Unless you are an incredible chef with loads of time on your hands, you are like me: most of the daily meals I cook are mundane, and serve the most basic of requirements – easy to make, healthy, and satiating.
When your pantry is stocked as I laid out in The Pantry Entry, and you follow the 3 step dinner outline in this post, you'll never lack ideas of what to make for dinner or the ingredients for making them. This is a key post to make sure your routine is doable and thus can be easily sustained for a long time.
Step 1: Choose your carbs
When you're standing in your kitchen with no idea what to prepare, take a look at the carb shelf in your pantry, and take it from there. After you decide which carb you feel like eating, it'll be much easier to decide what comes next.
Once you've chosen the carbs, you're ready to identify the best companion for it.
With pasta the companion will probably be the sauce it's in. Almost any vegetable you have in your fridge can be a base for a pasta sauce. Combine it with some tomato pulp, mushrooms, olives or eggplant, season, and your main dinner dish is ready to be served.
If you went with the noodles, see my special post about stir-fry (coming soon). You'll only need a few basic vegetables to make it delicious.
If you went with rice (recipe), tiny pasta, couscous or potatoes, you are now ready to pair it with vegetables or legumes.
Step 2: The vegetable or legume next to the carbs
Rice, tiny pasta, couscous and potatoes require something saucy and rich next to them - vegetables.
In 10-20 min you can fry an onion, add some tomato pulp if you'd like, spices and greens that you love, add the chopped vegetable with boiled water for a short cook – and there you go.
Made with red sauce, legumes can also be a fine pair to carbs (like the beans served with couscous in this photo). The different kinds of proteins in legumes and cereals offer an especialy beneficial nutritional value when consumed together. More on this in the Pantry Entry dedicated to legumes.
Step 3: Salad
Every dinner benefits from a vegetable salad – it's healthy, adds texture, and is just a beautiful sight that gives a fragrant aroma of freshness to your dinner experience. You can make a salad from one main vegetable – like tomatoes or fennels – or one from many kinds of colorful vegetables.
You might like your salad finely chopped, or coarsely, or just love to eat your vegetables roughly cut, with a generous serving of olive oil on top.
Olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper – this is my most common dressing for our daily vegetable salad, but I have some special dressings for other specific salads, like the one I make from fennel (recipe soon to come).
Final Touch: Soup
A soup is an easy-to-make great starter, especially on winter days. Here to, just open your fridge or your pantry, find a fresh or frozen vegetable or legume – cauliflower, green peas, sweet potato, mushrooms, leek, artichoke, tomatoes, whatever – and make your soup. You can also make legume soup – like beans or lentils – but it requires some more cooking time, and sometimes planning ahead for pre-preparation.
In the last 30 min of cooking - add a 1/4 cup of rice, and make it more interesting and filling, some greens if available, and spices that you love. If you have a little more time, you can mash the vegetables for an even thicker consistency.
Great, you've just upgraded your dinner.
In my next posts I'll write a lot more about legumes and their pivotal role in the vegan diet, and about patties, which can also be a very nice and easy centerpiece to your dinner.