Do you have those meals that you really love to eat, but you would NEVER serve to someone else? Maybe you like them because they’re healthy, or cheap, or easy, but they’re not pretty or fancy enough to give to guests. I totally have those meals. Most of them are some combination of quinoa and vegetables…I LOVE quinoa. I guess I just really like big mixed up bowls of food. When I was a kid I always cut up my broccoli and chicken (yes, chicken – I wasn’t always a vegetarian. Just for the past 13 years) and mix them with my mashed potatoes. You people who don’t like your food touching…you’re weird.
But I digress. I’m going to tell you some of my favorite so-good-but-no-serve meals. Most of them are big pots of veggies and proteins that you can make on Monday and eat for the rest of the work week. They’re all super flexible ways to use up random vegetables in the fridge. Healthy, budget-friendly…totally not sexy. Who cares?
My first post was about quinoa. Quinoa is awesome because it’s easy to cook, really filling and a complete protein. Boil two times as much vegetable stock or water as you have quinoa (so, for example, two cups of stock to one cup of dry quinoa); when the pot is boiling, reduce the heat and add the quinoa. Simmer, covered, for 15-25 minutes depending on how much you’re making (basically until the liquid is absorbed). So what can you do with it?
Classic quinoa veggie salad: quinoa, plus garlic, onion, red pepper, carrots, zucchini or summer squash, spinach and cherry tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin and a little chili.
Southwestern quinoa: add onion, green and red peppers, canned adobo or jalapeno chilis, carrots, squash and black beans. Season with salt, lime, cilantro and chili.
Autumn quinoa: I just made this tonight and it’s soooo good. Roast a butternut squash, caramelize onions and mushrooms (see this caramelized onion jam for a starting point) and sautee spinach, garlic and fresh sage. Mix and finish with salt and pepper and maybe a little oregano.
This is the same principle as my quinoa: sautee some veggies, add to a pot and season. Voila. I like this with any combination of onions, red pepper, carrots, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cauliflower (a must – sometimes I just make the cauliflower with curry sauce for lunch), green beans, peas and/or spinach. When they’re done, add chickpeas to the pot and take off the heat. Stir in a 6-ounce container of plain non-fat yogurt, along with copious amounts of curry and some pepper, salt, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon. It’s best to let the flavors marry for a while – this dish tastes even better as leftovers.
I kind of already touched on this one, but I really love to take a good can of soup and add whatever is about to go bad in my fridge. Tomato soup, split pea, lentil, butternut squash…all of it is better with a little zucchini, onion or carrot tossed in. And a super easy way to healthify your canned loveliness is to add leftover pumpkin or squash puree. Spices are always good too, especially if you’re like me and you get low-sodium soups: chili, red pepper flakes, curry, basil, lots of pepper and maybe some paprika (my newest obsession with winter squash – and I don’t have any in my cupboard!).
I like oven roasting. I like my toaster oven because it’s perfect for single servings. I roast everything with salt, pepper, olive oil and maybe garlic: cauliflower, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, you name it. A perfect side dish, unless you’re like me and you consider a big plate of roasted broccoli to be dinner. Hey, sometimes it happens.
Kale is another one of those winning foods that’s really good for you and goes with anything. Like any other veggie, sometimes I’ll sautee kale with some garlic and call it lunch. But you can steam or sautee some kale and top it with anything, from caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes to cannelini beans and mushrooms. Tracy from Shutterbean baked some with coconut! Croutons and parmesan make a light version of a caesar, while tofu and vegetables can give it a heartier twist. Add apples, oranges or dried cranberries for a sweet fruit salad. Top it with sweet chili sauce or sesame oil and soy for Asian flavor. Do whatever. Kale is a superfood.
And there are more. Other salads, for instance. Slaws (I have a really good honey-dijon dressing I put on everything in the summer). But these are good, wintery dinner foods. Just don’t let your roommate/friend/mother/boyfriend see you eat it.