Vegging It Up

Rotini tossed with stir fried cabbage

I often fall on the uninspired meat, veg, carb pattern for mid-week meals (e.g., chicken breast, green beans, noodles). It can be so so boring. But it can also be satisfyingly simple (and quick too!).

Lately, I’ve been sprucing it up by adding some vegetables to the carbs (e.g., chicken breast, green beans, rotini tossed with stir fried cabbage, ginger and garlic). It’s been an efficient and easy way to get us through our weekly produce box. And, we’re eating more veggies, which was one of the main reasons for getting the box in the first place.

Some Suggestions for Vegging-Up the Carbs:

Sweet potato and cabbage hash

Vegetarian sweet potato and cabbage hash with toasted cumin seeds and crushed coriander


  • When roasting potatoes, add peppers, carrots, celery, cabbage, squash or sweet potatoes to the mix before you start cooking. Add items that take less time to roast, like green beans, asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli, halfway through the cooking time.
  • And who said potatoes are only a side dish anyways? One of my fave meat,veg, carb meals has everything mixed together in a hash, topped with a fried egg of course (because anything with a fried egg on top is true brilliance). You don’t have to use corned beef (or any meat for that matter, though leftover pieces of anything will work). If you toss in some vegetables and seasonings, you’re good to go. Oh, and you can use sweet potatoes instead of, or in addition to, regular ones. Just make sure that everything’s in a small dice. Follow the basic hash directions here from House of Annie. But consider throwing in some cabbage or squash. Don’t you dare skip the fried egg on top!


  • Toss cooked noodles with any sautéed or stir-fried vegetable. Top with some sesame seeds or with a few gratings of lemon zest to bring it together.
  • My favorite noodle sauté: warm a bit of butter with a teaspoon of caraway seeds (or cumin seeds) over medium-high heat. Then add sliced cabbage. Stir and cook until softened a bit before adding cooked noodles. Toss to combine and warm through. (Are you noticing a lot of cabbage in this post? Guess what keeps coming in my produce box!)
  • For the last few minutes of your pasta’s cooking time, add veggies that are nice when boiled slightly, such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, spinach or kale.
  • Veggies that are somewhat soft when raw offer a bit of lightness to otherwise heavy pasta. Try cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber and red onion or thin slices of red pepper.
  • Pile quick-wilting greens like spinach or arugula onto your dinner plate. Top with the noodles. The greens wilt a bit and can then be stirred into the pasta. A shaving of parmesan cheese wouldn’t be wasted here.
  • Light, fresh and cool: Use a vegetable peeler to slice ribbons of summer squash onto hot pasta. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. A sprig of mint would enjoy being snipped over top.

Rice and Couscous:

  • As with noodles and potatoes, soft raw vegetables are lovely stirred into cooked rice and couscous. Just make sure they’re in a small dice or else they’ll overwhelm the small rice/couscous grains.
  • Finely chopped roasted or grilled vegetables, especially if slightly charred, add depth and richness. Consider sweet potato or squash, green beans, asparagus, bell peppers or onions.
  • Rub whole small zucchinis with olive oil, salt and pepper and pop them over direct heat on a medium-high grill until browned. They’ll be just tender on the inside and charred on the outside. Perfect for chopping up and adding to any carb, but especially pretty and refreshing with wild rice.
  • Into a bit of olive oil or butter, sauté any combination of finely diced onions, carrots, celery, leeks, bell peppers, corn, peas and/or beans until softened. Add the rice/cousous, seasonings and liquid. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for as long as indicated on the package.
  • Combine several handfuls of quick-wilting greens with a clove or two of minced garlic in a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Top with hot just-cooked rice. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Stir gently with a fork to mix the wilted garlicky greens in with the grains.

I hope that’ll help you veg-up your carbs while also helping you to empty your produce box in time for next week’s delivery. Please let us all know which vegetables you add to your carbs, as well as any other tips for getting us all to eat more rainbows.


See the other post in the series What’s in the Box? Tips for Dealing with Your Weekly Organics Box Produce:


Check out past Cook the Story series and find out what’s coming soon here.


  1. #1 by The Mrs on March 16, 2011 - 9:14 am

    This is a (more than usual, even) fantastic post, Chris. What a lot of great ideas to use up leftovers, too. Your recipes and ideas (and stories, of course) are always great, but this one in particular is going to be so useful to me.

    Thank you! And happy Wednesday! Thanks too for your empathy on Monday – I’m feeling a lot more like the real Mary Poppins instead of the fake one.

    • #2 by cookthestory on March 16, 2011 - 7:33 pm

      Glad you liked it! Always happy to be helpful, and to be empathetic too. Very good to hear that you’re feeling a bit better.

  2. #3 by phyllis pittman on March 16, 2011 - 9:32 am

    I too enjoyed this post. A lot of what you wrote I already knew, but forgot. Thanks for the refresher. I particularly like to put my raw spinach on my dinner plate or in my soup bowl and let the heat of the soup or pasta, etc., wilt the spinach. A quick and easy way to get your spinach vitamins. Thanks

  3. #5 by Katerina on March 16, 2011 - 10:53 am

    Beautiful tips! Thanks for sharing!

  4. #7 by Nate @ House of Annie on March 16, 2011 - 11:02 am

    Hashes are definitely a way to get the carbs, veg and protein to play deliciously together.

    Thanks for the linkback!

    • #8 by cookthestory on March 16, 2011 - 7:30 pm

      You’re welcome! Thanks for the visit and comment.

  5. #9 by Liz on March 16, 2011 - 2:42 pm

    That fried egg idea sounds interesting. I’ll be trying that one out.

    How about broccoli rabe, sauteed with a few cloves of minced garlic and tossed with olive oil over pasta? I know broccoli rabe doesn’t have a huge following, but I LOVE it!

    • #10 by cookthestory on March 16, 2011 - 7:29 pm

      I love broccoli rabe too. It’s bitter and I find it needs lots of salt or butter, lemon or cheese. But then I gobble it up!

  6. #11 by Dani on March 17, 2011 - 10:43 pm

    Great tips! There’s a recipe on Epicurious my family loves majorly that involves roasted potatoes, chicken, and bell peppers being dumped over a mountain of raw arugula, which then wilts down nicely. Seems like something you would enjoy, and when I make it I always double the proportion of vegetables to meat and it comes out well.

    • #12 by cookthestory on March 18, 2011 - 11:57 am

      That sounds great. You’re right I would like it. In fact, I might even try it tonight!

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