You may have figured out by now that I am all about the easy way when it comes to cooking. I see all kinds of blogs with photographs of beautiful food that obviously took a great deal of effort to prepare. I have nothing against beautiful food, and if someone were to prepare some for me, I’d be all over it like an ant at a picnic. But I am the cook in this household, and I prefer to take the path of least resistance when it comes to making supper.
Half of the dinner battle is knowing what to make. There is nothing worse than six o’clock with no ideas. But, since changing to a whole foods, plant-based diet, I haven’t found myself in this position very often.
There are two reasons for this.
- I have my pantry and freezer stocked with many of the components of a good meal at all times – grains, potatoes (sweet or white), pasta, canned or frozen cooked beans, lentils, and frozen vegetables.
- I use a simple formula to create a meal: a starch + a legume + a lot of vegetables + a sauce = supper
A starch + a legume + a lot of vegetables + a sauce = simple supper
Starches: brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread. I usually start by figuring out what grain or starchy vegetable we haven’t eaten recently. If it’s rice or quinoa, I’ll measure out a cup and rinse it very well. I’ll put it in the rice cooker with 2 cups of water and set it to cook. If it’s potatoes, I’ll decide whether I’m going to bake, steam or roast them and cut them in pieces if necessary.
Legumes: beans, tempeh, tofu. Lentils or cooked beans can be quickly prepared on the stove. Lentils can be cooked from scratch in about 30 minutes with no pre-soaking. Canned beans, or beans you’ve cooked earlier and frozen can be heated on the stove with whatever seasonings you like: I like vegetable broth, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and sriracha. Both tempeh and tofu benefit from a bit of advanced planning so they can be marinated, and in the case of tofu, pressed, but if you’re lucky you have some marinating in the fridge (a case of making your own luck).
Vegetables: I like to cook vegetables by steaming, roasting or stir frying them. Steaming is the fastest method. I grow greens like kale and swiss chard in my garden and basement under lights, so I make them a couple of times a week. Sometimes, I’ll just toss a bag of frozen mixed vegetables into the steamer or onto a baking sheet.
Sauce: I have a handful of sauce recipes that I rotate through. One of my favourites is simply hummus thinned out with extra lemon juice and garlic. Any of the nut based salad dressings or home-made tofu based mayo sauces are yummy as well. I find that if I have something to drizzle over the rest of the plate, it seems like a proper meal. You will find that a Vitamix or similar high-powered blender is your friend. If budget is a concern, a Nutribullet is a good second choice, but it won’t last as long.
So that’s it. I’m planning and preparing my supper practically at the same time and with my reasonably stocked pantry and simple formula, I usually get an enjoyable meal without a lot of effort.
But wait, I promised a lunch as well. Lunch is even easier if you cook sufficient food to have some extra for the next day. If it doesn’t stretch quite as far as you’d like you can always put the components in a pita or wrap.
These meals may not be the most exciting, but they are nutritious and filling. I certainly prepare other dishes as well, but it’s nice to have a fall back plan that means I’m never stuck at 6 o’clock.
If it’s any consolation, my breakfast is boring too: My Boring Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal with Blueberries