Short Cuts for Cooking Hard Vegetables Fast


With busy week nights, some foods don’t make it to the table until the weekend simply due to lack of prep time.  But, it’s a shame to narrow some of our favorite foods to only a few nights of the week.

So, a quick solution when you’re in time crunch is rely on your microwave.  Here are a few microwave tricks for cooking hard vegetables fast.

Cook hard vegetables in minutes with your microwave! #saslife Click To Tweet

New Potatoes and Fingerlings

  • Scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush and pat dry.
  • Using a fork, pierce holes in each potato on all sides.
  • Place potatoes in microwave in an even layer on a paper towel.
  • Microwave on High for 3 – 4 minutes or until cooked tender.
  • Let stand for a few minutes. Then, cut in half and add butter/ghee or olive oil, salt, pepper and desired herbs or spices.

Spaghetti Squash

  • Scrub spaghetti squash with a vegetable brush and pat dry.
  • Pierce squash with a fork in several spots on all sides.
  • Place squash in microwave. Microwave on High for 5 minutes.
  • Flip squash over and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Cut squash in half. Scoop out and discard seeds.
  • Using a fork, scrape down the sides of each half to remove the noodles/threads.

Sweet Potatoes 

  • Scrub sweet potato with a vegetable brush and pat dry.
  • Using a Microwave Potato Bag, wrap sweet potato in a dry paper towel. Place wrapped potato in Microwave Potato Bag.
  • Place bag, seam side down, in microwave and cook on High for 7 – 10 minutes (cooking time may vary depending on your microwave).
  • Once potato is done, remove carefully from bag and paper towel.
  • Cut in half and spread with butter/ghee or olive oil and season as desired.

No Microwave Potato Bag? Check out this blog post on microwaving sweet potatoes.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Pie
Serves 3 – 4
Adapted from: PaleOMG ­ Paleo Recipes Almost 5 Ingredient Pizza Spaghetti Pie 

This dish is divine but, like regular lasagna, it takes a bit of time to make.  So, here are a few hacks that can shorten your prep time so your family is sure to get their fill of it:

  • Cook spaghetti squash in the microwave instead of the oven. This will save 30 minutes.  See instructions above.
  • On the other hand, baking the spaghetti squash gives it extra flavor. So, the quick tip here is, whenever you bake 1 spaghetti squash, bake 3 others at the same time.  The oven is already on, fill it up!  When done, scrape the noodles from the extra spaghetti squash and freeze in 2 cup portions for later use.  That will save 40 minutes the next time you make this dish.  This recipe uses 3 – 4 cups spaghetti squash noodles.
  • This recipe freezes beautifully, so whenever you make it, make a double batch and freeze the extra one for a quick week night meal.


1 large spaghetti squash (3 – 4 cups cooked spaghetti squash noodles/threads)
1 pound fresh Italian sausage (preferably free range, pastured)
½ yellow onion, diced
½ yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup no sugar added spaghetti sauce (I use Nellino’s sauce formerly Nello’s)
1 teaspoon dried basil
3 cups raw baby spinach
¼ tsp salt (opt.)
¼ tsp black pepper (opt.)
3 eggs, whisked


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds.

3. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Bake for 20-­25 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it.

4. Once squash is cooked, scrape down the inside of the squash with a fork to remove noodles/threads and set aside.

5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

6. Place a large skillet over medium heat on stovetop. Add Italian sausage, bell pepper and onion. Cook until pink no longer remains in the sausage and it is broken up into pieces.

7. Add spaghetti sauce, dried basil and salt and pepper to the pan and mix well. (You may not need to add salt and pepper depending on your sausage.)

8. Add spinach and toss into sauce mixture until spinach wilts.

9. Now add spaghetti squash noodles/threads to sausage mixture and mix well using tongs.

10. Lastly, add whisked eggs to the sausage mixture and mix thoroughly until you can no longer see the eggs.

11. Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray or olive oil.  Pour the mixture into the casserole dish and spread evenly.  Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 1 hour or until the top of the mixture forms a slight crust that doesn't give when you press on it in the middle of the dish.

12. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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About Author

Cathy Greer Mazanec, MPH, RDN, LDN

Cathy is the Senior Manager of Nutrition and Healthy Living Programs at SAS Institute Inc in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, functional medicine nutritionist, blogger and food photographer. Cathy's specialties include integrative and functional nutrition, gut health, food allergies and intolerances and culinary nutrition. She is also a Certified Biofeedback instructor. An avid lover of the outdoors, Cathy spends her free time biking, golfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, sitting under the stars and spending time with her grandson. Follow @CmazanecRD on Twitter.

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