickpeas, beans, cashews, peanuts and it's never been a bad meal. I also have the Curry Secret but I think the recipes there are more useful for quick dinners than batch-cooking a whole veg box.
posted by london explorer girl at 4:10 AM on April 27, 2018

Stuff I used to do to get through the veg box:

Roast everything that would roast (which is more than you might think) in a big baking tray. You can chuck a couple handfuls of chopped cabbage five minutes before it's done for instance. Then add that to a load of grain+protein (rice+lentils, couscous+beans, pasta+chickpeas, etc etc) and portion it up. It'll keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, or freeze and reheat in a microwave (careful about reheating rice though).

Roast veg can also be thrown in wraps/sandwiches with humous.

Other things I made that could be frozen: risottos, gratins (all those root vegetables you got this week would be perfect for that, make with veggie stock, top with breadcrumbs, dried herbs and yeast flakes), curries, stews.

My other veg box buster (especially those weeks when you get all the cabbage - seriously I got the single person box and often would get two types of cabbage, what is one person supposed to do with two cabbages in a week?) was to make homemade coleslaw (with a non-mayo dressing - I used vinegar, oil, some mustard powder and various dried herbs/spices), which I could chuck in sandwiches or have a dollop or two as side with my meals.

I never got as far as making my own sauerkraut but I seriously considered it....

I found HFW's River Cottage Veg book great for new ideas for using vegetables. He usually gives vegan alternative his recipies.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:10 AM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you want something a bit lighter than roasting, you might try spiralising some of your veg. Courgette, beetroot, and carrot are all quite tasty done this way, and steam up in seconds or can be enjoyed raw. You can spiralise a batch or several batches in one go and keep them ready in the fridge for a few days; some spiralised veg can be frozen, too. It's annoying to buy a single-use gadget, I know, but an electric spiraliser is quite fast and easy to use and they're often relatively cheap.

Some tasty recipes for simple sauces here!
posted by halation at 5:27 AM on April 27, 2018

I'd prep all the veggies, roasting (on preview, as Helga-woo says above) over sauteeing since it requires less overseeing but keeping a couple variations if you have a lot of a particular vegetable so you don't get tired of it. Here's a plan that prefers low prep and assembly over actual recipes but I think having such fresh vegetables means they don't need a lot to be delicious. An alternate plan would be heavy on recipes resulting in actual completed (versus assembled) meals but would take much more prep.

Pickled Beets, Mashed/Pureed Potato, Roasted Carrots, Roasted Potato Wedges and Swede, Carrot Salad, Courgette Noodles, Blanched Swiss Chard
Assemble with beans, rice, tofu, or other starches/proteins if desired through week.
Pick some spinach and herbs on the way in the house, heat up any combination of the mashed or roasted vegetables, add a side of cold pickled beets or carrot salad or courgette noodles, toss spinach and herbs on top. Yum!

Directions (Recipe)

- steam the whole beetroot, check in 45 minutes depending on size

- cover half of the clean potatoes and 1/4 of the swede with water and set to boil, cut in half any large, for about 30 minutes (optional - pour some of the boiling water over raw cashews in a separate bowl)

- slice half the carrots into coins, slice half the potatoes into wedges, 3/4 of the swede into cubes, toss with your choice of oil and salt and put in a hot oven, set timer to check in 15 minutes, every 15 minutes shuffle/turn and remove any vegetables that are done to a glass refrigerator container with a lid. I prefer to keep the different vegetables separate in the oven and the fridge though still can be on one pan or in one container.

- grate remaining carrot for salad, toss with rice vinegar and an oil, roasted sesame oil for example, and salt, refrigerate

- peel and slice cooked beetroot, boil 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 water with salt, pack beetroot in jars, pour over the boiled brine, add optional seasoning like a couple cloves or coriander seeds

- drain the boiling water from the soft potatoes and swede over the swiss chard leaves (put the stems/spines into the pickled beet jars), mash potatoes/swede lightly with a fork/masher or puree with a blender device as desired, add a couple pieces of roasted carrot optional, add coconut oil (refined unless like coconut taste) and/or vegan milk (blend the optional soaked cashews to a smooth liquid and add instead of milk), salt

- drain and season swiss chard

- peel or noodle the entire courgette into strips, salt lightly, refrigerate (alternately roast)

Option 1 - more prep time, make beans and rice and roast some tofu with the veg, store separately in fridge so they can be added to assembled plates through the week.

Option 2 - even more prep time but less assemble time through the week, prep some of the ingredients into a curry (roasted veg curry, see Kitteh's directions above), some into a jarred tomato sauce with white beans, spread mashed potatoes over roasted veggies for veg shepherd's pie plus lentils, plate complete individual meals in fridge/freezer containers. Freeze some of the plated meals. Heat meals, add beet or carrot or spinach/herb salads, wedges of lemon/lime.

Freezer notes -
Going one step further and actually prepping the roasted veg into curry or the tomato sauce and adding the beans/rice would make meals that could be frozen. The veg quality will lend toward mush but the added sauce masks it.
Mashed potato freezes really well, use an ice cream scoop or similar to make individual portions, freeze on a tray, then bag when frozen.
The carrot salad and pickled beets will last for a long time in the refrigerator. The carrots for a couple weeks (the vinegar will lead them towards pickle) and the beets for months. No need to freeze.
The courgette will freeze. It will be very mushy and can be tossed into any dish or used in a zucchini muffin or cake recipe from the freezer, just drain off most of the liquid after thawing.
posted by RoadScholar at 5:28 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ooh, I should probably have said that I also have a spiraliser. I'm not a fan of most vegetable curries, though - somehow I can never get the flavours to balance properly.
posted by Acheman at 5:33 AM on April 27, 2018

Hand pies. One internet stranger's recipe which is not vegan (you'd need a vegan dough and, of course) but it's the basic concept.Cook the veggies, put them in dough pockets. bake, freeze, reheat.
posted by crush at 6:57 AM on April 27, 2018

Adding to crush's comment above, Jus-Rol puff pastry is vegan (as long as you make sure you don't buy the one made with butter). It also comes in gluten free (also vegan). You can buy it in blocks to roll out or (much easier) sheets that you just cut to size. You'll find it in the chiller section in the supermarket. I've had good results making pies with a cooked filling in an uncooked dough and freezing that, rather than baking the whole thing first. You can cook it from frozen and it turns out great.
posted by essexjan at 7:47 AM on April 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm on Team Roasted Veg. Courgettes have so much water, they will roast into thin bits; slice them, add oil & salt, roast on high. Do not crowd them in the pan. Turn at least once. Carrots, potatoes, swede, beetroot all roast beautifully. Roasted veg taste best fresh but are fine days later. Or roast them most of the way, store, throw them back in the oven on high for 20 mins or so before eating. You can use a variety of herbs fresh or dried. They will keep for most of a week in the fridge.

Swiss chard, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, can be trimmed, peeled as needed, and cooked in a bit of water. I love adding a splash of vinegar to chard and beets.

Stir-fry. Large, hot pan, be generous with oil, saute the veg. Make a sauce from soy, ginger, garlic, a little bit of brown sugar, some corn starch, water. You can add vinegar, sherry, chili flakes to change it up. Add it at the end, heat it until the sauce thickens, serve over noodles, potatoes, rice, or eat plain. Reheats okay, loses texture, but stays tasty. Or just make the sauteed veg and freeze in portions to add to beans & rice or a baked potato.

Sauces - potatoes take to curry really well. For me, the key to meatless curry is adding extra fat, a bit extra of whatever oil you enjoy. Someone posted a vegan chili with bulghur wheat that sounds really good. If you don't like soupy, saucy food, adding rice, bulghur wheat, pasta, potatoes, and/or beans works for me.

Try polenta as a base for stirfry or saucy foods. I miss cheese (not vegan, don't eat dairy) and I miss it. Polenta with plenty of olive oil has similar mouthfeel. It can be refrigerated and sliced, though it's better when fresh. I sometimes add a slice to a wrap if it ill be hot.

Wraps. I take wraps to work, with mashed beans and rice for some bulk and to absorb liquid, and any veg in the fridge. Maybe a small amount of vinaigrette or other dressing.

I don't love plain rice, but rice with kimchi and cooked leftover veg is really good. Good way to eat up the last of the veg before the next box.

I just gave someone Mark Bittman's The Way to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I have not read, but he's very good with flexible recipes and making vegetables the star.
posted by theora55 at 9:03 AM on April 27, 2018

Oh gosh, yes, I forgot about veggie pasties. They were so good.

Also, if your veg box scheme lets you take holidays, it's ok to do that if it's getting too much. My one was really generous with holidays, you just had to let them know the week before and they reduced your direct debit. I would take a break about one week in every five to catch up with all the veg I had. I know fresh veg and food is good for lots of reasons, but if you're really low on spoons, it's ok to have a week or two living off ready-meals, takeaways and whatever's in your freezer.

Most of the veg you got this week will survive in the fridge for a week, you don't need to deal with it right now. Apart from the Swiss chard, which you can wash and put in the freezer, add handfuls to chilli's and stews when you have more energy. Roast the courgette with some herbs and garlic and have it with some pasta.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:22 AM on April 27, 2018

Here's HFW's recipe for pasties, which I like because you don't need to precook the veg, just dice them small. So very easy too make if you use ready made pastry. I made them with all sorts of root veg. Leave out the cheese and substitute the butter. I cooked them and then froze them. Take one out in the morning and it would be defrosted by lunchtime.
posted by Helga-woo at 9:31 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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