Tonight’s dinner was an exercise that most of us are familiar with: the “it’s a week from payday and we’re running out of options” meal. A lot of people who start trying to eat more healthy foods or more vegetables, or start any new type of diet, often complain that they buy all this produce and half of it goes bad in the fridge before they remember to use it. One great thing about switching to a plant-based diet is that I no longer think “Oh, Monday we’ll have chicken, and I’ll make some random vegetable to go with it”, I think “We have asparagus about to go bad, I need to make something with that!”
Use What You Have. I browse Pinterest all the time for new recipes (and everything else) and I use it to get inspiration for my weekly menus, but I try to focus on ingredients I already have, or recipes with common ingredients. Prioritize your menu plan by what will go bad first! Save frozen or pantry meals for the end of the week or pay-period. This chart is also very helpful for learning how to store fruits and vegetables. *There’s a trick I learned with avocados and bananas! You can ripen them on the counter, and then put them in the fridge and they will stay at the same level of ripeness for up to a week longer! This list of “which to eat first” might also be helpful in your meal planning, although I admit I bought the asparagus I used tonight last week sometime and it was still OK.
Remember you can also chop and freeze many vegetables for later use, such as celery, carrots, bell peppers, ginger (freeze the whole root and grate it frozen), many herbs, and chopped steamed greens like kale, turnip greens, or collards. I like to freeze chopped carrots, celery, and onions together in sandwich bags as soup-starter-kits, and I freeze chopped greens in ice cube trays to throw into pasta dishes or soup whenever I want.
Asparagus and Kale Pasta serves 2 + toddler, with leftovers
- 1/2 lb spaghetti
- One bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped into 1″ pieces.
- 1/2 bunch of kale, removed from the stems and roughly chopped
- 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped to match the asparagus
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, crushed, or 1/2 tsp whole dried thyme leaves. I used Lemon Thyme because that’s what’s in the garden.
- Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2-3 green onions, sliced, for garnish
- olive oil for sauteing
- salt and pepper
- *1-2 TBSP each nutritional yeast and or chia seeds, or some grated parmesan. *Optional
Start your pasta water boiling while you prep your veggies. Heat some oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add your garlic. After about a minute or two, add your chopped kale, and a few splashes of water (if it’s not still wet from being washed), cover, and stir every minute or so until it is just wilted. Add your asparagus, bell pepper, and crushed thyme, plus salt and pepper. Start cooking the pasta. By the time the pasta is done and drained the veggies should be tender. Add the spaghetti to the pan and toss, adding more olive oil if needed. Add your lemon zest and juice, and nutritional yeast, chia, or cheese, if using. Top with green onions to serve.