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BACK TO Healthy Eating Veggie Prep 101

Veggie Prep 101

Think you know vegetables? We've got all you need to know on veggie prep and storing methods to get the most out of these essential and nutritious meal additions. Try some of our recommended recipes to practice these tips at home!

  • To blanch (cook) vegetables, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add vegetables and cook until tender-crisp. Immediately transfer vegetables to a bowl of ice water to cool.
  • Revive limp celery by trimming the ends and sticking the stalks in a jar of cold water. Place the jar in the refrigerator for a couple of hours until the stalks are crisp.
  • Trim the woody ends off fresh asparagus then arrange in a tall vase or glass with a little water in the bottom. Loosely tent with a plastic bag and refrigerate until needed, refreshing the water every couple of days.
  • To clean leeks, cut them as instructed in the recipe, then place in a bowl of cold water and swish around until the sand falls to the bottom of the bowl. Drain carefully, then rinse again to remove any traces of grit.
  • Quick-thaw frozen spinach by placing it in a colander and running cool water over it until thawed. Squeeze out as much excess water as possible before using in recipes.
  • Peeling cucumbers is simple—just use a standard vegetable peeler to remove some or all of the green skin. You can also use the tines of a fork to make decorative “stripes” down the length of the cucumber.
  • When tomato season is in full swing and you can’t use tomatoes up fast enough, freeze them whole in resealable plastic freezer bags. Pop a few frozen tomatoes into a pot of soup or sauce and simmer, breaking up with a spoon as they thaw.
  • Ripen hard avocados or green tomatoes by placing in a paper bag with an apple. The apple emits a gas that helps speed ripening.
  • Freeze extra tomato paste or chipotle chiles in a small resealable plastic bag, pressing the paste flat before freezing. When a recipe calls for a little paste or chile, just break off a chunk from the frozen block and refreeze the remainder for later.
  • When making guacamole, use a potato ricer to mash the ripe avocados. If you don’t have one, mash the avocados in a bowl with a hand-held pastry blender.
  • Soft-skinned vegetables, like tomatoes and eggplant, are easier to slice with a serrated bread knife. The serrations on the knife grab the slick skin much better than a chef’s knife.
  • Arrange stuffed bell peppers in a Bundt or tube pan for baking. They’ll stay upright and won’t tip over as easily.
  • Use a soft brush or lightly damp paper towel to clean mushrooms. Rinsing is okay too but be prepared to use the mushrooms right away—they’ll mold if stored wet.
  • Store mushrooms in a paper sack, not the plastic-wrapped styrofoam containers they’re sold in. They’ll last longer if allowed to “breathe” in the paper bag.
  • Plastic clamshell containers that strawberries are sold in are also perfect for storing fresh mushrooms—air circulates around them and keeps them fresh longer.
  • Roast mushroom caps before stuffing to prevent them from turning soggy. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and roast, cavity side up, at 400° F. for 10 minutes. Turn the caps over and roast another 5 minutes before stuffing.
  • When cutting corn off the cob, it’s easiest to do it on a rimmed baking sheet. That way, the corn kernels aren’t as apt to fly all over the work surface.
  • Cook sweet corn by placing shucked ears in a large pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and remove from heat. The corn will be cooked in a few minutes and will hold in the hot water for about an hour—perfect for groups!
  • Before baking whole russet potatoes, rub them with oil, then bake directly on the rack of the oven, not on a pan. This makes the skin super-crisp.
  • Potatoes will cook faster if they’re quartered or cut into cubes before boiling. So they cook at about the same rate, cut them into similar-sized pieces.
  • Mash potatoes up to two hours ahead of time and keep warm in a slow cooker set at low heat. Just before serving, stir in a little milk or butter. This makes coordinating big dinners, like Thanksgiving, a lot easier.
  • To prepare hard winter squashes, first use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin, then very carefully cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and trim any remaining skin with a paring knife before cutting into chunks.