As much as I’d like to think about myself as not very attached to the conveniences of modern day life, every now and then life proves to me the opposite. Upon realizing this, I often feel very embarrassed that a minute ago I might have been crying like a little girl over something that wasn’t worth it at all.
You probably know from my previous posts that my husband Rob and I have recently relocated from Alabama to Washington State. We’ve moved into a new house less than a week ago, and as of right now, we are still very much looking forward to the moment when all of our worldly posessions finally get delivered to us. Until then, we’ve been stuck sleeping on an air mattress, sitting on the floor all evening, eating from paper plates, and – my personal ‘favorite’ – cooking meals in a tiny pot and a frying pan that were purchased at a local thrift store.
The ‘count your blessings’ part of our situation? At least we get to enjoy this view from our front porch:
Interestingly, with the little kitchenware that I have I’ve still been able to put decent dinners on the table – dinners that are plant-based, oil-free, and have plenty of nutritional value. It may not be fun trying to chop vegetables with an extra-dull knife from the thrift store, or to open cans of beans with Rob’s Leatherman knife (what’s next, building a fire in the living room? Or wait – we do have a wood stove there!), but what else can I do right now?
So today I’d like to share with you five simple recipes that I’ve been making for dinner this past week – all of them vegan and plant-based. These recipes require minimum amounts of ingredients, kitchenware, and time (30 minutes or less!), so next time you get stranded on an uninhabited island with a stove and a thrift store, you’ll thank me!
To make these dishes, you’ll need:
- – a small pot, for boiling water/making soup,
- – a small frying pan,
- – a spatula (I found a decent one at the above mentioned thrift store!),
- – a knife (doesn’t have to be dull, but if you’re buying it at a thrift store, you’ll most likely end up with a dull one),
- – a chopping board (I got the cheapest bamboo one at Walmart),
- – paper plates/bowls (if you’re too cheap to buy real ones at the same thrift store),
- – a can opening device (whatever works – I used Rob’s fancy knife with lots of attachments).
Now for the grocery list:
- – potatoes (you can take a girl out of Russia, but you will never erase the love for potatoes out of her heart!),
- – canned beans (I bought 2 cans of chickpeas, 1 – black beans, 1 – cannellini beans. If you come across some hummus, buy some too!),
- – assorted vegetables (anything you can get a hold of, ideally some roma tomatoes, yellow and red onions, broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, kale, cilantro) – or any frozen veggie mix,
- – a jar of store-bought pasta sauce,
- – a box of pasta (spaghetti in my case),
- – a bag of brown rice,
- – tortillas (large for burritos, small for tacos),
- – spices (any will do; I was smart enough to pack my favorites – cumin, smoked paprika, chile powder, rosemary, turmeric, curry powder – in our checked luggage on the plane because I knew that this day would come!!!),
- – a lime or a lemon,
- – salt, pepper.
Looks like that’s it, now for the recipes! (Please don’t judge my photography here – I know that paper plates and carpet don’t make the best food styling props!)
The amounts of ingredients vary because I don’t have a measuring cup or spoons right now, so use everything to taste.
Dinner #1. Chickpea Curry with Boiled Potatoes (for 2)
Potatoes are not the regular ‘bed’ for curries of any kind, but I was really hungry for them, and they turned out great with this simple curry!
Ingredients: 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed. 1/2 yellow onion and 1 roma tomato, both chopped. 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled. Kale and cilantro, if available. Spices – whatever you have on hand, I used cumin, curry powder, turmeric. Salt and pepper, to taste. Water, to boil potatoes and cook the curry.
Make it: Bring a pot of water with peeled potatoes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cook 10-15 min until ready, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, heat up a little water in a frying pan, add chopped onions, cook 3-5 min. Add chopped tomatoes, chickpeas, available spices, stir. Add water to just cover the chickpeas, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for as long as it takes the potatoes to cook (about 10 min). At the end, stir in torn-up kale (remove stalks), cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Serve the curry over boiled potatoes.
Dinner #2. Spaghetti Primavera (for 2)
Rob is half-Italian, so his go-to comfort food is pasta. Luckily for me, he likes it loaded to the brim with veggies!
Ingredients: 1/2 box of spaghetti. About 1 cup or more of store-bought pasta sauce. Assorted vegetables (I used onions, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms). Dried rosemary, if available. Salt, pepper to taste.
Make it: Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Heat up a little water in a frying pan. Add chopped veggies to the pan with 1-minute intervals in this order: onions; peppers + carrots; broccoli + mushrooms; stir after each addition. Sprinkle with rosemary. While the vegetables are cooking, boil pasta according to the instructions on the box. After broccoli + mushrooms have cooked for a minute, pour pasta sauce over the veggies, stir until heated through. Drain pasta, add veggie mixture, toss together and serve.
Dinner #3. Minestrone Soup (for 2, with leftovers)
This minestrone version is so easy and full of flavor, it might become my go-to recipe! Adding pasta sauce might seem like cheating, but it’s an easy way to make this soup taste Italian.
Ingredients: 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed. Assorted chopped vegetables (1/2 yellow onion, 1/4 bell pepper, 2 carrots, 3-5 mushrooms, a few broccoli florets). 1 medium/large potato, peeled. A few pieces of spaghetti, broken up into 1-inch pieces, enough to make a small handful (or any small-shaped pasta). 1/2 – 1 cup pasta sauce. Rosemary, if available. Salt, pepper.
To make: Chop the potato into 1/2-inch cubes, rinse and drain. If you want it to cook quicker in the soup, mirowave the potato cubes for 1 minute (optional). Heat up a little water in a small soup pot. Add chopped onions, sautee 3-5 min while you’re chopping the rest of the veggies. Add carrots and bell peppers, rosemary, cubed potatoes, and pasta sauce to the onions, stir and let heat through. Add enough water to fill the pot, leaving at least 1 inch before it reaches the edges of the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, let cook for 14-16 min, or until potatoes get softer. Add spaghetti pieces, mushrooms and broccoli, bring back to a boil, and cook 3 min longer. Adjust seasoning to taste. Take the pot off the heat, wait a few minutes before serving as the soup may be too hot.
Dinner #4. Bean and Veggie Wraps (for 2)
The basic veggie wrap with some beans or hummus always hits the spot! A squeeze of lime or lemon juice adds some extra oomph.
Ingredients: 2 tortillas. Canned beans of choice, rinsed and drained, and/or some hummus. Assorted vegetables, whatever is available (I had red onions, bell peppers, one roma tomato, kale, cilantro). A lime or a lemon wedge. Spices – cumin, turmeric, black pepper (optional).
Make it: Chop all vegetables into bite-size pieces. Warm up each tortilla in a microwave, smear some hummus (if using) on them, add rinsed and drained beans. Sprinkle the beans with spices (optional), then add all of the vegetables except kale, squeeze some lime/lemon juice over them, mix them up a little with a fork. Cover with kale. Wrap up the tortilla and enjoy!
Dinner #5. Grain Bowl (for 2)
This was more of a ‘grain plate’ for us since we didn’t have big enough bowls, but who cares? It’s only presentation.
Ingredients: Brown rice. 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed. Assorted chopped vegetables (red onion, bell pepper, roma tomato, cilantro) plus torn-up lettuce or kale leaves. Spices – cumin, turmeric, smoked paprika (if available). A squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
Make it: To measure out the rice, take a plastic cup (that’s what I had) and fill it up halfway with rice. Rinse it a few times, add to your soup pot. Fill up the same plastic cup all the way with water, pour it over the rice in the pot. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer, and let it cook until almost all of the water is absorbed. As soon as there’s hardly any water left, but before the rice starts burning, reduce the heat to the minimum possible setting and cover the pot with a kitchen towel (not paper towel) folded 2-3 times, and a lid. Let sit for 5 min, then open the lid to see if the rest of the water was absorbed, then take the rice off the heat. I find this by far the best way to cook brown rice without a rice cooker.
Meanwhile, heat up black beans in a frying pan with a splash of water and available seasonings. When the rice is done, layer it on two plates, cover with black beans, mix in fresh veggies and lettuce/kale, squeeze some lime/lemon juice on top, and serve.
So this is the food that’s been keeping Rob and I alive in the past week! There’s also been quite a few bowls of oatmeal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some fruit and even chocolate! Sounds a bit decadent for an uninhabited island situation, I know, but at least the island we live on now is rather heavily populated.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite dinner dish that’s quick and easy to make?