6 things that help me feel less like a line cook when prepping and cooking vegetables

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There are few things as delicious as Olive Garden breadsticks, Ben & Jerry's Americone Dream, and a Sicilian slice from L&B Spumoni Gardens.

But as someone who's about to walk down the aisle in less than two months, I've been eating my weight in vegetables and lean protein rather than carbs and sugar.

Most of my meal prepping on weekends has my fiancé and I slicing and dicing $200 worth of vegetables - and let me tell you - it gets old fast. So to make us feel less like line cooks in a restaurant and more just like normal people trying to eat healthier, we've been using different kitchen gadgets and seasonings.

Here are 6 things that help make prepping vegetables feel less like a chore:

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A sheet pan for roasting

A sheet pan for roasting
USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet Pan, available at Amazon, $19.99

Roasting veggies in a sheet pan is as easy as it gets. Just slice everything, toss with oil and seasoning, dump them on a tray like this, and fire your oven up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Just make sure not to overcrowd them on the tray, otherwise they'll just soften up instead of crisping.

A concentrated vegetable essence for umami

A concentrated vegetable essence for umami
Yondu Vegetable Essence, available at Amazon, $8.99

Seasoning with salt and pepper is fine for a week or so, but after a while, everything just tastes bland, no matter how much you trick yourself into thinking you're Salt Bae.

This is a concentrated soybean base with onion, white radish, leek, cabbage, carrot, shiitake mushroom, ginger, and garlic extracts for layers of flavors that I wouldn't get from basic seasoning. It also gives off a slightly umami flavor because of the mushroom, which definitely makes eating vegetables much more enjoyable.

It's organic, vegan, and gluten free — none of which I practice for health reasons, but just generally makes me feel better about what I put into my body.

The essence is a high in sodium, but I do use it sparingly (a splash or two at a time), so I don't find it overly salty or feel bloated after incorporating it into my dishes.

A mandolin slicer for easy uniform cuts

A mandolin slicer for easy uniform cuts
Kyocera Ceramic Adjustable Mandolin Vegetable Slicer, available at Amazon, $18.69

For quick and uniform cuts, there's really nothing better than a mandolin slicer. You can easily slice zucchini, onions, carrots, cucumbers, and more with a few passes. I find that using a mandolin slicer also helps veggies cook faster and more evenly than if I had cut them with a knife.

This one from Kyocera is nice because it has a slim profile that you can place over a bowl or counter, and a guard for your hands so you don't slice yourself. The adjustable dial increases or decreases the thickness of the slices without you needing to switch out blades to accommodate different vegetables, which I find immensely helpful during prep.

Word to the wise though — I've nicked my fingers and knuckles, so definitely go slow, do not try to force the vegetable over the blade, and do not try to get down to the itty-bitty nub before changing the vegetable. You're much better off chopping the nub with a good ol' knife.

A slow cooker for satisfying ratatouille and stuffed peppers

A slow cooker for satisfying ratatouille and stuffed peppers
Crock-Pot 6-Quart Cook and Carry Slow Cooker, available at Amazon, $49.99

When I'm tired of roasting and sautéing veggies, I'll slice layer them in a slow cooker underneath a hearty tomato sauce and pretend I'm Remi in Ratatouille, or I'll stuff peppers with meat, cheese, and more veggies, and let it bake through. Both somehow always tastes much more satisfying than veggies on their own, and almost resets my palette.

I have an older, more basic slow cooker without the digital display or programmable cook times like this one, but they all work the same way. I'll wait until mine is tired of making ratatouille before upgrading to this.

Glass storage containers to keep food from spoiling

Glass storage containers to keep food from spoiling
Oxo Good Grips 16-Piece Smart Seal Leakproof Glass Food Storage Container Set, available at Amazon, $57

If I'm going to spend so much time prepping my meals, they better not spoil before I can eat them. This set of glass containers keeps all the air out of the food, and the lids have little locking flaps keep everything secure and prevents leaks. I've carried a ton of meals in these containers and none have spilled.

Spicy honey for a little kick

Spicy honey for a little kick
Mike's Hot Honey, 12-Ounce Honey With a Kick, available at Amazon, $8.06

I try to avoid processed and natural sugar, but I still drizzle a bit of this spicy honey when roasting things like Brussels sprouts or carrots. It. is. so. darn. good.

The combo of sweet and spicy is perfectly balanced, and helps give more depth than basic salt and pepper alone. You can also use this honey on top of pizza, fried foods, and as a glaze for BBQ meats.

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