Why Cook Two Things at Once When You Can Cook Six?

I strive to run my kitchen as efficiently as possible—I use up absolutely every bit of food, do my best to dirty only one bowl instead of two or three or four and on an ideal day, cram as much as possible into my oven and cook a pile of food all at once. After working this past weekend, I took Monday off and spent most of the day doing all of the above while binge watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. (CNN will air a final season of the show this fall.)

I saved both time and energy cooking everything in the pic above together in a (mostly) 400°F oven.

Croutons from stale bread

Cube and toss in olive oil. Bake 5 to 10 minutes (keep an eye on these!). Once cool, store in a glass jar or freeze.

Roasted beets

Scrub, trim ends and place beets in a Dutch oven with a lid for about an hour or until you can easily slide a sharp knife into them. No more wasted tinfoil! Cool, peel and do with them what you will. I’ll make beet pickles out of these using very vinegary kombucha in place of white vinegar (works well!). Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Save the raw beet ends for making a cup or two of beet kvass.)

Roasted carrots

Scrub, cut into bit-size pieces, toss in olive oil, spread in a single layer in a pan, sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender. Here’s a tip worth the price of admission (if there was admission on here…well, your time…): roast vegetables in cast iron. SO EASY TO CLEAN UP! After you remove the vegetables, wipe pan clean or scrub it a bit with water and a sponge or brush to scrape off any baked-on bits. #lifechanging

Store roasted carrots in the refrigerator in a glass jar until ready to use. (Go here for more on maintaining and reviving cast iron.)

Roasted parsnips

Prepare the same way as you do the carrots. Again, I used cast iron, this time enamaled cast iron that I treat the same way as standard cast iron (no soap, just water and a scrub when necessary). The carrots and parsnips will go in salads and probably pesto sauce later in the week. They also make very good puréed soup as roasting first brings out the flavor. Store these like the carrots. (Save vegetable scraps for making free vegetable broth.)

Roasted whole squash

I just washed this and placed it in the oven whole for 45 minutes or so. I really would rather not peel an acorn squash. Butternut, bring it on. Acorn, no. When you roast a squash whole, it collapses onto itself and is very easy to peel. Put it on a baking dish (or small cast iron pan) in case the squash oozes. I might make a pie out of this or muffins or quick bread. Or soup. We shall see… Store in the refrigerator. (You can also cook this whole in minutes in a pressure cooker.)

Apple-rhubarb crumble

If you make a lot of crumble (and who can blame you?), you can make double the amount of topping and store it in the refrigerator to use later. I needed to melt coconut oil for the topping, so I simply placed the amount I needed in a bowl on top of the hot stove and it melted within minutes. For the topping, I wanted to dry out some almond pulp left over from making almond milk—for a crispier topping—so I put the wet pulp in the oven using the dish I would bake the crumble in (going back to that whole if-possible-dirty-one-dish-only thing).

When the croutons, carrots and parsnip were done and the beets still a little hard, I turned the oven down to 350 and put the assembled crumble in for about 30 minutes. Four of us devoured the crumble Monday night. (Here’s the very versatile, use-it-up recipe.)

As I peeled and cored the apples for the crumble, I placed the scraps in a jar and put that in the freezer. I’ll keep adding to this until I have enough to ferment a batch of scrap vinegar. If you use many apple scraps in this, it becomes almost as strong as apple cider vinegar—but free!

Action shot (sorry it’s so dark)

Also on Monday, I soaked and cooked pinto beans in my pressure cooker, made a vat of dal and whipped up some lemon-garlic dressing for salad. I think I’m forgetting what else I did… there may be more… anyway… doing all of this prep work and cooking several things at once makes my week run much smoother, it ensures I use up all the delicious food I buy at the farmers’ market and it saves a lot of energy and time. Oh and it tastes delicious (very important!).

For more energy-saving tips in the kitchen, go here.

For more time-saving tips in the kitchen, go here.

7 Replies to “Why Cook Two Things at Once When You Can Cook Six?”

  1. I was incorrect in considering stove top cooking more energy efficient than baking. With every oven rack in use, I have changed my mind. How about using multiple steaming pans/baskets on the stove top for food appropriate for boiling/steaming rather than roasting?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Jean,
      I love that idea. One of those stacked steamer baskets would be great! You could use one burner instead or two or three or four. I’ve eyed very nice bamboo ones and they don’t cost very much money. Thanks for the great tip.
      ~ Anne Marie

  2. I don’t use pesticides and the ants know it so I avoid anything I can’t clean completely. For me, it would be metal, not bamboo.

  3. Thanks for these great recipes! I didn’t have any for roasting all these, but have been wanting to do it!! They sound so yummy and healthy!!

  4. This is a fantastic use of your time, too. So much food squared away all at once! How do you keep track of the timing? Honestly I think that’s the only thing that keeps me from doing so much all at once. When I have cooked for large crowds in my church’s kitchen, and really *have* to cook like that, I have had to write up a timeline, writing down what time I stuck what thing in what oven/burner/contraption and when I need to check it/pull it out/doctor it up. Every time I do that I think that there must be a better way, but I haven’t figured that one out yet. Would love to know how you handle it. Thanks for the great tip about cast iron – I’m sure I don’t use mine nearly enough.

  5. After reading your tomato post and this one I thought I’d share how I do my slow cooked tomatoes.
    After I’ve used the oven to cook something else (usually Sunday dinner) I turn heat to maximum; then pop in trays of prepared tomatoes; immediately switch off the oven and leave overnight without opening. The tomatoes slow cook using the residual heat so more energy efficient.
    They turn out excellent for sauces but also just firm enough for salads.

    1. Hi Darren,
      Thank you for sharing that tip! I cook grains that way overnight, with just a blast of heat initially and then I let them sit. I have to try this!
      Anne Marie

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