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.

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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.

Protein-packed pitas

Tuna salad (based on this and this):
Drain good canned tuna into a mixing bowl. Add chopped vegetables (I used shredded red cabbage and matchstick carrots, which you can microwave for 15 seconds to soften slightly; you could also use the traditional celery or cucumber), and throw in some sweet pickles or pitted olives for more flavour. Then mix with a touch of mustard, mayonnaise (optional), and a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Optional: add hummus or unsweetened peanut butter for even more protein and moistness.

Egg salad with hummus or smoked salmon:
Slice boiled eggs and season with salt, pepper, a dash of mayo, and either mustard or curry powder. Add shredded carrots, radish chips, and either spring mix or alfafa sprouts.

Radish and apple chip hors d’oeuvre

PSA: You can buy crisp, pre-sliced radish chips and top them with (almost) anything you’d top a cracker with, for an easy low-carb appetiser/snack/lazy eat-with-your-fingers dinner. Toppings that work well include: smoked salmon and avocado, cream cheese/ricotta and proscuitto, hummus and shredded carrots/red peppers/cherry tomatoes,  any pate or seafood salad.

You can also use apple slices as a base, and top them with sliced cheese and chutney, cream cheese and walnuts, etc.

Balanced bowls

Some balanced rice bowl options that follow the { grain + fatty protein + crisp vegetables + extras } formula:

Sushi rice + smoked salmon and avocado + seaweed or toasted kale + sesame seeds (based on this)
Sushi rice + edamame and avocado + seaweed or radish chips + sesame seeds (based on this)
Short/medium grain brown rice + an egg (poached, fried, or six-minute) and edamame + kale and red cabbage (based on this)
Brown rice + fried egg and cashews + radish chips and cilantro + soy-ginger dressing (based on this and this)

Microwave magnificence

This low-prep, high-protein, high-iron, high-fibre warm kale salad cooks in one bowl in just over one minute in the microwave. You’ll need:

A heaping tablespoonful of pre-cooked sausage crumbles (from the frozen food aisle – Jimmy Dean makes a good turkey one, MorningStar makes vegetarian ones if you’re avoiding processed meats);
Several of tablespoonfuls of canned chickpeas (drained and optionally seasoned with onion powder, curry powder, paprika, etc);
Several large fistfuls of kale-in-a-bag (i.e. pre-stemmed and pre-washed, the only prep involved in this dish is getting rid of any tough stems that haven’t been removed).

Microwave the sausage crumbles for about 30+ seconds, or until they begin to defrost. Then spoon in the chickpeas and kale. Microwave for another 30-60 seconds, or until the chickpeas are warmed through and the kale is steamed and has just turned bright green. Toss to coat everything in the juices from the sausage. The end.