There you are, home alone, wanting to eat something healthy, but not in the mood to pour through the cookbooks. You are tired of canned soups, lettuce, and sandwiches. Your mind goes to drive-through take-out, but you know the price your health pays for fast food. What to do?
It’s easier than you think to cook something simple, nourishing, and without a lot of fuss. Here are 10 meal variations, assembled in four steps. All of them include vegetables, grains, and beans: a well-balanced, complete-protein, nutrient-rich combination.
Step 1 – Veggies: Find the vegetables lurking on the shelves and in the drawers of your refrigerator. Hopefully you always have some onions, carrots, and something green and leafy besides lettuce, plus whatever is in season and looks good at the store.
Step 2 – Beans: These can be leftover beans, a can of beans, or beans you don’t have to soak (lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas or small red beans you just add to water and boil until tender. This is not a plan-ahead effort. Include frozen edamame, tofu, or tempeh (a soybean product with the texture of meat) on your bean list.
Step 3 – Grains: Maybe you have some left-over rice, barley, or wheat berries. You could cook some millet, quinoa, bulgur or couscous since they take 20 minutes or less. Perhaps look in the cupboard and dig out some pasta, taco shells, tortillas, or pizza crusts.
Step 4 – Combine: From what you have, decide what you want to make from the list below.
1) Fried Rice – Sauté the veggies in sesame oil or another oil, add cooked beans and rice, heat, then sprinkle a bit of soy sauce to make a fried rice dish. For variety, add the vegetables to another grain such as couscous or quinoa. Play with the seasonings.
2) Thai – Prepare as above, using coconut oil if you have it. Add rice and top with a curry sauce (homemade or from a jar), and heat for a Thai inspired meal.
3) Pasta primavera – Place the cooked veggies and beans on top of cooked pasta. Add some olive oil, lemon juice, or tomato sauce; whatever you think would add a little zip. If you want to save even more time, add the vegetables to the pasta pot and cook everything at the same time.
4) Pizza – Put the partially cooked vegetables on top of a pizza crust. Perhaps add some tomato sauce, cheese, or whatever sparks your fancy that day, and bake.
5) Tacos – Put the hot veggies and beans, perhaps grains, in a taco shell, add some salsa and, if you have them, avocado slices.
6) Enchiladas – Wrap the cooked veggies and beans, grains optional, in a tortilla. Cover with enchilada sauce and bake.
7) Miso soup – Boil the raw veggies in additional water, add some cooked grains or pasta. Dilute some miso paste in water and add to the mixture for a soup.
8) Grain salad – Mix cold veggies, grains, and beans with your favorite salad dressing.
9) Sushi – Roll veggies and rice in nori (a type of seaweed) to make sushi rolls.
10) Stew – Boil large chunks of veggies, beans, and some grains to make a stew. Flavor with your favorite herbs or add chili powder.
It is just you, so experiment. Find your favorite combinations. Learn which items in each category you always want to have on hand. Try different items on your spice shelf. Have fun. Now is your chance to play with your food.