You Need Meal Prepping, and Caramelized Onions Make Life Better
Meal Prepping is The Key to Eating Well
Ask people what keeps them from eating healthfully, and most will say: lack of time. Somewhere along the line, we became convinced that it’s just as good to grab packaged food, to save time for other things. But the real solution to being “too busy to cook” is Meal prepping. So, being a helper, I wrote a book to solve the problem.
When I described my next book, Vegan Meal Prep; A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-to-Go Recipes to a millennial friend, she said, oh “it’s adulting.” I suppose you can call it that. Maybe you grew up with someone else making your meals. Now you are an adult and you have to invest a little time into making sure you eat well. A couple of hours on the weekend, and boom, you can be set up for weeknight meals. Taking responsibility, that is kind of grown up.
Try a Little Meal Prepping Today
The book is available for pre-order, if you want to change the way you are eating for the better. If you just want to dip a toe in the waters of meal prepping, try making some caramelized onions and roasted brussels sprouts, and see how you like having them all prepped for the week. Then you can make dishes like this Caramelized Onion and Brussels Sprout Cavatappi.
Caramelized Onions Are Magic
As a private chef, I often cook all day, prepping finished meals for clients. Because I have a whole week’s worth of food to make, the first thing I do is throw a panful of onions on the stove. While I cook other things, I can saute those onions, low and slow, and make an ingredient that will improve every dish it touches.
To understand what is going on in that pan, it helps to understand the onion. Inside each juicy onion, there are natural sugars. Applying heat to the chopped onion causes “pyrolysis,” and breaks the sugar molecules into smaller sugar molecules. Polysaccharides become monosaccharides, and the onions get sweeter. The heat also breaks down the structural elements, which are largely starches, into sugars, and makes the onions soft. There’s also another famous chemical trick going on in the pan, called the Maillard Reaction. That’s what causes browning in many cooking processes, and it releases lots of amazing flavors from the onions cells, as well.
This is all so cool that I can’t believe that anyone doesn’t want to do it immediately.
Temperature, Moisture and Time are Key to Caramelization
Low heat allows the processes to happen as they should. If your onions get soupy, raise the heat a little to cook off the water, since caramelization occurs more readily in a dry pan. Be patient. You need at least an hour. Any recipe that claims caramelization happens in 10 minutes should be burned.
I’ve had editors try to change my recipes to make it 10 minutes. We all need to do our part to educate everyone we know. a hint of browning is not caramelization. There is no shortcut.
While Caramelizing, Do Meal Prepping
And as the anguished cries rise from the crowd, “but an hour is like, forever!” just remember, you can prep all the other things while the onions cook. For this recipe, we throw some brussels sprouts in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Cook a pot of quinoa or your favorite grain. Throw a whole sweet potato or two in the hot oven and roast until tender, and you’ll have raw materials to make great meals.
Once you have baked Sweet Potatoes, you can make one of these recipes:
Meal Prepping Makes Life Better
Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see. Whether it’s a tub of sweet, intense caramelized onions, or cooked quinoa, or a few butter-soft sweet potatoes, your prep will save you. Instead of calling the pizza place for delivery, you can take that prep and make a genuinely delicious meal. Save dollars, save time, and eat more plants.
Meal Prepping is the answer.
Caramelized Onion Prep and Cavatappi with Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios
- 3 pounds yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for pasta
- 2 pinches coarse salt
- 1 pound brussels sprouts halved
- extra virgin olive oil
- smoked salt to taste
- 8 ounces Cavatappi or Gobbetti, whole wheat 3 1/2 cups
- 1 large carrot finely julienned
- 1/2 cup toasted pistachios chopped
Place a 12 inch skillet or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil, then add the onions and salt and stir to coat with oil. When the onions start to sizzle, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir every 10-15 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan, and if they start to stick, reduce to low. Keep cooking for an hour, they will shrink and turn the color of caramel candy. When you have 3 cups or so, take off the heat. Let cool. Measure 1 cup for the pasta, store the rest for other dishes.
While the onions cook, roast the Brussels sprouts. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spread the halved sprouts on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with smoked salt. Roast for 20 minutes. Let cool. Reserve 1 1/2 cups for pasta, store the rest for other meals.
For pasta, bring a big pot of water to a boil, add salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes. Add the carrots for the last two minutes. Drain well.
In the pasta pot, place the cup of caramelized onions and brussels sprouts, and a splash of olive oil just to keep it moving as you stir over medium heat. When heated, add the pasta and toss to mix, stir until all is hot again.
Serve sprinkled with pistachios.