Quinoa, zucchini, and pistachio salad

A four-ingredient version of this recipe (quinoa, zucchini, pistachios, greens).

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Slice zucchini into fairly thick, half-centimetre rounds, and set out on a baking tray lightly misted with cooking spray. Bake for 10-12mins on each side or until caramelised.
3. When cooled, toss the zucchini and quinoa together with pistachios for protein; and with sliced scallions, chopped parsley, or spinach for something green. Serve warm or cold.
(4. You could also add: lemon zest and juice to taste; feta; leftover chicken; roasted chickpeas; asparagus; peas.)

Kidney bean and brown rice bowl

An attempt to expand my canned bean repertoire, based on this five-ingredient recipe.

1. Slice one onion and caramelise. Set aside.
2. Deglaze the pan with a small splash of wine or broth, and toss drained dark red kidney beans in to coat in the flavourful liquid. Set aside.
3. Toast walnuts or pecans in the pan.
4. Combine all the ingredients and set aside to cool. When cooled, mix in goat cheese or feta crumbles.
5. Serve with brown rice, tri-colour quinoa, or on a bed of arugula.

Sweet orange vegetable soup

Quick, cheap and versatile soup based on this recipe.

1. Dice one onion and one or two carrots. Add to a pot with warmed olive oil, along with minced garlic and herbs and seasonings (thyme, paprika, cumin, curry powder, etc). Cook on medium/low until softened.

2. Meanwhile, cut two sweet potatoes and about half a butternut squash into chunks. Add to the pot and add enough stock or broth to cover (about one full carton). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer while covered, until the vegetables start to break down and have thickened the soup (about half an hour).

3. Serve: over brown rice; with crusty bread; with a dollop of sour cream or cream cheese; with wilted spinach or arugula; with white or black beans.

Pantry orecchiette

This dish is an even simpler version of this one-pan orecchiette recipe, and it cooks in about ten minutes, and mostly in the microwave.

Ingredients: orecchiette; sliced black olives, from a jar; chunky marinara sauce, from a jar; sausage crumbles, from the freezer; chickpeas from a can.

Cook the orecchiette in generously salted water according to packet instructions.
Meanwhile, heat frozen sausage crumbles in your microwaveable serving bowl until lukewarm (1-2min).
Then add the sliced olives, chickpeas, and sauce, and stir well. When the pasta is almost done, heat the mixture in the microwave until it’s warm (~1-2min).
Finally, drain the pasta well and add to the dish while still hot.
Optional: top with grated parmesan, or stir in crumbled feta cheese, baby arugula (which should wilt slightly in the heat), or fresh or dry herbs.

Perfect black bean salad

I have made uninspired southwest-style black bean salads before, but I’ve recently learnt a few tricks and now this is my favourite, easy, portable, high-protein high-veg lunch. Said tricks are: 1) don’t!! leave out the dressing, and season it generously; 2) use supersweet corn, and use frozen not canned, because the texture’s much crisper; and 3) take the time to rinse and dry the black beans thoroughly so things don’t get soggy. I also use orange bell peppers instead of red (an idea cribbed from this version of the dish) because I’m vain enough to care how my food looks and it makes no sense aesthetically to have red tomatoes as well as red peppers in the same dish.

This recipe makes about 3-4 servings.

For the salad, combine:
1 large orange bell pepper, diced into medium-small pieces;
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, quartered (about half or two-thirds of a small carton);
1 can black beans, rinsed, drained, and dried well;
About the same amount of frozen supersweet corn, mostly thawed;
1 large avocado, cubed (add last, after dressing and tossing rest of salad).

For the dressing, combine: juice of half a lime, about the same amount of extra virgin olive oil, two heaping teaspoons of minced garlic, large pinch salt, and lots of pepper, cumin, dried cilantro, and dried parsley.

Butternut squash and mushroom bake

Based on this recipe.
Preheat oven to 425F. In a baking tray, toss cubed squash with just enough olive oil to coat, and season with salt. You can also mix in some diced carrot for variety. Bake for 10 minutes.
Clean and dry the mushrooms and cut into halves or large pieces if necessary. Take out the baking tray and toss or flip the squash to make sure nothing is sticking. Add the mushrooms to the side of the tray, seasoning with a bit of salt and adding a bit more oil if necessary. Bake for another 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, remove the tray to toss and check. Season with thyme or other herbs to taste; then return to the oven for a few more minutes or until done.
Finish with grated parmesan cheese and black pepper. Serve with brown rice, pasta, or a slightly wilted warm kale salad; or with pan-fried browned butter beans for added protein.

Cilantro-lime rice bowls

Cook a big batch of fragrant cilantro-lime rice and eat it all week with convenient no-cook Mexican-style toppings.

For the rice, you’ll need: basmati or other fluffy long-grain white rice, a bunch of cilantro, a lime, a few jalapeno peppers, minced garlic, and olive oil.
Prepare the rice according to package instructions. While it’s cooking, very finely chop a large bunch of cilantro. De-seed and finely dice the peppers. Mix together with the garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and lime juice and salt to taste. Stir into the rice when it’s done.

Top with: tinned black beans seasoned with salt, cumin, and onion powder; frozen or tinned corn; salsa; half an avocado; shredded cheese; shredded lettuce; sour cream.